Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rap Videos and Female Image

As you probably know, CNN is doing a special documentary series called "Black in America". I watched a little bit last night and plan to watch some more tonight.

I was watching CNN this morning while getting ready for work (pretty typical morning routine...either CNN or MSNBC) and they interviewed a former rap video dancer. I don't remember her name, but they said she was sort of the Rap Video Queen. She believes that the overly sexed vampy image she protrayed in many of the most popular videos hurts women, black women in particular. Nevertheless, she says she made them because she wanted to dance on Broadway, and other than rap videos, there aren't many opportunities for black dancers to make a living.

That seriously pissed me off when I heard that. In a country that seems to be falling all over itself to show how post-racial they are, black women still can't find success in the dance world.

My first response was "oh, that's crazy!" But then I thought about it. I grew up i the dance world, and while I didn't pursue a career, several of my friends have. And I've followed their careers. Some are on Broadway, some are in the competitive ballroom circuit, some are in ballet companies. And one thing that's a constant is that these companies or troupes feature predominently white women. A few Latinas and Asians here or there, and the occasional African-American. But an overabundance of Caucasians.

Oh, there's the occasional black in the dance corps on Broadway, but almost never in the leading roles, unless it's specifically a "black role." And that pissed me off.

Even on shows like "Dancing with the Stars." There are way more black men than black women who make it into the finals of that show. Granted, that's because there are probably more young black men street hip hoppers out there than women, but it often even seems that they choose more black male classically trained dancers than women, too. And I know that there are many, many more trained females out there than it would appear. So what's the deal?

Anyway, that's my rant for today.

So, bringing this back to the original topic. Rap videos and female image...what do you think? Do you think that rap videos are harmful to the way that young women view themselves, not to mention the way that young men treat them? Do you think there's a lingering racism in the way things are casted?


  1. I haven't watched a lot of rap videos--but, yeah the ones I've seen objectify women. So did a lot of the long hair bands I watched in the 80s. But I don't think it affected me in a bad way. I chalk it up to fantasy.

  2. Good point, Gwen, although I think the dancer interviewed by CNN was saying that she doesn't really has a choice. If she wants to dance, she has to work in the rap videos, because there aren't really any other options for black dancers.

    I guess she would say that whereas the chicks in the hair bands were being objectified, they chose their objectification? I dunno.

    Speaking of hair bands and videos and objectification, I watched VH-1's "40 Hottest Hotties of the 90s" the other day (GREAT show, by the way...LOL!) and I was reminded of just how icky it kinda is that Steven Tyler put his own daughter in the "Crazy" video. We're talking Lesbian Lolita Fantasy...

    (Damn, that was a hot video.)

  3. Oh....yeah. Wasn't Alicia Silverstein in that too?

    I'm kinda getting into the 90s now because that last book had me immersed in the 80s for several months.

  4. Yup...that's the one. Alicia Silverstone was in VH-1's Top 5 of 90s hotties and they attribute it almost entirely to her status as "practically underage video babe", especially her lesbian-erotica-undertoned "Crazy" video with Liv.

    They never made out on screen or anything, but it was so clear that once the camera faded to black that they just might...

  5. My bad...Alicia Silverstone may have been "practically underage" in the Crazy video (practically, because she was actually legal...just barely) but Liv was just 17.

    And in her dad's video. Being a vixen. I have no problem with her being in sexy video, but it just creeps me out that her dad was like "perfect! I'll cast my daughter in this slutty role!"

  6. It's sad how objectified women are in videos. Why do we have to reduce a woman down to a pair of big boobs, or a bouncing butt wearing nothing more than a teeny bikini bottom? :(

    But for women to keep taking these dancing jobs on videos, isn't that perpetuating the issue?

    And that's aimed at ALL women, not just those of color--because as it was mentioned before, 80's hair bands were notorious for objectifying women, too.

    My hope is that women will STOP the industry from disrespecting them, using them in this manner. But I think we know that's not going to happen...because there ARE women out there who want to be a star, no matter WHAT it takes. Even if that means being just a pair of big boobs or a bouncing butt.

    And like you said, what other options are really out there for many dancers? :(

    Maybe it's time to start figuring something else out...

    Great topic, Amanda!!

  7. I think it's an issue for pretty much for all female performers in the entertainment industry. I was annoyed for years at how Premiere Magazine would have male movie stars on its cover in perfectly dignified poses, but when it had a female star on the cover, she would be wearing little or nothing (even if she wasn't known for particularly sexy roles--they had Jodie Foster do it twice.)

    And I think it's worse than it was in the 70's and 80's. If you see Janet Jackson in an early video, she's dancing around with all her clothes on--long pants, jacket, etc--and her dance is a dance-dance, not a stripper-dance. Nowadays, it seems almost every female singer has to show skin, pout for the camera, and shake her butt...

    Personally, I blame it all on Madonna. :-) Once she convinced people that posing in lingerie was a feminist statement, all was lost... :-)


  8. I think rap in general is bad for the female image. Those videos only solidify that idea.

  9. Rap is NOT my thing, but the ones I have seen bothered me...but, as Gwen said, the stuff I watched wasn't pure either and I did OK...

  10. Yeah, I don't like what I see in rap videos but I also came up during the metal hair band era and it was just as bad. Tawny Kitaen (SP?) writhing on a car hood. So classy!

    In a way I think we only started growing up enough as a society to deal with the sexual revolution about 5 years ago... and we aren't there yet.