Monday, April 16, 2007

The Elephant In The Room

My husband hates it when a news story cycles over and over, so it was no surprise that his response to seeing the “Imus” story yet again was “God, is that still on?”

“No” I said, “It’s good. It’s created a dialogue.”

This past week I’ve heard topics discussed that nobody was talking about in the “mainstream-all-Anna-Nicole-Smith-all-the-time-media.” Racism, sexism, media consolidation, money, power, censorship, moral decay. Real conversation about real things that hit us where we actually live instead of the typical fanfare of “baby’s daddies” and “shaved heads.”

It even prompted a conversation between me and a couple of Jehovah’s Witness women that came to my door. They gave me a pamphlet about morality and my response was “Tell me about it. Since when did women’s liberation become Girls Gone Wild?” One of the women responded “Yeah, there’s no Gloria Steinem in that.” I think had the conversation gone on, we might have diverged on our definitions of morality. But, we did agree that our shared frustration had its roots in the continual bombardment by media of images, words and yes, music, that denigrates women and returns us to the object status that Betty Friedan railed against in the Feminine Mystique. Here we are four decades later and our mops have been replaced by booty calls. And so much of that has been manufactured by a media who as the Rutger’s coach said, sees one color, that being green.

In that environment where it’s all just fun, one big long hoot, eighteen year old girls get called dirty names by a worn out old coot.

But more than what’s out there, I spend time worrying about what’s on the inside. It is not my imagination that young women have internalized sexual exploitation and why shouldn’t they, they’re being hammered by it constantly. I saw a girl who couldn’t have been more than ten walking through the mall (with her mother) wearing the shortest of shorts on which the words “Hot Stuff” were embroidered. The media message is clear; being sexually desirable makes you somebody, not being somebody makes you sexually desirable.

I wonder how long the conversation about media consolidation will last? This past week I finally heard some black journalists getting a chance to tackle the subject on Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz. But when one of the journalists started really drilling down on who owns the air waves, Kurtz cut him short because it was time for a commercial break.

So it’s no wonder that we never really get to how racial exploitation is a big money maker and how Hollywood continues to rake in dough portraying every black man as a pimp and every black woman as a prostitute. And we can’t get there because the board rooms of corporate media are short on women and certainly short on people of color. We won’t arrive at any positive resolutions any time soon as long as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences think the following lyrics deserve an Oscar.

“Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they'll both do you
That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah”

Nor will we change anything as long as we believe that putting pressure on advertisers and sponsors to get media cleaned up is censorship. It’s not censorship when Imus is fired but it is censorship when Rap is held to account, or at least the white board rooms that exploit the lowest common denominators in our society are held to account? I do think Imus should have been fired, but I also believe there’s a few dozen more heads in music, television and film, that need to roll

Me and the Jehovah’s Witness women probably do have a lot of differences in our definitions of morality. But I got the sense, in that brief conversation, that we would agree that somewhere, somehow there has to be a limit.

The parents of the Rutger’s team need to be congratulated for doing such an outstanding job raising those girls, given they were challenged every step of the way by a media that believes swimming in a cesspool is perfectly acceptable behavior. Where is their fifteen minutes of fame? Where is their award?

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