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Black, Sexual, Sensual And Spiritual

When I wrote Black, Sexual, Sensual and Spiritual, in 2006, I was hopeful that one day in the near future, there will be less naked women in rap videos. I was sure that the drive to stamp it out by outspoken leaders, men and women, will make music executives and the artists themselves think differently about the portrayal of women in music videos. I was optimistic that my sisters too would see themselves in a different light and say, hmmmnn…taking my clothes off is not the only way to fame or money. Without sounding like a sunday school teacher and my aim is not to preach at anyone but I have now had enough, over and over.  Yes, I know I can change the channel if I don’t like what I see but there are people watching from different corners of the world and this is contributing to their views and perceptions of black women. It is not only videos by American rap artists that has naked ladies these days. I look at Nigerian videos as well as those from other parts of the world, and the message that taking your clothes off and displaying your titties and booties is the key to success is stronger than ever. It hurts my ears when I hear young ladies say their aspiration is to become video vixens or to own a video vixen agency. You might as well open a brothel because I am of the opinion that very soon, if we are not careful, they are going to start having sex in these videos all in the name of art. And the defense line will be, ‘Well, its my craft, that’s what I do, deal with it.’

Without further ado, here is my piece from 2006. I am going to let you read it the way I wrote it because nothing has changed. In fact things got worse and they are going to keep going down the drain as long as we keep quiet and say its okay, its just a bit of art and way to make a quick buck.

“Black women, dating back to slavery have always been depicted by this society as sexually loose, as whores, as objects to be used, then discarded” – Kevin Powell, author and activist.

Imagine coming home to your two year old toddler, still in her diapers, gyrating sexually in front of your mirror and turning to you to say, “Mummy, dip it low make your man say oh.” Unaware of her actions, her understanding is that she is imitating a form of art. That’s because it’s all she has been watching on the box known as a television, which you spent your hard earned cash to buy. What’s she imitating? The scantily clad, half naked women she saw in the rap video titled “Dip It Low.”

The excessive exposure of half dressed naked black women in rap videos has raised a serious debate across the Atlantic in America.  Essence, the leading black lifestyle magazine is taking the lead with its year long campaign, “Take Back The Music.” After years of letting rap videos define her feminine identity, as skin revealing sexpot and booty shaking sister, the African American woman is finally speaking out and fighting with a vengeance to take her rightful place as a woman of class, dignity and integrity. She is tired of being portrayed as a sex kitten, a sexual object and as something that can be traded back and forth between men in rap videos beamed globally across the globe on MTV, BET and other major music channels, giving the impression that booty shaking and being naked in music videos is all there is to an African American woman.

Hip hop as a culture is 25years old. My question is, why did we keep quiet for so long and let the artist, all in the name of being creative, sell us out as if we were for sale in an auction? Were we so afraid of being criticised as starting another “Hate the black man campaign?” Regardless of the time and stance we take as sisters, we will get criticised by those whose opinion differs to our point of view. We make excuses for them in the name of art and protecting our own because we don’t want to rattle or sell out our black brothers, though they sold out on us.

We are not sex objects to be looked upon with disdain. This is promoted by the record labels, who claim it is what the public wants, and the high demand for it explains the extensive production of rap videos with lewd and obscene acts been performed by black women. Record companies say the public wants these videos and “as long as they keep buying, we are going to keep making them.”

The rap artists themselves defend their form of art, claiming its just art. Nelly, one of the foremost rap artists embroiled at the centre this debate, whose video “Tip Drill”, in which he swipes a credit card down a woman’s thong clad backside, says “I respect women and I am not a misogynist, I am an artist. Hip-hop videos are art and entertainment. Videos tell stories, some are violent, some are sexy, some are fun, and some are serious. As for how women are shown in the videos, I don’t have a problem with it because it is entertainment and women are in the videos by choice.”

That’s the reason we must first start with our own sisters, who make these decisions that gives us all a general identity. We are not asking for a moral code of conduct for us to lives by, nor are we asking for censorship on our brothers’ form of artistry. All we ask is a balance of different images to the ones that currently grace our television screens 24/7, because there are black sisters in “Different lights, different body types and different venues.” There’s more to a black woman than the scantily dressed half naked woman that invades our screens.

Where are our Maya Angelous, Terry McMillans, Alice Walkers, Toni Morrisons, Iyanla Vanzants and Oprah Winferys? Where are the images of our black sisters who fought for us, so we could be free to lift our heads and say “I am black, sexual, sensual and I’m spiritual too”? We need more images of our achievers on our television screens to give our coming generation a positive image of black women, a sense of identity and of how a woman should be treated. You may wonder, why argue about the way a woman ought to be treated? According to a group of Emory University Professors in Atlanta, who carried out research on the effects of rap videos on teenagers, “The answer therein, lies in the knowledge that long term exposure to rap music, which is explicit about sex, violence and rarely shows the potentially long term adverse effect of risky behaviours, may influence adolescents by modelling the unhealthy practices.”

What now worries my sisters is not just the impact of the lewd videos or the obscene sexual depiction of African American women on the minds of young girls but on the young boys also, who have been raised by the television they have grown up watching and the music they listen to. It is believed that young men of colour derive their idea of masculinity from the media and these videos are showing young men how to treat young women.

It is a conflicting issue deep in the heart of African American women but over here in the United Kingdom, the young generation are beginning to have their debate also. Mina, 15 and a street dancer, said “I don’t like the way women in skimpy clothes dance around men in hip-hop videos. It makes all women seem ho-ish.” Chris, 18, disagrees, saying, “Rap artists are only referring to a certain group of women, the ones they come across,” but when asked how he would feel if the lyrics were about a female member of his family, his response was “Vexed and upset.” Fumi, 19, simply tells them to “Pull their pants up.”

No one wants a female member of their family portrayed as whorish and that’s why this debate centres on the choices we as women make. The rap artists are right to say the women are in their videos by choice and, yes, they were not forced with a gun to their heads to appear in the videos with no clothes on. The question is how we now rectify the problem because it has become a cancerous epidemic in the world of hip hop. Black is beautiful and there’s no crime showing off a black woman as a sensual being but when her identity changes to that of a sexual object with no other positive image to counteract it, then we have a problem.

Jill Scott, an artist in her own right, tells it like it is: “The focus is based on a certain kind of woman’s sexuality,” and that kind of sexuality as far she is concerned seems “more nasty than sexy”. This is a woman whom the rap artists themselves might well not consider to use in their videos because she would not fit into their image of a sexy Cinderella scantily dressed in a bikini but she believes “sexuality is not so obvious, it’s coy. It’s sly. It’s sweet.”

It’s time we taught our daughters and took responsibility for our children, sisters and every young woman around us. It’s time the woman of colour challenges herself to do better and stop being an object, subjecting herself to be demeaned. It’s time we change our strategy and take on fame, so we can re-write our history, as I’m a woman and I’m black, sexual, sensual, and I’m spiritual too.

Image from: Amyking.wordpress


8 Responses to “Black, Sexual, Sensual And Spiritual”

  1. Ogochukwu says:

    “It’s time we taught our daughters and took responsibility for our children, sisters and every young woman around us. It’s time the woman of colour challenges herself to do better and stop being an object, subjecting herself to be demeaned. It’s time we change our strategy and take on fame, so we can re-write our history….”

    Its our responsibility to speak out and continue sowing seeds. Some of these “ladies” are the products of dysfunctional homes….some have found “love” and attention as a result of showing it all off….

    Like a friend of mine always says “If they knew better….they’l behave differently”


  2. Belinda Otas says:

    Thanks Ogochukwu. True that when we know better, we will do better but I can tell you, some of these ladies come from good homes, they just pick this as a way of defining themselves. Some go into it blind and then realise it is not so glamorous.

  3. Sochi says:

    Dear Belinda,

    Strong words!

    Quote: “The rap artists are right to say the women are in their videos by choice and, yes, they were not forced with a gun to their heads to appear in the videos with no clothes on.” So true.

    There are divides – women who love to exhibit, women who don’t love to exhibit but need the money from exhibition, men who love women who exhibit (or …uhum!…what they exhibit), men who have the money to shower women who need it… need I go on? The producers, artist(e)s, consumers all fall into these mixes of categories. We can’t even begin to imagine how messed up the matrix is.

    The responsibility of the artist and yea, the writer, is to shed light on these dimensions of our humanity and spirit. Sensuality, sexuality, spirituality, morality, you know the names. The fight goes on and we’ll fight it with our pens with a deeper sense of responsibility and a greater sense of commitment to be true to ourselves.

    Word up, sistah!

  4. i like your conclusion, it is indeed our responsibility to teach our children the right way to go.
    and when they make a choice contrary to what they have been taught, its their responsibility to deal with the probable consequence.

  5. Belinda Otas says:

    Thank you Shola

  6. Belinda Otas says:

    Thanks Sochi, your words are strong.

  7. […] on this website, I posted a piece a little while back and used a very revealing image… Black, Sexual and Spiritual with a video vixen in all her glory, will I take it off? No! Am I not promoting the same thing I […]

  8. […] I opted for the theme of the objectification of Black women in hip-hop videos. My piece was titled, Black, Sexual, Sensual and Spiritual, where I explored the issue of scantily clad naked black women in hip-hop videos. That was last […]

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