Fueling sexist attitudes which contribute to violence against women
Last month I responded to a piece by Brendan O’Neill, in The Australian, critical of our campaign against Tyler the Creator and Zoo magazine. It appeared in the on-line version at News.com (paywall means only subscribers would see it). Following this, my colleague Caitlin Roper took down O’Neill’s claims against us regarding Tyler the Creator in an interview with ‘I probably hate your band’ (O’Neill is interviewed too). Have a look at it after my letter.
If only Zoo Weekly was a ‘jokey mag for awkward 15-year-olds.’ We – and the too many women and girls subjected to the kind of abuse Zoo promotes – don’t see the joke. (Brendan O’Neill ‘Foot soldiers of the Empire of offence march on, laying free speech to waste’, Inquirer. August 22-23, p.23).
Zoo normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects, fueling sexist behaviours and attitudes which underpin violence against women. The men’s ‘lifestyle Bible’ provides step by step instructions for coercing women into sex by isolating her from her friends and using alcohol to make her more vulnerable. Readers are told if she is drunk, that’s a ‘green light’.
A recent edition encouraged young male readers to do “cool things…like hitting women”, joking about “backhanding the missus”.
People can’t distinguish between the statements taken from lads mags like Zoo Weekly and statements from convicted rapists, according to a 2011 UK study.
Tyler is renowned for his songs advocating rape, murder, genital mutilation, stuffing women into car boots, trapping them in his basement, raping their corpses and burying their bodies. The abuse he incited against Collective Shout activist Talitha Stone in 2013 was enough to cause Twitter to implement a ‘report abuse’ button. The footage she filmed undercover of him whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of anger contributed to NZ authorities denying him entry in January 2014. Our more recent campaign saw Tyler use dog whistle tactics to mobilise his fans into sending a deluge of death, rape and mutilation threats against another of our activists, Coralie Alison, as punishment.
In the original letter to the Immigration Minister signed by Coralie and myself, we argued it was contradictory for the Government to have a National Plan of Action to address violence against women while rolling out the red carpet to a rap artist who glorifies and glamourizes it.
We doubt the absence of Zoo from Coles or of Tyler singing “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” at all-ages concerts is a threat to “great truths or breakthroughs”. It does, however, send a message that violence against women should be taken seriously.
Melinda Tankard Reist
Thanks so much for speaking with me. First of all, I want to say I, and IPHYB as a whole, are passionate supporters of women’s rights. In whatever individual definition that takes in today’s convoluted climate of modern feminism, we hold our own views very dear and close to heart. That being said, we’re also (as you can probably tell from the name of our website) staunch advocates of free speech. I wanted to gain your perspective on the issue, as it seems Collective Shout have come under fire from fans of Tyler, The Creator and free speech alike, for what some consider an act of censorship. Is it Collective Shout’s aim to engage in any kind of censorious behavior, and do you really believe his lyrical content is dangerous? To be frank, I struggle to make the connection.
CAITLIN: “We’ve obviously heard a lot of Tyler’s fans expressing a similar sentiment – essentially that we just don’t understand, and that we are trying to ban things we don’t understand, or that we are merely ‘offended’.
The suggestion that the issue here is about offence or personal taste is really missing the point. My feelings, my personal taste, like anyone else in this discussion, are largely irrelevant. Reducing criticism of Tyler’s brand of misogyny to offense is an attempt to deflect and undermine discussion of the real issue – the promotion and normalising of hostile and hateful attitudes towards women.
The whole offence argument also neglects to consider the fact that our campaign goes much further than Tyler’s sexually violent lyrics. While we strongly object to Tyler’s lyrics detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses, we are also talking about Tyler’s real-life behavior. When lesbian recording artists openly called out his misogynistic lyrics, he responded with a threat of corrective rape, offering them some “hard dick”. At his 2013 Sydney concert he unleashed a barrage of abuse directed at my Collective Shout colleague Talitha Stone, calling her a bitch, a whore, and a c**t while the crowd cheered, unaware she was present in the audience. I shudder to think what might have happened to her had she been recognised.
Both Talitha and Coralie Alison have been targeted with vicious abuse, rape and death threats after Tyler tagged them on Twitter. What did he think would happen when he called out Coralie, identifying her as the reason he wouldn’t be showing up for his scheduled tour? At any time, he could have so much as tweeted to call off his fans, to say it wasn’t okay to threaten a woman with violence, yet he remained silent.
This is not about offence, or even song lyrics. This is incitement to violence against real women. Real Australian women who have been forced to obtain police assistance, who have had to fear for their lives and have had to deal with the psychological toll of sustained, vicious abuse.
Tyler fans claim that Tyler’s music and treatment of women have no bearing on their attitudes to women. Wading through the steady stream of abusive emails, Facebook posts and tweets calling us bitches and whores, encouraging us to commit suicide and threatening to rape and murder us along with our children has made it very clear to me that that normalised misogyny has and does impact on attitudes. Essentially, I think it’s easier to paint all criticism of Tyler’s misogyny as uptight women who want to ban things they don’t understand than to actually engage with the issues.
There has been some speculation that campaigns like ours set a dangerous precedent in terms of free speech and censorship. I hope that as well as free speech, we value the rights of women to dignity, justice, equality and safety, and that as a community we are equally committed to upholding these rights.
In our letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, we pointed out the hypocrisy in spending $15.6 billion on a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women – a plan including prevention strategies and education – only to welcome rappers who undermine the government’s attempts to address violence against women.
We’ve been critical of various artists – and not just artists, but advertising, media and popular culture – yet some issues and campaigns certainly do seem to attract more media attention than others. As a non-profit organisation, we don’t have the resources to organize and carry out campaigns against every artist who promotes the sexual exploitation of women, nor has it ever been our goal to pursue every artist with questionable lyrics.
We’ve been critical and sparked a dialogue about various artists over the last few years and campaigned against a few, including Redfoo, Brian McFadden, Robin Thicke, Snoop Dogg/Lion and Eminem. Some also suggest we unfairly target hip hop, but a look at our website will prove the wide range of issues and campaigns we have run. Is hip-hop somehow off-limits for critical analysis? Should hip-hop culture not be held to the same standard as the rest of society?
The reason we called on Immigration to deny Tyler a visa back in 2013 was because we felt his lyrical content vilified women and arguably incited violence against them. We felt it was impossible for us to remain silent. We only became more convinced after seeing his treatment of women on Twitter, setting his fans on women who were openly critical of his work, and his onslaught of abuse to Talitha at his 2013 concert – the footage of which was instrumental in his 2014 ban from New Zealand.
This has been expressed to us repeatedly over the last few months, that we haven’t done our research, that it’s art, that Tyler is playing a role, that he’s evolved as an artist, etc. I’m well aware of all of these arguments as well as the nature of Tyler’s work. We have done our research. We’ve listened to his songs, watched music videos, interviews, performance footage, read numerous articles and even attended his concert. It’s not that we don’t understand the arguments – we just reject them. We have taken this knowledge and come to a different conclusion.
I think it’s entirely possible for musicians and artists to use art, humour and irony to pose meaningful questions and comment on the state of the world and society, and even to explore dark subject matter. But I reject the notion that that is what is going on here. Tyler’s near constant uncritical exploitation and abuse of women for entertainment purposes doesn’t even come close to that. What is the statement being made? Where is the condemnation of abusive treatment of women? Rather, the men who degrade and demean women are positioned as badasses who don’t give a f**k and women are reduced to bitches. None of this is challenging the status quo or posing meaningful questions. Tyler’s “art” is at the expense of women, even survivors of rape and physical violence.
If Tyler has truly evolved as an artist as he claims (a notion I’d reject based on his recent behavior), why is he yet to take responsibility for it? Even now, he continues to justify and excuse it, never owning it. He’s built a career of the degradation of women, made a name for himself and profited from this material.
Tyler claims he doesn’t even perform his earlier work anymore, but concert set lists from as recently as last year show that he has. He’s also made his earlier albums available to stream via his Golf Media App. A few weeks ago he performed Rella on Jimmy Kimmel – here’s a few of the lyrics: ‘Nigga my d*ck’s in her jaw … my bitches white and I need f*cking head … bitches on my d*ck … Your girlfriend had a really nice meeting with my d*ck, I killed that p*ssy and grabbed that knife … met up with bitches, gave ‘em c*m on their dimples.’
Is this supposed to be progress? Is this an indication he’s concerned with equality now? It’s ironic that those men arguing for freedom of speech here have failed to notice that the women they are criticising don’t share this same freedom. These men are not impacted by misogynistic ‘art’ – they aren’t the ones being targeted. They aren’t likely to be on the receiving end of rape and death threats, won’t need to engage the police, nor be genuinely in fear for their safety as a result of sharing their views.
For these men to dictate how women, including survivors of rape and sexual violence, should feel about, respond to and challenge misogynistic attitudes demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the issues and perhaps more disturbing, a lack of empathy.”
Inciting Violence Against Women Isn’t ‘Art’, and Tyler the Creator Shouldn’t Be Granted Entry
By Caitlin Roper
“It’s just irony” seems to be the go-to defence for misogyny these days.
As a female activist for grassroots organisation Collective Shout, I hear it all the time.
After the global backlash to Kanye West’s sexually violent Monster music video – which featured lingerie clad female corpses hanging from the ceilings, West in bed with two dead women and holding the decapitated head of another – West’s team was quick to issue a disclaimer that is was “an art piece, and to be taken as such.” This exempted the video from critical analysis, apparently.
When we campaigned against Redfoo for his misogynistic Literally I Can’t video, in which women were mocked, abused and told to “shut the f*ck up” for refusing the sexual advances of men at a party, Redfoo played the victim, claiming his “art” – there’s that word again – was misunderstood.
When so-called “ute art” in Townsville depicted a chilling life-sized sticker image of an unconscious woman bound in the back of a ute next to a shovel, women who spoke out were accused of just not getting the joke.
Art. Satire. Irony. A joke. The premise is we just don’t get it and are therefore not permitted to comment.
So it should come as no surprise that our campaign calling on the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to revoke U.S. rapper Tyler the Creator’s visa should attract the same predictable response. The real issue is uptight women who can’t take a joke and who “need a good dick,” rather than hate speech and incitement to violence against women.
Tyler fans argue his earlier work is satirical, that he is simply misunderstood, defamed, in fact, by feminists. His cult-like followers not only deny their idol’s problematic real life treatment of women who dare to openly disagree with him, but even fuel it.
In 2011, Canadian recording artists Tegan and Sara published an open letter on their website, accusing Tyler of misogyny for his extremely sexually violent lyrics detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses. Tyler responded in a tweet:
In less than 140 characters, Tyler sent a clear message about women who dared challenge his authority.
The notion that women who speak out against male violence against women just need some “hard dick” is not new. It’s a common way of deflecting from and trivializing our abuse. This method also intimidates many women into silent compliance. It’s all the more sinister in this case, given the fact that Tegan and Sara are lesbian women, and the historical significance of so-called “corrective rape” – a horrific hate crime against lesbian women based on the belief that they can be “cured” of their sexual orientation through rape.
Tyler the Creator also responded to the Kanye West campaign on Twitter by naming two of the women involved, Sharon Haywood of Adios Barbie and Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Shout co-founder, calling them “f*cking bitches” and inviting them to “suck [his] d*ck.”
In 2013, Collective Shout ran a campaign calling on then Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor to revoke Tyler the Creator’s visa, arguing he was a controversial visa applicant who posed a danger to women. One of our young activists, Talitha Stone, wrote a tweet accusing Tyler of misogyny. Tyler shared the tweet with his 1.7 million followers, who took the bait and turned on her with an onslaught of abuse and rape threats. One Tyler fan threatened to “cut her tits off” and another – a 16 year old Melbourne private school boy – posted what he believed was her home address for the mob to do with what they would. (He was one street off). We were up half the night liaising with police trying to ensure Talitha’s safety.
Talitha bravely attended Tyler’s Sydney concert to report on it for us. She had no idea he would launch a vicious tirade of abuse against her, unaware she was in the audience filming. The crowd cheered as he called her a bitch, a whore, and a c**t, and dedicated his song “Bitch Suck D*ck” to her.
While our own Minister failed to act, we were heartened to learn the following year that New Zealand had denied Tyler entry, with his incitement of violence against Talitha being instrumental in its decision.
Two years on, Tyler is set to return to Australia for a series of all-ages (no age limits) concerts. We have called on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to revoke his visa, arguing that Tyler meets the Department’s definition of a Controversial Visa Applicant. This is a person:
“whose presence in Australia may, because of their activities, reputation, known record or the cause they represent and propagate, vilify or incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.”
Domestic violence is at epidemic proportions in Australia; women are being murdered by men at a rate of two per week. The groundswell is growing, with increasing pressure on the Government to take action to save women’s lives. And yet, at the same time as extolling its National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women, the same Government rolls out the red carpet to recording artists who rap about raping and mutilating them for entertainment, and who have personal histories of inciting violence against women.
Why are we so quick to condemn men’s violence against women yet so hesitant to acknowledge the drivers of this violence – the attitudes towards women, the ingrained sexism, a culture where women are routinely reduced to mere sexual objects for men’s use and entertainment?
Tyler’s own fans are helping us prove our point. We are being targeted with threats of violence and abuse from fans demonstrating a cult-like loyalty to their idol. These same fans claim that music that glorifies extreme violence has no impact on their attitudes towards women, and they remind us of this between threats of rape and calling us bitches, whores and worse.
Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist was tweeted a picture of herself with a pro-gang rape slogan, one of Tyler’s lyrics, alongside the words, “What you gonna do now bitch you surrounded” (sic):
Our National Operations Manager, Coralie Alison, was similarly targeted by U.S. Talk Radio host Shane Powers, who called her a “feminazi,” offered her “dick pics” and went on to make lewd comments about Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s wife. He seemed to enjoy intimidating a woman in this way, taking pleasure, with his male guests, from the thought of her violation and humiliation.
What are these men really saying when they tell us we need some d*ck? It sounds very close to “you need to be raped.”
We predicted that Tyler’s presence would incite discord into our community and pose a danger to women. It’s already happening and he hasn’t even stepped onto our shores. We need our Government to act on its promises to address violence against women and send a clear signal by not letting him.
A petition has been launched on Change.org calling for the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison to revoke the visa of US rapper and self-confessed pimp Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion aka Calvin Broadus.
Snoop Dogg’s lyrics glorify violence against women. His criminal history reportedly includes drug and weapons posession, voluntary manslaughter, inciting violence and assault. He has reportedly been listed in an affidavit claiming that he and others lured two underage girls to be filmed exposing themselves by offering them marijuana and ecstasy.
In a 2006 article with Rolling Stone, Snoop Dogg admitted that he was a real-life pimp. During his 2003 US tour – at the height of his stardom – he transported women around the country selling their bodies to athletes and entertainers.
He again discussed his pimping past in another Rolling Stone article earlier this year. The language used to describe the experience reveals that far from being remorseful, he is proud of his contribution to the worldwide problem of trafficking in women and girls:
“I could fire a b*tch, f*ck a b*tch, get a new ho: It was my program. City to city, titty to titty, hotel room to hotel room, athlete to athlete, entertainer to entertainer.”
Collective Shout activist Talitha Stone is calling on you to support the call for the Immigration Minister to revoke Snoop Dogg’s visa.
As a society which claims to be serious about eradicating violence against women, there should be no place for recording artists who glorify misogyny and degrade women for entertainment. Welcoming artists like Snoop Dogg sends a message that we don’t take our obligations to address violence against women seriously.
FOR a long time it was said the ‘‘jury was out’’ on the impact of media violence. Not any more. A special commission set up by the International Society for Research on Aggression comprising 12 international authors and endorsed by 250 of the world’s leading researchers has concluded that exposure to a range of violent media can act as triggers for aggressive thoughts and feelings, influencing behaviour. To put it simply, exposing kids to images of killing, maiming, dismembering, and sexual assault over and over again has real consequences.
You can’t expose kids to these things in the name of entertainment and expect them to be unaffected.
Australian academic Dr Wayne Warburton is one of the authors of the report, published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour. He’s also the editor (along with Danya Braunstein) of a new book Growing up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the impacts of violent and sexualised media on children.
‘‘We have failed to grasp the danger to society posed by the explosion of violent and sexualised media,’’ Dr Warburton says.
‘‘While scientific literature demonstrating and explaining the harmful effects has skyrocketed, public opinion has not followed.’’
Exposure to violent media contributes to an increase in beliefs normalising aggressive behaviour, that you can solve conflict with aggression, desensitisation to violence and a greater willingness to tolerate more in society. As well, children see that aggression isn’t punished — it’s often rewarded by points, money, status, elevation to higher game levels. This can encourage imitation. Dr Warburton points out that in violent video games, the player strongly identifies with and usually take the role of the aggressor, who is usually portrayed as heroic.
An 18-year-old in Thailand stabbed a taxi driver to death trying to ‘‘find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game’’. In 2003 two brothers, 16 and 14, killed a man and wounded a woman shooting at cars in Tennessee. They said they were acting out Grand Theft Auto III.
Anders Behring Breivik prepped himself for his killing spree by playing Modern Warfare 2 and World of Warcraft. They helped him with ‘‘target practice,’’ he said.
Violent gaming provides ‘‘immersive environments’’ used by US military forces for training, where acts of violence are carried out in the first person to desensitise soldiers to real-life combat. Of course, it’s not just games. The young see violence glorified and even eroticised in advertising and music. Many rap lyrics and videos depict women as subservient and enjoying aggression.
Adolescent males with high levels of music video exposure are more accepting of rape.
Researchers looked at the effect of removing MTV from a maximum security forensic hospital. The aggression levels of 222 patients dropped by almost half.
Kids are seeing more violent pornography than ever, including sadism, rape and torture porn.
With all this exposure to pornography, violence and crime content, are we surprised by newly released Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that show sexual assaults and related offences committed by school-aged children have almost quadrupled in four years? They leapt from 450 to 1709.
Dr Warburton says exposure to anti-social, violent, frightening and age-inappropriate media can have a range of negative effects on young people.
A recent Australian study of 925 adolescents found that high video game use was associated with poor global health, depression and anxiety.
‘‘Violent and frightening media have been linked with anxiety, fears, sleep disturbances, PTSD, long-term phobias and avoidant behaviours, and occasionally with effects so strong they have resulted in hospitalisation,’’ Dr Warburton says.
Ninety-eight per cent of US paediatricians believe excessive exposure to violent media has a negative effect on childhood aggression.
John Murray, research fellow at the Department of Psychology, Washington College, and a researcher on children’s social development for almost 40 years, says violent media poses a ‘‘clear threat to the social and intellectual development of children and youth.’’ The research is solid. The profits that motivate vested interests to deny it are significant. But just because people want to make money out of violent and sexually degrading media products doesn’t mean we have to let them.
Why won’t Kanye West repond to outrage against Monster video?
Mass desensitisation to abuse and exploitation
I’m not interested at all in going after Kanye West for the sake of it. That would be very boring. It specifically relates to the carnival of carnage he has created, the ‘rape scenario set to a soundtrack’, the idea that torture porn is sexy. We are targeting what he has created and the message it sends and the harm this causes – MTR
Sarah Parker at Change.org has blogged again with an update on our petition against Kanye West’s Monster video. She asks why Kanye West or his management have not responded given the level of concern globally.
Care2 and Change.org are both hosting our petitions which have so far secured a combined signature count of more than 8000. We’ve passed our original goal of 5000 so have now revised the target to 10,000.
When did promoting violence against women become an acceptable form of art? Hundreds of years ago, actually. But the question is, does that make it okay today? Over 7,000 activists all over the world say “no” and have put their collective foot down over Kanye West’s music video, “Monster.”
I recently reported on a petition started by Melinda Tankard Reist and Sharon Haywood that asks Universal Music Group, distributor of the video, to stop it’s official release, MTV to declare it will not promote the video, and Kanye to officially apologize for eroticizing violence against women. If you haven’t seen the leaked clips, the video contains beautiful, lingerie-clad women, possibly zombies or vampires, now dead. Kanye, Jay Z, and Rick Ross kill them and enjoy the spoils of victory – kissing the dead bodies, hanging practically naked bodies from the neck by chains, and eating a plate of raw meat between the legs of another scantily clad dead girl, to name a few. Nikki Minaj gets in on the act as a fanged dominatrix “interrogating” her pink-haired alter-ego, also played by Minaj. Read more>>
Kanye West, seems to have Swift-ly moved on from the Taylor-saga to the next level of drama in his new ‘Monster’ Vid. Facebook status updates have begun to take up the cause. As a social networker, have you voiced your objection in between your updates of being hung over and sleeping outdoors?
There’s a vulture in our popular culture that feeds on the ritual humiliation and exploitation of the female population. ‘Freedom of expression’ is the cry of opposition that would seek to hypocritically enforce oppression in the name of libertion.
But Kanye’s new video steps over the vultures line by perpetrating the lyrical crime of ‘rape and pillage a village’ in graphic detail on the unresponsive females in his pimp-flick
So let’s talk about the ideologies we spin to the masses through the music franchises. Rape and exploitation is a sexist expression of the mass oppression that flows from TV screens to our streets, from police stations to limited-rape-justice for the female nation. Only a monster would find arousal from sights of women being incapacitated to their eyeballs. Monsters should never become mainstream.
Will you make a contribution to the Twitter revolution? First things first, join the word on the street and sign the petition that denounces ‘Kan-ye for being a fan of raping dead women’. Spread the word, so that your message is heard loud and clear by Universal Music Group and MTV before they release ‘the Monster.’
What’s entertaining about women in lingerie hanging by their necks on chains? What’s artful about images of drugged, unconscious women about to be sexually assaulted?
It’s misogyny, graphic and simple.
Instead of artistic expression, political and social commentator Zerlina Maxwell described Kanye West’s music video for Monster as “a rape scenario set to a soundtrack.”
Yet that’s not what many commentators are saying about the gruesome and degrading images in the rapper’s video, which has yet to be officially released even though it’s all over the Internet either in full or in part.
West has suggested that the video’s necrophilia and brutality are aimed at generating controversy and sales. Still, there’s a profusion of intellectualizing and rationalizing about the video.
Much of that commentary includes attempts to absolve African-American men from criticism of their misogynist lyrics and the grotesque images of violence perpetrated on white women because of the history of slavery and colonialism.
Among the most inflated and convoluted praise for depravity as art comes from progressives. Salon.com’s Tracy Clark-Flory deliberately set aside the question of misogyny and wrote that the video “offers a fascinating Rorschach test of our current sexual culture.”
Writing on The Atlantic’s blog, Chris Jackson deflected the question of misogyny saying he couldn’t answer it given all the other examples in popular culture.
Instead he fatuously wrote: “Kanye is like [French Renaissance writer] Montaigne, who said of himself that he doesn’t record being, but passing … The most difficult and most intriguing aspect of Kanye as a rapper is that you never know whether he’s celebrating or satirizing an idea or doing both at the same time.”
However, it’s worth noting that Jackson’s Atlantic colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates disagrees.
Coates described the video as “boring racism, boring sexism that hearkens back to the black power macho of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver at their worst … the work of a failed provocateur boorishly brandishing his ancient affects.”
…Far from breaking new ground, West’s video only sinks to a deeper level of depravity, bringing the mainstream closer to what’s come to be known as torture porn.
It’s part of a growing social tolerance or numbness to violence against women. Kathleen Lahey describes it as “the remapping of male primacy onto contemporary culture.”
Lahey, a Queen’s University professor and expert in law and sexuality, has no doubt West’s video fits the definition of hate speech under Canadian criminal law, which makes it illegal to incite public hatred or advocate genocide of an identifiable group.
I’ll take mine dead, thanks. Horror porn is not ironic.
[Trigger warning for victims of violence]
When you look at this image, what do you see? An ambigious, complicated narrative? A post-modern analysis of culture? A man who loves his mothers and sistas?
And what about this one? Do you see poetic form? Linear narrative fantasy?
How about this? Satire? Irony? A work of art?
These are the kinds of descriptions being employed to justify Kanye West’s Monster video clip, lyrics and general body of work. (You can find some of this analysis here and here).
When I see these images, I see violence against women. I see glamourised misogyny and eroticised violence. I don’t see Kanye’s carnival of carnage as an art form or as post-modern cultural commentary.
These images and more are available on-line (leaked version, no, I’m not providing the link) and coming to a TV screen near you when Kanye West’s almost 18-minute Monster video clip is officially released at any time.
Here’s another image.
That last one is from a ‘Behind the scenes’ You Tube clip. That’s Rick Ross by the way, tucking into a plate of raw meat while taking in the view of a spreadeagled dead woman on the table. Looks like those rappers had a blast making the Monster vid. I tried hard to see the satire but couldn’t find it.
Monster is a track on Kanye’s new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which went platinum yesterday. His fans are calling him the best rap artist in history and a “genius.”
King Kanye has produced a carnage of female corpses, brutality, death. It is horror porn.
The Monster video depicts scenes of a murderous rampage with most of the dead being women. Dead women in lingerie swing from chains around their necks. Naked female corpses adorn the furniture. Two other female bodies are joined by West in bed. He kisses one. There are overtones of necrophilia.
Having viewed the preview and the behind the scenes clip, (which I first wrote on ABC The Drum/Unleashed) , I had wondered whether the full length version could possibly be more chilling. It is. There is the decapitated woman’s head scene (above). Nicki Minaj is a sword wielding dominatrix, terrorising her (at times) hooded female tulle-attired victim (Minaj doubles as both). Nothing like a bit of women-on-women violence to liven things up.
One exception to the dead-bitches-are-the-best theme is what appears to be a young boy being devoured by two female-like creatures. Of course this is to be condemned also.
The album’s one million sales will no doubt drive even more interest in the Monster video. Which makes the petition we have going against it even more important.
Universal Shame: Act to prevent the release of this monstrous video
Sharon Haywood and I started a petition sponsored by Adios Barbie, Collective Shout, and the Coalition Against Trafficking Australia, (since also sponsored by Coalition Against Trafficking International and Media Watch) calling on Universal Music Group to withdraw the video.
The petition is directed to CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Group Doug Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org) and CEO of MTV Judy McGrath. (email@example.com). It can be found here . (You can also read an interview with Sharon Haywood about the campaign, at this link ).
We believe that the mainstreaming of videos like this increases desensitized and callous attitudes toward violence against women. Young people are seeing images and absorbing harmful messages which glamorise misogyny and brutalise women. Women are reduced to sex-doll like playthings. The Monster video conveys a message that women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even when they are dead. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment.
We decided to run this campaign because we wanted to challenge the status quo – the increasingly common view that women’s pain and suffering is perfect for entertainment.
We believe West’s work will contribute to a culture that is already dangerous for women and girls. West just paid $200,000 for a custom- made watch made with his face on it . Think what that could do to address violence against women. Violence against women we believe his work is contributing to.
Bitches are only good for three things
Violent lyrics, combined with brutal visuals, are socialising young people and helping form their view on relationships and sexuality. Monica R, commenting on the Care2 petition site, wrote on the weekend:
…I am in the hood Monday through Friday. I teach there, in a very rough zip code. This crap is the ONLY music these kids listen to, so it has everything to do with violence against women because it forms their opinions.
OK, it’s just a video to you. But I have to hear the high school boy say “b–ches are only good for three things, f—ing, cooking, and cleaning.” I have to hear the high school girls refer to each other (their FRIENDS) as “b–ch” and “ho”, and hear them explain how you know a boy really loves you if he hits you.
I’d love it if rappers would come clean about their college degrees, but instead they pretend to be “hood” while living a wealthy lifestyle. They promote the ideas that the measure of a man is how many b–ches he can f—, or how much violence he can do, and that women’s only value is what’s between their legs, and as a punching bag. And that harms women and men.
You have blood on your hands, and you should be deeply, deeply troubled at the culture that you’ve helped to create.
While not specifically naming West, international recording artist Moby may as well have in this article from 2005.
In it, Moby asks why is racism seen as bad but misogyny seen as cool? He says anyone creating or promoting music which glamourises misogyny should be ashamed: “you have blood on your hands, and you should be deeply, deeply troubled at the culture that you’ve helped to create”.
i’d like to write about misogyny. a few years ago when the prodigy released ‘smack my bitch up’ i spoke up and criticised the song for being overtly misogynystic and irresponsible. i was in turn criticised on radio for ‘being too uptight’ and not being relaxed enough to appreciate the ‘humor’ in misogyny.
then 5 years ago i spoke up about the pernicious and pervasive spread of misogyny in popular culture, and again i was crticised for making a big issue out of something that no one else seemed to care about.
i respect the prodigy and i respect eminem as talented and relevant musicians, but i spoke up because i found the misogynystic content of their lyrics(among many others) to be deeply offensive. even if they themselves are not misogynysts
i found it irresponsible that they, and many others, would release music that glamourized misogyny.
2 months after ‘smack my bitch up’ was released i went to visit a friend of mine who was in hospital after being beaten by her boyfriend. she had brain damage and multiple fractures due to his pushing her down a flight of concrete stairs.
misogyny is not funny. it is not a joke. and it should not be treated lightly.
and now we find out that a british man who is obsessed with eminem killed a woman with a metal baseball bat
and stuffed her body into a suitcase.
am i being ‘too uptight’ for not seeing the humor in this?
Bob Herbert in an article titled ‘Women at Risk’ in the New York Times in 2009, made this point:
We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.
We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment. Read full article here
Let Universal and MTV know that the victimization of women as a valid form of entertainment is never acceptable and the video needs to be withdrawn. Kanye West and his management should also apologise.
Sign petition – say no to eroticised violence against women
On December 10, I wrote an opinion piece titled ‘Who says female corpses aren’t sexy?’ for ABC The Drum Unleashed, reprinted here the same day. The piece has so far received 1086 comments (many helpfully informing me I am mentally ill and hung up about sex).
Here’s an extract from the article:
Two dead women in lingerie swing back and forth from the ceiling from a chain around their necks.
Two young women are slumped on a silk-sheeted bed, like corseted lifeless mannequins. A man advances on them. His intentions are clear.
Another woman in fetishized clothing lies spread-eagled on a table in front of a man eating a huge plate of raw meat.
Have I been exploring the far reaches of online torture pornography and snuff movies? Was I checking out necrophilia genre?
No. I was watching rapper Kanye West’s new video teaser for the single Monster, from his new chart-topping album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
With contributions from Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z, the Monster preview is a mini horror movie – with all the horror suffered by women. The men don’t seem horrified at all by the female corpses littered through the haunted mansion, the apparent victims of a serial killing. In fact, they seem to quite like it. It seems to turn them on…
Prevent Official Release of Kanye West’s Woman-Hating “Monster” Video
HipHopConnection.com has leaked a video teaser for the Kanye West hit song “Monster” and what we’ve seen is beyond disturbing. In just 30 seconds, viewers take in image after image of eroticized violence against women:
• Dead women, clad in lingerie, hang by chains around their necks
• West makes sexual moves toward dead or drugged women propped up in a bed
• A naked dead or drugged woman lays sprawled on a sofa
If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.
The victims in this video are clearly women. Only women. And the men, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z are far from bothered by the female corpses. They seem to quite like being surrounded by lifeless female bodies, apparent victims of a serial killing.
The official release date of the full-length video has not yet been announced. Let’s make it clear to Universal Music Group, the controlling company of West’s record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, and MTV that the music industry’s portrayals of women’s pain, suffering, abuse, objectification, and victimization as valid forms of entertainment are not acceptable.
We call on Universal Music Group and MTV to combat violence against women by refusing to support, promote, and/or give airtime to West’s “Monster” video. Please add your name to support this letter.
To: CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Group (Doug Morris) and CEO of MTV (Judy McGrath)
Dear Mr. Morris and Ms. McGrath,
We the undersigned write in response to the leaked video teaser of Kanye West’s video “Monster,” released by HipHipConnection.com. The shocking and demeaning images of slain women, fetishized and eroticized in the video clip, suggest that violence against women is sexy. The 30-second clip sends the message that women as lifeless and passive objects are sexually appealing.
As one critic has written, “Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.”
The mainstreaming of videos of this nature, combined with accessible and repeated exposure contributes to desensitized and callous attitudes toward violence against women, which is a scourge around the world. Becoming numb to violent images make violent acts easier to commit and condone.
We ask you to consider the fact that much of West’s fan base is comprised of young people in the formative stages of their development. Possibly millions of them globally will absorb and potentially internalize the unhealthy and harmful messages that women are playthings and objects of male pleasure – even if dead or drugged – and that they do not deserve basic human rights.
We hope you will agree with us that music industry portrayals of women’s pain, suffering, abuse, objectification, and victimization as valid forms of entertainment are not acceptable.
An official release date of the full-length video has yet to be announced. We respectfully request that you take a stand against the official release of “Monster” by refusing to promote, support, and/or give it airtime.
We await your response.
Please add your name and distribute the petition through your networks. We need to demonstrate the widespread global outrage at this monstrous video clip and demand action against it.
With contributions from Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z, the Monster preview is a mini horror movie – with all the horror suffered by women. The men don’t seem horrified at all by the female corpses littered through the haunted mansion, the apparent victims of a serial killing. In fact, they seem to quite like it. It seems to turn them on.
Some of the descriptions of the sneak preview video mention ‘bodies strewn around’. Yes, there are bodies. But they are all women’s bodies. As far as I could tell, there are no dead men, just dead women.
This is gendered violence. It’s not depicting just any old corpse but a clearly female one and then, clearly eroticised.
Dead women a turn off? Not at all. Kanye West, on the bed with the two young white dead women, shows no hesitation. He moves the lifeless arm of one onto the leg of the other, before cupping the porcelain like face of the first woman to kiss her.
Hanging from the rafters in stiletto heels, standing rigid in lingerie, expired on a bed. The white women in these scenes are depicted as subordinated to the black man, reminiscent of the pornographic representation of black men who love to ravish white women, to tarnish and spoil their ‘pure’ bodies.
Limp, floppy, rendered powerless these doll-like bodies retain their seductive, sexual allure. Sure, they might be dead. Sure they can’t consent. Sure they wanted it.
I wonder who thought of this scene?
In the ‘Behind the Scenes’ youtube clip for Monster, another rap artist, Rick Ross, is seated at the head of a table. Before him is a plate laden with large slabs of raw red meat.
Also on the table, a dead woman, in underwear, her stockinged legs spread-eagled on either side of the plate. Perfect viewing for the royal Ross as he tucks into the meat and wine (her flesh and blood?).
In another scene, Ross reclines on a long couch, nonchalantly smoking a cigar while women hang dead and slightly swaying, from chains around their neck.
The only two living women seem to be a maid and the black female rapper (often likened to a black Barbie doll) Nicki Minaj. They may be alive. But they are still subordinated.
The maid genuflects to Ross as she serves him. Minaj is on all fours baring her teeth like an animal about to be attacked. Her backside, swathed in black lace, is in the ‘presenting position’. As one of the youtube preview clips describes it: “This is a 30 second sneak peak of Nicki Minaj’s HUGE ass.”
This representation continues the legacy of the fetishization of black women’s ‘booty’.
As to the lyrics, there’s the usual repetition of ‘muthaf-ucker’ and bitches and the obligatory references to oral sex (‘Head of the class and she just want a swallowship’).
Then there’s these lines: “I put the p-ssy in the sarcophagus” (which, in case you’re wondering, is a flesh eating coffin) and “rape and pillage a village, women and children”.
The clip is not only interested in fetishizing female bodies – it revels in fetishizing female pain, female passivity, female suffering and female silence. The ultimate female is the quiet, passive female – a mannequin – who accepts violence, abuse and suffering while remaining hot and sexy.
Expect to hear boys singing along to it soon. This is the message they are imbibing:
Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.
And the creators of this feast of violence will probably win a ton of awards and commendations and sponsorship deals from major companies.
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