January 05, 2005

Seven Dollars a Week or Seven Thousand Dollars a Week?

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This is the question we will inevitably be forced to face (ask and answer) in regards to actors and actresses who take stereotypical parts in movies, young women who shake and put on display for the world their (ass)ets in music videos and artist who sell pornography via their singing and rapping.

Hattie McDaniel who is best known for her Oscar winning role as Scarlet O’ Hara’s sassy and loyal servant in “Gone With Wind” said in response to those who criticized her for playing a mammy in several movies; “"Why should I complain about making seven thousand dollars a week playing a maid? If I didn't, I'd be making seven dollars a week actually being one”.

With that said; Essence has launched a campaign entitled “Take Back the Music”. The purpose of this campaign is to address “the imbalance in the depiction of Black women’s sexuality and character in music and in music videos” Essence makes some insightful observations in regards to the some of the effects music and music videos have, Essence writes;

“The damage of this imbalanced portrayal of Black women is impossible to measure. An entire generation of Black girls are being raised on these narrow images. And as the messages and images are broadcast globally, they have become the lens through which the world now sees us. This cannot continue.”

It is said that if people treat you a certain way, and look at you a certain way, you will began to act and behave in the way you are perceived. I believe this is what Essence is saying when they speak of the damage to young women that grow up seeing these images more often than not.

I have heard many artist speak about their right to make a living and I do not think any one will deny that every man and woman have a right to make a living for themselves and their families, but must their lively hood be made possible at the expense of Black folk by perpetuating stereotypes and images that are degrading and self destructive?

One question I often ask myself and others as have Essence is; are the images being discussed here under attack because of what they do, or because of the lack of balance? Take note of the fact that while Essence is asking for a paradigm change in the portrayal of Black women, the change they seek is rooted in the imbalance of positive versus negative images of Black women in music and music videos. How many Black folk are on television and in movies playing redeeming characters versus those that are playing characters that are stereotypes and demeaning to Black folk. Can we have balance and still have what we have today? Can the two images co-exist as they do in the real world? The entertainment industry rarely creates anything; it only promotes a thing and beams it across the globe. The pimp, the drug dealer and the prostitute existed long before Hollywood and music gave theses individuals’ attention.

I believe the very thing we see happening in music, movies and television we see happening in politics and the spread of certain ideologies via the media. While Negro-Cons represent a small portion of the Black community, the time allotted to them on television, the space allotted to them in newspaper is not equivalent to the number of Black folk that share their view points and behavior, so it is with the negative images of Black folk in the entertainment industry. The over representation of certain images, ideology, and politics in any medium that is not generally true about Black men and women can be damaging to Black folk in many ways and promotes those things, thus I believe this is why some Black folk seek balance versus the complete removal of a thing because as much as we might hate to admit it, that thing we hate to see and talk about does exist but we all agree it does not exist in the numbers that makes it a general representation of Black people thus it should not get as much time on display in comparison to those things that we can say are generally true about Black men and women and promote positive imagery.

There are far more of us that chose the seven dollars a week versus the seven thousand dollars a week, the problems is us seven dollars a week men and women do not get the face time and promotion all over the world the seven thousand dollars a week individuals get although we out number them in a ratio of probably 1000 to 1 if not more and this is what Essence seeks to change and I support them in this effort.

If you do not comment on this topic here and even if you do, go over to Essence website and leave a comment there in the space they have allotted for reactions to their campaign.


At 11:00 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Faheem, the phenomenon that black women control, but fail to employ to better their situation, is the same phenomenon that the black collective is failing to embrace….which is collective unity. Individualism is thus helping to promote the moral and structural decay of the black collective in America. The primary reason that these women allow themselves to be portrayed as such is personal gain. The majority do not give a damn about sisterhood or the black collective, but rather, personal gain, if it is morally degrading to the supposed collective goal of black women and black people. This is not, however, to excuse the black men who create the demand to display them as such, because they are the primary culprits, motivated by the same thing….individualism and personal gain. What I would like to see black women do, is also what I would like to see black people do….which is unify and start moving toward the equilibrium point between collective interest and individual interest.

Hey….I love the female form….especially the black female form. I profit each time I see it, because it cost me nothing, while giving me pleasure. But my profit comes at their loss, because when they display their beautiful form for my eyes to see, without having to use my imagination, they lose my respect…but I aint going to turn my head or change the channel. Thus, women need to reconcile with themselves if they want to trade providing pleasure for personal gain, for the loss of RESPECT. Men do not enter long term relationships and marriage with females that they do not respect, if they themselves have any self respect and something to offer. Rather, brothers just want to “hit that” or “cut that up” and they will date you for a while the “newness” last. But once it becomes old, you have nothing to hold him and thus he is off looking to “hit” some new stuff. There is no way that a brother is going to give up a queen, with self respect, pride, grace and dignity about herself. Those are the ones that brothers with self respect and something to offer will hold onto.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

"The primary reason that these women allow themselves to be portrayed as such is personal gain. The majority do not give a damn about sisterhood or the black collective, but rather, personal gain"

Indeed, and this is what Hattie was saying when she essentially said if it came to doing something that was demeaning or damaging to the collective for seven thousand dollars a week or making less in a job that does not cast dispersion on Black men and women she choose the seven thousand dollars a week thus you are correct most if not all of those who portray negative or stereotypical imagery do so for personal gain even if it is at the expense of the Black collective.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

Noah, what do you think in regards to balance. As pointed out in the op-ed, the people that these negative images portray actually do exist but not in the numbers that merit them and their imagery being broadcast all over the world as representing Black men and women in general. Do you think balance should be sought instead of the eradication of these images, being that if we were to operate in stealth mode in regards to these images it would be like we are lying to ourselves for a good reason none the less but still lying and behaving as if these types of men and women do not exist.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Scott said...


Time Warner Inc. yesterday agreed to buy the 51 percent of Essence magazine's publisher it doesn't already own, adding the African-American women's lifestyle publication to its magazine division


At 1:35 PM, Blogger Noah TA said...

That’s like suggesting that there needs to be balance between the almighty and the devil. Negativity does not need to be balanced…it needs to be eliminated. Evil does not need to be balanced with righteousness….righteousness needs absolute rule.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Constructive Feedback said...

Faheem "The Conservative"

Targeting a cultural issue instead of blaming an outsider.

Those who suffer from the results of such conditioning are the one's with everything to lose if things continue as they are. They are the one's who must stand up and define and defend the cultural norms. Without respect for the Black woman as more than a sexual hoochie we will never ordre ourselves accordingly.

Way to go bro.


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