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How stars like Beyoncé are damaging our girls

DOUBLE STANDARDS: Husband and wife team Jay Z and Beyoncé often perform together but only one is fully clothed

BLACK WOMEN and girls feel the greatest impact of over-sexualised music videos produced to drive profits, a new report has found.

Pornographic Performance: A review of research on sexualisation and racism in music videos - is a collaborative effort among several women’s rights organisations.

It researched and collated existing evidence to highlight the portrayal of black women as hyper-sexualised ‘endlessly sexually available’ objects, which is endemic in popular videos such as Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love.

The video, which shows the barely-dressed Grammy Award-winning singer rubbing up against her husband Jay Z, who is fully dressed, has been viewed nearly 200 million times on You Tube alone.

According to findings described by the report as worrying, black women were perceived more negatively after participants in a study watched a sexually-charged rap video.

Music videos have become an important selling tool, the report highlighted, adding: “With views now also contributing towards chart positioning in some countries, music videos are more than commercials for a product – they are a product (as Beyonce’s ‘visual album’, released in December 2013, shows).

The briefing document has since been handed to political figures, media regulators and music industry bosses as part of an ongoing campaign to address the sexist and racist themes that are readily available on TV and the Internet.

End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition, Imkaan and OBJECT commissioned the research which was conducted by Dr Maddy Coy as part of the Rewind and Reframe project.

ENDEMIC

Dr Coy said: “This paper sets out what is known about music videos – that sexist and racist stereotypes are endemic – and that this can be related to harm in the real world.”

The report noted: “To date there has been comparatively little research on racialised sexism in music videos, but one study has found that white men and women who viewed highly sexualised rap music videos reported more negative views of black women.”

Black women performers in music videos are frequently shown wearing sexually suggestive clothing more frequently than white women, with a particular focus on glorified body parts such as the buttocks and breasts.

“Such fetishisation invokes images of black women as wild and animalistic; there is a specific racialised meaning which echoes the ways in which European colonialists defined black bodies as intellectually inferior on the basis of physiological features,” observed Dr Coy.


BODY PARTS: Nicki Minaj exploits her own feminine curves

But two of the figureheads behind the paper, Sarah Green and Ikamara Larasi, said they did not want to reduce this solely to a ‘black issue’ or for it to become so much about gender that race was ignored.

Larasi, of the black feminist organisation Imkaan, warned that it was not just hip-hop that was guilty, but genres across the board.

She also accused the mainstream media of ignoring the racism element within the debate. “Given the history that we have and the society we live in, which is inherently sexist, racist and homophobic, it is impossible to view these issues in a vacuum,” she said.

Looking at the issue in a wider context is what the women of these organisations have been committed to doing, as well as challenge presentations of sex and race in popular culture.

Green, of EVAW, also warned against targeting specific artists like female rapper Nicki Minaj. “We are trying to talk about the wide scale imagery in many music videos and not the choices of individual artists,” she said.

“There is a knee-jerk reaction from commentators to immediately want to talk about Beyoncé and Rihanna whereas we are identifying how across the different genres of music, the people making decisions about marketing and promotion are choosing to use black women’s bodies in a certain way.”

The report has recommended an age rating system for music videos, as well as the creation of forums by music industry insiders where the views of young women from all backgrounds could be heard.

LITERACY

It also wants to see media literacy introduced in school to enable young people to “unpick media content critically and understand and give context to what they’re seeing,” added Green, who also recommended Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to sensitize young people about consent and equality.

Green continued: “Television and film are well regulated and our society accepts and supports this. Other forms like music videos are getting away with very little scrutiny and as such seem to be competing for who can most degrade and insult women. If the ‘creative’ people who make them won’t stop this, regulators should rein them in and implement age ratings. More than 18,000 people have signed a petition calling for this.”

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