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Music videos exploiting black women's bodies

EXPOSED: Rihanna filming her recent Pour it Up video

MUSIC VIDEOS are continuing to over-sexualise and demean young black women, female empowerment campaigners have said as they launch a campaign for better protection.

End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition, Imkaan and OBJECT are now working together to call for age restrictions on music videos whether they are sold in shops or viewed online.

It follows growing concern that young female artists like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are baring more and more flesh to maintain their popularity.

And the uncensored version of male singer Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video – which used naked women while the men stayed fully clothed – was removed from YouTube for being “inappropriate”, and banned worldwide after causing upset.

Ikamara Larasi, 24, of black feminist organisation Imkaan, said: “In 2010, we had conversations with young black and minority ethnic (BME) women in the UK which included how they felt about the way they were represented.

"They felt frustrated with the absence of representation, let alone positive representation, of their identities in the media, and specifically highlighted the over-sexualised images of young BME women in music videos…A few years on, this issue remains unaddressed, and has perhaps worsened."

Larasi emphasised that it was not just the hip-hop industry that was guilty, but genres across the board.

"People go, 'Oh - it’s a black problem; black men are so aggressive and misogynous', but it’s everywhere. Either BME women are not in videos at all or when we are the way we are sexualised is very specific to our ethnicity," added Larasi.

She pointed to Australian rapper Iggy Azalea as an example of a white artist using black women in her videos, perhaps as a means to gain credibility.

“[Azalea] kinda drives me nuts,” said Larasi, “In her videos she is always against a backdrop of a sea of women who are indistinguishable from one another. For example, in Work, she is at the front wearing a fur coat and there are two black women twerking behind her on a truck.”

Sarah Green, EVAW’s campaigns manager, accused the mainstream media of ignoring the racism element within the debate.

She said: “Young women were saying [to us] that both black and white artists are using women as props on set. In a particular Calvin Harris video [Drinking from the Bottle ft Tinie Tempah], there is kind of sea of black women’s bottoms. You never even see their faces…and these young black women say it makes them feel hated.”

Larasi added: “I think it’s important that across the media we are able to have a diverse portrayal of women of all backgrounds. While there is a [lot to be said] for having a strong mind, if you only see one image of who are you [supposed to be], then it can be quite a problem.”

Campaigners have now sent open letters calling for age restrictions to be placed on music videos to the chief executives of the music trade body British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the video platform Vevo, and to Prime Minister David Cameron, criticising its key decision makers.

Stephanie Phillips, a member of Blackfeminists.org who started her own punk band, said it was down to black artists to create their own videos instead of relying on the mainstream.

“You are rarely shown videos of a dark-skinned women, so you have to come to terms that they don’t care about women and black women in general unless they are forced to,” she said.

“Young women need to know what a relationship is really about and what respect is, which should be taught in schools.”

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