WETZSTEIN: Rap music perpetuates stereotypes of women

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A few years ago, I was looking over one of my favorite federal studies for data on American families. As I started pulling numbers for a chart, I slowly became aware of a gut-punching pattern.

Compared with women of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, black women were

- Least likely to marry by age 30.

- Least likely to marry a long-term cohabiting partner.

- Most likely to have marriages end after 10 years.

- Least likely to remarry within five years.

- Most likely to see their second marriages end after 10 years.

How can this be, I wondered. Don’t these women want a stable love life and family? And if black women do want such things (and I’m sure they do), how do we reconcile those desires with such stark federal statistics?

How did we get to this place, where literally millions of wonderful, worthy black women are waiting to exhale?

There are many answers, but let’s focus on one - black men’s perception of black women. Uh oh, some may say. Here comes the rap on rap, which we’ve been hearing at least since 1993, when the late, great C. Delores Tucker went after vulgar and misogynistic lyrics.

But let’s look closer and see if some dots don’t connect.

Earlier this year, the Parents Television Council (PTC) monitored three music-video shows aimed at young black audiences on BET and MTV. In a two-month period, PTC found that “Rap City,” “106 & Park” and “Suckerfree on MTV” aired 1,306 sexual references and 970 expletives. This meant viewers were shown a sexual reference and a vulgarity about every two minutes. Maybe this doesn’t sound like much. After all, it’s just three shows.

But what if little girls are hearing or seeing themselves belittled 12 times a day, every day, on black-themed radio stations and music shows? In the 15 years since Mrs. Tucker and others started to rage against the hip-hop machine, this amounts to 65,700 putdowns.

What about the boys? What are they to think when girls are constantly portrayed as disposable sex objects? You don’t bring them home to Mama, that’s for sure.

E. Faye Williams, who picked up Mrs. Tucker’s megaphone, says she constantly is doing damage control.

The National Congress of Black Women proudly tells black women (and men) they can be doctors, lawyers, even president of the United States, Ms. Williams told the PTC press conference in April.

Then the mass media comes along “and tells these children they are not who we say they are,” she said, eyes flashing.

The music industry is perpetuating two of the most evil stereotypes of slavery - that black men are lawless and black women are hypersexual, said the Rev. Delman Coates, founder of the Enough is Enough Campaign.

Radio personality Don Imus got fired for disparaging black women, but other people are getting rich doing the same thing, he said.

“We have to be consistent in our outrage. … If it’s not all right for white men to degrade black women, it should be equally as problematic for black men to do the same,” said Mr. Coates.

No one, myself included, is going to say that what plays on the airways determines the fate of millions of children. “Correlation does not imply causation” is a social science adage.

However,

- Urban radio is the No. 1 way to reach black youth.

- Urban media messages often describe black women as disposable.

- Young black girls repeatedly tell pollsters they believe in marriage and want to marry someday.

- Federal data (National Survey of Family Growth) show that, compared to other women, black women are disproportionately unlikely to enjoy a lifelong marriage.

Clearly, what’s missing in this mix is some r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

Cheryl Wetzstein’s “On the Family” column appears Tuesdays and Sundays. She can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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