The Hip Hop Industry is a multi-billion dollar platform with wide-range appeal across all sexes and races. Unfortunately, the representation of black women in hip hop along with its accompanying videos is skewed, leaving the viewer with the concluding thought that “beauty” means long hair and fair skin. Thus, in order to make it to the video screen, the attractive female lead must meet these criteria.
Not only do these images shape perceptions of the black community as a whole in terms of speech, dress, and actions. But, according to the Cultivation Hypothesis, when people are exposed to “homogeneous representations of social relations” they begin to believe these limited images are reality (Gandy & Baron, 1998: 513). But whose ideals are these images truly based on? Are they a true representation of the people on display or are mainstream ideals pushing these labels?
What is the common image of a beautiful “video chick?” Normally she is petite, has a light complexion, long flowing hair (that may or may not be hers), light eyes, and a curvaceous body (Samuel & Brailey, 2004). There are scores of people consuming these images. Images that make judgments about beauty and attractiveness and if Drake or L’il Wayne say so, then it must be true. These images however are but a subset and leave out a majority of beautiful black women who are not and should not be defined solely by their bodies. So, if you don’t pass the brown paper bag test, then you’re not beautiful? We have to be better than that.
A 2004 Howard University study of black music videos found that the female lead in hip hop and R & B videos was overwhelming a young, attractive, fair skinned woman with long hair. Many of the women featured were mixed race and played a subservient role to the featured male artist and his entourage (Samuel & Brailey, 2004). The subservient video girl is your atypical ‘hoochie’ who is almost always scantily clad, placed in sexually inviting positions, and is always willing to please. The beautiful video girl thus is transformed into a sex object whose body serves as the landscape for mainstream ideals, politics, and cultural objectives. When definitions of black beauty and black female sexuality are defined using this one narrow construct, which is false, based on mainstream ideals, and designed to keep black women in subservient positions, the video girl (i.e. black woman) is reduced to her body parts and her value diminished.
Beyoncé is not the only barometer of what is beautiful. I mean seriously, do you think she woke up like that??? Let’s start to shed these images and ideals and become more accepting of the unique, diverse, magnificent rainbow of beauty as all women should not be painted with the same make-up brush.
L.J. Follow me on Twitter: @CrimeDoc1213
#LongHair #FairSkin #hiphop #music #videos #beauty #beautiful #hoochie #blacksexuality #consumption #female #empowerment
Gandy, O. & Baron, J. (1998). It’s all in the way you look at it. Communication Research, 25 (5), 505-527.
Ogunnaike, L. (2004, January 12). Sweeten the image, hold the bling-bling. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/12/arts/music/12HIPH.html?
Robinson, M. (2000). The construction and reinforcement of myths of race and crime. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 16 (2), 133-156.
Rhym, D. (1997). “Here’s for the bitches: An analysis of gangsta rap and misogyny. Womanist Theory and Research, 1(2), 63-68.
Samuel, L. & Brailey, C. (2004). Long hair, fair skin: The depiction of “beauty” in black urban music. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society Conference, Atlanta, GA.
Photo Source: Google Images (Bodybuilding.com Forum)