Update: Adios Barbie announced June 27 that MTV has confirmed it will not air the video.
It’s official folks, and you heard it here first: MTV and VH1 will not air Kanye West’s “Monster” video. Jeannie Kedas of MTV Networks, which also controls VH1, has recently confirmed that neither channel “has plans to air the video.” Kedas cited MTV’s voluntary standards department as a guiding force in their choice, but you can bet that our collective online movement against the official release of “Monster” also had something to do with MTV’s principled decision.
Melinda Tankard Reist, advocate for women and girls, with support from Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (Australia), Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation and Adios Barbie, are petitioning Universal Music Group and MTV to prevent the release of a video by Kanye West that seeks to shock and, of course, make money, by showing images of eroticized violence against women.
From the petition:
HipHopConnection.com has leaked a video teaser for the Kanye West hit song “Monster” and what we’ve seen is beyond disturbing. In just 30 seconds, viewers take in image after image of eroticized violence against women:
• Dead women, clad in lingerie, hang by chains around their necks
• West makes sexual moves toward dead or drugged women propped up in a bed
• A naked dead or drugged woman lays sprawled on a sofa
If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.
It’s important that we object against such attacks on our culture, humanity and dignity. Every time we just shrug our shoulders or walk past such displays, it only moves the boundary out a little farther as the next “artist” tries to shock and grab attention, in the process normalizing violence against and objectification of women.
Some people will object that this work is protected in the United States under the First Amendment right to free speech. However, the Supreme Court has generally refused to give obscenity any protection under the First Amendment. And it can certainly be argued that this is obscenity. The court uses this current test: (a)…‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find the work, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,…(b)…the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c)…the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (from Wikipedia)
Obviously, there are some subjective factors here. So if this work qualifies for First Amendment protection, (that is, if it is art, which is highly doubtful) that only prevents the government from censoring the work. No company or person is obligated to publish or broadcast this thing, and it’s not censorship in that case.
The other concern here is the community standards test. If this video is accepted without protest from the community, it becomes the community standard. Which means it sets the boundary that the next “artist” will try to push. And that is why it’s important to draw a line and say, “No, we don’t accept this.”
Community standards change. In the days of James Stewart and Kim Novak, creating such a video would have been inconceivable. Now, it’s not only conceivable, it’s actually created and then put out for public viewing. We’ve come to a place where the images, ideas and standards of even extreme pornography have become quite mainstream. It’s the result of the inching out of the boundaries little by little.
If you are interested in learning more about how we came to be here, read The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here by Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott.
I found this an enlightening look at how pornography has slowly but surely become part of our everyday culture. The authors discuss the harmful effects of certain violent or degrading pornography, while also pointing out that some forms are not so harmful. They offer some ideas on what the society can do. It’s a great read.
Order it from your local bookstore and in the meantime, sign the petition. I did, because I object.