BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
West Coast Rapper, Too $hort, came under fire recently for the outrageous “fatherly” advice that he gave in an interview to hop-hop publication XXL Magazine. The singer gives tips to young boys on the “mind manipulation” of young girls, the content of which makes for very uncomfortably and inappropriate listening, particularly for the young audience at which it is aimed.
In response to the incident a coalition of Black and Latina activists have formed called We Are the 44% to counter sexual violence against teens. They issued a statement condemning the interview, and offered a list of demands, which include that both Too Short and all Harris Publication staff members participate in education and sensitivity training on sexual assault/rape, as well as the sacking of XXL Magazine Editor-in-chief Vanessa Satten. (Trigger warning: You can read the transcript of the interview for yourself here).
Initially, Too Short appears to have flip-flopped around his comments, first offering an apology cloaked in denial of responsibility. Yet, in a newly added layer, Too $hort approached feminist writer and member of We Are the 44%, Dream Hampton, to conduct an interview with him to set the record straight in Ebony.com. Some may consider Too Short’s apologies too little, too late, or question the authenticity of his change of heart, but the conversation leaves him in better stead than in his first response to the backlash. It shows that it is possible for a person to alter their dehumanizing attitudes towards women and that if we continue to hold people accountable for hateful speech, there can be a ripple effect of change. In the following extract, Too $hort discusses what he has learned from this incident and responds to the backlash:
“…when I taped the XXL video, my goal was that this was some kind of comedy piece. So I am sitting there and the thing that I am saying’s actually reminiscent of when we as little boys were being bad and (what) we were doing something or learning or practicing. But know I’m understanding that it’s actually it’s a form of sexual assault. And it’s crazy that I’m just now understanding this.”
I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it. I am looking at this and I am looking at all the stuff that they put out, completely from the entertainment industry, from the movies I watched when I was a kid. A rape scene in a movie was pretty normal. They don’t really do it that much anymore, (but) back then a guy would take it and the girl would enjoy it. They put those images out there over and over again and it’s like so much society is ok with the images of aggressive male and female sexuality. I’m just reading this and I’m reading that, and I’m like I am so much a part of that whole “man” thing.”
Whether or not the magazine ultimately decides to fire Vanessa Satten, we can only hope that in the future, their editors will pay closer attention to the content they are implicitly promoting and that musicians in the spotlight, who wield a tremendous potential to influence young people, will consider if they are advocating a culture of violence against girls of color.
“We need to be able to have conversations about what Too Short’s and XXL magazine’s actions perpetuate in our society, but not without rejecting smoke-screen rhetoric. Violence Against Women (VAW) continues to destroy the fabric of our society and men must step up and stop scapegoating women to save themselves.”
Here is a challenge, men: Step up and journey to un-learn all of what you think is cool about what is really VAW from places like Men Can Stop Rape, people like Jackson Katz and films like Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. It is never too late to start, only shameful if you choose not to.