Now, the question rises again—in a world that is fundamentally different from one in which men could only stand by while their women and children were violated. Check out this video depicting audition clips for a reality show featuring rapper Plies. (Shout-out to my bro-in-law for posting this on Facebook!) The women depicted here are clearly proud of their sexual “talents.” More power to ‘em and Lord love ‘em. But note not a spirit of simple competition but of divisiveness that permeates these women’s statements. They’re bragging that they’re better than every other woman in line because of what they can do in the bedroom and because of what they’re willing to let Plies to do them. While there’s some pride in being independent and being able to cook, for example, the emphasis is placed on sexual versatility and skill.
Interestingly, the person who posted this video to YouTube titled it “BLACK MEN RAISE YOUR DAUGHTERS SO THEY WON’T DO THIS!” Black men, fathers in particular, you’re being called out! And all this makes me wonder why it’s the father’s responsibility to keep their daughters from seeking this type of attention and from promoting this type of division. Is it not primarily women who are interviewing other women for this TV show? Granted, these women are working for a man, but they don’t have to. These women are choosing to do a job that exploits some arguably weak-minded women. Is this a complication that should be laid at their fathers’ feet too?
Perhaps, but who knows what kind of fatherly experiences we’re seeing the fruits of, from one woman to the next? There are women out there who were raised by hardworking men who taught their daughters to love themselves and others. Others may have had absent or horrible fathers. Still others may have had nothing but negative experiences with men, to the point that they don’t know how to deal with them or themselves in a healthy way. Then again, while some may have missed their biological fathers in their lives, maybe they had uncles or teachers or neighbors who filled the void. Whatever the case may be, 1) there’s got to be a level of personal responsibility involved here, and 2) women have to bear some responsibility too. That’s not to discount the long-term psychological and emotional effects of absent, deadbeat or otherwise subpar fathers. I realize that men do have an important role to play in helping to shape their daughters’ and sons’ futures, but they don’t play the only role.
Jill Scott tackles this issue from a slightly different angle in the August 2010 edition of her Essence column, “I’m Just Sayin.’”August’s installment, “Boys to Men,” argues that, while women can instill morals, values, and a treasure-trove of knowledge into their sons, there are certain aspects of manhood that boys can learn only from men. The most important point she makes, however, is that so many black boys lack instruction from a community of black men. A community of black men instructing their sons, she argues, is invaluable:
While there are men who take pride in raising and instructing their sons, there is very little communal education. Just imagine if our men taught our boys conflict resolution—how to settle a dispute so that everyone walks away alive. Maybe if our outstanding men shared that one skill with our boys, there would be fewer violent deaths in our neighborhoods. […] What if our great men taught our boys how to nurture women and children with love, respect and understanding? Maybe our artists would be more creative when depicting women in their music and videos. […]And maybe our rappers would be more creative when depicting women in their reality shows too. Do you see why I love Jill? She’s making a very cogent argument about how a concerted effort of our strong, dedicated, responsible men can turn the tide of negatives in our communities, from violence to relationships. I think she’s right, but the concerted effort of our men and women is really the ticket, and that’s what I’m getting at--an idea clearly not lost on Jill, as she explains her role as a mother. I wonder how many of those women waiting in line for Plies’ show are mothers, and I have the same curiosity about the women behind the interviewing table.
Maybe a community of men can prevent boys from exploiting females on national TV, and maybe such a community can prevent those females from exploiting themselves. Perhaps, too, the combined instruction of men and women can curb the unhealthy images promoted by “television and hustlers in the streets,” as Jill puts it, and help our boys and girls grow up to be men and women who respect and love one another and themselves: not a selfish love but a love that appreciates one’s inherent value. That’s not the value being promoted by these women clamoring to be “Bust it Babies” or by the women and men seeking to put them on TV.