Sunday, September 9, 2007

Mark Your Calendars

Congress is to hold a hearing on misogyny in hip hop on September 25, 2007. Though the hearing has yet to be officially announced, a bit of information has been leaked to the press. The reason being? My guess is that they wanted to keep the whole gig in line with the industry they're talking about. Get some of your work out to the public before someone else does it without your permission, a smart move considering how the mainstream press tends to greatly distort academic and activist-led response to hip hop..

The hearing will be sponsored by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and led by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), the subcommittee chairman, who ". . . want[s] to engage not just the music industry but the entertainment industry at large to be part of a solution" His approach is admirable because he admits that despite what we are often led to believe about hip hop, the artist is not necessarily the primary culprit, bearing in mind that lyrical content goes through several channels for approval:

The intent is to examine commercial practices behind the music's most controversial content. "I want to talk to executives at these conglomerates who've never taken a public position on what they produce," Rush said. "But it's been surprisingly very difficult to get them to commit to appearing." Rush had planned the hearing twice before and had to postpone both times to accommodate execs' schedules. "But after a series of long conversations and other communications, they know this hearing is going to go forward, and they will be coming -- reluctantly, if I might add." Witnesses include toppers Philippe Dauman of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music Group and Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music Group.
As expected, record labels are less than eager to take the fall:
A music industry exec said the delay [for agreeing to a set date for the hearing] was more an issue of getting the right people to appear. "Not everyone agrees that the top people are the same as the right people," the exec said, noting that decisions to sign particular artists or distribute their CDs are often made at lower levels.
It sounds a lot like the same level play we hear when it comes to military mess-ups. Like a bad case of he said/she said, the higher-ups defer responsibility to those below and vice versa. One thing is for sure, however, Bobby Rush seems to have a handle on where the problem starts and has clearly been pro-active about finding a possible solution, or at least discussing one. He has entitled the hearing "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degradation," alluding to the prevalence of misogyny beyond the hip hop industry, something its critics sometimes disregard. He has also expanded the scope of the hearing by seeking to include African-American women's groups, noting that he wants "to look at not only the problem caused by misogynistic content in some hip-hop music but also some of the pain that emanates from this degradation."

I am not sure how productive the hearing will be, especially considering that similar hearings on violence and sex on television (which Rush has referenced in order to bolster the legitimacy of the hearing on hip hop) have yielded few results with regard to changing sexism and violence in this country. The hearing also begs the question of how much government involvement is necessary in the arts, if at all? Rush notes that he is not using the hearing to potentially act in opposition to freedom of speech, but I can't help but consider the significance that such government-level activism may have on artists' rights. Could the war being waged on hip hop become a neo-McCarthy movement?

On the other hand, however, I admire Rush's commitment to making an attempt to do something about what many consider a large problem not only within hip hop, but also outside its boundaries. As a woman who is adamantly opposed to misogyny in music, media, and daily life, I am relieved that someone in the government is attempting to hold at least *some* of the people who continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about women responsible for their actions.

We'll see what happens in two weeks . . .

h/t to dnA for the article!

- Wendi Muse


article originally posted at Too Sense

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