Think about it

I know that pop culture is raving about Jada Pinkett Smith’s video in the nude to promote awareness of sex trafficking. However, does something inside you just twinge a bit when you heard about it or saw the video? Think about it a minute.

Yes, she will create awareness, but regarding what, exactly? Millions of people will want to see the video because she is naked, but will the message of the horrors of sex slavery stick stronger than the images of Jada’s body?

The video depicts Smith singing naked (yet covered enough so as not to be x-rated) on a (clean) bare mattress in an isolated (yet clean) bare room. The film switches between her and a story about a young woman flinging with a new “beau” who eventually sells her to a trafficker. The lyrics are in Spanish, so if they add anything to the story I do not know. Please comment on this if it is relevant.

A couple of other things strike me. One, Smith is naked by choice. Two, she has the option of covering her breasts the entire time with her arms. When she stands she is against a wall or posing against a back light to hide her nether-region. Girls in bondage do not have that option. It trivializes and denigrates the very real and painful situation of young women about whom she wants to lift up.

This video sends a mixed message. In no way is it OK for someone to be exposed in that way, whether you choose it or not. It is a Hollywood depiction of someone using a cause to draw attention to herself. The need to be expose yourself like she did may in fact demonstrate that Jada perhaps is in bondage to a pop culture that demands hype and spin/shock and awe (but I’m not going there).

In the CNN interview Jada discusses the disconnect of communication between girls/adolescents and their parents and this contributes to the vulnerability of girls to being trafficked. True that! But the video is disconnected from reality in so many ways. What is the message that Jada doesn’t verbalize, but is louder than her words?

What other messages are there in our culture that normalizes the co-modification of women’s bodies? I’m sure you can come up with a lot if you think about it.

Keep your eyes and brain open. THINK about things. Not everything people do (especially famous ones) for a good cause is good. Examine what is being offered and how. This is true for everything we come across in our media today. Of course this post is controversial, but I’m not afraid of controversy, as long as it makes people think.

I’m all for people being against slavery and I’m not saying that Jada’s intentions are deliberately harmful or that she is a bad person or outright wrong for this. I’m glad that more people are becoming aware of the problem, but some of the awareness distracts people from the real truth about the problem. People tend to come at issues with their own ideas and solutions (me included!) to address complex problems without thinking about how we might be a little off base in our reasoning and how that might impact our intentions and goals.

P.S. While on the subject of dubious music videos I can’t resist making this point. If you want to see more about outright misogyny and mistreatment of women in pop culture, you can see the real thing in Kanye West’s Monster video. I’m not going to post a link to the video here (you can google it yourself), but I wouldn’t recommend watching it. Here is a commentary regarding the video. What baffles me is that Kanye West continues to be an icon of popular culture in spite of this.

What are you thinking now? I would love to hear it.

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5 thoughts on “Think about it

  1. Katherine, you are right about Hollywood and others who are using the trafficking theme to promote a superficial outrage but desiring to draw attention to themselves. As for misogynist lyrics and Kanye West, have you heard 50 Cent’s song about money (give me the money, or similar title). I first heard it at a spin class at our local gym, got off my bike, googled the lyrics, and returned to complain to the gym, showing them the print-out of the song’s lines. No one else in the class, even those who knew the singer and the song, said anything. The owner of the gym was surprised, said they only played songs that had been cleared by the radio stations. I don’t think so. People are not listening…Think about that!

  2. I don’t doubt that Jada is against sex trafficking, but like most of pop culture she is oblivious to what influence the culture has on promoting the conditions that make trafficking work. The prevalent attitude here is that TV, movies, and music have no connection to any social problems. And even if there is some connection you are excused if you are “aware” of the hot social issue of the day. You are practically a saint if you wear an awareness bracelet!

    I suppose Ms. Smith will be praised excessively for being so aware and making others more aware. In a month it will pass and the real trafficked women will remain unseen and forgotten.

  3. Pingback: Celebrities and Cultural “Awareness” « Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly…

  4. Pingback: The Life | Relentless

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