BLACK ENTERTAINMENT & WOMEN
What About Image & Control?
Since the beginning of time, the woman’s role in society has been undermined and she has been viewed as the weaker sex, only created to be an assistant to the more powerful dominant man. However, resilience is a major part of the women’s anatomy and, not to be denied her due respect, the woman, whilst tolerating her unfair treatment, has been able to gradually break down the barriers that stood between her and the male domain.
Women in the Music Arena
In an arena where the male dominance has ruled uncontested for decades, the women within the ‘Black Music Sector’ are more than making their presence felt into the new millennium. But often, unlike their Caucasian counterparts, the Black woman has had to go out and create a place and a name for herself within the industry because in the ‘Black Music Sector’, her role has been more rigorously contested. The genres of Reggae, Jazz, Hip-hop (Rap) and to some extent R&B was created and is overtly dominated by men who, by their actions, have made it clear that this sector belongs to them and the ‘woman has no place within it other than to make them look good’! Hence, the majority of the artists and groups within these genres are male with the odd female popping up.
Black women are more than making their presence felt in the new millennium: Angela Davis, as part of the Black Panthers, militantly defended our cause during the sixties and seventies. The poetic verses of Dr. Maya Angelou have inspired many people the world over and she has a prominent role in educating young people. Whoopi Goldberg’s humour and wit, displayed in her strong characters on the silver screen, has won her many awards. The exquisite dulcet tones of Marcia Griffiths have been heard in every decade since the sixties. And no doubt that Talk Show Queen, Oprah Winfrey continues to set new trends in entertainment and has raised the profile of Black women considerably. Continuing on the line of entertainers, the crowned ‘Queen of R&B’, Beyonce Knowles created history by scooping six Grammy awards from her unprecedented eleven nominations.
A typical male music video these days will often portray ‘men dressed to the nines parading around with loads of bikini-clad females shaking their butt’! But it’s almost impossible to see these roles reversed as it’s not acceptable or rather, it doesn’t sell the kind of units required to make it profitable or even viable. Only the female who is prepared to take it to the extreme and ‘bare all’ for the camera, will one see some sort of counter. Having said that though, a breath of fresh air swirled into the music arena recently which has seen the likes of some Neo-Soul females sing positive lyrics and at the same time, keep their clothes on!
So it can be done – but one has to be strong-willed, determined and have good backing. But again, most A&R personnel, managers, promoters, leaders in these categories are male simply because they feel that only they can control these areas effectively. And ok, maybe I’m not telling you anything new but the fact is that women have had to work twice, no make that four times, as hard as anyone else to make their presence felt because of the negative attitude of the society we find ourselves in. So, instead of continually trying to break down ‘an iron door’, what some females have done is to study the business of music, create niches for themselves thus making themselves acceptable and often indispensable.
When we look at negative attitudes towards women within different genres of Black Music – none is fiercer than in the courtyard of Reggae Music. Most female contributions (apart from the odd singer) go almost unnoticed hence a negative portrayal of their roles within the media. One of the things that needs to be addressed is this imbalance because there are many positive and forthright females who have been the ‘silent’ pillar (backbone) which has enabled the ‘males’ to prance around and strut their stuff and basically depend on. Ironically, within the UK, there is no ‘sole print media’ representation for Reggae music aside from G MaG whilst all other Black Music genres have ex-amount of titles to choose from. And being that the males are so proud of their music, one would have thought that they would want to show it off in all its glory. But, I guess writing, editing and all the administration involved with publishing a magazine is still considered a ‘woman’s role’ and so, a woman had to step up and fill that role!