There seems to be an unwritten rule in society that people of certain races, creeds and other minorities are the only ones allowed to make fun of their own backgrounds. Can you imagine “Borat” receiving many accolades if it was made by Mel Gibson? The appropriateness of this, or lack thereof, is not what I am writing to debate. However, Don Imus’s firing from CBS Radio last week seemed to cement this ideal. While there is absolutely no way or reason to defend the shock-jock’s labeling of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” his use of the term “ho” should spark a constructive debate on the detrimental impact of today’s pop media. While some may argue that if Imus had been black, his words may have been acceptable. In truth, they would not have been, regardless of what ethnicity he is.
What Imus said last week was about as offensive as it gets. Anytime an elderly white man sporting a cowboy hat degrades admirable, studious, black women with racial slurs, trouble will rightfully follow. However, subsequent demands by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – who, by the way, still have outlets after both having a history of making anti-Semitic remarks – for Imus’ immediate firing, exposed a glaring hypocrisy in today’s mass media.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard rappers call women “hos” while their music videos portray them in bikinis or sometimes less, begging for the superstar’s attention. I may not be the smoothest operator in the world, but I am certain that if I tried that with a girl I was pursuing, she wouldn’t be coming over anytime soon. If it’s not okay for me to say it, why is it for them?
The reason is advertising revenue. If you listen to rap lyrics, you hear ads for clothes, alcohol (anyone sipped Bacardi on their birthday lately?) and cars. Speaking of which, I think I’ll go buy myself a Cadillac and throw some Ds on that… ah, caught myself! On MTV, you probably see more product placement than anywhere else in the entertainment media. This causes us to be bombarded with more of the same type of music, as it is profitable for everyone involved.
If advertisers are going to bail on Imus for his comments, why not do the same to the music industry? Why hasn’t there been an outcry for that? CBS didn’t really want to fire Imus, who earns them $15 million a year. However, they had no choice once their advertisers left. If people defended women the way they did the Rutgers basketball team, I guarantee Budweiser Select wouldn’t be calling the “Big Pimpin'” Jay-Z the next time they want to market a new product.
What really needs to be examined is the effect of pop culture on our everyday dealings. Last I checked, and believe me, I check often, women come in all colors, shapes and sizes. So when a rapper calls a woman a “ho,” she can generalize the term and pass it off as a reflection of someone other than herself. Not so with Imus and the Rutgers basketball team.
The reason Don Imus got into so much trouble, aside from his use of the term “nappy,” was that he demeaned a specific group of highly respected individuals. However, if any of you have seen Imus, you would know why his career has been mainly in radio. He will not be winning any beauty contests anytime soon. But I digress. If women were viewed as a cohesive group, instead of as individuals, it would be impossible to get away with the insults that so many in the music industry do.
Therefore, the suits at CBS Radio can say all they want about what is right and what is wrong. In the end, money talks, and although CBS and Viacom – which owns MTV – split two years ago, their majority owner is still the same person, Sumner Redstone. So while CBS loses $15 million on Imus, Viacom continues to cash checks on music videos that, on a broader level, endorse the same kind of statements that Imus was fired for. Redstone wins. Listen for Imus to join subscription-based satellite radio, where, for the time being, there are no ads, and, therefore, fewer limitations.