Who’s Responsible When Media Shows Black Men Perpetuating Misogyny? [Reader Forum]

Colorlines.com readers weigh in on Too $hort, Chris Brown, and the society in which their careers exist.

By Channing Kennedy Feb 27, 2012

Hip-hop elder statesman Too $hort did something really interesting last week, something that’s difficult even for people who haven’t spent their career deflecting criticism: he said he was wrong. In an interview with AllHipHop.com, $hort describes an instructive conversation he had with journalist dream hampton about a video he made for XXL Magazine’s website, in which he jokingly instructed grade-school boys on how to sexually assault their female classmates. And while one struggles to imagine a scenario in which this video wouldn’t have been a horrific idea, credit to Too $hort for not only issuing a real apology, but for taking a pass on forgiveness, saying his actions would be the real proof of his sincerity.

Meanwhile, ColorofChange.org has collected 47,000 signatures calling for XXL editor Vanessa Satten to be fired, along with demands of Too $hort and of XXL’s publisher. And as Akiba Solomon wrote on Thursday, normalization of sexual violence is endemic in hiphop media; she names five takeaways for XXL’s contemporaries to take away.

So, who should be held responsible when black men appear in the media, perpetuating a culture of misogyny and sexual assault? The men? The editors who sign off on the messaging? The industry that demands the messaging? The society that constrains the representations of both men and women of color? Or all of the above? Here’s what you had to say.

Brotha Wolf:

What I want to know is, why of all people did XXL allow Too Short to give "Fatherly advice"? The rapper has always released raunchy, misogynistic lyrics. And yet, they gave him of all people a chance to speak on how to treat girls. Unbelievable.

And it doesn’t matter if Too Short was being satirical. Young boys wouldn’t know if it was or not. That’s the point. Plus, he helps strengthen negative stereotypes of black men with his screwed up comment. SMDH.

Why couldn’t they ask someone like Kevin Powell, Bryon Hurt or Hill Harper? Why do media outlets like this ask the wrong kinds of people for feedback on an important topic? We’ve seen this when MSNBC wanted to hire Pat Buchanan of all people. What is the logic behind this constant miscarriage of journalism?


Best article written on this media catastrophe to date. And I’m just shaking my head at the thought of any adult — much less a so-called journalist — defending Too $hort’s predatory antics. Whatever one’s stereotypes about adult feminists and what they think we do, any fool should know that joking about the sexual abuse of children is wrong. That is unless folks are so damn dehumanized that they don’t see girls as children.

The saddest reality: That we even have to have a conversation with grown-ass adults about something so basic. How quickly we forget what it’s like to be a child in this world.

Hannah Hall:

Too bad Chris Brown didn’t have a similar enlightening moment. If he supported organizations working against violence on women I would believe him when he says he is sorry or sings songs like Man in the Mirror to "rehabilitate his image."


Pu-leez! This is hardly the first time people have been on his case about remarks and work that demean women and he is just deciding to change? He can show us better than he can tell us, so we’ll see.

Sam Sullivan:

Why is his age emphasized in every article critical of his recent behavior? Is this to imply that if he were, say, 25, it would have been more acceptable? Drake or Wayne make a video telling young boys how to sexually manipulate young girls, it’s not as harmful because, hey, at least they’re not all old with gray hair?

Nina G.:

I think his age is important. I don’t make an effort in discussing race, gender, etc. with people beyond a certain age. Now I’m rethinking that.

Gina Patterson:

Editors ought to have control over the message of an organization. All that said… (1) It is entirely likely that Satten didn’t see the post and that when she did, she took it down. (2) We’re asking Satten to be responsible for a larger culture of sexism that probably also occurs in her workplace at XXL. It’s probably entirely likely that the operations of sexism were in play–where whoever posted it didn’t think that had to run it by Satten because "she’s just a woman." (3) If we’re going to do a nationwide petition, maybe it should be a nationwide boycott of Too $hort.

And speaking of Chris Brown, several of you called us out on our framing of the news that Rihanna is working with him again. Fair enough! Here’s what you had to say.

Brock Grosso:

Why is Rihanna not allowed to work with Chris Brown? Denying her the agency to make that decision is oppressive in it’s own right. I don’t think this is advocating for returning to abusive relationships, I think it is a professional making a decision for herself and for her career. I like Colorlines, but sometimes I feel as though your focus is not on the right target. Rihanna is not the reason for abusive relationships.


[…] [F]ocusing on the fact that Rihanna is dealing with this situation in the way that she is, regardless of whether you think it is the right way or not, completely distracts the world from the real problem. That Chris Brown was abusive. And let’s be honest, our society has still yet to hold him accountable for a damn thing. Let’s not forget that. We keep forgetting that. Instead I keep reading comments everywhere calling Rihanna stupid and articles now saying she isn’t a good role model because she made a decision that, for all we know, was her way of getting power back in a situation that has completely sucked her dry of it (at the hands of Chris Brown, the media and society).

Chelsea Marie:

It’s not surprising that they would reunite — most people do go back to their abuser. It’s not even that surprising that they would collaborate — their story brings attention, money & controversy. What is surprising is the lyrics of this song and how they missed an opportunity to do something good for the young people they influence who are seeing growing rates of intimate partner violence, and instead went for another misogynistic and explicit hip hop song that results in the sexual objectification and degredation of Rihanna. Chris Brown is granted both power over and ownership of Rihanna in his proclamation to "give it to her in the worst way" and "put his name on it" because "doggy wants the kitty." Classy.

And finally, if last week’s news left you wanting some positive representations of black men, I strongly encourage you to check out Question Bridge: Black Males, which is currently on exhibit at select locations around the country. It’s a simple, powerful video installation in which black men of all ages and backgrounds ask each other questions about being a black man. (Real talk: I saw it earlier this month at the Oakland Museum of California, and it brought me to tears.) Our news editor Jamilah King did an excellent Q&A with artist Chris Johnson — check it out.

Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on Colorlines.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.