It’s not easy to forget those uncut clips of Kanye West’s music video “Monster” that were leaked online back in December and January. But thanks to you, MTV and VH1, part of MTV Networks, have chosen not to air the official version of “Monster,” which bears much resemblance to the earlier excerpts. We believe that your signatures on the Care2 petition, an incredible 16,000, played an enormous role in their decision.
Fetishized violence assumes the video’s starring role: nearly naked women dead by hanging, decapitation, and just dead (or drugged) enough to be played with in bed like a sex toy. It’s what prompted us (Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Shout, Coalition Against Trafficking Women Australia and Adios Barbie) to create a petition against the official release of “Monster.” But it was YOU who took the time to insist that violence against women is unacceptable, even if labeled as art.
In March, we discovered that MTV sent West and Def Jam (the creators of the video; its parent company, Universal Music Group or UMG only distributes Def Jam content) back to the production studio to make edits. It was a move in the right direction but we knew we had to keep the campaign alive. You recognized that hate speech is not the same as free speech and your support continued to grow into the thousands.
When the video was officially released on June 5, the anticipated edits were practically non-existent. Except of course, for the disclaimer, which I wrote about at Adios Barbie earlier this week:
The only thing that was strikingly different from the leaked clips was the disclaimer at the beginning of the video: “The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and shall be taken as such.” It might as well have read: “Warning: The following content may cause physical and emotional upset such as nausea and seething anger” because the final cut still contained the same sexually violent images that sparked our activism in the first place. It’s obvious that the inclusion of a disclaimer tells us that someone at Def Jam, UMG, or even West himself is paying attention to our protest. Note to artists and producers: A disclaimer does not erase nor excuse misogynistic content.
It seems that MTV agrees. This past week, the network confirmed that MTV and VH1 will not provide airtime to “Monster.” Although UMG, the other target of our petition, refused to provide a statement and take a stand on the issue, we have delivered a potent message to the music industry. Preventing the distribution of one video won’t automatically produce responsible and respectful depictions of women overnight but we have taken one positive step forward. It is because of each and every one of you that MTV Networks paid attention to our message: Eroticized violence against women is not entertainment. Keep the message alive.
Photo from Super 45 Musica Independiente via flickr