Is Kanye a Woman-Hating Monster?

Musician Kanye West is no stranger to controversy, but the new video for his song, Monster, is “beyond disturbing“. The issue? The piece depicts scene after scene of highly eroticized violence against women: dead women in lingerie, hanging from chains, sprawled or propped up in bed.

The video inspired a petition to stop the record label from promoting the video. I asked the petition’s author, Sharon Haywood, to talk about the situation and her goals for the petition.

1) What prompted you to start the petition?

I first became aware of the leaked video clip via Melinda Tankard Reist’s article. Watching it produced the most intense feelings of revulsion, a physical reaction that literally made me feel sick. I couldn’t digest the fact that a huge part of Kanye’s following is children and teens who will be further desensitized to thinking women are just sex-doll-like playthings for male entertainment. I feared what other brutal images the full-length video would bring. I have never initiated a petition before and I couldn’t think of a better reason to start one.

As I worked on the petition with Melinda I needed to watch the short clip many times over. What horrified me even more and reinforced the importance of this petition was that I recognized my reactions were less visceral as I repeatedly viewed the video. In other words, I was becoming desensitized–despite my awareness of the issues. If as an activist and feminist I could have my senses dulled by repetitive viewing, imagine what it does to kids and teens?

2) Is there a place for freedom of speech in this? Is disturbing imagery sometimes appropriate?

As Melinda says so eloquently, “free speech shouldn’t mean hate speech. Free speech should be fair speech.” If this video focused on the degradation of other groups, such as black or Jewish people, people would see this video as a hate crime and this debate would not exist. It should be no different for women. We do not want this video circulated to any audience–it is appropriate for no-one.

Various versions of a full-length video are circulating now online, which has prompted some people to argue that the petition is no longer relevant because the dead/drugged women are actually zombies. But how many zombies are clad in lingerie (or less) and don stilettos? This premise is a thin veil that still reveals the fact that the women in the video are victimized by eroticized violence.

Yes, shocking images, when used to incite positive action can be appropriate. For instance, the late Isabelle Caro, well-known for her battle against anorexia, posed naked for an anti-anorexia campaign. Her skeletal frame shocked people but it was via this shock that she hoped to raise awareness and advance education about the illness that took her life. The Monster video, on the other hand, does not have any positive goal. It contributes to a culture in which violence against women is endemic.

3) What do you hope to accomplish with the petition?<

We decided to run this campaign because we wanted to challenge the idea that violence against women can be justified in the name of “art.”

Aside from the obvious we would like to see more responsibility-taking within the music industry. Studies have shown that repetitive consumption of violence and objectification against a specific group makes it all the easier to commit and permit violence against that population.

So great is today’s level of desensitization that the barbaric treatment of women is seen as normal and to be expected. We decided to run this campaign because we wanted to challenge the status quo. Simply put, we’d love to see more responsible depictions of women and eliminate the idea that violence against women is entertainment.

4) If you could send a message to Kanye West, what would it be?

I’d urge him to consider that in the United States a woman is assaulted every 2 minutes. And then have him consider that he probably has a woman in his life that has already been assaulted even if she doesn’t let the rest of the world know. Showing images like the ones in Monster feed this epidemic. He might think twice about eroticizing violence if he realized it could actually hurt a woman in his life that he cares about.

My thanks to Sharon for taking the time to answer these questions. If you would like to sign the petition, it can be found at

Photo courtesy of Napalm filled tires via Flickr.


Francis S.
Francis S6 years ago

Virgil and other closet misogynists have hidden behind the political platitudes and cries of "Free speech" (note: not "speach"!) for all of this nation's history. Just as you cannot shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, you cannot demean and slaughter women (even virtually) without repercussions. If demeaning and slaughtering women (or men or children for that matter) is the only way to convey your "artistic" statement then you are nothing more than a sick individual willing to sell out principle and ethics for profit. That, in the end, is all any of this perverse "art" is about anyway. The least common denominator sells and that is increasingly all that counts in this country. I'd like to think we could do better with a founding principle than that!

Noelle Jeannine
Noelle Halter6 years ago

Hey Virgil -- it's "speech" not "speach." Or were you just exorcising your right to be a lousy speller?

Karilyn K.
Karilyn K6 years ago

it's not just towards women though - violence towards men (often done by women) is a big theme in music videos these days too -

pop culture is getting so violent and so desensitized that I am not surprised and the abuse so relevant in real life

and they all do it for shock! for publicity.

it's not art - it's exploitation, and greed.

Bette M.
Bette M6 years ago

Virgil....What you wrote is true to a point. But, there are ways to say something & then their are decent ways to say the same respectfully & with intelligence. To be raw, ugly & degrading grates the nerves of those who find Kaynes so called singing/music humiliating. Kaynes is right up there with Vick, Chris Brown, & O.J.
Therefore it is ok for me to say these low life high profile so called men are mere savages who make a lot of noise like two year olds.

It is as if someone is going around with a pointed spinning finger around & around & stop when they find the lowest of low life to turn into a star& rake in money off their bizaare behavior knowing they will always be in the news to give us all something to talk about at the dinner table pro & con.

These guys have falsely inflated ego's that need a pin to deflate them long enough to come back down to earth..........O.J.came back down to earth didn't he?

Where is the loud mouth long winded ass now?

Plant & protect Danny's trees for life in 2011..........

Personally I like praise if I can get it for something than drag around a history of being a nutcase!!!!!!!

Virgil Fritz
Virgil Fritz6 years ago

I beg to differ. Free Speach means free speach. It means you have the right to say anything about any subject you choose. If you find something offensive it is your right to not watch or listen, but it is Kanye's right to say anything he wants too. You may not like what someone is saying, and in fact I see and here lots of things that I find offensive, disturbing and scary, but I will support the right for those things to be said, because Free Speech means that anyone can say anything they like, popular or not. I may not agree with Kanye but I'll defend to the death his right to write it, sing it, make videos for it and in any other way to distribute it. That's what free speech means. If anything you should be happy that this opens up a dialog on violence against women, something that needs to be discussed and stopped. Thank you, sincerely, Virgil Fritz.

Vanessa S.
Vanessa S7 years ago

I'm not surprised. Good luck with the petition. I am going to sign right now.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

petition signed :0

Nancy Roussy
Nancy Roussy7 years ago

Bette M. ~ It was a big deal since he is kind of my god. Attitude counseling is the least that crazy arrogant idiot needs! If people would stop buying his crap and talk about him he would just go away unless the media would still not stop following him (like it is happening with Lindsay Lohan, Avril Lavigne and several other untalented jerks).

Cristina M.
Cristina M7 years ago

I haven't watched the video so it would be unfair to give an opinion based on what I read here, I don't even know who they guy is but I believe there's a limit on freedom and mass displaying of violence for commercial reasons should not be allowed. Working for a law enforcement agency I seen violence all the time and it's not pretty and it's not erotic and although we cannot blame a singer, actor, writer, politician, etc for any act perpetrated by somebody else we should limit the exposure of violence as art or a commodity.

Bette M.
Bette M7 years ago

Nancy R.......If misspelling a word or name is the worst thing to happen to you today........You are in real good shape!!

I you b*tch & complain all the time like his highness Kayne then you would need big time help!!........He does need attitude counseling.

Plant & protect Danny's trees for life in 2011..........