Is Kanye West a monster promoting sexual violence against women or is he an artist exercising his right to free speech? If his latest music video "Monster" is any indication, he may actually be both. And two women have begun a campaign to prevent the violent, misogynistic images from being released. A leaked teaser and a behind the scenes video show West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Nikki Minaj surrounded by the corpses of lingerie-clad women. Women dangle from the ceiling by chains. A naked corpse, mouth open, lies on a couch behind Jay-Z. Ross chows down on a plate of raw meat placed between the legs of a female corpse lying prostrate on the table. Minaj doubles as a fanged dominatrix and her innocent victim. West, in bed with two scantily clad corpses, poses them in erotic positions and kisses one while stroking his face with her lifeless hand.
These images are enough to make most people cringe and wonder about the mental and sexual health of current pop culture. Melinda Tankard Reist and Adios Barbie's Sharon Haywood went a step further by starting a petition for Universal Music Group to withdraw the video and never officially release it in any capacity.
Via e-mail, Reist explains:
"The mainstreaming of videos like this increases desensitized and callous attitudes toward violence against women. Young people are seeing images and absorbing harmful messages which glamorise misogyny and brutalise women. Women are reduced to sex-doll like playthings. So great is the level of desensitisation that the barbaric treatment of women and girls is seen as normal and to be expected. We decided to run this campaign because we wanted to challenge the status quo."
Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com has a different opinion. Flory writes that the video "offers a fascinating Rorschach test of our current sexual culture." She points to a myriad of examples of the eroticization of dead women in pop culture and puts forth that West is merely giving us what we want: shock, horror, and sex. As a culture, we are desensitized to normal sexual images and require "the next step" to be aroused. Flory thinks that "instead of censoring it, we should be taking notes." It might teach us something about ourselves. I agree in part, but like Reist, I want to change the lesson.
In the full version of the video, just leaked and subject to removal at any time, the dead women are revealed to be actual monstors, zombies or vampires, and dead men are included in the carnage. West and friends are destroying the monsters. Even the lyrics suggest West is comparing ghoulish monsters to those who feed off his fame for their own benefit and must therefore be destroyed for their transgressions. The concept, then, is not so far-fetched. It's the execution that has gone terribly awry.
Do I think West and director Jake Nava intended to spark controversy? Absolutely. Were they looking at the women in the video as real women? Probably not. But that's perhaps what disturbs me the most, because they are real women. Watching this video further desensitizes us to the plight of real women who are used and abused for men's amusement. It feeds a growing appetite for sexual violence, witnessed or committed, that is inevitably acted out on victims of sex trafficking and rape. It teaches men that women are nothing more than bodies, raw meat, to be devoured. It's really a cowardly statement and an uncreative, easy way to get attention. Surely West can do better than that. And his sisters deserve better by far.
Tell West and Universal that the victimization of women as a valid form of entertainment is never acceptable and the video needs to be withdrawn. Sign the petition today. Then go a step further. West and his representatives pay an exorbitant amount of attention to what fans say on his Facebook page and Twitter. Use your social media connections to tell them this is a decidedly unfavorable image for their client and needs to be rectified. I suggest something like "#kanyewest teach men to be REAL men, not cowardly monsters. Pull the "Monster" video and stop promoting sexual violence against your sisters."