Friday, April 13, 2007

Don Imus and Weapons of Mass Seduction

What the hell? I know you’re thinking, what could Weapons of Mass Seduction possibly have to do with, Don “who’s the ho now, sucker” Imus.

Bear with me as I try to get you all aboard this fleeting (but pertinent) train of thought.

I was watching the news this morning and of course, every other story is on Mr. Imus. First, can I tell you how VERY proud I am of not only those fine, intelligent, talented young women from Rutgers (they should have taken his ass to the hoop instead of just talking with him), but Essence editor Angela Burt-Murray. They were all smart, articulate, looked beautiful and held their own against some particularly loud and mouthy Imus supporters. Way to represent ladies!

So anyway, I’m watching the news and while I agree it was time for Imus to go, I also agree with the commentary of several guests, black and white, that we can not simply point the finger of blame at Imus without looking at the ways Black women are demeaned and devalued in the name of free speech and art, by our own people.

Yes, all true, but this discussion is out of place on a blog dedicated to sensuality and based on a book called Weapons of Mass Seduction, a book with a very sexy cover and title and has nothing to do with Don “frickin” Imus and a debate about respecting ourselves as a people, the reader thought, scratching her head in confusion.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, Weapons of Mass Seduction is a sensual and sexy read. It is light and enlightening. It is a fun romp through the lives of three very interesting women. It will make you laugh and make you cry and I promise you, you will walk away having learned something about yourself.

But the book is SMART and sexy. And as handsome Valen Bellamy, Pia Jamison’s love interest and candidate for the U.S. Senate, proves, Weapons of Mass Seduction is very germane and timely to day’s ‘nappy ho’ headlines.

Here's an abridged excerpt of their first meeting:

“Thank you all for coming this afternoon to discuss a crisis that has hit our communities as hard as obesity, high blood pressure, black-on-black crime and HIV/AIDS. Along with the super-sizing of our fast-food meals has come the super-sizing of our appetites for hyper-sexuality, violence and a blatant disrespect for ourselves and each other.

“Rappers boast about being the “spot smacker and favorite macker” while proudly promoting the image of the pimp as a flamboyant beacon of power, wealth and success. In bookstores, displayed beneath signs marked African-American Literature, are titles like Ghetto Azz, Thug Livin’, and Toxic Ho.

“Our young people are experiencing a whammy of ‘entertainment’ sources that glorify violence and dangerous sex practices to the detriment of our collective sense of self-respect. And this is why I’ve asked you all to join me today.

“This is a fact-finding mission to gather ideas and information to shape my campaign platform, ‘Respect Yourself. Be Respected.’ My hope is that through awareness, we can begin to reverse the negative cultural trends that are impacting our daily lives, for example, making heroines of women who make a living shaking their booties and servicing men who refer to them as his ‘tricks,’ ‘bitches,’ and ‘ho’s’.”

“I’m not a whore. I’m a model,” argued Jalese Chantal, a successful video girl. “For me, videos are a way to pay the bills while trying to advance my career.”

“Man, we’re selling a product…and everybody knows that sex sells everything else from cars to camera, why not music,” hip-hop artist, Playadoh added.

“Crack cocaine is a product. Shouldn’t we be policing ourselves when it comes to questionable and potentially harmful ‘products’?” the candidate queried.

Pia could see that Valen Bellamy was quickly losing his congenial charm as he delved into this issue. It was clear that he was impassioned by the subject, but his passion was putting his audience, including Pia, on the defense.

“Let’s not forget that we’re in the business of producing and selling fantasy and entertainment,” Alison Black replied.

“The key word being business –and one that follows trends,” video channel executive Toure Peterson added. “So if the consumer likes what’s being supplied and keeps asking for more, who are we to stop giving it to them? And by the way I think this whole hyper-sexuality thing will eventually burn out.”

“And while we wait for the trend to burn itself out, what about all the damage it’s causing now? Ms. Jamison, you in the business of producing these videos. What’s your take on the subject?”

“My take is that the issue goes so much deeper. It’s about how we raise our children. Accountability and positive self-imagery starts at home.”

“Which is why family values must be resurrected in our community,” Valen inserted.

At the sound of that loaded phrase, which now felt like a personal attack on her own morality, Pia could feel her liberal sensibilities surfacing and could not resist turning the discussion political.

“Despite the fact that politicians like yourself have tried to co-op and turn idea of ‘family values’ into a narrow discussion of conservative sensibilities, it does behoove us to get to the root of the problem, which is not how we are portrayed on videos or in books, but how we each portray ourselves on a daily basis.”

“And I don’t see how you can tell me that what our children consume as entertainment on a daily basis does not affect how they behave,” Valen shot back.

Was that a smirk? Did he just smirk at me? Pia wondered, feeling her ire rise. In her head, she heard the screeching sound of the brakes bringing an immediate halt to her initial attraction to this pompous ass.

“Around this table you have gathered together five black people, as if to say that respect or lack of respect is a problem only in our community."

“It cannot be disputed that the black family is in crisis,” Valen argued back. The others in the room were struck by the escalating debate between the two and sat back quietly watching the drama unfold.

“Mr. Bellamy, the entire American family is in crisis. And by you pandering to the Black and Hispanic vote by simply drawing more attention to our problems but with no plan of action or budget to help solve them, I find it difficult to see you as anything more than an opportunist.

Without action and money behind it, 'Respect Yourself. Be Respected.' will prove to be just as ineffective as that last Republican backed, slogan-only campaign, ‘Just Say No’.”

There’s that damn smirk again. He thinks I’m funny?

“It may not be perfect, Ms. Jamison, but it is a start at taking back the destructive images and lifestyle choices disguised as art, which demean people and women of color in a soul destroying manner. Images you and your industry must also be held accountable for.

“Until respect becomes something people—young and old alike—demand of themselves for themselves we will never be respected as a people and never be given the opportunities and credit we deserve for being contributing world citizens.”

“And when is the GOP going to start respecting itself and this country and its citizens? When are you and your political cronies going to stop trashing America’s image and its people so we can be respected by the rest of the world for the super power we are—and not because we demanded it by pointing a gun in someone’s face, but because we earned it by doing the world good?” Pia countered angrily.

“That is an entirely different discussion, Ms. Jamison. One I will gladly debate at another time, but as we are here to discuss the specific topic of images in the media, I’d respectfully ask you stay on topic.”

“It is clear that you are here not to listen to our opinions but to merely give us yours. So, if you will excuse me, I must get back to work. Know that our discussion today has given me cause to think about how I can better do my part on this issue. So perhaps this afternoon was not a total waste of my time.”

Pia gathered her things and quickly exited the room. Damn. It was truly disappointing to meet such an attractive and intelligent man and watch him turn into a total asshole because of his political views. If Valen Bellamy was the cliché personified of sex and politics making strange bedfellows thank goodness she was back to being celibate.

There’s some smart from WMS. Next time—some sexy.

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