Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Sad News Week
I haven't chimed in much about Imus....I haven't really known what to say. I mean I have A LOT to say...and I say it in conversations with friends, classmates and students. A lot of really productive conversations. But nothing overly insightful. That whole "nothing overly insightful" thing is bothersome. I study rhetoric for a living. I read and write constantly about langauge, rhetorical strategies, public argument, etc, etc, etc. Yet the way people use words never ceases to amaze me. The way people misuse words sting me. I almost take it personally as a critic. And as a woman, I take the events of these past 7-10 days very personally. From Imus to VA Tech--the media and the pundits and even a lot of the blogs are talking about the wrong things.

First, it doesn't matter if Imus gives money to charity or if he is "performing" when he is on the radio. It also doesn't matter he was using words that hip hop artists use. It doesn't matter that he met with the Rutgers women or Al Sharpton. What matters it the culture of discourse he and so many others represent. What matters is that almost no one was talking about it before Imus said the [now] infamous phrase. What matters is that because he was fired, we think "justice was served." Case closed. Asshole off the airwaves. The left waves their hands in the air in victory. The right nods their head knowingly. I'm left wondering--what the hell took so long? And how long do we have to wait for other racist mysoginists to be off the airwaves. ALL AIRWAVES.

Do I think that Imus shifted the blame to the hip hop artists? Yes. I was mesmerized by the ability of Imus to mention 'hip hop' on the Today show one morning and then not even be on the show the next (Matt was too busy to talk to Imus when he was talking about hip hop). Imus reframed the public debate. "Yes, I'm guilty but so are they...." Character=weak. Rhetoric=strong. Hip hop artists were not the ones in trouble. But do I think they share in some of his blame? Yes. NO ONE SHOULD SAY THOSE TYPES OF WORDS. No artist and no radio personality. Media Matters does a great job summarizing this culture of discourse that I find so disturbing. Why aren't people yelling about ALL THESE PEOPLE? Or why do a lot of YOU listen to music, watch movies and tell jokes that are offensive to women and African Americans?

Second, while the VA Tech massacre is horrifying, if I have to hear one more person say "how surprising it is" I am going to scream. Loudly. What is surprising about it? The violence? Really? The violence is surprising? Not to me....

The Iraq occupation wages on and we've seen the deadliest 6 months since the start of the war...
...and you can buy a doll at Toys-R-Us that is a rapist. A rapist. The doll is "rapist number one" from the movie Grindhouse. And how many of you went to see that movie? That movie that grossed over 4 million dollars this weekend....
And let's not forget about all the women bloggers getting graphic death threats.

What about this violent outburst surprises you? Our culture is a masculine, violent, misogynistic one. Case closed. If we want to fix it, we have A LOT of work to do.

And the worst part is that as we sit and shake our head at Imus and focus on the nationality of the shooter, we don't understand that these systems of discourse and violence implicate us as well. We're guilty based on the songs we listen to, movies we watch and people we don't stick up for. Guilty. I've said many times that beliefs are a lifestyle. I don't believe in violence, I don't spend money on violent movies. I abhor sexism, I don't buy hip hop cd's. I don't support the war, I don't vote for war supporters.

I can only hope that we all continue discussions about our choices.



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