A “Monster” Success!

By Sharon Haywood, Co-Editor

It’s official folks, and you heard it here first: MTV and VH1 will not air Kanye West’s “Monster” video. Jeannie Kedas of MTV Networks, which also controls VH1, has recently confirmed that neither channel “has plans to air the video.” Kedas cited MTV’s voluntary standards department as a guiding force in their choice, but you can bet that our collective online movement against the official release of “Monster” also had something to do with MTV’s principled decision.

When I first watched the leaked clips of “Monster” I was so infuriated and disturbed that I couldn’t just say, “That’s an incredibly offensive and misogynistic music video. Wow, artists are really pushing the limits, aren’t they?” and get on with my day. In the past, there have been countless media messages that have riled me up, but never have I been so affected than after watching those unofficial clips for the first time. My stomach turned as I took in images of nearly naked dead women hanging from chains, a contorted dead woman splayed on a couch wearing nothing but red stilettos, and two dead woman propped up in bed being maneuvered like playthings by Kanye himself. Oh yeah, don’t forget Kanye gripping the hair of a woman’s severed head. I couldn’t just sit by and tweet how P O’ed I was. I’m so glad I didn’t.

In January, I paired up with author and activist Melinda Tankard Reist to create a petition targeted at MTV and Universal Music Group (UMG) to prevent the mass release of these misogynistic images being touted as art. With the support of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, Collective Shout, Amanda Kloer of Change.org, Samer Rabadi of the Petition Site by Care2.com, and my colleague, co-editor/founder of Adios Barbie Pia Guerrero, we circulated two petitions, where we were met with your overwhelming support of over 21,000 signatures. In late February, as the number of signatures continued to climb, I communicated with Kedas who informed me that the network “would not air the current version,” a success that we shared on our Facebook page. MTV followed up shortly thereafter to clear away rumors of a “Monster” ban. They posted this statement on their website:

“The video was submitted to MTV, but it wasn’t banned; rather, edits were requested based on the channel’s decency standards.

MTV has not banned Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ video,” the network said in a statement to MTV News. “We have been in constant communication with the label regarding this matter. However, we are still awaiting the edits we requested in order for the video to be suitable for broadcast.”

So, we waited and continued to speak out against the use of eroticized violence as mainstream viewing. On June 5th, the official release of the long-awaited version of “Monster” appeared online. 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.

We want to publicly acknowledge and applaud MTV Networks for choosing not to air “Monster.” We congratulate MTV for reinforcing the fact that violence against women, even if couched in a horror-film format, should never be used as a way to engage and entertain viewers, many of who are under the age of 18. We need you to let others know that MTV is acting as a leader by recognizing that eroticized violence in no way, shape, or form, is entertainment. (Here’s their Facebook page. Like ‘em.)

And what about UMG, the other target of our petitions? Despite my many attempts to procure an official statement, UMG has nothing to say on the record. Some may argue that UMG shouldn’t be held accountable, as the company is not responsible for the creation of West’s content; the artist’s own record company Def Jam assumes that role. Instead, UMG focuses solely on distribution (as is indicated in the copyright at the end of “Monster”). Thanks to MTV, there aren’t many distribution options left for the video. (Here’s MTV’s Twitter handle. Thank them personally. I have.)

It’s high time that media big guns, like UMG follow MTV’s lead and recognize that profits can still be gained by taking a socially responsible stand—not in spite of doing so, but because of it. As your support has shown, there are a growing number of consumers who give more than a damn about what choices are offered to them as entertainment. Corporate bigwigs need to also realize that our work is not yet done. Far from it. Our petitions did not target the music industry as a whole but instead we focused on a single video as taking one step toward positive change. As Change.org says,

“We believe that building momentum for social change globally means empowering citizen activists locally — and that the influence of a local victory is always much larger than the change it immediately achieves.”

The sum of many small victories means notable social change. We know that the video’s lack of distribution will not eliminate the presence of misogyny in the music industry. But at least we know we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve been heard. And we’re fairly sure that the music industry will continue to listen.

Stay tuned.

* * *

Related Content:

Read the text of our petition that was distributed by The Petition Site and Change.org.

Check out Pia Guerrero’s “Deconstructing Kanye’s ‘Monster'” published a week after our petition went live.

Samer Rabadi of The Petition Site interviews Sharon Haywood shortly after the petition launch.


33 thoughts on “A “Monster” Success!

  1. What is wrong with some of you? Kanye is NOT ‘pushing the envelope’ by making garbage. Yes, unfortuntatly he does have the right to make it.
    This is not art – it is outright hate towards women and he needs a shrink and not to make even more money off a vid that shows he has real ‘issues’ and needs help’
    Kayne came and it’s time he went away.

  2. Dude Kanye’s video was fucking awesome!!!! If you dont like a video then just dont watch it!!!! It’s clearly just art!!!

  3. @Lisa I understand your thinking that increased exposure to simulated violence toward women may spark outrage that could lead to change; however, that is not the case. Research has consistently shown that repetitive exposure to violent images only serves to desensitize us to those images, which doesn’t lead to activism but rather an acceptance of those images as normal, which makes violence that much easier to commit.

  4. @Gilbert If the video featured the degradation of another group, such as Jewish or Black people, the video would have been viewed as hate speech and public outrage would have surely ensued. It should be no different for women.

  5. @WTF As I quoted in this post, MTV requested edits of the “Monster” video back in March to make it “suitable for broadcast.” Whether they were to air the video on television or on their website remains to be seen but the bottom line is that MTV wanted to air the video. As for horror movies, film rating systems exist that prevent underage viewers. Such a system in not in place for music videos.

  6. @John We believe it is important to acknowledge the positive steps that those in the position of influence are taking. Too often the positive is overshadowed by the much work that still needs to be done. MTV’s programming choices (whether on television or online) are not perfect but we acknowledge MTV’s decision not to air “Monster” (which was based on the channel’s decency standards, in addition to the public outcry against the video) as a one step toward more responsible programming.

  7. You dopes aren’t offended. You’re just bored, you just have nothing to do. Real activism is what people like Shirin Ebadi are doing, risking life and limb to make a real difference.

    What you’re doing is trying to get rid of things you don’t like. That’s not activism, that’s oppression, and while you were doing it, hundreds of women in real life were raped, murdered and assaulted, but hey, at least you don’t have to see them on TV, right?

    Maybe the outrage people feel at simulated violence towards women will make them do something about it in real life. Maybe Kanye’s video was trying to comment on that and inspire that kind of anger, anger that changes the world for the better. But if we have it your way, we can go ahead and rape and pillage all we want, so long as there’s no visible evidence of it when we’re done.

  8. Cool, I’d never even heard of this video and now I will go onto youtube and watch it. Which is where people watch music videos now. Success! You are exposing me to violence against women.
    Violence against men though? Game on. Y chromosomes mean you can and should die by violence. Hooray for our brave new world of equality.

  9. The way you’re talking, one’d think the females in the vid were kidnapped and REALLY hung!

    Heaven forbid they might’ve thought it FUN to play dead for profit and exposure: New Feminist Woman couldn’t possibly “degrade” herself so!

  10. “we can’t forget how many of those viewers are children. (MTV targets viewers 13 years old and up.)”

    Anyone letting their kids watch MTV unchecked is a bad parent. Anyways, since when is it the TV’s job to raise children? And since when is it your job to tell parents how they should raise their children in the first place?

    You wanna talk about being made physically ill, nothing makes me sicker than you petticoat fascists who feel that your own personal barriers are all you need to determine what others should be allowed to see.

  11. Not a fan of Kanye, but the only thing worse than misogyny is censorship. “This isn’t to my tastes, so nobody should be allowed to see it.”

    Censorship doesn’t only shut up people like Kanye, it also silences anyone with an unpopular opinion. If people like you were in charge fifty years ago, the women’s rights movement never would have happened.

    If you really respect women, then why do you think they need an Orwellian “Big Sister” to shield their delicate eyes from the unsavory?

  12. You know that MTV does not air music videos right? And most people watch them on you tube anyway? And horror movies routinely depict murder of women for entertainment? So yeah, congrats….I guess.

  13. In other news. MTV will continue not airing music videos in favor of Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant and other degrading reality TV shows which show nothing but lulz. Great job blog!

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  15. I think this was an interesting and creative video to be completely honest. There were a couple of parts where chunks began to rise to my throat but pushed through it, continued to watch it, and after watching the whole video, I actually appreciated it. I give it to Kanye for really pushing the envelope with this video. The song describes the way these rappers have succeeded at life and have achieved their dream (they are making large amounts of money of rapping/performing and are famous celebrities). The song is is talking about “killing it” when they rap, perform, and “going hard” (so to speak) in their everyday life so it would just be silly to expect their video to have them holding hands and skipping through a valley of lilies.

    I think that music, and therefore music videos, are art and should be understood as such, nothing more, nothing less. To be brutally honest, I think this is of a higher quality than all of the current rap videos that have half naked women shaking their ass for the camera.

    Lady Gaga’s “Paparrazi” video also had plenty of women who appeared dead in it (although they were not naked). She then poisoned her boyfriend later on in the video. To add insult to injury, she was making out with three guys on a couch. I don’t remember people causing a stir like this then. Its sad that there is a double standard…. I guess its back to watching the boring ass shaking videos now….. grrrrrr

  16. @Jezebelle The fact that you don’t see these images as “nothing extreme” is part of the problem. Research has shown again and again that repetitive consumption of violent images desensitizes us to them. We have reached a point where seeing eroticized violence isn’t a big deal because such images are woven into the media we consume and that has repercussions in the real world, making violence (and in this case, violence against women) that much easier to commit. When the violent sexualization of women is featured in a music video, we can’t forget how many of those viewers are children. (MTV targets viewers 13 years old and up.) As for Niki Manaj’s role in the video, it portrays her as a hyper-sexualized animal – an old and tired stereotype that only works to dehumanize and objectify Black women.

  17. I’ve watched the video twice now. I had never heard the song before. I honestly see nothing wrong with the video. It is art. I think including Niki Manaj as a strong female is a crucial element. Perhaps I’ll be flamed for this, but seriously people, art pushes boundaries, and I think the video is gorgeous. I have to wonder if scenes like from the video were included in a vampire movie if it would get so much heat. I think it seems so extreme because it’s a condensed version of violence. But really, it’s nothing extreme.

  18. I just find it so disturbing that people seem oblivious to this poisonous creep of sexulisation and violence that is entering society through the media wanting the “shock” dollar. Wake up world!

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