Privilege in the music industry

I have a friend who lives at St. Clair and Avenue. The Summerhill area is expensive and very well kept, and yet every time I walk to subway at night and pass a man, I find myself fearing the potential for some violent situation. My conscious views each man as having the power to be a rapist. I view this as a form of male privilege, a position where fears of violence and dominance by men are perpetuated vastly within our culture and the global sphere.

I watched the Grammy’s last night; I watched Rihanna perform and Chris Brown perform less than 15 minutes later. I was appalled, recognizing the kind of privilege founded in this acceptability, what this temporary cultural amnesia represents in the broader scale of the entertainment industry, female and male roles within this industry, and how they are appropriated through our patriarchal culture and how it has shaped the Western market. We are not asking why men are committing crimes against women or why women continue to be represented in stereotypes of exploitation and oppression.

The domination, exploitation and objectification of women has proven to be good business, whether it is in a shoe factory in South Korea, in development initiatives of the UN or in the global entertainment industry. Men have appropriated privilege founded in essentialist forms of masculinity and patriarchy. This patriarchy exists within the current global system, the development of/through women as a means to an end.

As South Korean women were used as an ideal labour force based on social values in factories, in North America we see the oppression of women as a way to profit. A heteronormative masculine privilege, where overarching patriarchy created international actors that use women as a form of currency. These industries are selling someone who is disempowered to profit. The idea of reimagining this system of patriarchy, a complete industry, social organization and political system is threatened.

Those preventing this restructuring can be found everywhere; through globalization everyone is given a voice through the Internet [via HelloGiggles: I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You Are]:

“[L]arge segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.”

“We’re glad to have him back,” said executive producer Ken Ehrlich. “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”

Read that quote again. Think hard about what is being said. Here is what this quote says to any woman who’s ever been abused:

By blacklisting Chris Brown from the Grammys for a “few” years (actually, a grand total of TWO Grammy Awards), the Grammys have gone above and beyond expectations for the social exile of an adult man who hit his girlfriend so hard she went to the hospital, and honestly it was really, really hard for them to show even that much support for victims of domestic violence worldwide.

It was rather thoughtless of Rihanna to go and get herself hit in the face by her boyfriend, because it’s put such a burden on the Grammys. Maybe if she hadn’t made such a big fuss out of it, things could have been easier for everyone.

The Grammys think that they were the victim of Chris Brown hitting Rihanna in the face.

The Grammys. Think. That they. Were the victim. Of Chris Brown. Hitting. Rihanna. In the face.”

Violence and the portrayal of women in the media have developed a market that supports patriarchal privilege. Chris Brown was given a platform for his violent actions; he was given the privilege of presenting his music and an award for his talent. The entertainment industry can be viewed as a “large transnational network of production, distribution, exploitation, and financial gain”. The Grammy’s is an example of one of the ways men are applauded for their violence, “we’re accepting the message that women just aren’t that important, that their health and their safety and their self-respect is only important until it stops being convenient for everyone”. We’re also accepting that women can be used as a platform – literally – that men can stand tall on, that they are casualties of the global job market.


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