Vanessa Satten/Harris Publications (XXL)
Here's the message we sent to our members. After you’ve read it, please add your voice.
During a recent interview with the hip-hop magazine XXL, rapper Too $hort encouraged teenage boys to “turn girls out” by pushing “her up against the wall.”1 The 45-year-old rapper continued, graphically urging his audience to put their hands inside the underwear of middle school-aged girls in order to achieve what he called “mind manipulation.” The magazine packaged the disturbing monologue under the headline “Fatherly Advice From Too $hort.”
Rhetoric like this has real effects on girls in our communities. A new study reveals that a staggering three out of five Black girls experience sexual assault by the time they turn 18.2 So why did the XXL staff, led by Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Satten, allow this video to appear on its site?
Join us in calling on Harris Publications Inc., publisher of XXL, to fire Satten and explain what steps they’ll take to make sure that sexual violence directed at girls and women is not tolerated at their magazines and websites. When we do, we’ll send a message to the entertainment media industry that we won’t be silent while one of its companies demeans and endangers our children.
Please click below to sign the petition, and ask your family and friends to do the same. It only takes a moment:
It’s hard to read the words above, let alone watch a 45-year-old man say them while “upbeat, child-themed music plays in the background.”3 But that’s exactly what the XXL staff allowed to go live on its site — which attracts about 25,000 unique visitors a day — late last week. Satten has tried to excuse herself by saying that she didn't see the video before it posted.4 But she presides over a workplace culture that allowed such a grave misstep, and she has failed to respond appropriately as a chorus of voices calls her on it.5
There’s a longer story to tell about the objectification of women in magazines like XXL and King (both of which are owned by Harris Publications) and the misogynistic lyrics and images that bombard young people every day. Thankfully, a long line of thought leaders have been discussing that and larger issues facing hip hop and the music industry for years.6,7,8 We also know that the degradation of women of color extends beyond hip-hop culture, as we saw recently when a Dutch lifestyle magazine published racist and inflammatory remarks about the singer Rihanna. As a result, that magazine’s editor was forced to resign.9
But this latest incident — XXL publishing a video of an adult rapper talking an imagined audience of boys through an aggressive encounter with an underage girl — goes too far. Too $hort’s rhetoric implies that hypersexuality and manhood are one and the same and that consent isn’t required for sexual contact. When our boys believe this, they help create a culture that breeds staggering statistics: Nearly a third of sexual assault and rape victims are between the ages of 12-17, and 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.10
The apology the XXL staff issued is insufficient.11 In it, Satten throws one of her subordinates under the bus, refusing to acknowledge that as editor-in-chief, she is responsible for everything that appears under the XXL brand. If Harris Publications refuses to fire Satten, it shows that they're willing to leave one of their titles in the hands of someone who is unable and unwilling to lead.
Hip hop is a rich and complex culture that was born in Black and Latino neighborhoods. Moments like these highlight problems that exist in some aspects of the culture, but for decades it's also been a source of political education and empowerment for people worldwide. We can’t sit back while a media company uses hip hop as a cover to demean and endanger our children. Please join us in calling on Harris Publications President and CEO Stanley R. Harris to fire Vanessa Satten, XXL’s Editor-in-Chief. We also demand that he explain what he’ll do to make sure his company's publications stop promoting sexual violence directed at girls and women. Please join us, and ask your friends and family to do the same:
Thanks and Peace,
-- Rashad, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha, Kim and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
May 4th, 2016
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1. “Rapper Too Short, in XXL column, gives boys advice to ‘turn girls out,’” The Grio, 2-13-12
2. “STUDY: More Than Half Of Black Girls Are Sexually Assaulted,” NewsOne, 12-2-11
3. See reference 1.
4. “Too Short, XXL apologies are too little, too late,” The Grio, 2-15-12
5. “Petition Calling on XXL Mag. to Fire Editor Surpasses Signature Goal,” Colorlines, 2-15-12
6. “Joan Morgan: Hip Hop and Feminism,” Rap Sessions, 6-2-09
7. “Beyond Chris Brown and Rihanna,” Ill Doctrine, 2-14-09
8. “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” Independent Lens, 6-2-09
9. “Dutch magazine editor resigns following race row with Rihanna,” The Guardian, 12-21-11
10. "Who are the victims?," The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
11. "Too $hort and the Anatomy of a Weak Apology," Ebony, 2-14-12