Hypocrisy, thy Name is MTV

The trafficking of girls and women implies many horrible realities, but the key players are those willing to pay for sex and the middlemen—the pimps. A pimp is typically (but not exclusively) a man who solicits customers for a prostitute or a brothel in return for the lion’s share of their earnings.

However, the word ‘pimp’ has entered mainstream culture as a verb. ‘Pimp my Ride’ was a programme produced by MTV and popularly distributed all over the world. The idea of imping inanimate objects relies on the widespread acceptance of the general concept and tacit approval of pimping girls.

The most well known pimp in America was also produced by MTV— Snoop Dogg. He became famous for, amongst other stunts, showing up to the 2003 MTV Music Award with two women on leashes. 50 Cent is also an MTV production. His song ‘P.I.M.P’ touts, “Bitch choose with me, I’ll have you stripping in the street, put my other hoes down, you get your ass beat.” And the video shows him surrounded by women attending a meeting of the Pimp Legion of Doom, with Snoop Dogg as the group’s leader. This video was nominated by MTV as a Top Rap Video for their awards in 2004.

The degradation of women in lyrics and videos in the culture of music television is not solely the domain of hip hop or of men. The value of women, as claimed by the Pussycat Dolls, is on a scale of hotness. In this MTV world, aimed at a tween and teenage audience, women’s sexuality and their bodies themselves can be bought or sold, as demonstrated by Nelly throwing money at women in one of his videos.

In 2005, MTV launched the EXIT campaign—an inititative, “about freedom — about our rights as human beings to choose where we live, where we work, who our friends are, and who we love.” To highlight the problems of trafficking, they have used celebrity endorsements, videos from bands that portray girl trafficking and created educational programs and activities. Some of the videos are quite good for what they are and there is a great deal of information and many links provided.

But MTV makes no explanations or excuses for its completely out of balance and mixed message media parenting model. While the intention may appear noble and well meaning, a TV channel that actively promotes videos by so-called pimps campaigning against human trafficking is at the least hypocritical, if not extremely socially irresponsible. Can MTV be taken seriously when advertisements for EXIT are sandwiched between Lil’ Wayne’s hoes and Nelly’s pimp juice?

EXIT is not the first such campaign to use music to raise awareness about trafficking. In addition to the videos created for EXIT, Ukranian band Alibi wrote a song for UNICEF to highlight trafficking, Take No Glory wrote ‘Beautiful Slave’ and Peter Buffet did ‘Blood into Gold’. Sinead O’Connor remade her song ‘This is Mother To You’ with Mary J. Blige to support the efforts of GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Service). They even featured a girl, Martha B, who had survived trafficking and went through the GEMS program in the song. All of these videos can be found in the Music Videos gallery.

So on the one hand, there is a growing awareness, however slow, of the problem of trafficking in the popular and mainstream media. On the other hand, MTV sponsoring a campaign like EXIT is a bit like a pimp running a shelter for abused women—hypocritical and in it for the $.

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