I'm not your bitch

An African-American teenager's open letter to her rump-shaking sisters

By Ladie Terry

Published October 23, 1996 9:51AM (EDT)

I hate the music video channels these days.
I'm a young black woman who's sick of watching my sisters portray themselves as freaks on MTV and BET. I used to just complain about it to my friends until the minister at my local mosque, brother Christopher Muhammad, suggested that we women write to the music industry and ask the sisters to stop the obscenity on music videos. So here it is, my letter to the sisters who like to grind their way across my TV screen:
I guess it's exciting being in a music video. It's about getting yours, or being seen, and forget everyone else, right? But do you know how you are affecting the minds and lives of your sisters? Do you ever think about the younger sisters who learn fast and emulate you? Have you noticed the 12- and 13-year-olds dolled up to look like 20-year-olds? Or are times so hard that you don't care who you hurt?

I used to argue with my ex-boyfriend about watching BET and MTV, because the majority of the videos consisted of not-even-half-naked girls wiggling and jiggling like bowls of Jell-O. It's not like I'm ugly or out of shape myself, but it hurt me to see him in a daze with his eyes moving up and down.

Then he turned the tables and started complaining about how I wanted to watch the brothers grab between their legs, or watch the R&B singers take off their shirts and start grinding. He would peek out of the corner of his eye to watch my expression, and I would peek at him to see if he was smiling at the sisters who acted like they were in the bedroom.

My 24-year-old neighbor used to tell me that when she watched music videos with her boyfriend, he'd say to her, "That's how your body should look." Another friend, who is 16, says boys ask her, "Why can't you dance like that?" Sometimes at school, when girls begin copying what they've seen on music videos, the boys form circles around them and root them on.
These days I hear sisters calling themselves bitches, hoes, hoochie mamas and more. Where do they get these ideas about themselves? You are projecting to the whole world that we black women are nasty, freaky, and ready whenever and wherever. You may say it's your individual business, but we are more than individuals. Individual women don't call each other sisters. If you were to hurt, I would hurt. If you are happy, then I'm happy.

Who told you that what you are doing is just your thing? You represent all black women. We came on a boat named Jesus together. We were put into bondage together. We were raped and slaughtered together, and I'll be damned if we'll wiggle our butts together for the whole world to see.

Why are you on TV in tight, short clothing, moving your bodies around like you are freaks? You're not freaks! They used to call the strange people in the circus freaks. How did you become freaks, sisters? You are not dogs or hoochie mamas. You are goddesses.

I don't want to hear that you "wear what you want to wear." How many clothing factories do you own? Do you design your clothes? And if you don't, who does?

You sisters are very, very beautiful. You don't have to undress for success, nor to get some attention. You want brothers to respect you? Show them why they should through your elegant, conservative dress — then back up your reasoning with your words. The way you dress tells people what is on your mind.

Don't get me wrong — there are men out there who are so frustrated with their own lives that they will take their anger out on women no matter what. But when you upgrade your appearance and your mindset, a lot of brothers will upgrade their treatment of you.
So stop competing to see who is freakier than the next, and get your mind out of the bedroom, because you are disturbing my sleep.

Ladie Terry is a reporter for YO! (Youth Outlook), a newspaper by and about young people published by Pacific News Service.

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Ladie Terry

Ladie Terry is a reporter for YO! (Youth Outlook), a newspaper by and about young people published by Pacific News Service.

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