Kanye’s Killer Clip

Women get a raw deal in hip hop videos. For the most part they are reduced to body parts – scantily clad hoochies whose sole purpose in life is to jiggle their boobs and butts for blinged-out thugs who wear their sexist arrogance like a badge of honor. Now, thanks to Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West, we are seeing pattern of sexually-related violence involving women.

I’m really glad that Kanye West decided to make an alternate version of his “Flashing Lights” video. The original clip — which featured a near-naked woman inexplicably hacking Kanye to death with a shovel as he lay bound and gagged in the trunk of her car – was a grotesque misogynistic fantasy that reinforced multiple stereotypes simultaneously.

The image of a woman in a bra, thong, hose and heels committing a vicious murder is troubling because it encourages male viewers (many of whom we know are pre-teens) to become sexually aroused while watching an act of brutality. Linking violence and eroticism is dangerous because it defines sex in terms of savagery.

By casting the killer as a half-naked woman, Kanye’s video also underscores the age-old sexist lie that women are inherently crazy and prone to violence and must, therefore, be controlled – psychologically, socially and physically — by men. (Similar criticism could be leveled at the video for Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You,” which deals with a woman murdering her man with a butcher knife – although the actual crime is not shown — because he cheated on her.)

The second “Flashing Lights” clip has much more substance and value, but a scene of shocking violence toward the end raises the specter of pointless woman-bashing. It features a heartbroken woman (based on the lyric we assume her romance ended painfully) wandering the city and being attacked on a dark street by two men. The assault is depicted through a series of quick, blurry close-ups so the violence is implied but one can easily conclude that she is being raped. The next scene finds the woman on a train crying hysterically. She is depicted as a tragic character, but was the apparent sexual assault really necessary? Having her attacked on the street serves no purpose except to show another woman being brutalized.

It seems that whether they are attacking or being attacked, women in hip hop videos continue to be victims.

Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.


Cameron Turner is a Los Angeles-area native whose editorials, entertainment news features and audio documentaries have appeared on national radio networks, online and in print for over 20 years.

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June 4th, 2008 at 2:17 am SweetSis says:

Kanye is supposed to be the good guy. What happened?

June 4th, 2008 at 2:33 am Binta Rohan says:

Kanye has a lot of issues. Let’s not put all our eggs in his basket or else we will have a half-assed basket.

June 4th, 2008 at 3:04 am Coretta Scott Queen says:

Yes I too was shocked at the graphic violence is his video, Cam. Like SweetSis said, he is supposed to be one of the ones we don’t worry about. I guess not.

June 4th, 2008 at 3:30 am Cameron says:

Another problem with “Flashing Lights” is that, once again, a black rapper is deliberately casting women who are either light complexioned or non-black (ignoring the glorious range of black gorgeousness). Hip hop continues to disrespect sisters and undermine black unity with its self-hating, self-esteem-destroying obsession with one kind of beauty. But that’s a subject for another column! — Cam T.

June 4th, 2008 at 5:38 am 1GOODMAN says:

I agree w/ Binta. The man is completely egotistical. He’s believed the hyped so he is bound to veer off his original course. You can’t drink the Kool-Aid and stay thirsty.

June 4th, 2008 at 6:43 am thelma says:

Well let’s not forget the R.Kelly/Ron Isley video series when he was Mr. Big. He beat up and killed his girlfriend in that video for cheating.

June 4th, 2008 at 7:34 am MissReina says:

never been a kanye fan

June 4th, 2008 at 8:17 am Regina Holloway says:

I’ve not seen either version of the video but they sound appalling.

June 4th, 2008 at 9:53 am Xoloxlan says:

Hip hop is always on trial. Can’t the man make his music and be left in peace as an artist? Its a story for goodness sakes that was creative and entertaining.

June 4th, 2008 at 10:00 am Maya Rainwright says:

kanye has never been for women. yeah he’s “conscious” about social issues and stuff but he had always degraded women in his vids. this is nothing new for him.

June 4th, 2008 at 10:14 am Elsa Harkins says:

@ 1GOODMAN - you called it - he is a egomaniac and no talib kweli up in here.

June 4th, 2008 at 10:28 am CeaseNYC says:

I ain’t gonna lie I think the clip is hot but I see your point for real.

June 4th, 2008 at 10:35 am teradise says:

Amen to that and thank you for your two cents! I is appreciated and although I have not seen the kanye video, I now feel like I have and it sounds demeaning
as usual!

June 4th, 2008 at 11:00 am pmatters says:

I can say he took being artistic a little too far. These images are not something you need to see in a music video.

June 4th, 2008 at 11:01 am pmatters says:

Forgot to say nice U-Tube shot Cameron your spoken voice is as amazing as your written one!

June 4th, 2008 at 11:22 am Ashley says:

Wow I didn’t know this. I stopped watching videos a long time ago just for this reason.

June 4th, 2008 at 11:32 am Tina says:

I saw this and I have to say it rub me the wrong way. I haven’t purchased Kayne’s cd yet, yes I am late and after seeing the video I really didn’t have an interest too even though I like the songs. I just can’t support this kind of stuff.

June 4th, 2008 at 11:50 am culturepop says:

When this first started I thought the booty shaking and stuff would not last. But years and years later its still going on. Disgusting and Kanye should know better

June 4th, 2008 at 12:05 pm heatmizer says:

Women are always treated like worthless property

June 4th, 2008 at 12:10 pm buttabrown says:

Little black girls don’t have anyone to look up to

June 4th, 2008 at 2:23 pm superjonsey1 says:

I am a Kayne fan and saw the videos in a different light. I felt they where expressions of the artist. When you point it out this way I know I will see it in a different way.