The Trouble with Love & Hip Hop


(photo: The Pulse Radio)

When I had time to watch television on a regular basis, I watched it faithfully. Never missed an episode. Like many other women, I liked to get a glimpse of how the other side lived, get hair and outfit inspirations from the rich and famous, and drool over the Chanel, Hermes and Balenciaga bags that I could only own in my dreams.

While many of us consciously focus on the aesthetics of the show, we unconsciously take in the garbage – the misogyny, the degradation of the female body and the trivialization of black love – that is an unfortunate by product of the reality television series. But the trouble with Love & Hip Hop isn’t what’s on the screen – it’s when the garbage behind the screen becomes reality. It’s when girls, boys, men and women reproduce it in their homes, in the streets and in the sheets.

Women are objectified constantly in this show. One example that comes to mind is the whole Peter Gunz situation. Peter Gunz, a man with a longtime girlfriend with whom he has several children, began seeing a young songstress named Amina while he was still involved with his baby momma. But it didn’t stop there – the baby momma and the new girl both knew about his disloyal ways…and about each other. So to keep his cover, Gunz lied to both women so he could still see them both. Their hearts, their minds and their bodies were discounted – all for the sake of sexual satisfaction. This teaches women and girls that loyalty shouldn’t be expected and that when it comes to men, objectification is a condition to be tolerated.

Totally undoes everything momma taught ya, huh?

It’s television. We see women half-naked parade around men in suits and coats and all kinds of layers all the time, right? Well, Mimi took it a few steps further when she willingly agreed to release a feature-length sex tape to the masses, to please her boyfriend. It wasn’t so much the tape itself than it was the decision – a decision that lacked her agency or choice – a right to make a major decision about her own body, pertaining to her most private of parts, which she completely waived to someone else. And of course, the boyfriend’s agenda in all this? Money. His want for money outweighed her right to her own skin and bones. If taking away (or openly yielding) one’s rights all for the sake of a man isn’t degrading, then I don’t know what is. Her daughter’s not going to know what it is either, if she grows up knowing the ramifications behind mommy’s tape.

Ya momma totally undid everything she was taught, huh?

Whether we like it or not, black television has the responsibility of representing us, especially in this assumption-driven, stereotype-laden, allegedly “post racial” society we live in today. Sometimes this representation seems more like a minstrel show, especially when it comes to black love. Joe Budden, a man in a long on and off relationship with his girlfriend (I guess?) Tahiri, is a royal mess. He cheats on Tahiri left and right… and left again…and right again…and she takes him back still. Every. Single. Time. At one point, he moves in a young, vulnerable homeless girl named Keylin. He dogs her out too, but he finds it to be much easier, given her socioeconomic position – barely 19, homeless, no family, etc. The love here, defined with cheating and using and abusing, doesn’t have to be the image of black love. That little boy watching the show doesn’t need to be taught that he can dog out a woman in any and all ways imaginable and still have her to himself. The little girl that tunes in every single solitary week doesn’t need to buy into the “ride or die” ideology for a dirt bag, either. Nor does she need to acquire the low self-esteem it takes to compromise her self-respect for a roof, or a meal or a bag. And none of us need more images of infidelity and hyper-sexuality to taint the beauty of black love.

I myself watch reality TV sometimes, but not this show. Not anymore. And I’m not going to start watching it again, until somebody cleans up some of the trash. What I see when I turn to Love & Hip Hop is a form of slavery – men, permanently chained to boyish ways and women, forced to sell their souls for next to nothing.

Love & Hip Hop, where insecurities look better tucked away in a Louis Vuitton duffle bag and pride is so much easier to swallow with a tall glass of Moët.

(for more pieces like this, check out the “Let’s Talk” page of the site)