January 14, 2005

Essence Magazine Makes a Stand II

Marc Comtois
Much like myself (see earlier post), Myrna Blyth also picked up on Essence magazine's Take Back the Music campaign and, probably using her ties to the print world, was able to speak to the magazines beauty and fashion manager Michaela Angela Davis. In my earlier post, I had noted that, though I suspected the politics of those associated with Essence would probably be descibed as left-of-center, their actions seemed decidedly conservative. Blyth attempted to delve into the ideological question and received a predictable answer.
When I told Michaela that Essence was to be commended for expressing a very appropriate and conservative point of view, she didn't want to agree. "I don't think it is a conservative point of view. We are not saying it is all wrong. Personally I like a lot of the music. I started my career at Vibe. I have been a stylist for some music videos. The problem is it's the only thing we have to choose from, the only images we see of Black women. We don't want to shut it down but we do want to bring more balance to the way Black women are described and depicted.'
Davis obviously shied away from being associated with a "conservative" cause, and that is fine. The motto of my undergrad alma mater is "Acta non Verba" (Deeds not Words), and Essence's actions speak louder than any words they may utter denying an alignment with conservate thought. In my previous post I also offered that perhaps in this instance, and in many others, ideological labels are not the best way to classify a "movement."
[Essence's] desire to promote more positive images, while knocking down negative and derogatory imagery, of and for young African-American women aligns them squarely with many conservatives. It is in such undertakings that the ideological walls that partition the fields of consensus can be broken down. Ideologues on the Left and Right need not agree on everything for them to join in a worthy cause that speaks to the core of their respective beliefs. It is inappropriate, callow and disrespectful to objectify young women.
I guess the difference lies in the degree to which those of differing ideologies would tackle the issue. While Davis says Essence doesn't "want to shut it down," I suspect that many conservatives would.