Columnist: Kofi of Africa
IN HER VIDEOS SEX CRIMES, STREET VIOLENCE & CORRUPTION IN GHANAIAN SOCIETY (4c of 6): PREVALENCE OF SEXUAL CRIMES
I have already defended Mzbel against the utterly repugnant sexual attacks she experienced. We all know a lot of criticism has already been heaped on her. But these have been mostly concerned with how much flesh she may have revealed in live hiplife gigs, music videos, magazines; or how westernised and un-African she is.
My concern here is ethical rather than moralistic (ethics is a practical philosophy based on what is right and acceptable social practice. Moral is based on religious ‘spiritual’ notions of ‘right’ and wrong’). Mzbel is not without some criticism. I am extremely alarmed by how she sexualises children in her videos.
CHILDREN IN MZBEL’S VIDEOS
For the savvy media-trained talent she is, Mzbel appears surprisingly flippant about the damaging effect of her uncensored sexual media messages on children. In a Youtube interview titled, Mzbels’s Privacy Abused, she is asked by journalist Joselyn about Joseph, her nine year old boy who features as her “boyfriend” in her video, Ran Away, “How does he take it when mummy is being portrayed as a sex symbol?”. Mzbel: “I don’t think he understands that. All he knows is am having fun…and People will love him because his mum is a musician” (by Axxoprime, Youtube, Apr 15, 2010,http://www.youtube.com/watch?xx6gddFVM&%3Bfeature=related).
I have stated elsewhere in this essay how primary school children take mobile phone pictures of sexual acts and post them among themselves; how ‘sakawa’ children go to cyber cafes to post pornographic video images of themselves to western paedophiles. Come on my Jamestown compatriot, you are too streetwise to be economical with the truth!
From the onset Mzbel has had a consistent history of using children in her videos. They are used as background props, singers, dancers or even actors. These are not in themselves a cause for concern. What is objectionable is how their presence in the videos are usually juxtaposed against lewd, raunchy, or as she puts it, “saucy” materials that are meant for an adult audience.
In so doing she inadvertently exposes the children directly to paedophiles who will need only a nudge – an iota of association – to form a direct visual link from her fictionalised videos to abusing children in their psychologically warped minds. As I have just stated, the lyricist of the anti-paedophile song,”Am sixteen years” does this inadvertently. But she needs to be alerted to this flaw.
HOW REALITY AND FILM CONFUSES CHILDREN
There is good filmic reasons for my assertion. The production of DVDs/films is a dissembling and reassembling process. By this I mean the pre-production process (costumes, choreography, stage design, props, lighting; and logistics like transportation of personnel and equipment/materials, food and other human requirements), are separate physical elements within a whole. The whole is realised when the actual acting, dancing, music, titling/sub-titling and cinematography are put together by film editors – reassembled. This is why children like, Joseph and even untutored adults, do not understand during the production process.
The above processes are followed by the post-production processes of rushing, digitisation, editing, printing and manufacturing. However, once they see the final product: CDs, the DVDs, DVD R/DVDs, BD/DVD/CD, Blue Ray Disk (BD), they are then able to understand and make the necessary cognitive or intellectual link between their own roles in the videos and the messages in it.
This is the crucial point at which children can experience what is called in media theory, the ‘media effects’ of the reassembled messages. This happens at the juncture they understand the import of the film narrative (story). As children often learn about their environment through mimicry, they tend to enact video visual images.
I remember as an eight year old boy in, Penworth Preparatory boarding school my friends and I imaginatively whooped, run, somersaulted, dodged, banged and arrowed each other to “death”. Our themed plays, as Cowboys and Indians, usually took place after we had watched reel-projected Western films in the brainwashing (westernizing) boarding school.
Also the editing process simplifies the filmic language. The narrative of the video becomes clearer from the introductory titles. So if, for example, a child had been screened from seeing Mzbel sucking on phallic bananas or slashing off sausage-like penises – as I hope the film director responsibly did when that particular scene was being shot – the associative meaning of the metaphorical link between banana/sausage and a penis, now becomes inescapably obvious. If children still do not get it, rest assured that their friends at school who watch it, will start teasing them about the size of their mother’s this or that! We have all been there…
CONTENT ANALYSIS OF MZBEL VIDEOS
There are several examples of parental sloppiness by Mzbel. We can begin with her first music video sexually titled, “Awoso me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YJ8VpKNFN0&feature=related (Fanti language: you have shaken [‘fucked’] me good. Liberia MusicTv, posted on Youtube, Feb 27, 2010). Children in the video sing in Twi language to chorus: “Why do you squirm from such a small thing? Give it to me, pierce me, shake me”. In both the original and a subsequently enhanced video, her matured female backing group dance saucily by wriggling their hips. There are close ups of Mzbel sexily rubbing down a bare-chested muscular man, while the camera pans to broadcast close-ups of the dancers gyrating their crotches.
In her positive, anti-paedophile and most successful video, “I’m 16 Years” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ylA59j8s7s&feature=related (Nadouble75, on Youtube, Oct 10, 2006), Mzbel’s acting is flawless. She is convincing as a care-free sixteen year old girl.
The video starts by showing her cosmetically making up her face to go out. She wears a mini dress, white belt, girlie shoes and mini school rucksack. Wearing dark plastic glasses she care-freely chews and blows bubble gum while walking excitedly on the pavement along the street. She naively accepts a lift from a middle aged man, Bra Layea, in a 4-wheel drive. He unsuccessfully attempts to sexually abuse her in the car and ends up in court where he is criminalised.
The lyrics, “I’m sixteen years, I go de be like this o, if you touch my thing o, I go tell mummy o”. Castro De Destroyer, the hiplife/’gangsta’ rapper gives a brilliant rendition to warn off paedophiles to keep off under-aged children. Because they are too young, and they will end up at the, Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJO) the penultimate centre in Ghana that primarily prosecutes violence and abuse against women and children. Castro rhymes excellently, “Don’t trick her like wifie, and fondle her bobbie…she will tell her poppies”. It is a wholly positive, educational song against child abuse.
In Saucy Girl (Liberia Music TV, Youtube on, Jun 5, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-Iy8tV9keM&feature=related), Mzbel merry-go-rounds in a fruit bowl replete with: a large, red water melon, bananas, oranges, pine apples. She is a Gulliver’s Travel Lilliputian. She sings she is a, “Little saucy girl”, who is “little but am shy”. While the bowl spins round, she crosses her legs suggestively and licks her lips. Sexily twirling her tongue out she eats a phallic looking banana. She wants her man to “Rock me darling, shake me baby, play me all the naughty songs and take me home tonight…Hit me this way and hit me that way and make me feel aright”.
Through all of this, the camera shows a close up of water droplets that drip down the fore screen (or is it foreskin) like sperm. True to style, the video includes three dancing girls aged perhaps between six and thirteen. Why on earth does she need them in there?
In Ran Away (Liberia MusicTv, on Youtube, Jun 5, 2010,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lum63uirBbI&feature=relmfu), she is phoned on her mobile by a little boy with a man’s voice (her nine year old son, Joseph). She picks her call and acts unamused. She informs him she is engaged to someone else now so he better go away, or else she will cut “your thing” off. She hates a guy who cheats and lies. The video shows she means business when she snips clean through a huge phallic sausage, with scissors and then a carpenter’s saw.
As the video proceeds she is seen protruding her ass while on her belly. Amid cries of “touch, touch”, she is swamped by her team of sexy dancers who sexily simulate touching and licking her. An ode to lesbianism?
Little “Joseph Oedipus”, may have surely needed some counselling when the moment of sexualised video “effect” suddenly connected in his little mind. He would have realised how close he was to having his ‘equaliser’ cut off by mum in one of his nightmares!
PUBLIC MEDIA PERCEPTION OF MZBEL
Public perception of Mzbel in the media are mostly unfounded and prejudiced. In my previous post (please revisit all TOFIAKWA posts), the first writer attacks her intellectual ability to understand the meaning of “rape”. Again, it is no mere coincidence that the second writer links the “lil young girls” supposed skimpy dress to the subsequent attack. The third writer’s cynical comment is a synthesis (combination) of the above comments. He goes further to cast doubt on Mzbel’s credibility. He cites her history of being at the receiving end of male rapes.
The perception common to most of these commentators is that Mzbel is a dim-witted bimbo. She has not only got a penchant for dressing like a ‘slag’, but is a lying, frivolous minnow who cannot be taken seriously.
The above perception of Mzbel, unfortunately, is the general perception that a lot of men hold against women in Ghana. The WAJU and FIDA data I provided in my first TOFIAKWA post, of rape and other forms of sexual violence, confirms the level of prevalent sexual disrespect males generally hold against women in Ghana/Africa.
THEORY OF WOMEN AND RAPE
Incidents of domestic rapes in communities are routinely suppressed. The excuse is that the female victims asked for it. This effectively constitutes moral, gender corruption. TA young woman said to me in the course of my research for this essay (this was supported by two other women) that when she first complained to her mother that her step-father had raped her, her mother ganged up with him to exile her from the homestead. The negative actions of their mothers’ denial, is what sociologists call “patriarchy”.
PATRIARCHY AND KYRIARCHY
Summary: Patriarchy is from father: papa = patriarch= male head. Gender opposite to matriarch = female head. Feminist critics argue that the power of patriarchy has already been established over generations. Owing to men’s leading position in the family, as hunters/bread-winners – by incidence of their ‘natural’ physical strength, tradition/religion-sanctioned leadership of the family, and aggregate perpetration of this power – men have shaped society by elevating themselves through exploiting women. The effect is that some women have themselves accepted and imbibed this condition as acceptable. This self-acceptance, of the sense of female inferiority, is what makes patriarch ‘ideological’. Definition of patriarchy:
“Patriarchy: one of the most misunderstood critical-theory concepts ever, often wilfully misunderstood. Patriarchy is one form of social stratification via a power/dominance hierarchy – an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a ranking of inferiorities) and its privileges. Societies can be (and usually are) patriarchal, oligarchal and plutocratic all at the same time, complicated by current and/or legacy features of sectarianism, imperialism and colonialism, so the gender hierarchy is only one source of social disparity. Because of the limited capacity of the word “patriarchy” to describe the full operation of intersecting oppressions, some now prefer to use the word “kyriarchy” instead, but it is not yet in common use”.
“Kyriarchy – a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression”.
But the traditional definition of patriarchy above is questioned or ‘interrogated’ by contemporary feminist cultural critics. The theory of patriarchy is now subjected or ‘subsumed’ to Marxist criticism. They question how the traditional oppression of women by men in all societies, operate within the environment of work and production. Marxists call this “production relations”.
Personally, I am excited by the abundant critical promises of this discourse. Hence, I wish to walk the theoretical gauntlet with you through a difficult, but understandable theoretical exercise. I follow with interest how theory explains the confluence (meeting point) of social, cultural, political and economic discourse. How we gain meaning from these. We deserve to examine the theoretical text patiently. They are self-explanatory. Slow, slow we catch monkey:
“I want to argue something completely different. I want to reject the concept of patriarchy as at best a muddled term simply mean[ing] women’s oppression (in which case it cannot explain this oppression), and at worst a completely idealist notion which has no basis in material reality. I want to show that it is not men who “benefit” from the oppression of women but capital. I want to look at the way in which the family has changed, and how as it has changed[,] women’s conception of themselves has also changed. Hopefully that will demonstrate that women’s continued oppression is not the result of male conspiracy (or an alliance between male workers and the capitalist class), but of the continuation of class society in every part of the world. It follows that I shall argue the “socialist” countries have no more in common with socialism than they have with women’s liberation.
“Hartmann defines patriarchy as “a set of social relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchical, establish or create interdependence or solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women.” She further argues that “the material base upon which patriarchy rests lies most fundamentally in men’s control over women’s labour power… [it] does not rest solely on childbearing in the family, but on all the social structures which enable men to control women’s labour”. “Control is maintained by denying women access to necessary economically productive resources and by restricting women’s sexuality”.
Lindsey German admirably include males in the struggle to combat patriarchy:
“What is clear is that concessions to any theory of patriarchy, or to the idea that men are the enemy, are not only inoperable but point to the wrong problem, to the manifestations of society rather than to its root. Socialist revolution, the abolition of class society, alone provides an answer to how we win our liberation” (Theories of Patriarchy, Lindsey German, International Socialism, 8 October 06, http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=240).
HOW KYRIARCHY OPERATES AGAIANST WOMEN IN GHANA
In last year’s context for the chairperson-ship (note I make problematic the gender-specific term, ‘chairman’) of the National Democratic Council (NDC), the ruling party in Ghana, Nana Kunadu, wife of the previous Pres. JJ Rawlings, was vilified for being too assertive, “opinionated”, “aggressive”, etc. I even heard an on-line radio panelist state that,”Ghana is not ready to elect a woman president now”.
I suggest that all the above accusations are because Mrs. Kunadu Rawlings is a woman. Hence, she is not expected to be capable of playing the traditional role of a man. Incidentally, she was only able to literally muster a handful of votes in that election. Her worse critics were women! The ideological pull of kyriarchy in Ghana/Africa is very strong.
Thankfully, history was made in Ghana on sexual liberation. On Saturday, 10 September 2011), Samia Yaba Nkrumah, the daughter of Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, won a landslide victory in an oft delayed election to be the chairperson of the, Convention People’s Party (CPP). CPP was the party her father formed that gained Ghana and the rest of Africa (on the continent and in the Caribbean islands), political freedom from Western imperialist rule. There was nostalgic replay of CPP singing, “Forward, Ever, Backward, Never”! A moving event.
But the celebration was short-lived. Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum, who had been the Presidential candidate of the CPP, had his knives out before too soon. Eventually Samia Nkrumah was alleged have said, ‘this nonsense must stop.’ The undesired rift caused Ndoum to work without consulting his new Chairperson. Eventually he left to found his own party, PPP. Observers are agreed because she is a woman, Dr. Ndoum could not stomach Samia’s leadership of the CPP.
MZBEL IS NO BIMBO
But is Mzbel really that hollow intellectually? Is she the cheap skate of a bimbo she is made out to be? Inevitably the facts prove contrary. She is actually well clued academically, technically and artistically. Her career choice was something more directorial and structured than the artistic domain of music.
She started preparatory school at Wisdom Preparatory and Morning Star schools. Her junior secondary school education (JSS) was at Owusu Mills JSS. Secondary school was at Abuakwa State College – reading economics, geography and French. She progressed to, Ghana Institute of Languages to become a bilingual secretary. Switching careers she went to Manifold Tutorial College to study: public relations, TV and radio production. After this she was interned at GBC Radio 1 where she hosted a children’s programme, “Mmofra kyepem”.
Ambitious, as most successful people are, she joined Groove FM (Adom FM) and progressed to present, ‘Kids on Groove’. She soon joined TV3 as a production assistant working on a Goldblast, a youth programme. Here she learnt floor management and honed her production skills. In the year 2002, Mzbel moved to, Hush Hush Studios where she released her first album, Awoso Me. Working part-time at Hush Hush Studios she got a job as producer at Metro TV’s Smash TV, a weekend entertainment programme. After a stint she joined Apex Advertising at Osu, Accra as an editor and a production manager. Asked about her stardom she said, “I liked what I was doing then and also had the chance to meet different people.” (Mzbel Biography,http://www.mzbelonline.com/biography.html).
Asked in an interview if she was born “with the talent as most artistes say?”, she said, “No I wouldn’t say that because I never had any dream of becoming a musician. All along I wanted to become a broadcaster but music just came from nowhere, so I don’t know if I should call it talent or hard work. So one could say the bimbo image was thrust upon her. (Mzbel, The Sexy Songstress, Source: Weekly Fylla, In the News, Wed, 02 May 2007)
So we now know our Mzbel is got faculty. But how does that explain the skimpy dresses our conservative commentators rave against? Mzbel herself has a simple answer to those who call her artistic dressing skimpy and outlandishly sexy, “You must look unique. I usually go for white or pink colours because they are more feminine” (Biography, http://www.mzbelonline.com/biography.html).
Not too convincing an answer some might say if she is to stop idiots from raping her. I will come to Mzbel’s defense. Like most observers, I do not think her answer here does her much justice. I will put it down to professional shrewdness. She does not want to reveal her professional secrets.
Like any competent contemporary artist, Mzbel is well plugged into the creative, production and packaging processes of her art. The creative aspect involves constructing a make-believe authorial persona that she knows her audience will identify. By a creative witches-brew, she combines different varieties of the same ingredients in her broth. A little ginger here, less scallion there, medium-strength kpakpo shito there, more garlic here, a pinch of salt, a handful of sugar, etc. Her creative ingredients are: sex, raunchiness, a tease or two, cheap, kitsch, bubble-gum videos…