MTV to Air Ads 'Empowering Women'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(Editor's Note: Contains material some readers may find objectionable.)

- One of the nation's premier organizations for girls and young women is launching a campaign protesting the way, "women and girls are routinely devalued in today's society," that includes advertising on a cable television channel increasingly criticized for its sexually suggestive and demeaning portrayals of women.

The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) campaign includes TV ads on MTV, which has come under increased scrutiny for its programming because of questionable content.

MTV produced last year's Super Bowl half-time show in which Janet Jackson bared her breast. The channel also came under fire Tuesday in a report claiming MTV is "targeting kids with sex, drugs and alcohol."

YWCA CEO Peggy Sanchez Mills said the goal of the YWCA's new campaign is to "raise awareness about the continuing problem of racism and the oppression of women."

"We want people to understand that the YWCA is an organization firmly linked to these issues and call on them to join us in our mission," Mills said in a Jan. 31 statement, which added the YWCA wants to drive home a "bold new message" reinforcing its mission of "eliminating racism and empowering women."

One day after the YWCA announcement, a study of MTV programming accused the cable channel of "blatantly selling raunchy sex to kids." The Parents Television Council (PTC) study involved 171 hours of around-the-clock programming during the week of March 20-27, 2004, which MTV billed as its "Spring Break" coverage.

According to the PTC analysis, MTV music videos averaged 32 instances of foul language per hour and "reality programs" averaged 13 sexual scenes per hour.

Embedded in the MTV programming and music videos are various racial epithets, demeaning references to women and routine references to and portrayals of young women engaging in a variety of sexual activity.

"There's no question that TV influences the attitudes and perceptions of young viewers, and MTV is deliberately marketing its raunch to millions of innocent children," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC and founder of Cybercast News Service.

Does the message mesh with messenger?

The YWCA said it will run its ads on MTV, MTV2 and BET because the three cable channels are viewed by a substantial number of young adults. Included in the YWCA campaign are the MTV and BET Internet websites and radio and print advertisements.

One of the 30-second TV spots called "Little Girls," demonstrates what the YWCA calls, "the blatant ways that women and girls are routinely devalued in today's society," and juxtaposes music lyrics with the, "enthusiasm, innocence and spontaneity of little girls," according to the group.

Surrounding the YWCA ads is MTV programming that often depicts girls and young women engaging in sexually suggestive behavior, along with music videos that include overt references to girls and young women as "bitches" and whores engaging in sex.

While the YWCA ad encourages viewers to change their attitudes about women and minorities, it is silent about the programming on MTV or in other media outlets.

One MTV program included in the PTC study - a program broadcast at 2:00 p.m. EST - depicted young men and women licking whipped cream off each other's bodies, as well as young women participating in a wet T-shirt contest that required the show to blur some of the women's breasts, which were visible through the wet shirts.

Among the music videos noted in the PTC study was one by the artist Petey Pablo which included lyrics about young black girls engaging in oral and anal sex, along with a racial epithet. Another MTV video from the band D-12 also uses a demeaning racial term for African-Americans and refers to women as "bitches."

A YWCA statement explains the ads were designed to "reflect the provocative, brash look and feel of the networks on which they air."

The PTC quoted Neilson Media Research data in characterizing MTV as, "the most recognized network among young adults ages 12 to 34," and noted that 73% of boys and 78% of girls between the ages of 12 and 19 watch the cable channel for an average of more than six hours each week.

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