“You’re dead wrong if ya think that pimpin' gon' die.” At least that’s what Snoop Dogg maintained in his 2003 “P.I.M.P.” duet with 50 Cent.
But that won’t stop some from trying. This fall, Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault will unveil its ad campaign targeting pimp culture and the gold jewelry and bikini clad ladies that accompany it.
“Taking it literally, pimp culture is when people are pimping women,” says CCASA’s Jessie Genther. “When it’s not literal, it is frat boys on the streets calling women ‘bitch’ and ‘ho.’ It becomes easier to be disrespectful to a person and sexually assault them and harm them.”
As an example, she cites the song “Take My Bitch” by Bay Area rapper Too $hort:
Now take my bitch, she won't complain about shit
Cause I taught her well, she got game for a trick
It ain’t hard to tell she belongs to me,
I pimped her 15 years in this industry
The CCASA crusade, which will include anti-pimp messages on bar coasters and posters in sports arenas and concert halls, will attempt to flip the culture on its head by explaining how the pimp image of cash, drugs and ladies differs mightily from the reality of female trafficking.
Yet as well-meaning as the campaign appears, abolishing pimp culture treads the precarious line between protecting women and censoring expression. And there are plenty of people—pimps and otherwise—who say that blaming society’s ills on music or clothing amounts to scapegoating and even discrimination.
Take, for instance, Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam records. Last April, he responded to calls for hip-hop censorship in the wake of the Don Imus scandal.
“Like the artists throughout history, [rappers’] messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society,” he said in an MTV News interview. “Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression. Our job is to be an inclusive voice for the hip-hop community and to help create an environment that encourages the positive growth of hip-hop."
Even so, Genther promises that the pimp purge will go beyond rap and hip- hop, targeting Beck and other white boy purveyors of female commodification.
“I think that every time you have an opportunity to make music or make something creative you have a choice to do in a respectful way or a dehumanizing way,” she says.
-- Naomi Zeveloff