London gangs and girls

The growing statistics in gang related crime in London has finally shone a light on the abuse girls suffer as a result of gang association.

Last month, BBC News London reported that the government has pledged £1.2m to help girls who are raped and assaulted by male gang members.

Speaking to the BBC, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said “It’s quite clear that everyone would be entirely shocked by the level of violence girls and young women have to experience if they get involved with gangs and it has been a very hidden issue.”

Although ‘hidden’ from the news this type of abuse is somewhat glorified in popular culture through the likes of commercial Rap and hip hop music. As it dominates the English music and video charts it sends out the message that this type of behavior is socially accepted.

Rapper TYGA who is currently topping the UK charts with his song ‘Rack City Bitch’ openly refers to women as “bitches” and raps about using women as a source of income. He sings: Tell That Bitch Hop Out, Walk The Boulevard,I Need My Money Pronto”. The accompanying video to this song sees nearly naked women stripping whilst the rapper chucks money at them.  ( or fans it close to their naked bodies)

Some argue that this music is not reflective of reality but it is unavoidable not to attribute some of the influences of this abuse to this type of mainstream, popular music and videos that openly portray women as possessions and tools to be used in gaining respect, money and status.

With multiple strip clubs littered across the streets of London and society accepting this type of music as the norm, it becomes a challenging task to then reinstate that women are not possessions for sale.

Writer and author Alan White published an article on The Guardian website titled ‘Catch the gang members, end the rapes? It’s not that simple.’ In his article White claims that it’s not just a case of criminalising gang members who abuse women but a investing in a multitude of social changes.

He claims that these issues are “symptoms of far bigger social problems: what we’re tackling here is the rise of hypermasculinity in certain areas of the inner city.”

Although acknowledging that several factors contribute to the abuse girls suffer at the hands of gang culture, White claims the issues that need to be challenged are simply the “little things that don’t create a single headline, but work” such as “balanced economic growth“ and  “greater financing for education starting in the classroom”.  

This is undoubtedly true and the intent for this type of education was reiterated by Mark Townsend, Home Affairs Editor at The Guardian. Townsend reported that Metropolitan Detective Chief Inspector, Petrina Cribb, who is responsible for protecting vulnerable young women from falling into gang culture, plans to educate young women of the dangers of getting involved in gangs from primary school age.

However vital these attempts by government services and charities, we only set to undermined and challenge them by our own acceptance of the representation of women in popular culture.

Objectifying women in music, on screen and even on our own communities serves only to reinforce hypermasculinity and the sexualisation of women, aiding in the reasoning of abuse adopted by gangs and even, mainstream society.

It seems that although we need to continue our work towards supporting victims, education and economic growth, we cannot silently condone this type of hypocritical social acceptance through popular culture if we are to make a real change.

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