Why Bury The Ratchet?

Image Activist Michaela Angela Davis encourages us to "bury the ratchet."

Image Activist Michaela Angela Davis encourages us to “bury the ratchet.”

What is “ratchet” and why is there a campaign to end it? The phrase “ratchet” gained its popularity when the Ratchet Girl Anthem–an original song that was created by two young men–went viral in the spring of 2012. The word “ratchet” is a disparaging term used to describe “ghetto” women. According to Urban Dictionary “ratchet” is,

A diva, mostly from urban cities and ghettos that has reason to believe she is every man’s eye candy. Unfortunately, she’s wrong.

Image Activist Michaela Angela Davis is spearheading a campaign at Spelman College to increase consciousness and decrease the negative messages generated by many reality television shows and have become synonymous with women of color. In the process, “ratchet” has been launched into another realm as Davis moves forward with her campaign which has the goal of publicizing how people of color feel about the ways they are portrayed by large media corporations. Davis will be hosting a talk at Spelman College with community leaders and scholars on topics around African American women, culture and society this month. To learn about the various events that are planned, check out #MADFREE, Davis’ monthly newsletter.

So, why bury the ratchet? To put it simply, if we don’t the “ratchet” will bury our culture, women, and positive Black images. Davis takes issue with the word because it represents a larger trend in pop culture that sends the message to society that a Black woman’s self worth, esteem and respect isn’t important and shouldn’t be valued. The “bury the Ratchet” campaign is not intended to be a protest with the goal of having reality TV shows banned but rather a “pro sister movement.” Davis’s mission is admirable and as this campaign launches and progresses it will be interesting to see how society will respond. I wonder if the larger public has become too desensitized to care about a “pro sister” movement in the larger context. Ultimately, I am concerned that Black culture has become so conditioned to negative images and perceptions that people aren’t concerned with “ratchetness”–as long as there is a song or video they can dance and sing along to then the threat of offense isn’t real; a 21st century Minstrel show if you will.  While I’m confident that “ratchet” will eventually lose it’s popularity–as we saw with the rise and fall of “hood rat,” “chicken head” or “hoochie mama,” it’s important to address the larger meaning of these words so they don’t simply become replaced.

Projects like the one Michaela Angela Davis is spearheading is clearly something Black women need. Davis is not the only person addressing this issue. If empowering Black women is something you’re passionate about, we encourage you to explore the work of organizations like The Black Girl Project and Watch Her Work.

by Katrese M. Hampton, a Nonprofit Management degree candidate at the New School for Public Engagement

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1 Comment

  1. Alexis P.

     /  May 6, 2013

    A similar conversation was had between me and a friend recently. I wondered why we (black women) are always so quick to embrace the negative titles and images placed on us and in turn place it on another. When I first heard the term ratchet I thought it was very funny but had no idea it would be as popular as it is now. Popular to the point that I even used the term once or twice when describing someone else.

    While reading “I am because we are” I came across a passage which said something like In order for a “negro” to achieve status he must disassociate himself from “blackness” and label it wrong (very loosely quoted based on my own interpretation) I feel that when (I, we, you) use words such as ratchet, hoodrat, or chicken head we do just that.

    It is important to note that we will never “Bury the Ratchet” if we continue to allow people to profit off it. Networks like VH-1 have surpassed BET ya know (black entertainment television) in ratings with shows catered to black women. The Oxygen network was so bold to issue a statement glorifying their decision to give rapper Shawty lo and the mothers of his ten children a reality tv show (which was pulled before hitting the air) honestly stating its goal was to reach black women who sit on social media.

    Hip Hop whom I have loved my entire life is no longer lyrics and storytelling but a beat and “instructions” for how strippers should move to get their money. Artists like Nas go gold and Juicy J (who apparently can’t say to not Ratchet P*$&y) sells millions and I won’t even get into how NOT pro-sister this music is.

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