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