Open Letter to Kiely Williams

*I wrote this open letter in response to Kiely Williams’ music video “Spectacular.” It was sent to her manager at Ninelivesent@gmail.com.

Dear Kiely,

In your disclaimer for the video, “Spectacular” you state that this song and video was created to ”bring attention to a serious womens health and safety issue.” I appreciate this intention, but simply raising awareness without being critical, can be dangerous.

What message does “Spectacular” send to our girls?

It communicates the idea that it is “cool” and “worth it” to have non-consensual, unprotected sex as long as it is “Spectacular.” On top of this the song reinforces the dangerous notion that we are invincible at a time when 1 in 2 black girls has an sti/std in this country.

This is both irresponsible and dangerous.

If you are truly interested in raising awareness, as the disclaimer under your video states, you would have approached this song and video with a more critical lens– not a glorification of sexual promiscuity and unprotected, non-consensual sex.  Decisions around sex while under the influence of alcohol, are difficult to qualify as consensual. This is why some argue that your song makes light of date-rape.

My intent is not to demonize you. Clearly, this issue is bigger than you.

At the same time,  if you are going to bring attention to an issue like this, I urge you to do it in a way that raises consciousness, not in a way that fuels stereotypes and glamorizes the problem.

I am asking you to please choose better, for the sake of our girls and our community.

In Solidarity,

Nuala

Kiely’s Video Response:  

Update: Kiely’s manager has responded to my email.

Readers: To get involved in this open letter campaign, write Kiely’s manager at Ninelivesent@gmail.com and make your letter public.  Please note that the Open Letter effort does not condone hate mail, which is counterproductive.

See more Open Letters/Responses: 

Alicia’s Open Letter
Moya’s Open Letter 
Chakka’s blog 
LaShon’s Open Letter
David’s Open Letter
T’Sey-haye’s Open Letter
(new!) Chakka’s vlog 
Danni Romano’s Open Letter 
Statement from The Women’s Media Center

This is the first of several media activist efforts, since ultimately, this is bigger than this one artist. Stay tuned for the FAAN MAIL project (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now).

About Nuala Cabral

Nuala Cabral is an educator, activist, filmmaker and co-founder of FAAN Mail, a media literacy and activist project based in Philadelphia.
This entry was posted in FAAN Mail and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Open Letter to Kiely Williams

  1. Didi Littlejohn says:

    NU I was thinking the same thing! I think Kiely wants to “push the envelope” and shed her old image…maybe she doesn’t want to feel artistically restrained. Like a madonna or the “new” rihanna

    However, she cannot ignore that her “fame” or success has come from targeting groups of young girls. The average age of her fan base is probably around 13-14..maybe a little younger. Her fan base has stayed around 13 though she is now 23ish. Starting with “no more”, which talked about drama-filled teen relationships((but still very positive messages))–> to Cheetah Girls ((follow your dreams, friendship)). She has really failed these girls with this video and song.

    I did not pick up a sense of satire, joking, or social commentary from this video. The lyrics themselves, were in no way thoughtful and a young girl would leave with the catchy/raunchy/heavily repeated message that this kind of behavior is all ok…”because the sex was spectacular”((the hook)).

    In the words of my 10 year little sister “Ewwww she looks NASTY!”

  2. Pingback: The Crunk Feminist Collective

  3. aliciasanchezgill says:

    thanks for posting nu, and thanks for the “consent” love. this video weighs heavily on my heart. I literally couldn’t even finish it. I mean, I am all about sexual liberation, and i am also down with teen’s empowerment and ability to make reproductive choices. but i agree (of course) that in order to have sex, one needs to be able to weigh the pros and cons, and to do that, one would need all the information possible to make a decision to be sexual.

    being so drunk that you have passed out does not allow you the ability to weigh options or to give consent.

    ok. i just went back and made it to the second verse. only halfway before i stopped it again. and i am reminded of how many women called the hotline when i worked at the rape crisis center, blaming themselves for getting drunk, but knowing that they didn’t want to engage in the sexual activity that occurred the night before. and i remember saying over and over “if you didn’t want it, it shouldn’t have happened.”

    you could be drunk, and naked on a pool table. a decent human being would make a choice to keep you safe (and put your clothes on) not have sex without your permission.

    this video undermines any attempt to take blame away from survivors, and completely reinforces myths that it is the survivor’s fault, that women really do “want it” and that its ok to have sex with someone who is blacked out.

    when in fact, a person choosing to buy drinks for the purpose of getting someone drunk enough to lose “inhibitions” and ability to make rational choices (ie, give informed consent) is predatory, and violent.

    yup. it’s rape.

    one large step (back) for sexual liberation, kiely.

  4. osei alleyne says:

    This issue is interesting…

    Especially for me because I come from a Caribbean culture in which much of the most popular music is all about sexual innuendo and sexcapades of all kinds. Debate rages on in places like Jamaica about the impact of very sexually explicit music on school children. Large segments of Jamaica’s musical output has been banned from radio but of course still proliferates (perhaps even more now) in the underground. Jamaican dancehall artists argue that entertainment is one of the few avenues that poor people have to change their economic situations and that that government official rarely censure themsleves in the way that they have attempted to silence some of Jamaica’s raunchiest artists.

    Nonetheless I believe Keilly’s video in the context of the present US is certainly problematic. While her argument that her story is a real and common one worth telling is to some degree valid, what she really neglects to tell is the rest of the story; the contraction of STDs, unwanted pregnancies and everything else that goes along with a night of abandon.

    It would appear that she hasn’t experienced any of this in her life or have had any friends that have been impacted by such thinking just yet.

    If what Keily is going for some kind of modern pop erotica she’s missed the mark on crafting a message that is intriguing and stimulating while at the same time reflective. Her piece lacks the kind of clever world play or innuendo that allows the message to be read of a number of levels; one that yes random sex could be exciting but that there is alot more that often goes along with it.

    She may not have arrived at that level of artistic maturity yet as she remains convinced that just saying what she feels to say is more important than how she says, who she says it to, and what she ultimately means to put accross.

    Artists like Madonna and even other pop artists (however much like them or not) have found more interesting ways to challenge society’s prudishness and inhibitions while at the same time balancing their output with tracks that explore the opposite side of the surface pleasures of casual sex…

    C’mon Keily get some skills!!!!!!!

  5. Pingback: What’s Spectacularly wrong with “Spectacular” – WMC Blog

  6. Rebecca Donley says:

    My letter to Kiely, below:

    Hello,

    I have spent the past ten years working and volunteering to end violence against women. I have heard some awful stories about lives crushed by sexual violence. When I heard that yet another sports star was set free from a charge of rape yesterday, I was really devastated. And then I saw the Spectacular video.

    I understand that you are trying to tell a story, and do not feel responsible for what others may read into your* words and posing. I understand that what women do and say is often seen as political and that’s not always fair. But your song and your video twisted a knife in my heart.

    I act and do comedy and I understand that who we are and what we do as artists sometimes conflict. But seeing this, I am going to be hyper-conscious of the effect of my art and how it expresses who I am and what I believe. I believe that violence against women is wrong.

    I believe that rape is the act of the rapist, alone. There is nothing that anyone can do to cause someone to rape them. It is also a choice of the rapist, alone. It is true that people who commit rape often use alcohol as a way to deflect their own responsibility in the act. And I don’t believe that a song or a video can cause someone to commit rape. BUT…

    The media often question the victim of rape more than the person accused. The person accused is rarely convicted, especially if this person is famous, has a lot of money, and judicial bias is on the side of the accused. Your song makes it even harder for victims to have any credibility, and that’s really awful.

    You may not see yourself as responsible to the public. But you are. All performers are. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been using my voice to promote justice for victims of sexual violence for ten years. But it is doubtful that my work and words will ever reach as many ears as yours will. And that means I have to work that much harder to get the message across. Date rape is wrong. And nobody asks for it, wants it, or enjoys it.

    Rebecca Donley

    * or whoever writes your songs

  7. nualacabral says:

    Thank you all for sharing your voice!!!!! Let us know if you hear a response!!

  8. Silas Ana says:

    Thanks for the great feedback! With all the input I get from you guys we should be able to have it continuing to improve!

  9. gleisla cristina santana silva says:

    ooi kielli na primeira vez que eu asisti o dvd cheetah e vc ali eu mim apaixonei e falei pra minhas amigas que eu queria se vc e cada uma das minhas amigas escolheu ser uma cheetah eu e as minha amigas ama vc de coração eu nunca vo esquecer vc ti amo eu vou passa meu msn mim add ta zunga_gatinha@yahoo.com

  10. Pingback: Open Letters to Kiely Williams « FAAN Mail

  11. Pingback: Talk Back: Open Letters to Kiely Williams on “Spectacular” « FAAN Mail

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