Monday, April 25th, 2005

PETITION: Stop Sexual Discrimination at The Source

Hey folks, if you’re as pissed off as Joan Morgan, Elizabeth Mendez Berry, and I are, please go sign here now.

Here’s the full text of the petition:

To: David Mays, Raymond “Benzino” Scott, Al Sharpton


After two top female executives at The Source magazine filed a sexual harassment suit against their former employer on Monday, April 11, 2005, the co-owners of The Source, David Mays and Raymond “Benzino” Scott, both responded (on two separate occasions) by impugning the sexual reputation of one of the two plaintiffs, Kim Osorio, the former editor-in-chief of the magazine.

In an April 11th statement reported by, David Mays said:

“It is a fact that Ms. Osorio had sexual relations with a number of high profile rap artists during her employment as editor-in-chief.”

The following day, Benzino was interviewed, also by, and said,

“[Kim Osorio is] screaming sexual discrimination. What we’re gonna do is counter sue her because that’s totally false because especially when we have record of—we have proof of her having many sexual relations with a lot of the artists that she was actually interviewing a lot. And we will counter sue her for defamation of character and then after that, we’ll just let the courts decide it.”


1. We condemn David Mays’ and Benzino’s response to the suit. The notion that Osorio’s sexual history (real or imagined) has any bearing on whether or not her claims are legitimate is ludicrous. Michelle Joyce and Kim Osorio’s claims will be evaluated by the courts, but the responses from the Harvard-educated Mays and the self-appointed community leader Benzino certainly seem to indicate that the top staff at The Source condone and reinforce a climate of discrimination against women. Basically, their argument boils down to the classic “She’s promiscuous, so she couldn’t have been sexually harassed,” so the responsibility for the harassment lies with its victim, as opposed to the harasser.

2. While we understand that the music industry is rife with little-discussed sexual perks, we hold journalists to a higher standard. Female journalists in particular have long understood that sexual relations with subject matter undermine any attempts at objectivity, clearly compromise the integrity of the magazine, blur the line between professionalism and personal pleasure and reinforce the sexist stereotype that women write about hip hop only to sleep with rappers. We in no way condone such behavior. That said, we are equally aware that Benzino’s and Mays’ accusations against Osorio are a calculated attempt to obscure the issue at hand: Does The Source engender a climate of harassment that makes it difficult if not impossible for its female employees to do their jobs without feeling demeaned, devalued or threatened?

3. In The Source and other magazines, women of color are only valued as available sexual objects, a relationship that clearly goes back to slavery and imperialism. Yet they are expected to stay loyal and quiet about sexism and injustice in their own house, and when they choose to raise the issue in public, they are again reduced to sexual objects. We are disgusted at the fact that while Mays and Benzino and other community leaders claim to be concerned about injustice, they are clearly exploiting racist and racially divisive stereotypes of women of color.

4. We call on the so-called community leaders who allegedly asked Benzino to return to The Source after he had resigned Friday, April 8, to take a stand against the sexism of both Benzino and Mays. After he put out a press release on April 8, stating that he had stepped down from The Source, Benzino recanted on Monday, April 11, announcing his return. According to the latter release, “Reverend Al Sharpton, executives from Black Enterprise, David Mays, and others insisted he retain his position for the good of the cause.” We are deeply concerned that a community leader like Sharpton, who professes to be seeking a more humane hip hop industry, would align himself with a magazine that so clearly ignores the humanity of women. We urge him to respect the concerns of men and women equally, and to use this opportunity to examine the working conditions of The Source specifically, and the sexism that women who work in music journalism and in the music industry experience on a daily basis.


The Undersigned

posted by @ 12:49 pm | 9 Comments

9 Responses to “PETITION: Stop Sexual Discrimination at The Source”

  1. Anonymous says:

    YO, I’m down with the cause but I won’t sign the petition. Why? Because I think journalists are supposed to be unbiased. By signing a petition–any petition–or joining a march, one stops becoming a journalist and aligns themselves with a cause. Their view can no longer can be seen as objective. Isn’t that what many of us are accusing the Source of doing?

    I’d like to know what other readers/signers feel about this and whether by signing this petition, that journalists among the list (and there are many) are losing their objective eye.

  2. The Bishop of Hip Hop says:

    i already signed that thuuuur…

    y’all need to get on it…

    fools talk..

    few walk…

    lets ride…


  3. ronnie brown says:

    Objectivity in journalism is a well-worn myth. You interpret events according to your own world view. You think Fox News doesn’t have a particular political axe to grind??. I freelanced for RapPages and XXL from 1995-2001. The articles i wrote were for the express purpose of championing the concerns of the African-American, Afro-Latino and Afro-Caribbean population…the communities that gave birth to Hip-Hop.

    To neglect the responsibility of oversight and accountability over a culture that sprung from our community in the name of maintaining an “unbiased eye”, is like knowing your brother-in-law is beatin’ his wife (YOUR SISTER) and not attempting to intervene because you don’t wanna be seen as meddlin’ in other grown folks business!…come on!

  4. M says:

    “Objectivity” is one of those scare-words that people who have no idea what journalism actually entails like to throw around to add false weight to their complaining. Guess what, anonymous? Unless we’re talking about hard news–and here, we aren’t–editors give writers work because those writers have a point of view, and anyone who writes criticism is by the job’s very nature non-objective. The petition states in clear language that what its signees accuse The Source of is fostering a hostile, sexually aggressive workplace, not “being non-objective.” There’s a big difference.

  5. EMB says:

    This is a profession. Journalists and editors—even female ones— have the right to do their work free of harassment or intimidation, and to have their contracts honored, etc.

    Even if those rights are often trampled, it is in our collective interest to defend them and to condemn those who violate. That’s why we wrote the petition. That’s why I do collective bargaining to make sure that folks get paid.

    So anonymous, it’s because I’m a journalist that I do this. Not inconsistent.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the comments. This is real interesting. Big ups to EMB, whose comment is eye-openingly real.
    Just because you don’t sign a petition doesn’t mean you’re not against sexism or don’t have problems with the way the Source conducts business. You’re human, you’re allowed to feel and express opinion.
    I just think there are ethical ramifications tied to aligning closely with a cause when one considers themselves a serious journalist. Could they report on the Source/Mays/Benzino in the future in a Fair and Balanced™ way? Just because FOX News can be flagrantly biased, doesn’t make it OK for hip-hop journalism. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

    I would disagree with M’s point that editors give writers work because of POV. For editorials, sure, but way more important is reporting facts accurately, diligently and intelligently.

    And is objectivity completely dead? Maybe I need to up the dosage.

  7. Anonymous says:

    YO, I’m down with the cause but I won’t sign the petition. Why? Because I think journalists are supposed to be unbiased. By signing a petition–any petition–or joining a march, one stops becoming a journalist and aligns themselves with a cause.

    this is another Anonymous. and I agree with the above sentiment. totally. objectivity is unreachable, impossible, but it is for [news]journalists to strive for. period.

    also, I’m down with no sex harassment in the workplace, and I know the general idea is that B-Zo and his cronies are crazy (they are), and that the Source is a horrific place to work, but why do so many people just automatically believe the charges? Can the trial be had before everyone just jumps on one side, and on the other? Is this all black and white (no pun intended), or are there some gray areas that need to be explored? If this thing actually goes to trial (and I hear Osario’s lawyer is breaking it down at SOHH), it’s going to be interesting, to say the very least. Right now it’s a very ugly he say-she say. WHO REALLY KNOWS WHAT WENT ON? Fuck Zino and Mays for calling out Kim’s personal life, yeah, absolutely. But a lot is at stake here. Reputations (on both sides), discrimination (sexual), egos (on both sides), a contest for who will be the hero/heroine (yep), history (who accomplished what, when, at the Source) and big money (don’t get it twisted).

  8. EMB says:

    Maybe in previous post I did not make myself clear enough. Read the petition again: we do not take a position on the claims. They will (and should) be settled in court.

    Point is that a professional should be able to take legal action without having to deal with completely unrelated mudslinging.

    And by the way, in the petition, we also make our stance on journalists who sleep with artists clear.

  9. EAT MY SHORTS says:

    nah, I aint gonna sign it I’ma let it slide. look, sex goes on in the workplace all the time. I have had a lot of sex at my office before. if you sign this women liberation shit basically the office will become evn more boring. imagine if d’angelo or maxwell was their boss, i bet they would have got down, this is uglyism agains zino and mays. also, this liz mendez berry is on a fuckin angela davis mission or someshit, she need to chill, always on some negetibe shit. she need o get down with some rappers and maybe she can lighten up. also like my man said, that other gal aint that fine maybe it was the janitor that was harrasin her.

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