Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am made headlines recently when he called women who have condoms in their homes “tacky.” He made the comments in the May issue of Elle Magazine, and they’re drawing the ire of advocates who see how the singer’s rhetoric can be poisonous in a climate in which black women are being infected with HIV in record numbers. First, here’s what the artist told Andrew Goldman at Elle:
ELLE: If you walked into a woman’s house, what one item would convince you that you weren’t compatible?
W: If she had condoms in her house, that would just fuckin’ throw me off. That’s just tacky.
ELLE: Well, okay, I could see if she had a candy bowl full of them on the coffee table. But if she’s got a few in a drawer, wouldn’t that simply suggest she’s health-conscious?
W: I just think, like, if you’re into someone and you guys get to that level, then that’s something you should converse about together and say, “Hey, maybe we should get some.”
Kelle Terrell over at The Body points out the flaws in the singer’s thinly veiled sexism:
What’s also dangerous about will.i.am’s comments are that they are made with no real understanding of how gender inequality makes it difficult for many women to even negotiate condom use in the first place. We live in a day and age in which, if a man doesn’t want to use a condom, in many instances a condom isn’t used – especially in cases in which the woman is economically dependent on the man; the woman has a history of sexual abuse and domestic violence; the woman suffers from low self-esteem; or the woman really wants to be in a relationship with the man and doesn’t want to lose him.
Akiba Solomon’s pointed out before that black Americans make up nearly half of all new HIV infections but only fifteen percent of the population. Black women – who are most infected by black men – are fifteen times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white women. And among AIDS cases in women ages 13 to 24, black women make up 62 percent.
“For too many [black] women, especially those living below the poverty line, the mere act of saying, ‘Look dude, you need to use a condom’ and that actually happening, isn’t a reality,” Terrell told Solomon back in February after news of a potentially game changing HIV prevention method.