Sarah Jones, the performance artist whose anti-misogynist rap drew an indecency fine from the FCC, last week sued the agency, calling the decision a misguided one that has squelched airplay of her song.
"I wrote 'Your Revolution'
as a response to the music on mainstream radio, which often treats women as sex objects and playthings," she said. "It never occurred to me that turning them around in a way that offered hope for girls and women and their male counterparts that have respect for them in terms of more than body parts would be considered indecent."
In May, the FCC fined noncommercial KBOO(FM) Portland, Ore., $7,000 for airing "Your Revolution" as part of a 7 p.m. public-affairs program. With blunt sexual slang, the song lambastes popular culture, and hip-hop in particular, for the way women are commonly portrayed. Among the lines: "You will not be touching your lips to my triple dip of french vanilla butter pecan chocolate deluxe or having Akinyele's dream a six-foot blowjob machine ... your revolution will not happen between these thighs."
A listener was offended by the song and complained to the FCC.
Jones said she filed the suit because there was no way for her to answer the FCC's allegations directly: Only KBOO is a party to the commission's proceeding.
One big point of contention with Jones is the FCC's sluggish pace for reviewing appeals, which isn't important to the shock jocks who frequently receive fines but can be very damaging to artists when their songs are knocked out of play lists.
It's unclear whether the court will let Jones's suit go forward, given that KBOO's fine is still on appeal. Her attorneys say they hope the court views the violation of her First Amendment rights as a pressing need that must be addressed quickly.
Jones's lawyers said, if the FCC rescinds the fine, they would drop the suit, filed in the U.S. district court in Manhattan.
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau decided Jones' use of sexual references was intended to "pander and shock" and thus indecent. Government rules bar broadcasters from airing indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Although the FCC could not fine Jones herself, her attorneys say the sanction against KBOO effectively bars other stations from playing the piece.
"As an artist who has been very vocal on issues of social justice in general and women in particular, to be tagged 'indecent' flies in the face of the message she tries to convey through her art," said Lisa Davis, one of her lawyers.
Washington First Amendment attorneys expect the commission to repeal the fine. Last month, it reversed its decision to fine a Colorado station for airing the edited-for-radio version of Eminem's raunchy rap, "The Real Slim Shady."
FCC officials would not comment.
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