[Trigger Warning: Rape Culture]
In case you were taking a break from the internet last night, you may have missed a firestorm debate on rape culture last night, which continues as I write this. Since I have no purpose of this blog if I cannot conduct a debate with this community, I want to explain why I think using the lyrics such as “rape a pregnant bitch and call it a threesome” as a source of entertainment for the masses is morally reprehensible.
I’m going to quickly discuss Tyler the Creator, who is the reason why I commented on rape culture last night. However, many of you told me to look him up, so I did. That helped in understanding his character and - to his detriment - in understanding who he really seems to be… which is a homophobic, misogynistic asshole.
- “I just say ‘faggot’ and use ‘gay’ as an adjective to describe stupid shit.” [source]
- “I’m not homophobic. I just think faggot hits and hurts people. It hits. And gay just means you’re stupid. I don’t know, we don’t think about it, we’re just kids. We don’t think about that shit. But I don’t hate gay people. I don’t want anyone to think I’m homophobic. ([His friend] Jasper walks into the room) But he’s a fucking faggot!” [source]
When hundreds of you explain Tyler to me as a thoughtful artist who uses these insults to add value to the art of music, yet he tells us he uses the word gay because it hurts people and then dismisses it saying, “we don’t think about it,” then I have a really hard time continuing this part of the debate further. I admittedly don’t know much about Tyler the Creator, and I guarantee I have read more favorable comments than unfavorable ones. However, I see his lyrics as gratuitously vicious with purposefully little regard for the negative societal impact he could cause. Continue to brush aside my sentiment as uptight, but this is how I view similarly reckless artists who have come before him (easiest example: Eminem).
Here’s the thing, though: this is ultimately not about Tyler the Creator - and I don’t think the argument here is whether or not rape culture exists. Rather, it’s whether these songs contribute to rape culture. I believe this kind of language perpetuates rape culture. Many of you disagree.
My rage is not meant to suggest that everyone who listens to Tyler the Creator condones rape. My disappointment is not meant to suggest that this single song lyric will lead to rape.
Here’s what I believe: anyone who uses rape to add value to their art without the clear intention of drawing attention to the casual nature of victim blaming, rape apologism and sexual objectification is either apathetic or willfully misguided. One hell of an expectation I have, no? Absolutely.
We need to do what we can to actively combat the destructive nature of objectification and misogyny in our society. Anything that potentially hinders that goal sends a red flag off in my head. Reading lyrics from a musical artist’s character saying, “rape a pregnant bitch and call it a threesome” sends off hundreds of red flags in my brain. That is vile, disgusting language, no matter who says it. His character may be widely understood to be an evil being. Why was he created, though? To entertain us. I find nothing entertaining about bashing gay people, singing “by the way, we do punch bitches,” and singing “starve her ‘til I carve her then I shove her in the Rover/ Where I cut her like a barber with a Parkinson’s disorder/ Store her in a portable freezer with me to Portland.” I simply do not see the artistic value here, whether it’s Tyler or Eminem or anyone else.
I do not like when someone reduces rape to the convenience of fulfilling your character’s evil desires in order to add entertainment value.
I wish there was a looming stigma every time someone thought about diluting rape down to a joke or a form of entertainment.
Rape is the intent to exude power in order to suck the life out of someone else.
Rape is dehumanization.
Having read hundreds of the literally thousands of responses to RFN and I, I do now understand what arguments lead some of you to believe that Tyler’s language is not harmful. I don’t agree, but I understand. My opinion is that it can be harmful. I do not see the usefulness in creating this character he portrays. However, one email I received did a great job of breaking down why they see a purpose behind Tyler’s language:
Tyler’s importance as a rapper has nothing to do with his lyrics specifically, but rather with WHAT he is doing as a whole. He is not encouraging or glorifying rape and murder. He is terrifyingly vulgar because he is pushing the envelope, testing everyone; driving them to their limits, more or less to see exactly what happens. It’s a cultural statement that has been made in the past but needs to be made as long as people continue to forget what they learn about themselves. Critics often write off “shock value” artists, but I feel it’s a necessary part of societal examination. SEE: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Allen Ginsberg, etc. It’s no different, and the fact that many people are reacting the same way you are means, well, he’s winning. He’s doing EXACTLY what he intended.
Also, what he says in his songs has nothing to do with him. He is not a rapist or a murderer, obviously (and has addressed this repeatedly, in interviews and even on the album itself). He has created a fictional world in which he and his friends operate as the embodiment of all evil. As a listener, you are not “supposed” to like it or identify with it. You are only meant to consider it, think about what is being communicated, and think about why it might be appealing to listen to.
This is a reasonable argument on the intrinsic value of musical art that some of you likely agree with. I don’t agree because I cannot accept this perpetually dismissive attitude towards rape; I see these lyrics as doing more harm than good. But maybe that’s the point. He may not want to encourage rape, but he uses verses on rape and murder to shock people… to get them talking. But where is the conversation going? You tell me. Let’s see where it goes.
Many responses to this comment were to the tune of “calm down” and “don’t take it so seriously.” Here’s what it boils down to, folks: people who don’t take rape culture seriously are the reason why I take it seriously.
If you want to continue this conversation with me, or merely explain why you don’t agree, feel free to email me: pantslessprogressive at gmail.
[Above: a quote from Transforming a Rape Culture]