I bet you know the answer to this one: When are hate and bigotry considered cutting-edge, forward-thinking entertainment? When the targets are women, of course! I was going to write about this post at Feministe in which a male guest blogger twists himself into a pretzel trying to justify the violence-soaked misogyny of a rap crew he likes, but I see the Red Queen has already beaten me to it. So I’ll talk a bit about the incredibly positive reception outspoken
misogynists bigots like Odd Future get from the predominantly male journalists at the New York Times, The Guardian, The Village Voice and other so-called “serious” publications.
For those who don’t know, Odd Future lyrics go way beyond the now-accepted-as-mainstream notion of women as bitches and hos who exist only to be fucked and need to be slapped around sometimes. Most Odd Future tracks dwell in graphic detail on the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of
women bitches. And yet countless dudes who consider themselves progressive and claim to abhor bigotry are engaging in Olympian mental gymnastics to come up with reasons the creators of this hate are not only decent guys but important artistes.
For instance, when group leader Tyler says that rape is fun, that is “likely a metaphor for something else.” Why? Because no one could possibly think rape is fun? Newsflash: One in four women in the US will experience a completed or attempted rape. There are a lot of men who think rape is fun. They’re called rapists. Or perhaps these enlightened dudes just can’t see someone whose music (or movies or books or athletic performance) they like as a rapist. Rapists are 100% unadulterated evil with zero positive characteristics. I guess that’s why they’re always lurking in bushes wearing ski masks; everyone would immediately recognize their evil rapeyness if they showed their faces. How could someone as “undeniably charismatic” and “irrepressibly goofy” as twenty-year-old Tyler possibly be a rapist? Oh, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a connection between rape and viewing women as subhuman fuckholes. Or between rapists and sociopathic assholes who think the damage they do is irrelevant as long as they’re having a good time.
I don’t know whether the man whose hate-drenched lyrics advocate the rape and torture of people like me really commits such acts. I do know that this type of violent bigotry set to a seductive beat has real-life consequences. Very bad ones. Advertisers spend billions of dollars every year on TV commercials to influence behavior. Why? Because that shit works. Yet there are those who argue with a straight face that music they consider far more powerful than any corny commercial does not influence behavior?!? It’s bullshit and I suspect they know it.
Does every dude who listens to music promoting rape go out and rape a woman? Of course not. But the songs’ messages seep into attitudes and behaviors, contributing to the toxic slew known as rape culture. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to being influenced by the music they listen to because they’re still in the process of figuring out how they feel about a whole bunch of things. Unfortunately I speak from experience. The misogynist music I was exposed to growing up had a profound effect on the vomit-inducing views of gender relations I developed as a teen. And those views led me straight into some rather abusive relationships. Which, I’m sad to say, is by no means unique. One in five adolescent girls have been victims of dating violence, and that’s when only physical and sexual abuse are counted as violence. When verbally and emotionally abusive relationships are included, we’re looking at one in three.
Given the misogynist culture kids grow up in, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that victim blaming and rape apologia run rampant among teenagers. Many adults were shocked when nearly half of the teens surveyed after Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rihanna, putting her in the hospital, said it was her fault. Shock and outrage were also the reactions when a 16-year-old girl was gang raped at a Vancouver rave and teens responded by distributing photos of the assault on the Internet, making vicious remarks about the victim, defending the rapists, and leaving pro rape comments on Facebook. That shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Why is anyone surprised when people who love and respect rappers/bands that celebrate rape and misogyny end up celebrating rape and misogyny themselves?
Of all the praise heaped on groups like Odd Future, none is more deluded than the idea that this stuff is edgy or avant-garde. Frankly, it’s difficult to find a message more reactionary and old-fashioned than the one about men being in charge and women existing only as fuck toys and servants with no rights, desires, or interests of their own. The only difference between Odd Future lyrics and the ravings of certain right-wing fundies is that the former are more explicit in their hate. Congratulations! The difference here is about as significant as the difference between old-fashioned I-don’t-hate-blacks-as-long-as-they-know-their-place racists and the more raw, explicit racist hatred of modern skinhead groups.
Not surprisingly, though, opposition to Odd Future is never framed as opposition to bigotry. In fact, I don’t recall seeing the word bigotry in any of the articles on the group. That’s because the targets are women, and the guys responsible for these masterpieces don’t think of women as an oppressed class. When a woman is raped because she’s a woman, these guys don’t see a hate crime. As far as they’re concerned, she was used for her intended purpose. Of course she was targeted because she’s a woman. I mean, who else would one target if one was planning to rape someone?
The recent Odd Future gush fest in the NY Times contains this masterful sentence: “With imagery depicting rampant drug use, systemic violence against women, and any number of other distasteful things, Odd Future has become the flashpoint for reigniting the culture wars in hip-hop for a generation that hasn’t previously experienced them, that didn’t realize culture wars were still a possibility.”
Don’t you just love it? First, the author casually equates “systemic violence against women” with “rampant drug use” and “any number of other distasteful things,” whatever that means. It’s a common ploy in Odd Future “think pieces,” equating bigotry and violent misogyny with drug use/dealing and cursing, as if anyone objecting to bigotry and hate is just a conservative moralist obsessed with law and order. And in case his readers are too dense to get what he’s trying to say, the author drives home the point in the second part of the sentence. Ah yes, the culture wars. Say no more. Who wants to be on the same side as those moralistic right-wing culture warriors? Bonus points for the generational comment. Now anyone who objects to this celebration of violent misogyny is not just a moralistic culture warrior, but an old fuddy–duddy as well.
For the record, I have no objection to drug use and dealing, rampant or otherwise, nor do I object to cursing (as you may have noticed). I do object to lyrics that gleefully dehumanize an entire class of people and indulge in graphic fantasies of raping, torturing, and murdering said people. The fact that there’s already a very real epidemic of violence targeting this particular group of people only exacerbates the problem. This is not about being offended by “rude language” or such nonsense. The problem with bigoted hate and dehumanization isn’t that they’re offensive–that would be easy enough to remedy by simply not listening to this stuff–but that they poison the environment we all must live in. And that’s something we can’t escape by changing the station or switching channels.