I know I haven’t posted in a while, but here’s a debate from Facebook that a friend of mine and I had about GLAAD’s reaction to Tyler, the Creator’s lyrics.
Dave Segal writes a blog about rap music. Raphael Bob-Waksberg writes this blog that you are reading right now. They are good friends who often disagree about things on Facebook (like the below conversation). This is… AGREE TO DISAGREE.
Dave: GLAAD going after Tyler, the Creator over lyrics is ridiculous. He’s equal opportunity in his offensiveness. He’s not just homophobic and misogynistic, he’s also racist, beastialic, masochistic, incestuous, and so on and so on. That’s the whole point. It’s like getting mad at a SAW movie because there were scenes that bothered people with a fear of needles. Do you really expect sympathy for that?
When you listen to intentionally offensive things and then write about how offended you were by them, you might as well just start out with, “Congratulations!” cause you’re just affirming their success.
(Or like me getting upset about a GLAAD blog post about Tyler, the Creator! Was I expecting the post to call him a hero? Come on! Know what you’re getting into, Dave!)
Raphael: It’s kind of like your SAW example, if people who had a fear of needles made up 10 percent of the population, and people who had a fear of needles were constantly harassed, often to the point of suicide, and if there was an organization whose very purpose was to look out for people who had a fear of needles and to call out those who are making their lives more difficult, so hopefully the world can be a less ugly place for people who have a fear of needles, and maybe we as a culture can stop deifying people who spew hate, ESPECIALLY if spewing hate is “the whole point.”
Adam Conover: I agree with both of you, so I’m just going to point out that I think it’s funny that the only thing people ever “spew” is hate. Just once, I’d like to see someone spew, say, a math lecture.
Dave: I think part of looking out for people who have a fear of needles is to choose your targets wisely. Choose those who are actually defaming needle-fearers, instead of those who are using needles to scare people in conjunction with every other fear you can think of. If you ignore the broader context and focus on the part that bothers you, you risk diminishing your other, more important, claims because you come to be known as a knee-jerk reactionary organization who can’t differentiate attacks on and harassment of needle-fearers from art and poetry whose intent is to examine that which people are scared of.
Tyler is delving into the dark side of his own teenage mind, and other people getting upset about what he finds, to me, shows that they don’t understand what he’s talking about. It’s more Dostoevsky than it is Limbaugh.
Raphael: I guess we just have different reads on GLAAD’s statement because I don’t find it reactionary or knee-jerk at all. If GLAAD isn’t saying things like “Tyler’s attempts to be provocative as well as his indifference towards the consequences of his actions are irresponsible,” and “words matter; slurs have the power to fuel intolerance,” then I don’t know what the point of GLAAD is.
Tyler, the Creator IS actually defaming women and homosexuals, even if it’s in the name of “examining that which people are scared of,” an excuse that to me reads as ridiculous and empty as GLAAD’s statement reads to you. There is nothing subversive or satirical about calling people “faggots” (lots of teenagers do this) or joking about rape and violence against women (lots of teenagers do this too), nor is it a particularly new and fresh conceit to claim these things are subversive or satirical. (As far as writers go, Tyler seems to be more Bret Easton Ellis than Dostoevsky.)
Saying horrible things just to get a rise out of people, or just because you think it’s funny are not in my book good enough reasons to say horrible things. You accuse GLAAD of ignoring the broader context, but I think one of the major critiques against Tyler (even from Odd Future defenders) is that it’s unclear what the broader context is. Of course I believe that Tyler doesn’t actually want to cut up women’s clitorises with broken bottles, but I’m not sure there’s an intent behind his lyrics more sophisticated than “saying this stuff is taboo and therefore it’s funny.” Him saying things in interviews like “I’m not homophobic. I just say ‘faggot’ and use ‘gay’ as an adjective to describe stupid shit” doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
The “If you don’t like it, just look away” strategy only works if you don’t want anything to change. In today’s environment, where teen bullying is still a major problem and 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, I’d much rather organizations like GLAAD stay on the offensive.