Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's the argument here?

(Trigger warning - NSFW)

About this Kanye/"Monster" controversy...

I'm not sure a woman who just posted about her love for "Ode to Billie Joe" is the right person to do deep analysis of hip hop culture. I don't want to talk about music so much anyway. I'm just struck--and not for the first time--how fans of an artist can twist and wheedle to make said artist's troubling biases about art rather than "isms."

Given all of Kanye West's public asshattery surrounding women and race ("Mutts," anyone?), coupled with his new dead-woman-laden video (above), it surprises me to think the jury is still out on whether or not the man is a misogynist. Can we at least agree that he has misogynist tendencies? But just like Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler fans are always wont to explain why X it totally ironic and neither privileged bullshit nor racist, so too will Yeezy defenders point out how folks just don't get his genius and deft use of metaphor. See, he's not fetishizing white women, animalizing black women and serving up torture porn, he's making some bold statement about himself that just happens to look like white woman fetishizing, black woman denigrating and torture porn.

I was reading Chris Jackson's defense of Kanye on Ta-Nehisi Coates blog on The Atlantic, And I was struck by this bit:
So is Kanye West a misogynist? I don't think I can answer that question. I have to say my meter might be broken: I was sick yesterday and after watching an immensely satisfying rerun of America's Top Model, I realized the remote was across the room and but I couldn't generate the strength to get up. So I ended up watching one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen: a show called The Bad Girls Club (or something like that, I'm still sick, too sick to Google), where the word "bitch" figured into every single sentence. Here's how the show worked: several young women moved into a mansion, got epically trashed, and brawled with each other in their swimsuits for an hour. This was on Oxygen! Didn't Oprah start Oxygen? Wasn't it supposed to be a network for women? What the hell? Is there a goal to this show, like are they trying to win something? It was bizarre.
This was followed by an airing of the Original Queens of Comedy, in which every punchline was bleeped pretty much all the way through; it was like watching three wild comediennes screeching koans at the audience (or reading strips of Garfield Minus Garfield). The word "bitch" was usually the only unbleeped word in every punchline. So after every joke's elaborate, energetic set up, the comedian would end by wildly gesticulating to the sound of beeeeep-bitch!-beeeeeeeep and the audience would go wild. By the time I got off the couch, I felt like I never wanted to hear the word "bitch" again, ever, even in reference to a dog or a sea cucumber. Read more...
Am I interpreting Jackson wrongly here? This reads like a "but black rappers say 'nigger,'" too" defense. Is Jackson saying that some shows about and by black women include sexism, thereby making it more difficult to judge whether a video relying heavily on glamorized images of murdered women is sexist?

I may not be so "reasonable" on the issue of Kanye. I admit it. But something about Jackson's argument here clanged my bells. Am I wrong?

And what's your take on the "Monster" video?"

Racialicious is doing some good analysis of the issue. Check it out.


Kelly Hogaboom said...

My take is there's nothing "edgy" or even "controversial" about the video. Using images of young, beautiful, sexualized, tortured, "ravished", and murdered women is old, old, old, and played out.

And yes, of course it's misogynistic.

My other take is that somewhere there's a black artist as talented as Kanye with as much to offer musically (and more) who takes oppressive sexism seriously and is working for the greater good... and for whatever reason that person isn't getting all the hype and promotion and attention.

msladydeborah said...

I only watched the opening of the video and that was enough for me. If this is what is passig for artistry then there is a problem and it is not just int he mind of the creator of the image.

The message that the imagery projects is one that I cannot condone or support. The culture of violence against women is alive and well due to supporting this type of mentality.

Garland Grey said...

Seemed like some pretty straightforward serial killer fantasy imagery going on, mixed with all the lyrics about Kanye being so potent and virile that his sexual patners' body parts have to be retired in ceremonial burial containers. Essentially the same "once you have sex with me, I'll ruin you for anyone else" but even worse because you die.

So yes, I read it as pretty misogynist.


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