Yesterday, I witnessed a discussion on my dashboard that centered, once again, around Tyler the Creator (of Odd Future) and indie rock artist Sara Quin (of Tegan and Sara.) This discussion was actually an extension of a conflict that had occurred between the two earlier in the year, when Quin wrote a post discussing Tyler’s copious use of the word “faggot” and misogynistic terms in his music.
Although the post is considerably old and the conflict itself even more so, I found that my initial reactions to the post (anger and defensiveness) had increased even more fold when witnessing the discussion. Granted, it was a short discussion, easily contained, and not hostile in the slightest, yet I could feel the same exasperation and annoyance I usually feel when in discussion of rap and hip-hop with white feminists. As a black, queer womanist who could understand where Quin was coming from, I was not at all sympathetic to or appreciate of the ways in which Quin decided to discuss Tyler, his music, and the genre of rap.
To be honest, Quin wasn’t really doing anything new or innovative; white feminists have been crucial in lambasting rap and hip-hop first (or only) when discussing misogyny in homophobia in music. Not only is this usually done in a way that is ignorant of white privilege or racial undertones, but it done in a way that insinuates that misogyny/homophobia is specifically found in rap/hip, and that it cannot be found in other genres of music such as rock, pop, and country (which we know is not true.) My reaction wasn’t specifically aimed at Quin, although I did not hesitate to call her out, but rather Quin’s ability to take comfort in calling out Tyler, because she had (presumably) seen feminist discussions of rap/hip-hop before, and felt justified in making her post without thinking about the varying levels of privilege that were at stake.
My anger aside, I did understand where she was coming from. Although she did neglect to recognize black, queer women who were fans of Tyler the Creator (like me), and who were also able to recognize and call out the misogynistic, homophobic qualities to his music, I could—as a queer woman—understand her anger and concern for the rise in his music. My aversion to Quin’s post did not make me an automatic defender for Tyler; in fact, I had written several posts about the concerning parts of his music, how uncomfortable they made me, and did recognize that his popularity stemmed on society’s acceptance of rape culture and homophobia.
This is the dilemma that black (female) feminists are often put into whenever certain aspects of black culture are brought forward in the feminist community: race or gender? In the case of Tyler vs. Quin, I was either expected to defend black men (so generally, defend my race) or side with Quin’s so-called feminist approach to Tyler (my gender.) Instead, I did neither. Both sides were equally guilty, but it was Quin that I kept coming back to.
An excerpt from Quin’s post:
Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.
Quin’s rejection of race and class in discussion of Tyler, the Creator (and by extension, hip-hop and rap) is the basic of white feminists’ discussion of these two genres. In order for Quin and other white feminists to properly discuss rap in the way that it is most appealing and beneficial for them (pointing out its homophobia/misogyny without discussing other genres), they must suspend the white privilege—and sometimes class privilege—they carry. In order for Quin to properly discuss Tyler the Creator, she had to remove race from the equation—but that is not easily done or advisable, and made her entire point/post futile.
It is impossible to discuss the homophobia/misogyny in rap without discussing race. Discussions of rap are often discussions of the black community because the ideals of rap are also found in the black community, namely machismo and power. The hyper-machismo attitude of rap and hip-hop is what’s responsible for the homophobia and misogyny, and that same attitude is what is presented to black men in the community. To bring it home: homophobia/misogyny is part of the machismo attitude presented to black men, which is a reaction to the race relations of black men in America.
This is what white feminists fail to understand, what I’d like to discuss in this post.