Monday, September 14, 2009

Speaking of Picking Your Battles...

If you didn't watch the VMA awards last night and haven't seen the headlines, here is the low-down: Taylor Swift won the award for best female video. She went up, all excited and dressed up and cute, to accept her award. Kanye went up, grabbed the mic, and said, "Beyonce had the best music video of all time." Here is the video, if you haven't seen it.

Later, when Beyonce won her award, she went up and asked Taylor to join her on stage so the girl could finally get her moment.

There are so many gender and race dynamics at play here, but I'm going to respond from an emotional place and not an entirely head place on this one. There is no doubt that racism is rampant in the music industry. I've seen the effects of it on music videos and in the lyrics of the songs my girls come home singing. But there is a way to effect real, lasting, industry-wide change. And picking on teenage girls is NOT going to get you what you're looking for (which is justice and equality, right?--not publicity stunts and personal gain???).

Exchanging one oppression for another -- as in silencing women in exchange for a platform on race -- is not going to move anyone forward. Lasting, systemic change means taking small actions that result in real, deep changes at the decision-making and gate-keeping levels. It means raising consciousness and awareness, and connecting with like-minded souls who share in your commitment to social/economic justice and equality. Bull-in-china-shop methods succeed only in short-term venting (which has its place, but bulldozing over another's success on stage is not one of them).

Though he has issued a public apology, it's that sense of entitlement that I'm referring to whenever I write/speak about privilege. The idea that it is completely okay to flatten someone and believe yourself justified. It's the kind of single-mindedness that comes with being completely self-absorbed and seeing only your reality, and projecting it as THE reality.

What I love, though, (besides Beyonce's display of warmth and solidarity) is that Pink had to be physically restrained from going after Kanye afterward.


Doret said...

Thanks for posting this missed it last night. I was watching football.

Kanye West is such an A**hole. Just when you think he can't do anything worse than the last time. What gives him the right to take away someones moment. I feel so bad for Swift. She's still a teenager so this may linger for awhile. I hope she comes back with a killer song because of it.

I really like Taylor Swift. It seems like she actually cares about her music and fans. Saw an Oprah episode where Swift came on and gave a signed guitiar to a fan. It was so sweet.

I hope this stupid stunt backfires on Kanye. I would love to know what JayZ will say to him, after putting Beyonce in such an awful position. Kanye isn't after everlasting change, he simply wants to be a spectacle.

N. K. Jemisin said...

Yes, I'm kind of revolted by Kanye right now. I didn't know he'd apologized, but I'm not sure that really fixes the damage; the whole world saw him be a complete dick to her, and absorbed the message that this is how black men are supposed to act.

BTW, hi! This is Nora. Was great meeting you at the GWN training Saturday -- we spoke briefly in the elevator. Now I know where I've heard your name before; you've been repeatedly linked-to in the blogosphere as having smart things to say on race and fiction. I'm more in the SF sphere than the YA one, but there's some overlap, and IIRC Justine Larbalestier had good things to say about you. Glad to put a face with the name!

Neesha Meminger said...

Doret, I agree: Taylor Swift seems like a sweet girl. One performer (Katy Perry?) said that what Kanye did was like "stepping on a kitten." And I don't disagree.

Nora, hi! So nice of you to stop by. I hope we get to connect again at the orientation, but I think they might be splitting us up into two groups...? In any case, I hope our paths cross again soon :).

Amy Bowllan said...

I purposely don't watch those shows because there's always someone "posturing." Like Wilson's rant, "YOU LIE," to the president, these people get the press's attention and then they stay in the headlines. I WISH the news didn't cover these stories. It amps up the victimizer's egos, and like Chris Brown, they're waiting to strike again, when their light goes dim. imho

I do, however, agree with your points. Right on.

Anonymous said...

hola Neesha,

i waited to respond until i saw the show. it looks staged, as if Kanye had planned it to keep his bad boy image. since i LOVE Kanye's music, for moi, this is more about loving the art and not the artist... your points are valid, well-thought out and i agree with them.

Mayra Lazara Dole (anonymous is the only your blog allows me to comment)

MissA said...

Neesha I posted the same Katy Perry comment on my blog becasue I thought truer words were never spoken. Another great post!
I'm with mayra though. I love the music, not the artist. I'm so tired of his tantrums and stunts. Jay Leno was right to ask him what Kanye thought his mother would say about what he did.

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