Let’s Talk for a Minute about Your Stupid Concert Poster

According to the Dallas Observer, last night Perfect Pussy took issue with the concert poster used to promote their show. (While the article says that the bands stopped their set short at 20 minutes, it actually seems like the average amount of time that Perfect Pussy plays a set.)

The offending poster:

PerfectPussyFlyer

The Dallas Observer quotes singer Meredith Graves:

“As women, we’re taken less seriously at the work we do because we work hard. When you see tits on a flyer you feel lonely, weird and isolated.”

This is a particularly succinct and damning quote. It’s damning that multiple promotion companies and the venue approved that flyer as representative of a band with a female member and a sarcastic, lady biology-driven name. What’s more disheartening to me, though, is how often I’ve seen variations of that poster: a posed, nude or nearly nude woman used as decoration. It’s so common that I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it if I had seen it in person, minus giving it a hearty eye-roll. Music scenes are notoriously alienating to women band members and fans, and this type of imagery continues that stratification.

For more examples I will take you to the Dallas Observer’s now-defunct series, This Week’s Best Concert Posters:

“Complete with a naked woman straddling a moose head, surrounded by tiger lillies and bird feces; what more could you ask for?” – May 7, 2013
concertposter1

March 26, 2013
concertposter2

March 12, 2013
concertposter3

February 13, 2013 “Favorite Throwback”
concertposter4

So you get the idea, right?

Ten Years After Tillman’s Death: A Retrospective

tillman

On September 12, 2001 I stood on the sidelines of a football field in North Texas observing a moment of silence for the victims of the attack in Washington D.C. and New York. Though not particularly athletic, or good at the game of football, I was a two-way starter for my junior varsity squad due to having one advantage over my peers; I was a very angry young man. Football, more than any other sport, allows for those who are lacking in physical gifts to still matter through a combination of tenacity, emotion, and will. But, on that day, with the memory of watching the second plane hit the south tower clear in my head, there was no anger to latch onto on the field, there was no will to push me.

Patrick Daniel “Pat” Tillman was the poster child of what “will” could do for a football player. Standing just five feet, eleven inches, and a slight two hundred pounds, measurements that are considered small for a football player, Tillman had managed to will himself into a player who won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year while at Arizona State. After being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 7th round of the 1998 NFL Draft, a round which rarely produces back ups, much less starters, Tillman’s will and work ethic landed him into the starting line-up his rookie season.

Tillman held his starting spot until May 2002, when eight months after the attacks on September 11th he walked away from a 3 year, $11.4 million dollar contract to join the Army along with his brother Kevin, a Cleveland Indians farm hand. The Tillmans were seen as an inspiration to many; patriots who left a life of fame to serve their country, Captain America come to life. Sadly it would end in tragedy.

By 2002 the Tillmans had both served in Iraq, by 2003 they had become Army Rangers, and had been deployed to Afghanistan. It was during this time that Pat Tillman started to privately express his disillusionment with the war, and the military. He was against the invasion of Iraq, and critical of the Bush Administration. At one point he had a meeting with an NFL team who wanted to sign him, despite his feelings he turned the offer down feeling that he had a commitment to fulfill.

On April 22, 2004 while on patrol in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman was killed in combat. It was a shocking and tragic event, one that sent waves of grief through the country. The Army quickly released a statement saying that Tillman died a hero’s death, charging the enemy to protect his fellow soldiers. This, like much of what the Army would say in the aftermath of Tillman’s death, was a lie.

In December of 2004 the Washington Post published a harrowing article by Steve Coll titled “Barrage of Bullets Drowned Out Cries of Comrades” which delves into how exactly a mishap between patrol squads managed to get Pat Tillman killed by his fellow soldiers, with his brother just feet behind the men who would kill him.

While on patrol, one of the humvee’s in Tillman’s platoon broke down. Under pressure from a commanding officer, Tillman’s platoon leader Lt. David Uthlaut ordered the his men to split into to squads, one to escort the broken humvee, one to push ahead. This split and the confusion inherent of a firefight led to Tillman’s death.

There’s a scene in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 where various members of the Army discuss the rush of combat, and how they choose music to serve as a background to their exploits. The two favorite songs? Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” and The Blood Hound Gang’s “Fire Water Burn.” It’s a uncomfortable look into the psyche of young men who were raised in a world without conflict till the attacks on September 11th, who now found themselves in situations where war, and death, surrounded them. A writer better than I could delve into the conditioning inherent to this, and I’m sure many have, but to me it showed that in the end many of the people who fought in the US’s last conflict were boys who thought it was a game. According to the Washington Post’s story in 2004, some of these boys killed Pat Tillman.

This is how Pat Tillman died: Tillman’s squad had split from the squad dealing with the humvee, and had navigated its way through a canyon to a nearby village. The squad with the humvee was working their way through the canyon later in the day when according to reports it was attacked by an ambush. The squad opened fire on the surrounding canyon walls, and raced towards the exit. At the village, Tillman and others were ordered to return to the canyon to offer fire support to the other squad. With Tillman’s group was an Afghan paramilitary fighter. Tillman, the Afghan fighter, and another Ranger arrived at the side of the canyon right as a humvee full of young Rangers came through firing. The Rangers saw the bearded Afghan fighter and immediately started firing at his position, either failing to notice Tillman’s presence, or not caring due to the rush of the moment. Despite his best efforts to identify himself as a friendly, Pat Tillman fell, his body landing next to the Afghan fighter who had joined him in hopes of protecting his fellow soldiers.

What followed is one of the most shameful incidents in US military history, despite immediate reports from the squad of what happened the Army released the statement falsely describing Tillman’s death as a heroic incident against enemy combatants. A funeral packed with celebrities, and politicians was held, and it took over a month before an official told the family how Tillman was actually killed.

During this time a cover-up took place. Against standard regulations, Tillman’s armor, and uniform were destroyed. Tillman’s personal journal was also destroyed. Despite not being eligible for the award Tillman was quickly recommended for the Army Silver Star. It seemed the military was doing all it could to keep Tillman’s death from becoming a fiasco, while still using the idea of Tillman they were projecting to America to show that the war was just.

Of course we wouldn’t know any of this if not for Tillman’s mother. Chronicled in the 2010 film The Tillman Story, Mary Tillman spent three years trying to learn about her son’s passing, eventually leading to a congressional hearing in 2007, and the release of over 2,300 pages of Defense Department documents.

Two things learned from those documents are hard to ignore:

• There has never been evidence of enemy fire found on the scene, and no members of Tillman’s group had been hit by enemy fire.

• Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

These facts have lead to a micro-industry of people banding about theories that Tillman was murdered because of his stance against the Bush administration and the war. In his 2009 book on Tillman and Afghanistan, Into The Wild writer Jon Krakauer doesn’t dwell on these theories, but instead shines a light on how rapid the cover-up was done. It’s a harrowing look into an administration that was trying to create a hero out of a victim.

Ten years since his death, Tillman exists as such: he’s an example of American selflessness, someone who had it all, and gave it up to serve his country. He also exists as an example of how our government exploits individuals for its means. Today, his wife Marie runs the Pat Tillman Foundation whose goal is to provide academic scholarships to military veterans and their spouses. A statue of Tillman stands outside of the Cardinal’s stadium in Arizona, a push has been made to induct him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This week ESPN is dedicating programming to his life, including interviews with Army Rangers who served with him, and were there the day he passed.

Pat Tillman’s life, and death, matter. They matter because of the quote he gave to NFL Films shortly after the attacks on 9/11, when his “will” for the game seemed to be wavering: “I play football. It just seems so unimportant compared to everything that has taken place.” And they matter because of what he told a friend when discussing the prospect of losing his life while in service: “I don’t want them to parade me through the streets.”

Tillman wasn’t the first athlete to die in service of his country, he won’t be the last, but we owe him the sincerity of remembering not just his selflessness and sacrifice, but his wish to just be a man. It’s a shame others didn’t do the same.

When Women Kill

Dixie-Chicks

A couple of weeks ago, Chelsea wrote about the proliferation of murder ballads, and their tendency to fetishize, in the narrator’s perspective, the destruction of “something beautiful” – a woman. She was prompted to explore how male musicians like Nick Cave view their female subjects after listening to this response song by Hurray for the Riff Raff:

I want to present a different take on murder ballads, and showcase different types of songs performed by female artists. Two broad categories emerge: in the first, the woman is the killer. In two of the most famous country songs of this type, she kills in response to unrelenting domestic violence with no help in sight from society – but she also kills for revenge. In the second category, the woman sings the story of her own death. Misogyny is pervasive in these stories; they reflect our culture’s lack of value in women and sing stories back to us that very loosely mirror what so many women have faced. If dead women could sing, would Deanna Cook’s song sound like one of these?

Before diving into heavier stuff, there’s a more comedic response to traditional murder ballads that you might remember from its video’s heavy rotation on Country Music Television and other outlets. The Dixie Chicks, now infamous for their criticism of George W. Bush and the subsequent fall from country music grace, survived this controversy before Natalie Merchant’s words in London sparked outrage.

“Goodbye Earl” flips the narrative. Songwriter Dennis Linde weaves a tale of two women that support each other from girlhood to burying Wanda’s abusive husband – who they poisoned black eyed peas. Wanda is portrayed as a victim who seeks a legal solution, but when the law fails to protect her, she and Mary Ann cook up a scheme (literally) to get rid of him and live happily ever after. The women are never caught, unlike the narrator of the quintessential murder ballad, “Delia’s Gone,” who laments his tale to his jailer.

The music video highlights the comedy; a sleazy lawyer and Keystone cops round out the cast of absurd characters, and a dance break at the end features zombified Dennis Franz. Of course, conservative country radio had a problem with it. While the song peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot Country chart, many stationed refused to play it (or at least had it in a very light rotation), and plenty turned to their listeners and asked if they wanted to hear it. Contrast this with “Independence Day,” penned by Gretchen Peters and sung by Martina McBride earlier in the decade: while domestic violence is the catalyst for for both, with neither woman getting help from society, there’s no comedy in Peters’ story.

Some postured that the song sent the wrong message – murder is okay, and taking the law into your own hands is justified. KRTY, a country station in San Jose, California, aired a phone number to a domestic violence hotline each time the song was played.

But “Delia’s Gone,” interpreted by many but most famously performed by Johnny Cash, didn’t face the backlash of Goodbye Earl, and I don’t think it’s because Delia’s killer ended up in prison, while Mary Ann and Wanda walked away scot-free to sell strawberry jam. Cash’s persona was the polar-opposite of the Chicks. He was the Man in Black, a hard-drinking, prison-playing, home-wrecking outsider. The Chicks were pop stars and counted many young girls in their fan base. The refusal to play “Goodbye Earl,” and the questioning of its appropriateness at all, makes one statement: women can’t sing about killing their triflin’ lovers, but men can.

Never mind that “Earl” is entirely fiction and born of black comedy. Never mind that Delia was a real person who was killed at only 14 years old. The thought of female singers altering the story to perpetuate violence themselves is enough to make country station programmers clutch their pearls and worry children will get the wrong idea – that women can fight back.

In other songs, they have. They’ve also perpetrated the violence without any pretense of self-defense. Many fans of “Goodbye Earl” and “Independence Day” may not know of “Murder in the First Degree,” performed by Victoria Spivey in 1927. Like Delia’s killer, she croons from the jailhouse. She tells the judge she killed her cheating man, but she deserves to go free – he is the one who wronged her.

Of course, Victoria Spivey would never be as well-known as her male counterparts, nor would her music be fresh on the minds of country music listeners when another song featuring a killer woman topped the charts twice. Vicki Lawrence first recorded “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and Reba McEntire covered it twenty years later. Tanya Tucker also sang a version, but its lyrics differ from the original. Like Mary Ann and Wanda, the narrator is never caught – her brother is punished for her crime. This murderess counts two victims under her belt, and proudly claims the law will never find the body of her sister-in-law.

Most of these songs were written by men, indicating that even when the overt motivation of the character has nothing to do oppression, the patriarchy is still dictating the plot. In the second type of murder ballad, a man wrote one of the most well-known figurative versions. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was written by Sonny Bono for Cher, whose version has been eclipsed in the past decades by Nancy Sinatra’s haunting take.

While the singer isn’t shot or strangled or buried in the woods, the imagery deliberately evokes death. At least Mary Ann and Wanda are active participants – here, Cher or Nancy can only react to her baby’s decisions. Florence + The Machine recently recorded a song of this type, and it is much more literal. Unfortunately, it does not subvert any cliches in the way that “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” or “The Body Electric” does. The video even features the faceless killer stepping on Calla lilies – the funeral flower.

I’m appreciative of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s response to murder ballads in “The Body Electric.” This song directly confronts the fetishization Chelsea discussed, without painting her victim as incapable, or a scorned or battered woman seeking revenge. Songwriter Alynda Segarra manages to humanize both the victim and the killer she’s working to do exactly what she sings: settling the score.

I think Segarra’s song also reflects potentially positive shifts in our society. While rates of violence against women are still disturbingly high, and state and federal legislators unrelentingly go after women’s rights, some laws are making it easier for victims to escape, get help, and start their lives over. A California law went into effect this year to allow domestic violence victims to break leases quickly and more easily, and the state recently became the seventh to provide protection for abuse victims from employment discrimination. Seven out of fifty isn’t such a great number, each gain is helpful. Of course, I would be more satisfied if all states had these laws, or if they were implemented nationally more quickly, but I’ll continue to cheer each progressive step.

[You can find Katherine P. Hudson on Twitter.]

MIXTAPE: Cult Films Part 2

I just got a bill to renew my domain name, otherwise I would have no idea that this blog is officially ONE YEAR OLD! I’m pretty proud of how well it’s progressed, and also pretty stoked on the guest bloggers that I’ve had on here so far. By the way, if you think you have something cool to contribute to the site, I have a new submissions page. BOOM.

dancinginthestreet

I have recently spent a significant amount of time looking at David Bowie/Mick Jagger gifs from the “Dancing in the Street” video for reasons that are both inscrutable and also obvious.

booty

HAPPY ONE YEAR NOT A NEOPHYTE. In celebration I made you a mixtape! Songs from Cult FIlms Part 2, because the first edition was a lot of fun to make.

Music from Cult Films: Part 2 by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

Tracklist:
1) Jaan Pehechaan Ho – Mohammed Rafi (from Ghostworld)
2) Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols (from Igby Goes Down)
3) Funnel of Love – Wanda Jackson (from But I’m a Cheerleader)
4) Runaway – Del Shannon (from American Graffiti)
5) Sugar Baby Love – The Rubettes (from Breakfast on Pluto)
6) Que sera, sera – Sly & The Family Stone (from Heathers)
7) Blue Velvet – Bobby Vinton (from Blue Velvet)
8) We’ll Inherit the Earth – The Replacements (from Saved!)
9) Heard Somebody Say – Devendra Banhart (from Life During Wartime)
10) As You Turn to Go – The 6ths (from Pieces of April)

Dead Women Tell No Tales

nickcavekylieminogue

A few weeks ago I saw Hurray for The Riff Raff in New York City, and one part of the show particularly struck a chord with me. Frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra announced that the song she was about to play off of her new album was a response to “murder ballads,” a disturbing trope in country music where men croon about killing (or, mostly killing women). I ran the gamut of emotions while hearing this, because I hadn’t realized at that point just how often I was expected to identify with the male murderer, instead of the female casualty. (The song she performed, by the way, is called “The Body Electric”.)

Perhaps one of the most prolific and popular purveyors of the murder ballad is Nick Cave, whose work in The Birthday Party, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (who actually released an album called Murder Ballads), and Grinderman all have recurring themes of coveting, hating, torturing, and killing women. I don’t mean to suggest that Cave harbors such fantasies, but the premise and appeal of the stories he frequently tells are based in the mistrust and fetishization of the so-called fairer sex. In Cave’s world, women are either beautiful to the point that it drives the narrator mad (and therefore must die), or spiteful whores (who are disposable to begin with).

In the straightforwardly titled “I’m Gonna Kill That Woman,” Cave bemoans “Yeah I did everything I could/ everything I could. Lord Knows I did everything I could” but despite his best intentions, he has to kill his straying partner. The virgin/whore dichotomy is recurring, but interestingly, for Cave, both types of women frequently meet the same result. In “Where the Wild Roses Die,” Cave’s character kills Kylie Minogue with a rock, singing “And I kissed her goodbye/ said ‘all beauty must die.’”

Of course, Nick Cave isn’t really a killer, and his narrator is just a character exploration. When he was asked by Vulture about his depictions of women a few years ago, he was pretty candid about his intentions.

” I get criticized for a lot of what I write about, but as far as I’m concerned I’m actually standing up and having a look at what goes on in the minds of men, and I have the authority to talk about it because I’m a man. Women don’t have the authority because they don’t know what goes on in a man’s head, so largely what they say is kind of irrelevant. My songs and stories and books are character-driven, they talk about the way people are and the way men are and women are. “

Gross.

The pervasiveness of dead women in songs is certainly troubling, and Nick Cave has plenty of company in that particular club. The ubiquity of classic murder ballads like “Knoxville Girl,” which lovingly describes knocking a woman down with a stick until she dies (and has been covered many, many times) suggests that the trope hasn’t slagged in popularity. Eminem’s “Kim” and “97 Bonnie and Clyde” are particularly disturbing because, unlike most murder ballads, his victim (his wife at the time) has a face. Other than that, there’s Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” The Rolling Stones “Midnight Rambler,” “Country Death Song” by the Violent Femmes, Hüsker Dü’s “Diane,” and so many more.

Why, exactly, is killing women such a common subject manner? My best guess is that it’s because it’s an easy way to characterize the narrator of the story (the man, the killer, the beast) as troubled, evil, or psychotic. In these songs the methods of their murder and disposal of the bodies are more fantastically described than the woman, with the exception of her being beautiful. These men describe the troubled (and disturbingly, sympathetic) monsters that they are by the destruction of beauty that is personified in a woman. Look at this pretty thing I killed, look at how unredeemable I am.

Besides the fetishization of feminine death, murder ballads are troubling because, once again, women are a means to an end. The story isn’t that a woman died (she’s disposable), but that a man was driven to kill.

MIXTAPE: Haterade

ghostworld

This mixtape idea came from my roommate Caroline‘s brain. I’m surprised it took me this long, because I’ve been a registered Hater since 2009. There’s a Christmas song that says something about “good will toward all men,” but this is Misandry Town, so that’s not gonna happen.

Haterade by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

1) Honey Bee – Hey Girls
2) The Babies – Mean
3) Pangea – I Don’t Want to Know You
4) Lyres – You’ll Never Do It Baby
5) Steve King – Satan is Her Name
6) Sparkles – No Friend of Mine
7) The Chymes – Quite a Reputation
8) The Pen-Etts – That’s No Way to Spend My Time
9) The Magnetic Fields – You Must Be Out of Your Mind
10) Belle and Sebastian – I Don’t Love Anyone

It’s Hard Out Here For Lily Allen

lilyallen

In 2008 Katy Perry described herself as a “thinner version of Lily Allen,” a peculiar jab that turned out to be an amalgamation of what caused Allen’s rage at the music industry. In her earlier years with the release of Alright, Still, Allen’s weight and “unconventionality” were talking points (and in some cases, selling points) to an extent that when she lost weight around the time of her follow-up album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, she sarcastically swiped back on her hit “The Fear” with “Everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner.”

Allen has always been acutely aware of the shelf-life of women in the music industry, a beauty and youth based package that, inevitably, would leave her behind. In “22,” Allen relates this to non-singers, a catchy pop tune bemoaning the plight of an aging woman. (“It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over.”) It almost seemed like Lily Allen had taken this to heart and was going to retire from music for good, until the announcement earlier this year that she was working on her third album.

And lo, it’s “Hard Out Here” for a bitch.

In Lily Allen’s New Video Probably Went Over Your Head, Kathy Iandoli summarizes the difficulties of Allen’s life following her departure from music:

The years that followed for Lily Allen were pretty brutal. She miscarried more than once, met with tweets from “fans” who said things like “I’m glad your baby died” and other pleasantries. When she finally gave birth (twice), she was called fat a number of times and accused of “falling off.” She changed her name to her married name, Lily Rose Cooper, and was called a kept woman. So she brought it back to the née status and was accused of going through another divorce. It truly is hard out here for a bitch.

The “Hard Out Here” video, a satirical pop culture send-up of music industry misogyny, begins with her manager bemoaning her post-baby weight gain, until a newly-liposucked Allen makes a comeback of sorts in a cartoonishly over-the-top music video. Besides the obvious swipes at Robyn Thicke with lines like “who will tear your butt in two” and the glorious balloon display of “LILY ALLEN HAS A BAGGY PUSSY,” the majority of the video satirizes the self-objectification of young singers, notably Miley Cyrus.

I’ve said this about Miley before, but her sexually liberated front is really a carefully calculated appeal to the most basic straight male fantasies, and I couldn’t help but think of that when Allen’s manager tries to teach her how to twerk in the “Hard Out Here” video. The twerking, along with the white woman (Allen) objectifying her women of color dancers in order to assert her dominant sexuality, seems pretty familiar to anyone who has seen or read anything about Miley Cyrus in the past year. This is an interesting point on Allen’s part, but the execution is very flawed.

Allen’s got a bit of her own internalized misogyny that she’s dealing with, notably in the lines “I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I’ve got a brain,” which I’m sure the many brilliant ass-shakers of the world take issue with. The idea that overt sexuality and liberation are mutually exclusive is just flat-out wrong, and I would counter that with Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” video.

Allen’s use of women of color backup dancers as a Miley slam mostly ends up feeling awkwardly racist. The close-up shots of butts twerking and bottles popping aren’t something that Miley invented (duh), and in fact, it’s her appropriation of those signifiers that got people talking about Miley to begin with. There’s a lot to critique about how young women singers are marketed, and at points Allen is spot on (The part where she makes a dancer pose for Polaroids, a la Terry Richardson, is fucking brilliant), but at some point she ends up perpetuating sexist views of what, exactly, makes a woman empowered.

Sports, Music, and the Cocky Black Male

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

[I'd like to welcome another guest post, this time by Jaime-Paul Falcon, who can be found at the Dallas Observer, among other places.]

With forty-six seconds left in the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Detroit, Dez Bryant made the catch of the year. Down 7-3, Tony Romo took a snap, dropped back, and fired a back shoulder fade to a covered Bryant, who leaped into the air, reached behind himself, trapped the ball with one had, corralled it against his helmet, and managed to stay in-bounds as a second defender came charging at him in hopes of laying a blow that would dislodge the ball from Bryant’s hand. Note that I say hand, singular. It’s a play few people can make, a play that Dez Bryant makes look almost routine, a play that was overshadowed by his actions later in the game.

Twice on Sunday, Fox cameras cut to an emotional Bryant yelling aggressively at his teammates. Reports from the Cowboys camp say that Bryant was just trying to pump his teammates up; Bryant himself said he was yelling encouragement, however, much of the media chose to run with the story as yet another example of Bryant’s immaturity.

Ex-Ravens coach Brian Billick remarked on Bryant’s argument with Tight End Jason Witten, chiding Bryant for “…pulling his spoiled-child routine again.” Within minutes, social media, especially amongst the people in Dallas, the state of Texas, the US, and that weird land where anyone can say what they want, erupted in outrage over Bryant’s behavior, with many commenters being taken aback that Bryant would dare shout at Witten.

The language of the outrage is similar to how Kanye West is discussed both by culture critics and the general public. West is constantly derided for what’s seen as an extreme ego run wild, and much like Bryant, it feels like the criticism is levied so heavily because of the color of his skin.

Director Spike Lee once discussed how he never felt more uncomfortable during film then while watching one of the Rocky films. He noted how general excitement over the film turned dark when Rocky made his charge against Apollo Creed – Lee said he felt that it wasn’t the audience rooting for the underdog, it was the audience rooting for the brash African-American athlete getting his comeuppance. The director has made a career of holding up a mirror to audiences to show that society is uncomfortable with the success of the young blackmale, and therefore does everything it can do to attack them, and bring them down. Anything young black men do is automatically magnified and scrutinized to death, because of society’s need to keep the status-quo, to keep people of color in their place. So when people so gleefully attack any missteps by Bryant or West, they’re not saying, “Look at this guy being an idiot!” They’re shaking their heads scoffing, “Who does this guy think he is?”

And it’s not as if others aren’t pointing this out. After Sunday’s criticism started to amass, Grantland’s Chris Ryan took to the site’s Monday recap of NFL events to write about how maligned Dez is. He listed six points, ranging from an incident where NFL GM questioned Bryant over whether his mother was a prostitute, to Bryant’s banning from a posh Dallas-area mall for his fashion choices. During this time period, former Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton was having publicized relapses with his drug and alcohol addictions, and the support in the Dallas area for Hamilton was almost universal; the scorn for Bryant, almost the same.

In a piece published last week, Flaunt Magazine editor E. Ryan Ellis made an aside noting that in college, Bryant was suspended by the NCAA for part of a season for having dinner with his mentor Deion Sanders. Current Texas A&M quarterback, Johnny Manziel, received just a one game suspension for allegedly receiving payments for autographs.

These pieces are comparable to an essay on Kanye written by Kiese Laymon, in which Laymon discusses Kanye’s social impact with his step-grandfather in Mississippi, his friends in New York, a cab driver, and finally, a class at Columbia. While rightfully critiquing West for his feminist failures, Laymon contextualizes his place in the world as a voice for the modern young black man – one who scares the modern white man.

Kanye-West-Yeezus

In his review of West’s latest album Yeezus for the New Yorker, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones wrote of the artist, “Why are so many people fond of being mad at Kanye West? Is it his lack of control, his self-absorption, his boastfulness? Complaining about a surfeit of ego in a celebrity performer is like going to Barcelona and bitching that the locals eat dinner too late.” It’s a brilliant opener to a review-turned critique of how we as an audience, and more so as a public, view Wests’ work based on the audacity of his antics and less on the merits of his work. Sounds pretty familiar to how Dez Bryant is being treated at the moment, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s one and the same. This critical reaction has not improved since Muhammad Ali was maligned by the white press in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ali was far above his peers in both talent (Bryant) and his ability to divide people over his comments (West). As he aged, matured, and moved away from the fire of his youthful antics, Ali eventually became loved by the his critics, the public, his country, and the world. Time will tell if either 24 yer-old Bryant or West will be able to reach the heights of adoration like Ali, while not succumbing to the lows they’re constantly brought down to.

An example of someone who did not survive this sort of criticism raised his head on Sunday to defend Bryant’s actions. The much-maligned ex-NFL receiver Terrell Owens was run out of the league when his antics were deemed too detrimental to teams when compared to his on field production. Owens, who has been out of the NFL since failing to catch on with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, raised the question if there was a double standard with Dez Bryant’s antics, and New England quarterback Tom Brady’s much publicized sideline tantrums with teammates earlier this year. Speaking with Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, Owens summed it up simply: “Why is Tom Brady showing passion when he screams at players, but Dez is out of control?” I don’t want to say it, but I do wonder if race plays a part in the double standard. Why is Brady treated one way, and Dez another?” Salient points from someone who went through something very similar.

Time will tell if these things will change; West is still dealing with blowback from his post-Twitter rant appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, and has suffered criticism from his extravagant proposal to fiancé Kim Kardashian. The week of endless stories concerning Bryant’s behavior just kicked off, and one has to wonder how the media storm will affect his play this coming Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. However, one thing is for sure; in the wake of a weekend dominated by Halloween costumes that not only featured the racist use of blackface, but also the decision by a couple of young adults to go as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, it feels like we’re not that removed from the days of racial strife that existed 50 years ago. It just feels like we’ve found different ways to couch the indignant language, and found different figures to attack.

Race, Gender, and Fan Harassment

chvrches2

In a widely-republished and quoted article by Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES titled I Will Not Accept Online Misogyny, we’re given a wearying glimpse into the type of sexually explicit messages directed at Mayberry, the only female member of CHVRCHES. Despite the “YOU TELL ‘EM, GIRL!!” collective reaction of the Internet, Mayberry’s piece is less an excoriating screed against fan misogyny, and more of a tepid plea for it to cease. “I identify as a feminist but subscribe to the pretty basic definition of a feminist as ‘someone who seeks equality between the sexes’” Mayberry hedges, “I am now, and have always been, in bands with smart, supportive guys, and have many amazing men in my life as family and friends. For that I am incredibly grateful.”

She goes on to ask “Would you condone this behaviour if it was directed at your mother/sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend?”, the go-to response to men who lack the capacity to sympathize with women with whom they have no relation. Mayberry’s piece is important, but almost every point is underscored with “This isn’t too much to ask!” and “No, I don’t hate men!” It says a lot that Mayberry felt it necessary to qualify that.

For the most part, Mayberry’s plight with fan harassment is being taken seriously. It’s so familiar for women (especially if you are the only woman in a band) to receive gendered and creepy solicitations that, while they are no longer surprising, it’s not a stretch to believe that it’s a problem. The contrast to this is an article that was published on the same day as Mayberry’s Guardian piece, posted at Gawker titled Danny Brown Admits That His Onstage Blowjob Wasn’t Sexual Assault.

For those that don’t remember, earlier this year rapper Danny Brown’s show in Minneapolis made headlines when a fan pulled down his pants and began to perform oral sex. Danny’s tourmate, Kitty, wrote in Vice that Brown was sexually assaulted, adding “It’s obvious that the reason nobody cares is because a girl did it to a boy.” Brown himself remained relatively quiet about the matter, until Pitchfork quoted him as saying “I look back at it and see that it takes two to tango. As much as it was [the young woman at the concert’s] fault, it was my fault, too.”

In conjunction with a quote from Complex where Danny says “It shouldn’t be a big deal. I just felt embarrassed because I wasn’t all the way hard yet,” the Gawker piece gleefully jumps to the (implied obvious) conclusion that Danny Brown wasn’t sexually assaulted. But why is it so hard to believe that a man could be sexually assaulted, or even that he would have trouble admitting it if he was?

“Everyone wants the option of blaming it on Danny, because people can’t accept the fact that a white girl raped a black dude in front of a bunch of people” writes Kitty, getting to the crux of the racial and gender dynamics of the incident and how that shaped the public’s reaction. Masculinity, and the perceived invulnerability of black men are the reasons why Kitty’s piece was met with widespread skepticism, and the gleeful I-Told-You-So taunts from Gawker illuminate the fact that if we are so unwilling to consider the possibility that Brown was assaulted, there’s no reason to think that it would even be an option for him to come clean about it.

Brown’s situation is just as much about fan entitlement as Mayberry’s. Both Brown and Mayberry were put in sexual situations that they did not ask to be a part of, but only Mayberry can be the victim. Female victimhood is expected because of publicly-scorned-yet-widely-practiced behaviors, and therefore inevitable. A man, especially a black man, being the victim of sexual assault challenges gender existentialist views of strength and power. As Gawker illustrates, people don’t want to let go of those views.

MIXTAPE: Fall Into It

It’s officially fall (is it official? Fall, are you ready for this sort of commitment??) and my feet are starting to get cold. It’s weird because I feel like this could work metaphorically but I mean it in the most literal sense.

Fall Into It by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

 

Tracklist:

1) Hot Sugar – Leverage feat. Kool AD, LAKUTIS, and Nasty Nigel
2) Earl Sweatshirt – Hive feat. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies
3) Jean Grae – Trouble Man
4) Psalm One – Macaroni & Cheese
5) Janelle Monae – Electric Lady (Remix) feat. Cee-Lo and Big Boi
6) Spank Rock – Car Song feat. Santigold
7) Rye Rye – Sunshine feat. M.I.A.
8) The Cool Kids – Gas Station feat. Bun B
9) THEESatisfaction – Bitch
10) J. Cole – Power Trip feat. Miguel

 

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