Recently, the hip-hop artist Eminem released a single from his upcoming album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 smugly titled “Rap God.” As is typically the case when Eminem releases new music, the media was quick to critique, praise and condemn the piece for a variety of reasons. Indeed, mainstream journalists and music critics lauded the song for its lyrical gymnastics, while the LGBT media feverishly condemned the rapper for once again being heteronormativity's go-to polemicist.
Unfortunately, there's a problem with that, and the media is to blame.
To put it bluntly, the media — mainstream, independent or otherwise — dropped the ball on this one. In a regrettable illustration of limited thinking, every self-righteous musical savant with a keyboard successfully ignored significant excerpts from the piece that desperately deserve discussion, and in the process, primed the public discourse to be incomplete and inaccurate. Let me be clear; yes, “Rap God” is riddled with archaic examples of homophobia, and by no means should that be neglected, but there's far more to the piece that deserves attention.
My personal critique asserts that the song is a fairly general exercise in misanthropy, a disposition that can be said to encompass racism, misogyny, religious discrimination, fantastical violence and literally any other malevolent social construction possible. Still, reviews for the piece were eager to either overlook the problematics of the piece entirely or to wholeheartedly focus on the use of homophobic slurs. Again, the latter is a very real issue, but is it the only one to be had? Hardly — and I'll hold that problematizing the piece in a manner that brings attention solely to the homophobia is narrow-minded, counterproductive and in stark opposition to diversity.
Perhaps a glimpse into some of the actual lyrics of the song will provide an iota of evidence for my case:
“...I take seven kids from Columbine, put 'em all in a line, add an AK-47, a revolver, and a nine [TEC-9]...”
“...If you were half as nice at songs, you can sacrifice virgins too...”
"But if I can't batter the women, how the [expletive] am I supposed to bake them a cake then?"
For the sake of clarity, the first lyric encourages violent revenge fantasies for bullied children (a little history into that particular verse is necessary), the second lyric makes a caricature of Eastern religion, and the final lyric is a pun on domestic violence — as if it were a joking matter.
Clearly, there are examples of social injustice within the piece other than homophobia, and the fact that they haven't been brought up in any realm of discussion is a veritable disappointment.
Moving on, I'll abandon the admittedly miniscule scale the individual song has to offer and segue it into a much broader assertion: Numerous large-scale public discussions follow an alarmingly similar trend, finding themselves to be one-dimensional, incomplete and inaccurate.
For example, pieces on gender often forget to reflect any consideration of race, while pieces on race often gloss over immigration status, and so on. As a matter of fact, the somewhat distant #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend on Twitter offers a fantastic example of such a phenomenon. The mainstream feminist media was forced to check its privilege and its portrayal of race in instances of gender discrimination or gender empowerment.
Despite intentions often being on the side of social progress, I'll hold that such inaction is irresponsible and disrespectful toward any impacted social group. Thankfully, there's a certain tenet of contemporary feminism that serves to address one-dimensional coverage and incomplete discussion, and that's intersectionality.
Intersectionality is a sociological principle that holds there are multiple, interwoven systems of oppression permeating society that serve to reinforce one another. For example, an intersectional activist would be privy to the notion that straight privilege, xenophobia and poverty function together simultaneously to create systemic oppression, as opposed to being separate entities that influence people in an equal manner.
As an example, the experience of a female, LGBT immigrant can not properly be described under the individual blankets of sexism, heteronormativity and xenophobia; her experience is instead the sum of the three.
Using the same example, the experience of the aforementioned individual with the caveat of wealth would be immensely different. They may still face frequent instances of sexism, homophobia and xenophobia, but in no reasonable sense can their experience be said to be equivocal to the experience of the woman in the first example.
Admittedly, intersectionality is a tangent to the initial Eminem case, but it's an important one. As society continues forward and movements to end systemic oppression gain momentum, it's critical that MU students abandon single-issue activism and consider intersectional theory for their own sake and for the sake of others.
Simply put, accuracy and completeness in the marketplace of ideas helps to spread awareness, foster necessary discussion and fight instances of unchecked privilege — or perhaps more appropriately, privileges.
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