I like Kanye West. I’m also a feminist. Are these two things inherently contradictory? Can I be both?
My favorite part of running (or the only part I like about it) is blocking out the outside world and blasting Mr. West into noise canceling headphones. But every now and then, I’ll be halfway through my My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and hear a line that is so deeply misogynistic that I nearly fall over mid step. But I don’t turn it off and put on Beyonce. I carry on and enjoy the rest of the album, troubling sexist verses and all. Am I bad feminist?
Recently Ye has been weaving himself in and out of the headlines- not that he ever really leaves them.
For starters, after (kind of) apologizing for the infamous ‘Imma let you finish’ incident and burying the hatchet with Taylor Swift, he reignited the war. The Kanye-Tay Tay friendship was officially demolished with that line from his new album:
Regardless of how you feel about Taylor Swift, the idea that Kanye is responsible for her fame and success is really just an indication of his enormous ego, particularly given the interruption happened while she was already winning the award. This might just be a reflection of Kanye’s belief that everything/everyone he touches (or interrupts) turns to gold, but the sexual aspect just seems like a way to put a woman back in her place.
It sounds to me like Kanye is threatened by the very idea of a woman having the power that Taylor does, so he needs to remind everyone that she is, at the end of the day, not of the same caliber as him- she’s just another sexual object. Kanye once said that he was considering cutting Nicki Minaj from his star-studded track Monster because her verse was just too good- but he never seems to worry about sharing the spotlight with men.
This is much like the way that Kanye talks about Kim.
Kimye is a fascinating and beautiful car wreck of fame and media frenzy that I just can’t tear my eyes away from. I always notice that when Kim is asked about Kanye she talks about his passion, how funny he is and what a doting father he is, whereas when asked about Kim the highest compliment Kanye can give is that she’s the most beautiful woman of all time. He considers himself the artist- and Kim is another one of his creations. He definitely values her and worships the ground she stands on, but I struggle to see him as viewing her as an equal.
I don’t even think Kanye realizes how problematic what he says about women is- given how much he publicly adores Kim, if he understood the degrading implications of this line he wrote it surely would have been dropped from The Life of Pablo:
‘I bet me and Ray J would be friends/ If we ain’t love the same bitch/ Yeah, he might have hit it first/ Only problem is I’m rich.‘
Kanye himself has said that rap in general is misogynistic. But while he’s always been outspoken about his progressive stance on other social issues, he’s done little to nothing to change the way women are discussed in rap music. The self-proclaimed ‘number one most impactful artist of our generation’ surely could do at least a little to make progress on this, or at least try.
So yeah, I have a problem with Kanye’s stance on women and how it comes out in his music. But can I still like it? Is it contradictory to like someone’s art without liking the person?
Somehow the world and music industry seems to have forgiven Chris Brown for his assault of Rihanna, but people still can’t admit to liking Justin Bieber without some kind of disclaimer: ‘Yeah, ‘Sorry’ is a banger but Justin is such a douchebag.’
F Scott Fitzgerald is widely reported to have been a pretty terrible person, but the Great Gatsby is still one of the most loved novels of all time. Should I boycott Woody Allen movies because of all the assault allegations against him? Can we separate a person from their art, or should the two always be intertwined? Can I like Kanye’s music in spite of his outdated and problematic views on women?
So I guess the short answer is yes- you can be a Kanye West fan and a feminist, because I am both of those things. But the important part is knowing that despite his self appointed God-like status, Kanye is not immune to a few (or many missteps) and has a lot of learning to do on feminism and equality. Love his music, but question his messages.