Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: appropriation, arg, fail, music, pop culture
i’m going to start this off by saying that i love kanye west and his music. i appreciate a lot of the politics he incorporates into his tracks. i think he has an incredible knack for combining wit and truth and packaging it up with some beats that you never, ever want to leave your head. i’m a long-time kanye fan from back in early 2000 when an indie hip-hop boy from a neighboring college attempted to woo me with the promise of mix cds featuring “unheard of” artists. kanye was on there and i instantly fell for him and not the hampshire boy who thought i could be so enamored with the new music he was giving me, that i’d forget he was a male-born dude. it might have killed him a little to know that his very cds became the soundtracks to the makeout sessions with my handsome then-gf. oh, the irony and sadness of unrequited collegiate love!
have i convinced you though of my fondness towards kanye west? because i require this preface in order to say that he managed to piss me off this week and in a really backhanded way at that. i say backhanded because i initially found his praise of gay folks as “really, really extremely dope,” a nice show of allied support. this awesome tidbit is, however, couched in an article focusing on how kanye west is, single-handedly, taking steps to “reinvent” the word “gay” from one that is, supposedly only negative to one that is positive. as a response to mainstream straight folks’ use of the word “gay” to describe anything that sucks, again, i appreciate the effort.
but kanye west wants to do more than just make “gay” positive again. he wants to, as i said earlier, “reinvent” it to be a positive portrayal of good taste in fashion, specifically. why? because all us homos can dress ourselves well, apparently. he’s been quoted in a pink news article as saying:
“I haven’t gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person, the conversation would be mostly around art or design, it’d be really dope. [...] From a design standpoint, kids’ll say, ‘Dude, those pants are gay.’ [...] If it’s good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it’s on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it’s gay people that do that. [...] I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, ‘Dude, that’s so good it’s almost gay.’”
i don’t know about you, but i don’t want any words that people use as identifiers, especially marginalized identities at that, to be “reinvented” by a) someone who doesn’t ascribe to that identity and b) detaches it from its original meaning and attaches it to something as, trivial in comparison, to fashion. truly being an ally would, in this case, be kanye west stopping after calling gay folks dope and speaking out to reclaim gay as positive and to thwart those who use it to describe something as stupid or bad. defining a whole new meaning and interpretation to an identity and distilling it down to a superficial quality of some gay folks, is not only arrogant and appropriative, but just insulting. i much more appreciate the ad council commercials (two of which feature wanda sykes and hilary duff!) that specifically target the bogus and rampant “that’s so gay!” with some wit and snark.
kanye, i heart you and your music and, as a queer, i appreciate you aligning yourself with queer struggle and calling out folks for repeatedly equating “gay” with “bad.” i’m thrilled to have such a high-profile powerhouse on our side, but dude, don’t be stealing identities, introducing new meanings, and simultaneously erasing an entire history of struggle for folks to proudly call themselves “gay.” you are the leader of the hip-hop world, but your reign doesn’t allow you to be appropriative. we’re not forever on the outs, kanye, but this week, you get a fail.
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