Thursday, January 30, 2014

Macklemore and the Trickling Down of news.

Ahhh, Macklemore. Between your coiffed hair, blazingly white smile and enthusiastic allyship all wrapped up in an electric rap song, you had the makings of a perfect high school celebrity crush for me had I been cool enough at 16 to know who you were. Alas, my relationship to you has been reduced to tearing up occasionally to 'Same Love' in the car to switching the channel when your subsequent hits began to saturate the airwaves.

Then, the criticisms of your fame began to hit my radar, as well as the backlash against the backlash. It's still cool to be second-level critical, y'all. Buzzfeed condensed some of these arguments as to Macklemore's hypocrisy in a typical gifset that, while fun to read, didn't make so clear that the brunt of the negative feelings about 'Same Love' wasn't about whether the artist was a terrible person or not, but instead that he was garnering fame for something queer rap artists have been producing work about for years. Why give all the accolades to the straight white male ally when he wasn't actually making new waves? Even Mary Lambert, whose sweet voice features in the song, got a little trampled in the mainstream media's stampede to gush over Macklemore's supposed magnanimity.

How this debate and criticism seems to have trickled down are Macklemore fans and neutrals attempting to defend him: he showed his support so what more do you want, don't scare away an ally, nobody is perfect and it's not his fault anyway. They had to have received this impression from somewhere that Macklemore himself is being personally attacked 'for being an ally.' Angry tumblr blogs? Confused misunderstandings of the arguments trickling down to people who want to be activists? I know in high school, when I was just learning about feminism, I was uncomfortable with the idea that female feminists felt like they should have both chivalry and equal treatment. Then there were the other feminists who thought chivalric men deserved to die! Are either of these sentiments true in the wider feminist movement? Of course not. But that's how the argument trickled down to a high schooler in a conservative town whose only educational encounter with feminism came in the form of a photo of an angry braless woman in an outdated history textbook emblazoned with holographic eagles.

In response to the second-level criticism, I often see people battling it out in the comments that "oh, they aren't real activists - they don't understand." I used to really agree with that sentiment, that there were people out there who simply didn't 'get it.' Perhaps they don't. But how awfully dismissive is it that saying they're not real activists becomes the default expression so quickly? I don't want to disown people whose opinions aren't in accordance with how the majority of queer thinkers have approached the subject. For a movement that, in so many ways tries to accommodate differing opinions, we sure are quick to dismiss our own instead of reaching out to understand them further.

I'm not sure I'm advocating anything after this criticism (hi, Foucalt), but it's something I've noticed happens often at the comments of news articles I read. The truth is, even with comprehensive articles, something is going to be reduced, a little distilled, and you can never truly capture the whole gamut of thought in words that people can choose to mean different things. Some high school girl is out there thinking that feminists hate bras, and that the queer movement has suddenly decided to disavow Macklemore. For some of these girls, they'll try to learn more, and somebody will reach out to them, and they'll realize that it's not like that at all. For the others, their brush with the movement may alienate them, even if they could have been a great participant. I've heard so often that the hearts of those we should try to reach and change are not the stubborn bigots, but those who are curious, perhaps ignorant, and otherwise decent human beings. If the only way they're being reached is through Buzzfeed articles like this, I really have to question the value of distilling a wider argument into something so frivolous. I don't mean to censor that expression, just point out the damaging effects it can have on those who aren't as familiar with the material to understand the pointed shorthand that we often use (see: the "Things you should never say to a (insert minority status here) person" gifsets that are hilarious to us who 'get it' but confusing and nonconstructive for those who don't. They need explanations, not hair-flipping clips, to 'get it'.)

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