Why Macklemore Needs to Stop

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By now, I’m sure we all know who Macklemore is, and I’m also pretty sure that everyone has seen the new ACLU ad featuring Macklemore, but for those who haven’t, here is a link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3u2kSgpD0Y

I don’t want to attack the ACLU, but if they funded this promotion, they need to be held accountable. I had so much respect for this organization, but now…how are the marginalized and oppressed groups the ACLU purports to represent; People of Color, women, Queer folks; how are any of us supposed to trust them this blatant and public failure to properly represent any of us? Literally any person who is not a white man would have been a more appropriate spokesperson than Macklemore. I mean, really, you couldn’t find a single Queer person to represent the organization? What, was Margaret Cho busy that day? Shit, even Katy Perry would have been better representation.

I mean, come on. The last thing I needed to see when I first clicked that link was Macklemore’s ugly, smirking face talking about how, as a rapper, it would be inconvenient for him to be tazed, beaten or pepper-sprayed for speaking his mind. Let me be perfectly clear, until I see a video (preferably on loop) of Macklemore being tazed, beaten and pepper-sprayed, I’m gonna go ahead and assume he has experienced zero of those things. I’m also gonna go ahead and assume that his lack of experience in that arena may or may not be related to the fact that he is a straight, cis, rich, white, dude. Now, I’m not saying he deserves to have any of these things happen to him because of his political beliefs, but this transparent attempt at relating to Occupy folks, Queer folks, poor people and people of color who have been singled out as the targets of police (or general) violence is not impressive. Even less impressive is his stupid ass attempt to appeal to Queer youth and vagina-owners with his official straight male approval. It’s good to know that you approve of your “gay friends” marrying “the hell out of each other” and that I can do whatever I want with this vagina that I own. Before you came along, I was afraid I’d have to wear that chastity belt forever. Also, the tagline is “The only card that can buy freedom,” really? Look, this is not an exchange of goods and services. I do not need to “buy” my freedom, it’s already mine. Nobody is going to give me my freedom and nobody can sell it to me, it’s mine and I will take it for myself. This ad is literally just some straight white guy with a stupid fucking haircut showing off his new ally card as if to say “you can’t hold me accountable for appropriating and profiting off of other peoples’ struggles, I’m an ally. IT’S PROOF.”

Well, Mack, that’s where you’re wrong. The first time I even heard of Macklemore was on the Colbert Report and I think I can honestly say, I hated him instantly. He seriously makes me want to puke. I mean, really, who the fuck does he think he is? In his interview with Colbert, he stated that he’d noticed there was a lot of misogyny and homophobia in mainstream rap music and he felt that it was his responsibility to change that. How very good of him. Now he can bank on stealing the spotlight from Queer artists of color who have a much better understanding of the struggles faced by those who suffer in a racist and patriarchal society. In fact, if you are interested in actually good music by real Queer artists from diverse backgrounds, here are a few you might consider checking out instead of giving your money and attention to some obnoxious trendy cis/het self-proclaimed ally – Angel Haze, Azealia Banks, Brooke Candy, Big Dipper, Big Freedia, Tori Fixx, Cakes Da Killa, Deadlee, House of Ladosha, Deep Dickollective, JbDubs, Le1f, Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, God-Des and She, Johnny Makeup, Juba Kalamka, Katastrophe, the list goes on and on and every single one of these artists is better than Macklemore on top of being more qualified to speak on Queer issues.

For those who have not heard his music, either because you’re just lucky to not have run into it or because you actively and deliberately have avoided it, let me just break down the messaging in his latest hit single.

By now, we have all heard (or heard of, at least) the song “Same Love” which won “Best Video with a Social Message” at the MTV Video Music Awards this past year. According to MSNBC reporter, Sarah Muller, “the hit single by the Seattle rappers overtly embraces marriage equality at a time when recent polling suggests the nation appears to be shifting its mood in favor of same-sex marriage.” In other words, it’s an awfully convenient moment in time for an opportunistic straight white guy to jump in the spotlight in support of an issue of debatable importance compared to literally every other Queer struggle.

Now, we all know the song and we’ve all heard criticisms of it, but here is what I hear when this song plays. I hear some straight white wannabe savior complaining about homophobia in the church and in hip-hop and rap music while comparing the liberal mainstream gay rights movement to Civil Rights, claiming that “there is no difference.” So, uh, let’s start with the church and move through this, shall we?

In the very first verse, once it has been established that this song was clearly written by and for straight white people (and then all throughout the rest of the song), he calls out the church for homophobia, but who the fuck hasn’t? That is practically a requirement at this point. Actually, the problem that I have with this is less about calling out the church and more about using the “born this way” argument combined with biblical morality to do it. I mean, for shit sake, the accompanying music sounds like it came right out of a hymnal, because that’s what we need: some straight ally asshole preaching at us about our own issues that he knows nothing about (haven’t heard that one before). This is an all too common, useless and overall insulting strategy. “Born this way” or not, it doesn’t matter. The “born this way” argument uses made-up, bad science to support itself while negating and trivializing the entire concept that one’s sexuality might be subject to change and fluidity. It also treats heterosexuality as the biological default, making alternative sexualities some sort of genetic mutation. It’s bad enough when cis gay folks use this nonsense combined with Bible quotes to defend their precious marriage rights against the church, but when this presumptuous straight white savior did it in a rap song, my blood just began to boil.

Macklemore’s next big focus is mainstream hip-hop and rap music, which he accuses of misogyny and homophobia. First of all, he starts the second verse with “if I was gay, I’d think hip-hop hated me” – lemme explain a thing. There is no “if I was gay,” alright? You can’t say “oh, if I was [insert marginalized group here]” and then go on to make a claim about how you would handle that experience because you don’t fucking know. The fact is, you are not gay, you don’t know what it’s like to be gay or lesbian or bi or trans* or Queer in any other sense so shut the fuck up. You know, “if I was Queer,” I’d think all of society hated me, and I would probably want stupid ass straight boys to stop capitalizing on Queer struggles, you know, “if”. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of heterosexism and cissexism in mainstream rap music, but it is not this straight white boy’s place to call it out. Especially when there are numerous gay and Queer-identified artists (see above) doing just that. Macklemore, by taking it upon himself to use his privilege as a means of speaking for the Queer community distracts from, trivializes and erases the attempts of Queer artists everywhere who have been working and struggling for years to challenge these issues in the hip-hop industry. Macklemore’s message is not an informed criticism of the issues challenging Queer folks in the hip-hop industry, nor does it attempt to inspire a change in attitude within the industry itself, but rather encourages cis gay folks to distrust Black media. The implication is that all other hip-hop artists are homophobes and the entire industry is saturated with hatred for the gays, but now that the White Savior is here to call out the hateful hip-hop industry, everything is better and you don’t have to be afraid anymore. Seriously, motherfucker, get over yourself. The hip-hop world is more Queer than you know.

Last, but most certainly not least, Macklemore’s song “Same Love” has the fucking audacity to compare the current liberal mainstream gay rights movement to the civil rights movement. Let’s get one thing straight right the fuck now – people need to stop comparing “gay rights” to the Civil Rights movement, okay? First of all, the current mainstream gay rights movement is afraid of doing anything even half as badass or radical as the shit Civil Rights activists did. And, furthermore, the gay rights movement, for all its talk about how much like Civil Rights it is, is awfully White, cis and middle class. They like to use the LGBT acronym, but we all know that the “T” is just an afterthought and for all the focus on “equality,” nobody seems to bat an eyelash when a Queer woman of color is raped, beaten, murdered or imprisoned because of her identity, her race or both. Above all, the Civil Rights movement was not single-issue. Actually, it was dynamically intersectional, tackling inequalities on a number of fronts including race, gender, sexuality and class among several others. By contrast, the gay rights movement has focused primarily on the “right” of cis, white, middle-class gays and lesbians to achieve a privileged status in society through assimilation and marriage at the expense of other, much more vital Queer issues. LGBTQ issues are also intersectional, hugely so – there are Queer folks from all ethnic, racial, religious, and economic backgrounds and their struggles fucking matter. But this movement, this liberal gay rights movement is for the cis white middle class gay, lesbian and ally club and to compare that to the Civil Rights movement is downright insulting, especially when the comparison is made by a rich cishet white rapper. Since when did MLK Jr. care more about interracial marriage than equal rights to services, employment and housing? And on that note, since when was gay marriage in any way, shape or form, the same as interracial marriage? Do these trendy fucks even realize the implications in that argument? Or the uselessness of it? Lemme explain a bit about the actual weight of the interracial marriage issue back in the day: anti-miscegenation laws enforced racial segregation on a personal level by criminalizing interracial marriage, and sometimes even sex between people of different races. Let me say that word again – criminalizing. This means that interracial marriage wasn’t just illegal, it was a crime for which [the Person of Color in the relationship] could be arrested and, as often happened, hanged. Of course, I know that there are sodomy laws still in a number of places, but those are rarely, if ever, enforced. And while there are definitely Queer hate murders which go unmentioned in the mainstream media or get trivialized/erased due to apathy and intolerance, to compare the current gay rights struggle to the Civil Rights struggle is not only presumptuous and inappropriate, it is appropriative and it trivializes the importance of that struggle as its own fight. And even if these comparisons were correct, there is really no point in making them – it offers no tactical benefit. But if we must find one similarity between the two struggles, here ya go: gay marriage will not end homophobia any more than interracial marriage ended racism. So, just because straight white people and cis white gays still think it’s appropriate to compare these two very different struggles, doesn’t make it okay or useful.

Aside from all of these things, it’s just…not even a good song. Like, who did he kill to get this shit so popular? The lyricism is awful and lazy, and any mildly clever wordplay is completely drowned out by the “meh”ness of the subject matter. He’s not saying anything new or special and his music is not interesting or unique. Basically, Macklemore is just a lame-ass motivational speaker with a rap gimmick. If it’s not inspiration porn, it’s guilt-driven exploitation. “This is a total train-wreck, but I’m not allowed to not like it.” – entire straight white liberal fanbase.

All of the above reasons and more attest to the fact that Macklemore is completely undeserving of any of the praise that he has been given by the other straight white pioneers of the Shitty Ally Club. The fact that his video with its flimsy and ill-informed “social message” won two VMAs and critical acclaim at the expense of so many other, much better Queer artists who truly deserved that spotlight, acknowledgment and respect makes me physically ill. And to pour salt on the wound, the ACLU had to fucking use this asshole in their ad.

I know that allies are important, but this is not allyship. An ally does not presume to speak on behalf of the marginalized groups they claim to support. An ally does not horde the spotlight, but rather turns the public attention toward the folks who are working to liberate themselves. An ally does not appropriate and capitalize on the struggles of marginalized and oppressed folks. And, perhaps most importantly, an ally does not decide their status as an ally, nor is that status by any means permanent or universal. You wanna help Queer folks in their struggle against cisheteropatriarchy? Awesome, then listen to what we say and help the way we want you to help, not the way you think we need your help. Macklemore does not represent the Queer community, but all of the above listed artists do. Everything he has done since he’s been in the spotlight has been to appropriate and capitalize Queer peoples’ struggles, except for those that he has erased (what does that “T” stand for again?). Queer folks do not need the approval of straight white men to be proud of who we are and challenge the oppression of the cisheteronormative social structure and we sure as hell don’t need the straight people we have to deal with daily trying to show how open-minded and supportive they are by buying into Macklemore’s whole shtick. Seriously, the next straight person who brings up Macklemore to me because they heard I’m Queer or plays “Macklemore Radio” on Pandora when I come over, is getting shanked.

Gay Marriage: Let’s Get This Over With

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I have always had pretty strong feels about the gay marriage issue, ever since I was in high school and they have changed pretty drastically over the years. Back in the days of my high school GSA, it seemed incredibly simple – totally black and white. I thought “of course gay marriage should be legal! That would end homophobia and gay and lesbian folks would be totally equal.” I was so passionate about the issue and I used to get angry at my passively homophobic dad for not understanding why it mattered so much to me. Fast forward to a couple of years later, before I came out as Queer, when I first heard the argument against gay marriage from a radical lesbian’s point of view. She argued against marriage in general as a patriarchal institution and against gay marriage as an assimilationist tactic that would do nothing more than work homosexuality into the status quo. This drove me to do some more research and get to know the issue from a perspective I hadn’t really considered before – the radical Queer perspective. Once I finally did come out, I had a more thorough understanding of the issue and a hundred reasons why it was not okay. As a genderqueer person, I felt (and still feel) that gay marriage is exclusionary – it is specifically for and about cis gay and lesbian folks and completely ignores the fact that the fight for gay marriage effects the trans* community. The gay marriage movement also fails to address any of the more vital issues within the Queer community, including but not limited to Queer teen homelessness, sexual assault, suicide and murder, employment and housing discrimination, AIDS, lack of access to proper medical care (especially for trans* folks), and much, much more. Compared to all of these issues, gay marriage is not at all worth fighting for. I mean, how do Queer folks have the time or energy to even think about such an unimportant thing in the face of all this? The answer? Privilege.

 

Gay marriage is about meeting the wants and needs of cis white gay men and cis white lesbians of the middle class who may not have had to deal with most of those greater problems, perhaps because they have the class privilege or the white privilege or the cis privilege which keeps them safe. After all, if you are Queer, it is safer to also be white and middle class. All of the issues listed above certainly effect white folks, but the suffering of Queer People of Color is hugely disproportionate, especially in the case of trans* folks and this is another thing that the gay marriage movement is happy to ignore. Gay marriage is just not even important; it is literally the very least that can be done and it can really only appease some of the Queer community while ignoring the rest. But all the same, it is getting done.

 

The other day, I was talking to my dad about a documentary I recently watched called Celluloid Closet. I brought it up to him because it talked about the coded gay characters in a bunch of his favorite movies and I wanted to know if he had ever caught that. Our conversation turned into a discussion of the changes in the general attitude toward homosexuality and my dad said something that made me think – when he was growing up, the general belief was that if you were gay, something was wrong with you because being gay was just simply not normal. He grew up with the idea that homosexuality was not just wrong or abnormal, but totally uncommon. Nowadays, he said, it seems clear that being gay is at least just as common as being straight. Being Queer is not so abnormal after all, and it is therefore ridiculous to consider it a problem. Of course, I know the trouble with this idea – it’s only okay if it’s “normal” kind of bullshit, but it was actually quite a leap for my dad to make. The point is, his attitude toward homosexuality changed drastically from when he was growing up just based on the fact that he was more aware of it being a thing. Not a “normal” thing, just a thing that is common, that people do as part of their identities and their lives and who they are. All this brought about because there is more representation of gay folks in the media and more push for gay marriage. I’m not saying he isn’t still homophobic and he certainly doesn’t know how to process gender identity, but his new awareness of gay identities has helped him accept Lucky’s and my respective Queer identities despite not really understanding much about that. I guess my point is that while the gay marriage fight leaves us behind, the fact is, at this point, it is inevitable and, despite the fact that it does very little (if anything) to change the existing conditions of folks who suffer every day from patriarchal oppression, it has at least had the effect of bringing awareness to the issues where there previously was none.

 

Don’t take this as me condoning gay marriage. If anything, I just want this stupid ass movement over with. It really is the very least that can be done and, quite honestly, it is one of the few things that can be achieved by going through the legal system (of course, I’ve never been one to care much for the legal system). The gay marriage fight is all but over now and I say let’s just please get it the fuck over with already so we can focus on bigger, better things, like getting ENDA through the House, creating shelters and protection for our homeless youth, spreading awareness about the disproportionate suffering of our QPOC brothers, sisters and others. Let’s lose this distraction and get to the real issues at hand.