“Wow. Did you see the Grammies? Macklemore did a stand-up performance of ‘Same Love’ while thirty-five mixed-gender marriages were conducted.”
Oh, God, did I ever. I had to shut the show off, I was so angry.
“Angry? At love and marriage and civil rights?”
No. Angry at poseurs and hypocrites and thieves.
Alright. Let’s take this one at a time. First, he’s a white guy singing hip-hop. Hip-hop wasn’t created by white people. It isn’t theirs. Like Elvis, he’s just appropriating stuff from other cultures for his own use, which is something white people can and do do a heck of a lot because their privileged place in society lets them. Look at how many well-known white rap artists there are compared to black Country & Western artists.
Two, is he singing about equal marriage because he cares about people’s rights, or is he doing it for fame and money and little gold statues? Because he’s got the fame and the money and the little gold statues now, and it doesn’t look like he’s used any of those to provide solid, verifiable help to the people he says he wants to help. It’s kind of like Merrit Kopas’s complaint about men trying to create socially informative games about societal problems they themselves don’t suffer:
Really weird feelings about men making games about women's experiences because no matter how good they are about disavowing their "bravery", they'll still get credit for something women get harassed for. Basically, by choosing to do that, you're perhaps willingly deciding to benefit from sexism.Bottom line: if you want to help someone with an unfairly squelched, disfranchised voice get a message out, it’s just not appropriate to repeat their message in your own unfairly amplified voice. There’s much more integrity, and much less room for selfish ulterior motives, if you get everyone else to shut up and listen instead.
Just to clarify: this isn't even really a question of "authenticity" for me. It's a question of the reception a work will receive depending on the gender of its author. I'm not saying, "you shouldn't write about X if you haven't experienced it," though there's a conversation to be had there, certainly. What I'm saying is, a man who writes about violent sexism is likely to be praised, a woman is likely to be scorned, and any man who is conscious of that dynamic but still chooses to engage the subject is making a decision to benefit from it. Maybe it's part of a bargain, like, "I accept I'm benefitting from sexism but it's for some greater good," but I'm still suspicious of that.
Three, look at the name of the backup band his agents lined up to play for him: Trombone Shorty. “Shorty” is a belittling hip-hop slang term for a young woman. Does nobody see the irony of taking a song that includes the very line, “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me” and backing it up with a misogynistic-sounding band? Especially when there are a hell of a lot more women than gays in this country?
“The ‘Shorty’ in ‘Trombone Shorty’ is a man. It’s his nickname.”
So what? If his real name were Howard, would it be okay for him to perform under the moniker “Trombone Ho’”? No. This is the same thing.