Friday, May 20, 2011

I Call 'em Like I See 'em

Sara Quin, of Tegan and Sara fame, recently wrote an amazing letter which echoes the sentiments of many people. She asked, "When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry?" Her whole letter can be found here

a call for change

When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses? While an artist who can barely get a sentence fragment out without using homophobic slurs is celebrated on the cover of every magazine, blog and newspaper, I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile.

As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate ‘Tyler, the Creator,’ I find it impossible not to comment. In any other industry would I be expected to tolerate, overlook and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric? Why should I care about this music or its “brilliance” when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible? There is much that upsets me in this world, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve drafted an open letter or complaint, but in the past I’ve found an opinion – some like-minded commentary – that let me rest assured that my outrage, my voice, had been accounted for. Not this time.

If any of the bands whose records are held in similar esteem as Goblin had lyrics littered with rape fantasies and slurs, would they be labeled hate mongers? I realize I could ask that question of DOZENS of other artists, but is Tyler exempt because people are afraid of the backlash? The inevitable claim that detractors are being racist, or the brush-off that not “getting it” would indicate that you’re “old” (or a faggot)? Because, the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular. Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.

No genre is without its controversial and offensive characters- I’m not naive. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge. Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian. Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault. Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.

It is not without great hesitation and hand wringing that I enter into the discourse about Tyler, the media who glorifies and excuses misogyny and homophobia, and the community of artists that doesn’t seem remotely bothered by it. I can only hope that someone reading this might be inspired to speak out. At the very least, I will know that my voice is on record.


For those too busy to read the letter, basically, she takes issue with performers and artists who are using misogynistic and homophobic lyrics without repercussions, without being questioned or without being called out for their offensive message. In fact, many of these artists are being lauded for their vision and their talent. While, yes, they may have talent, does that mean we should excuse their prejudices and degradations?

I feel the same way about people who want to excuse Roman Polanski of his raping a 13 year old girl just because he's made some amazing movies. As if their talent outweighs any harm they bring unto others. Any offenses they may commit seem to be wiped from the slate and they are granted forgiveness because of their genius. Or, worse, in some cases they may even be encouraged for their abhorrent behaviour.

I agree 100% with what she has written and it has inspired me to write this as well.


I want to know why Tegan and Sara use American Apparel products for their merchandise if Sara has specifically said, "I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile." I am not doubting Sara's commitment to her message. I only want to point out that it is hard to support Tegan and Sara financially without supporting someone like Dov Charney, the founder and CEO of American Apparel , who has made himself famous with quote after reprehensible quote, spewing misogynistic proclamations in many of his interviews.

Not sure what quotes I'm talking about? Read 'em and weep:

“Women initiate most domestic violence (claims)…and this has made a victim of culture out of women.”—Dov Charney

“Feminism is extremely restrictive. You cant call a woman a bitch, you can't call her this, you can't call her that. But that's what life's really like. Yet, she can do whatever she wants. It's out of balance and that's why young people haven't embraced feminism, because it's out of balance.”—Dov Charney

So, as much as I support Sara's message I can't actually support Tegan and Sara's band, monetarily, by buying their merchandise because I would be doing exactly what Sara has admonished in her letter.

I would love if they decided to go through a different merchandiser but I know that good quality, sweat shop free products are hard to find. Until they decide to switch their supplier, I am happy spreading Sara's message of holding public figures (artists and CEOs alike) accountable for derogatory and offensive statements, even if it means I can't wear a cool Tegan and Sara hoodie.


P.S. I'm aware of the lawsuits filed against Dov Charney for sexual harassment but decided not to include them in this as I would prefer his own words be my evidence of his character.

P.P.S. I also purposely decided not to include pictures of anyone I mentioned in this article because, again, I wanted the words to speak for themselves.

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