So, this week, former chef turned rapper ‘Action Bronson’ has stirred up controversy again. This isn’t terribly surprising, considering his past, but also considering that more often than not, controversy sells tickets. Except for when it doesn’t, and shows get cancelled when the controversy goes over the top. Even though Bronson’s free NXNE show was cancelled in Toronto this May, he was offered to do a ticketed show instead (Update: I’ve been told he declined this offer). Everyone likes to cash in on controversy apparently.
The latest stir up was when Julie Miville-Dechêne, the president of Quebec’s Council for the Status of Women, stated that Action Bronson’s message was misogynistic and essentially hate speech. In an interview on CBC Radio, Mme Miville-Dechêne calls out evenko — the promoter of Osheaga, a popular Montreal indie music festival held for the last 9 years, the last 3 in Parc Jean-Drapeau — to cancel the show Bronson is scheduled to perform this year.
One of the things I found most disappointing about this, was that evenko’s response was to hide behind a statement saying that “they didn’t censor artists”. I’m fine with not censoring artists. In fact, I don’t like censorship at all, but asking to not support and promote Bronson is not censorship. Censorship would be to tell Bronson that he could play, but he had to change his material or lyrics, or just not play particular songs. This, I would agree is not desirable, and I would not support it. However, not hiring him at all is not censorship. Otherwise, the long list of bands that just weren’t good enough to make it, or who were playing some weird style that nobody would want to see could claim that their rejection was censorship. I think evenko had a clear opportunity to make a statement saying that they weren’t going to support ‘art’ that glorifies violence against women. Instead, like NXNE, they’re cashing in on the controversy, and that’s shameful.
There are few better examples of extreme violence against women that Bronson’s video ‘Brunch’ (see below) where he is seen cooking over a battered dead woman. About a minute into the video, he stabs her with a box cutter while calling her a ‘scumbag bitch’ and ‘cunt’ before spitting on her corpse. He then drops the body in a river or lake and later cheers.
The surprising part about this is that some seem to be unphased by this. This is, after all, somewhat normal in rap and hip-hop, where women are often objectified and degraded. A friend of mine — who works for evenko — seemed nonplussed by my complaint that the promoter would consider hiring this artist. And this friend is a really good, salt-of-the-earth guy whom I admire quite a bit. So, seeing his reaction made me wonder, has the norm of misogyny in rap and hip-hop blinded us to this? What if, instead of the corpse of a woman being stabbed and called a scumbag bitch and cunt, it was the corpse of a black man being called a nigger, or a homosexual being called a faggot (Bronson has also said some pretty horrible things about transgender people). I suspect that in this case, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Not only would this be extremely distasteful to even the most cynical promoters, Bronson would probably have a problem just crossing the border.
So, this leaves me with these questions: Why is it that we accept this sort of violence towards women — half of the people on this planet — when it would be clearly unacceptable to any other disadvantaged group? Haven’t we had enough of this?
My friend’s response to my complaint – “Don’t like him? Don’t go”. I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that many others will do the same.
On a positive note, there is still hope that things can improve. Hip-hop/R&B artist Jidenna, who was recently signed on Janelle Monáe’s label Wondaland Records, leads by example. In his video ‘Classic Man’ (see below), not only is he classic, but classy. Watch the video for the amazing dress and style, watch it again for the total lack of ‘bitches and hoes’ – “the ladies on my elbow ain’t for the show”. This is how real men behave.