Eminem’s Promotion of Violence against Women is Not the People’s Choice
I used to be only slightly afraid of Eminem. Ever since he released his 2004 album “Encore,” with its photographs of Eminem open fire on the audience, I used to be slightly unnerved by him, cautious. Still, I sang along to a few of his more subtly violent songs, to the 2010 hits “Love the Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid.”
Now, Eminem has instilled a new type of fear in me. A fear of his influence, his popularity, of the damaging effect his songs can have, his songs that perpetuate and promote violence against women.
“F–k you with an umbrella then open it up while that shits inside ya,” raps Eminem in his “Stay Wide Awake.” The star raps about sitting down next to a young girl, Brenda, the kind of “whore” “girl” that he’d “assault and rape and figure why not try to make your pussy wider.” The song is part of his 2009 album, “Relapse,” debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
On that album, Eminem raps about shoving “a flashlight up Kim Kardashian’s ass,” “drop kick[ing] a bitch before her second trimester,” peeing on Rihanna, raping the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears and raping and lynching Lindsay Lohan “with sixty-six inches of extension cord.”
Despite his outright misogynism, Eminem is the best selling artist of the 2000s, according to Billboard.com, and he has won an Oscar and 13 Grammy’s throughout his career. He was named one of Cosmopolitan’s “20 Hottest Guys of 2010” and is now up for the 2012 People’s Choice Awards favorite male artist and favorite hip-hop artist. Last year, he won.
Eminem rose to fame with his 1999 album “Slim Shady LP,” his first with a major label. The story that Eminem and publicists tell is that he grew up with an abusive, addict single mother, then rose up from his Detroit “white trash” background and a rocky relationship with his two-time wife, Kim, to become the artistically inventive rapper he is today. Reviewers initially criticized his lyrics, which are often racist and homophobic in addition to sexist, but as Eminem gained popularity, the voices of dissent dwindled.
His most famously brutal song, “Kim,” describes him murdering his ex-wife Kim, her second husband and child. “NOW BLEED! BITCH BLEED! BLEED! BITCH BLEED! BLEED!” He yells at the end of the song, followed by the sound of a body being drug through brush. Entertainment Weekly praised the album, saying, “Indeed, [the songs] ‘Stan’ and ‘Kim’ blaze significant new group for rap.”
Perhaps Eminem’s violent lyrics are an outlet for, a result of “mommy problems,” a tough childhood, his Detroit upbringing or his on-off relationship with Kim. It doesn’t matter. Violence against women is a choice. Maybe then, Eminem’s fame did not arise in spite of his violence lyrics, but because of them. “The very appeal of Eminem’s music depends on widespread acceptance of violence against women as a cultural norm,” wrote Jackson Katz in his 2006 book “The Macho Paradox: Why Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help.”
And the cultural norm it is. About 17.7 million American women, or one in six women, that have been victims of attempted or completed rape, according to the National Centers for Justice and the Centers for Disease Control’s 1998 report, the latest on the topic. And one in four American women have experienced violence by an intimate partner, such as a boyfriend or husband, according to the CDC.
“There is no doubt that as opinion-makers in the music world increasingly praised Eminem’s talent, they made more excuses for his anti-woman lyrics,” Katz wrote. “That is one definition of a rape culture: a society where sophisticated people routinely overlook or rationalize rape-supportive attitudes. In the case of Eminem, it is not just that his misogyny has been tolerated. He has been celebrated and honored in a way few artists ever have.”
Eminem aficionados claim the rapper is just being an artist, being creative and true to himself and expressing his anger at the women in his life. They say it’s just a joke, that Eminem’s just kidding, and anyone who doesn’t agree is too sensitive. Boys say they’re not going to go out and rape or kill their girlfriends just because they listen to Eminem, which is true in 99 percent of the cases. But what is shocking is that violence against women is so normal in our society that it is something to joke about.
Eminem’s lyrics desensitize boys and men to the pain and suffering of girls and women and send them a dangerous message that they need to be abusive, alpha males to get girls, Katz argues. His popularity encourages girls to be attracted to boys who don’t respect them, following the age-old “The worse he treats me, the more he loves me,” as seen in one of the top songs of 2011 “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. In the song, which explores an abusive relationship, Rihanna perpetuates the idea that women like men to abuse them and treat them violently with her chorus: “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts,” while Eminem raps about killing her: “If she ever tries to f–kin’ leave again, I’ma tie her to the bed / and set this house on fire.” Rather than encourage girls and women who are sexually or physically abused, like Rihanna herself, to seek help, the song tells them that such abuse is out of love.
So maybe Eminem doesn’t teach morals and maybe violence against women isn’t something to joke about, but it’s still free speech, right? Sort of. What if, rather than talking about slapping, raping and killing “bitches,” Eminem rapped about slapping, raping and killing “niggers,” “kikes” or “wetbacks”? There would likely be an outcry. So why do we not only let violence against women fly, but reward Eminem for it? For centuries, society has refused to tolerate certain speech, such as racial or ethnic slurs, boycotting those who use them. It’s time for women and men to step up to the plate and take a stand against music that promotes killing, beating, raping women.
As Katz asks: “Can a society that heaps untold riches and praise on a man whose lyrics routinely brutalize women claim that it is serious about eradicating sexual and domestic violence?” No. It’s not about censorship. It’s not about free speech. It’s about saying we don’t accept violence against women, that it’s not the people’s choice.
Editor-in-Chief of The Eagle
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