Georgia Marsh explains why Yeezy’s slut-shaming tweets are more than just attention seeking
During a recent storm in the Twittersphere, Kanye West hit out at Wiz Khalifa in response to his criticism of the title of West’s forthcoming album ‘Waves’ for reasons that are, and will remain, fickle. What began as an unnecessary (and slightly incoherent) spouting of abuse from Khalifa metamorphosed into a fully-fledged Kanye overreaction (what else were we to expect?), in which the controversial rapper proceeded to mock Khalifa’s music and skinny jeans to the delight of Twitter users. However, while the world passed the popcorn and watched the Twitter beef unfold, a seedy underbelly of misogyny was closely afoot.
To go back to the beginning, it’s easy(ish) to see how the situation became a misunderstanding of David-Gest-is-dead proportions, due to West’s melodramatic way of going about business. A few days prior to the adolescent exchange, Khalifa had tweeted: ‘Hit this kk and become yourself.’
West being West jumped the gun and assumed that Khalifa was referring to his famous wife (because of course Kim Kardashian owns the letters KK) and other half of Kimye. In reality, the ‘See You Again’ rapper is actually referencing a strand of weed called Khalifa Kush, from which the rapper has adopted his namesake.
Nonetheless, West was having none of it and made headway to taint the ultimately comical debate with a poisonous edge. He fired a series of tweets referring to model and businesswoman Amber Rose’s stripper past. The relevance? None. The only connection Rose has to this petty argument is that both rappers have dated her.
In the since-deleted tweets, West, in means to take a jab at Khalifa, instead launches a personal attack against Rose. I’m not questioning West’s defence of his wife (although I see little reason for justifying this defence); I am questioning his decision to drag Amber Rose into something that never concerned her in the first place.
The tweets in question represent Yeezy’s warped view of women:
4th you let a stripper trap you — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
5th I know you mad every time you look at your child that this girl got you for 18 years — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
12th You wouldn’t have a child if it wasn’t for me — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
13th You own waves???? I own your child!!!! — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
This is not the first time that he has attempted to publicly take down Rose either, as it looks as if West can’t seem to let the relationship go. Following the demise of their two year relationship, West released his fifth studio album: the universally acclaimed ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, which was inspired by his relationship with Rose. Since then, he has embarked on a smear campaign against her, attempting to toxify her name in any way he can.
Prior to the tweets, their most recent altercation came in a 2015 radio interview that West conducted with an American radio station. After Rose condemned Stateside rapper Tyga’s relationship with then- underage Kylie Jenner (who happens to be West’s sister-in-law), West mocked Rose on national radio.
Joking that he ‘had to take thirty showers’ before Kardashian would date him as, he claimed, ‘it’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose.’
West seems to constantly refer back to the same playground nastiness. Yeah, she was a stripper, yet he is construing that as a bad thing: in your books, Kanye, it’s ridiculous for a self-respecting man to date a stripper, yet you dated her, you loved her – and this is how you treat her? As someone who is bringing a young daughter into the world, it would suit West to embrace a more respectful perspective on women.
The humiliation of sex workers is always particularly disconcerting, however Rose takes it in her stride and uses her experience to appropriate words like ‘slut’ through her feminist activism. She recognises the harm that men like West bring to the issue of equality, and utilises her position as someone of celebrity status in order to empower women.
In August 2015, she and friend Blac Chyna made a powerful statement and owned the VMA red carpet by wearing matching outfits emblazoned with derogatory terminology such as ‘whore’, ‘gold digger’ and ‘bitch’, in order to regain ownership of words used to subjugate women. In October of the same year, Rose was instrumental in organising a new phase of ‘SlutWalks’ in Los Angeles. These are inclusive spaces for individuals of all genders, races, and sexualities to protest against rape culture and sexual oppression while acting as an opportunity for people to regain ownership of their bodies.
Rose is one of a host proactive businesswomen, West’s wife Kardashian amongst them, who have built empires (albeit of different sizes) to counteract male exploitation of the female body. While Kardashian used her position as a sex crime victim to generate a brand worth millions of dollars, Rose escaped her life of poverty on the streets of Philadelphia to make money through any means possible before achieving international recognition. The only differences between these journeys is that the former came from a deeply privileged background while the other is a self-made success story. Thus, it could be argued that this is a war of social classes, where the latter is demonised for her working class roots and is pitted up against the upper-middle class upbringing of the Kardashian family.
West’s views are, interestingly, of a classically literary nature in which portrayals of women as binary opposites are a commonality: the virgin and the whore, the princess and the witch. While he puts Kardashian on a pedestal and praises her as a glittering example of the ideal woman, Rose inhabits the bottom of the food chain. He explains in his 2013 track ‘Bound 2’ – an audible and aesthetic ode to his wife – ‘one good girl is worth a thousand bitches.’
Hip-hop generally has a misogynistic perspective on women and as a long-time hip-hop fan I’ve come to accept this as a part of the persona that many rap giants adopt: it’s part of their power trip. However, West’s misogyny extends to his real life where he publicly engages in slut-shaming, setting a worrying example for young people who look up to the ‘Stronger’ hitmaker. Everyone focused on how funny it was, rather than the damaging stereotypes it perpetuates.
As it stands, West has publicly expressed regret regarding his comments towards Khalifa yet, as anticipated, he has failed to provide an apology for Rose. All in jest, she brushed the incident off in a pair of sexually explicit tweets and came out of the situation as the people’s champion, while West continues his tirades against women. It can only seem that the world needs more women like Amber Rose and less men like Kanye West. To add insult to injury – whether it be another desperate attempt for publicity or not – he has also publicly declared his support for serial rapist Bill Cosby, whom he deems to be innocent against charges of sexual assault. Oh Yeezy, where did it all go wrong?
Illustration by Lille Allen