Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (May 28, 2010)

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THIS JUST IN: MUTUAL SUPPORT — LISTENING TO HOMOPHOBIC ARTISTS



I have a problem and his name is Usher.

Actually, Usher is only one part of the problem, but he’s the one that’s been bugging me the most lately. It’s because his songs are so damn catchy. I love "O.M.G" as much as I have loved his other singles throughout his career — "You Make Me Wanna," "Nice and Slow," "Yeah," and all of the rest. So what’s my issue? I can’t shake the fact that I know he’s not so nice to lesbians — the exception being his hiring of Jessica Clark to star in the video for "Burn."

Back in 2008, Usher told Vibe:

"It can never be bad to have a foundation as a man — a black man — in a time when women are dying for men. Women have started to become lovers of each other as a result of not having enough men.

I love non-gay people’s theories on why gay people are gay, especially theories like lesbianism being caused by there not being enough men in the world. That is an interesting theory, Usher, but I can assure you my being a lesbian has absolutely nothing to do with men.

Usher with bisexual rapper Nicki Minaj

Herein lies the question: How can I listen to, sing along with, celebrate the music and livelihood of Usher when he openly says things negative things about lesbians? The bigger issue, really, is supporting artists in general, and if their personal views (political, religious, etc.) should factor into fandom. Should their music or product be separate from their personal feelings?

Interestingly enough, many lesbian artists say they don’t want fans who listen to them just because they are gay. Still most of their fans are likely aware of their sexuality, and respect, if not enjoy, that fact about them. It’s inevitable that artists’ personal lives are going to affect them, once someone moves past being a passive listener and into the "fan" stage — fans don’t just buy your songs on iTunes, they buy your image.

Kanye West and Ray J have both given positive statements about gay fans and advocated against homophobia. I like their music, and I also respect them. Does it make me like them more? Probably, because I appreciate their coming out to embrace the LGBT community.

Kanye West, supporter of gay community and bisexual ex-girlfriend

Is Usher as bad as his peers in the urban community like Beenie Man, Buju Banton, DMX and Elephant Man who write songs about killing "fags" and physically harming gays? It’s arguable — Usher has a huge presence in the music industry, especially in the urban world, and he is influential. He isn’t advocating against lesbians — he made a bizarre and eye-roll inducing statement, but he isn’t singing songs of hate speech — songs like "Burn out the Chi Chi" by reggaeton artist Capleton.

Then there’s the short quips about lesbians in songs like Young Money‘s "Every Girl in the World" ("Are any of ya’ll into girls like I am? Lez be honest") or Kanye’s "Stronger" ("Well I’d do anything for a blonde dyke.") Offensive? Funny? What about Eminem‘s "We Made You." An excerpt:

Look at there are more women to torture / Walk up to the cutest girl and charleyhorse her / Sorry Portia, but what’s Ellen Degeneres have that I don’t?

And that is in addition to him asking Lindsay Lohan to come back to men earlier in the song.

The difference is that Kanye and Drake are using one-liners to be funny or sexy in a way that might glorify lesbians — or their idea of lesbians which, unlike with Usher, seems to mean "women willing to engage in threesomes." But Eminem is using real life lesbian relationships and mocking them. And the fact that the content is longer than a three-second clip in his song and video gives me the idea he is using these ideas to sell his song, which isn’t any good in the first place. This puts him into the category of "Do Not Like."

So should I feel bad for listening to Usher? Probably not — it appears he doesn’t understand lesbians, so he decided to make up his own idea of what one was, and he was incorrect. And since that was in 2008, I’d like to hope he can redeem himself in 2010.

Misogyny is a different topic in hip-hop altogether, so I’ll say there might be some selective listening when it comes to Usher and his peers. Ray J may embrace his gay fans, but he still sings songs about "visiting [girls] at work / when [they’re] sliding down the pole / no panties, no shirt." As long as he is willing to go on the record with supportive LGBT comments, I’m cool with singing along to "Never Gonna Tie Me Down."

— by Trish Bendix

 

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