An article was published in The Guardian today about the campaign calling for Snoop Dogg’s visa to be revoked. Titled ‘White singers deserve the same scrutiny for sexism as Snoop Dogg‘, it implied that Collective Shout’s motivation for the campaign was race, not misogyny, sexism or violence against women. The Guardian declined to publish Dr Caroline Norma’s response. So we did.
Dr Caroline Norma
So often, when women speak against sexism, misogyny and women hating in general, they are accused of having a hidden and secret agenda. They’re ‘anti-sex’, they ‘hate’ men,’ they have other secret agendas. We’ve just witnessed a classic example of this in the framing of Collective Shout’s campaign led by 24-year-old activist Talitha Stone, calling on Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to recall the visa issued to well-know U.S rap artist Snoop Dogg, who is about to land on our shores.
Francis Lockie, writing in The Guardian today, fits within this camp. Collective Shout activists couldn’t possibly believe that women and girls are intrinsically worth enough that they would selflessly spend time, money and energy in their service. Other false claims have been made about this grassroots movement in the past – why not add ‘racist’ to the mix?
In Frances Lockie’s view the female activists of Collective Shout have another agenda – and it’s racist. They find the energy to launch campaigns against sexist male singers not out of a desire to stop hate speech against women, but because deep down they are racists, whether they realise it or not. Their racist impulses allow them to work together. In the absence of agendas like racism, why else would they bother?
Criticising feminists as ‘racists’ is easy, because no-one believes women’s activists are genuine in what they believe or do anyway. Everyone is ready and willing to hear an alternative explanation for why women are getting together to do things on their own behalf. Lockie need cite just a sample size of three campaigns–one against Kanye West, one against Tyler the Creator and one against Snoop Dogg– to successfully persuade every one of the ‘real’ agenda driving the tireless work of Collective Shout supporters. Inevitably there is another agenda, so a little evidence goes a long way. (As an aside, there’s no mention of the success of the Tyler campaign in forcing Twitter to establish a ‘report abuse’ button as a result of rape and death threats against Talitha Stone, no mention that the campaign against Kanye West was global and supported by a coalition of international women’s groups, not just Collective Shout).
Lockie spent hours painstakingly gathering up evidence of white men singing sexist things and brutalising women to show how Collective Shout members had given them a ‘free pass’. She wanted to make the point that racism acts as a decoy in diverting attention away from the sexism of white men, and how Collective Shout members had fallen into this trap. So, whether they realise it or not, the women in Collective Shout are actually working on behalf of the world’s most powerful men–this is the real agenda of the group. Through forming a group that sticks up for white men they probably think they can get themselves a better deal in life, and rise above the downtrodden masses of women.
When feminists and their organisations are imagined to have ‘another agenda’, sexism does not just cause us to doubt their loyalty to other women. It also leads us to think women are incapable of acting in anyone’s interests other than men’s, and especially white ruling class men. Even when women tell themselves they’re trying to get a better deal for women, they’re actually trying to protect men, or push down other women so men can rule more easily with more perks.
Lockie probably thinks she’s done Collective Shout members a favour in pointing out their folly. Without Lockie’s good instruction, these women could have carried on their whole lives running campaigns, lobbying and working together on behalf of women–totally oblivious of the fact they were inadvertently protecting white men and covering up their abuses. Collective Shout has said nothing about Axl Rose! Or John Lennon! Our younger members have no idea who Rose is. And the fact John Lennon is dead seems to have escaped her. She ignores our campaigns against Robin Thicke and Brian McFadden for their rape apologist lyrics.
Luckily, Lockie stands apart from women working hard in feminist organisations, so she can objectively assess their agenda and intentions, and deliver pronouncements to the benefit of all. Her aloof impartiality would have been compromised if she’d joined Collective Shout, and donated the research she did on the sexism of white male singers. Lockie might have found herself leading a campaign on behalf of members to stop one of them coming to spread hate speech in Australia. Perhaps she will join us in our efforts against rapper Eminem who brings his special brand of women hatred to Australia next month?
If Collective Shout isn’t prepared to launch official campaigns against every artist who profits from misogyny does that mean we shouldn’t campaign against any?
This debate on violence against women, as glamourised by the music industry, isn’t about colour. Collective Shout (in the face of limited resources and its volunteer nature) addresses this where it can. Two high profile rap artists have toured recently. That they were black was irrelevant. Eminem will receive the same welcome from us when he lands next month. To turn this into a debate about race and not misogyny is to wilfully miss the point and, in a rape culture in which all women and girls have to live, this is something we cannot allow to happen.
Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University
“The attempt to dress this up as black v white issue is beneath contempt”
Here are a selection of comments on The Guardian site which condemn attempts to turn our campaign into an issue of race.
OneManIsAnIsland: The objection to Snoop Dogg, presumably, is that ALL of his songs seem to be extensions of his own persona, and ALL seems to include a casual misogyny which is not contextualised. And finally, before you make it a race thing, remember that Robin Thicke is very, very white.
Jahlion: The attempt to dress this up as black v white issue is beneath contempt.
SidusVitae: Many rap songs that feature violence and misogyny are not figurative – that’s the problem, isn’t it? People have politely tried to point out above, under the guise of ‘context’. Snoop Dogg/Lion actually does have a history of problematic dealings with women.
WinstonThatcher: Have you ever listened to the lyrics on ‘Doggystyle’, Frances? I suggest you do so. They’re astoundingly disgusting (on a whole other level of disgusting), and Collective Shout, if anything, should be admired for not letting the big bad wolf that is accusations of racism cloud their judgement.
SamBeckett2: Are Cave, Dylan, Pink Floyd et al ex-pimps who’ve made porn videos? The vast majority of lyrics you quote are clearly telling stories representing misogyny rather than promoting it.
Timcw: So if a black singer refers to a woman as a ‘ho’ or a ‘bitch’ then anyone who complains at the content of the song is being racist if they don’t research every past instance of a white singer using misogynist lyrics and complain about that at the same time? This article is nonsense even in its own terms. Look at the criticism Robin Thicke rightly attracted recently. More seriously, it reflects a type of thinking that implies any criticism of men who aren’t white over the way they treat women is racist.
StVitusGerulaitis: What an utterly absurd article. This is not a race issue, and trying to make it so is disingenuous and rather desperate.
Sexism is more common, widespread and aceptable in modern hip hop….If anything, people give hip hop more of a free pass.”
NewsfromNowhere: I think that this is the problem. Hip hop is used to play by its own rules and black hip hop artists can always play the race card to get a free pass. White hip hop-ers) have to retract and apologize or lose their gigs. I am seriously concerned about this perspective that white feminists (if Collective Shout are white) can’t protest against misogyny from black men or they are racists.
Robthablob: The Prodigy “Smack my bitch up” and Eminem (many early tracks are both misogynistic and homophobic).
However, I remember both of these being heavily criticized at the time, which kind of goes against the author’s contention.
Luxrothchop: A colleague tells me he’s also a pornographer. Is that also true of any of the performers in the author’s list, and don’t you think that makes something of a difference? Seems to me one can’t do right for doing wrong on this question. When I and other posters criticised Robin Thicke on another thread earlier this week those who leapt to Thicke’s defence retorted that “you wouldn’t say that about a black artist for fear of being called a racist”.
ID2099454: Violence against women is an important issue, and this article makes it sound ridiculous. So thanks a bunch for undermining the hard work of lots of people trying to make a difference
DoctorPeppa: I can’t help but wonder if the author actually bothered to get in touch with Collective Shout with her concerns before publicly insinuating that their feminism is a smokescreen for racism. Why does it have to be their job to police the music industry for hate speech against women – if you have noticed other artists contributing to public misogyny, why not pick up your bat and have a swing for yourself? Other women doing feminist work are not an enemy who deserve to be shot down like this.