Another week, another Kanye West-related controversy.
On Sunday, the rapper held a surprise Sunday Service livestream. Part of the Halloween-day performance included a prayer circle featuring Marilyn Manson, marking the second time in three months West has invited the disgraced musician to collaborate.
In case you forgot: in February, actor Evan Rachel Wood named Manson in an Instagram post alleging that the musician abused her “for years.”
Following Wood’s allegations, several more women, including former employees and exes, came forward with additional accounts of abuse at the hands of Manson.
Currently, Manson is facing four lawsuits filed by multiple women alleging sexual and physical assault.
Despite the wealth of allegations against Manson, West invited him to appear at his Chicago DONDA listening party in August, a slap in the face to survivors of abuse.
Manson (and DaBaby, embroiled in controversy of his own) is featured on “Jail Pt. 2,” the 24th track off DONDA that hears the shock rocker screaming, “Guess who’s goin’ to jail tonight!” (Ew.)
West has long used controversy as a tool for press, good or bad. Looking back on his antics, though, a pattern emerges: the rapper’s theatrics largely rely on perpetuating misogyny and violence against women.
Igniting a saga that unfolded over the course of years, West interrupted Taylor Swift’s 2009 MTV Music Video Awards acceptance speech to state that “Beyoncé had the best video of all time.”
In 2015, he rapped on The Life of Pablo‘s “Famous”: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” The music video for the song features a nude Swift look-alike laying in bed with West, a visual that the country star later likened to “revenge porn.”
“I’mma let you finish” was funny, for about two seconds. But ultimately, the situation boils down to a grown man crediting a woman’s success to his own uncensored ego and later suggesting that she “owes him” with sex.
One year after the “Famous” debacle, West proclaimed Bill Cosby’s innocence on Twitter, another distasteful attention grab that exemplifies West’s particular brand of misogyny — one that excuses abuse in the name of clicks, likes, and publicity.
Another drop in the Kanye West controversy bucket: he went on a bizarre, anti-abortion rant during a presidential campaign rally in South Carolina. In a series of now-deleted tweets, he asserted that “22,500,000 black babies have been aborted” as justification for his stance.
This habit of questionable justification seems to fuel some of West’s misogynist rhetoric, especially through the lens of racism.
On an episode of Steve Harvey’s podcast, West claimed that “closet racism” was the reason Swift won her VMA.
West’s point isn’t inherently incorrect. Beyoncé’s video was better, and Swift’s win likely had to do with the prejudice that pervades music. Still, that doesn’t excuse West’s tasteless “Famous” lyrics.
In a 2016 op-ed, Obaro questioned: does one form of oppression justify another?
West has long skirted accountability for his words and actions by claiming it’s all in the name of art.
Subsequently, fans have mythologized West as a “tortured artist” and “misunderstood genius” unfairly targeted and criticized. Small wonder he’s so close with Dave Chappelle.
I’ve often felt conflicted about the cult of Kanye. I think he is obnoxious and narcissistic, at best. At the same time, I can feel empathy for someone who is so clearly suffering.
But framing West’s misogyny as some sort of performance art doesn’t hold up.
Is it artful to speak on behalf of rape survivors and declare that Bill Cosby is innocent? Is it genius to use sexual abuse as clickbait by inviting famously un-Christian Marilyn Manson to a prayer circle helmed by Justin Bieber?
To put it simply: No.