Kanye West – The D.W. Griffith Of Misogyny? [FaN Extra] Jun20

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Kanye West – The D.W. Griffith Of Misogyny? [FaN Extra]

First off, I want to recognize two things:

1. Pointing out the rampant devaluing of women in popular music (and rap specifically) borders on Lloyd Christmas’ moon landing announcement; and

2. Comparing Kanye West to D.W. Griffith is somewhat outlandish but if he gets to declare himself a “new slave” I get to engage in a little hyperbole too.


Mr. West’s new record Yeezus is daring in both genre and convention, a technical marvel of studio prowess and song construction. It’s also such an unintentional masterpiece of egotism and cartoonish arrogance that it’s damn near impossible to take seriously.

From track one, Yeezus ventures deep into the wormhole of clownish self-importance. I know I’m iconoclastic by nature but I can’t be the only one to regard West as a magnificent buffoon can I?

What to make of lyrics like:

I keep it 300 like the Romans
300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?

“Greek” doesn’t rhyme with “Trojans” so fair enough but you would think a “close high” to the “most high” would do a little research anyway? Nope. Kanye has evolved (or rather, was created) beyond a mere mortal’s historical record.

George Carlin once said, and I’m paraphrasing, that when you don’t go to college you spend the rest of your life trying to prove you’re smart. From one college dropout to another, please Kanye, you’re not helping.

Cheap shots aside, what I’m really interested in here is the second line of that verse. “300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?” I understand the word “bitch” has or can be applied in a positive, respectful manner.

Words change their meaning over time, I’m not going to focus on that. What I am questioning, and indeed, what I would like to point out is that time and time again, women (or bitches) on Yeezus are reduced to the possessions of men.

To be fornicated upon as an aggressive act of retaliation.

From New Slaves:

Fuck you and your Hampton house
I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse
Came on her Hampton blouse
And in her Hampton mouth

Godhead Incarnate Kanye isn’t going to take his aggression out sexually on a man because, as he implied earlier in New Slaves, “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower” – that would be super gay.

He is, however, going to ravish their wives without a second thought. To Kanye, Peace Be Unto Him, making the sex with a record exec’s wife is little more than keying his car or breaking his watch.

Since women are interchangeable with possessions, let’s switch them:

Fuck you and your brand new Porsche
I’ll shit on your Hampton Porch
And light the doo-doo torch
Then run while the bag gets scorched

Okay so it lacks the emotional gravitas of borderline rape but you get the point.

When women aren’t simply avatars for retribution or metaphors for weaker men than His Holiness, Kanye Of West, they’re points on a score board.

Collective reinforcements of The Supreme Leader’s transcendent awesomeness.

From I’m In It:

Black girl sipping on white wine
Put my fist in her like the civil rights sign

I get that flagrant woman-hating is endemic in much of the genre’s culture (I say much because there are many, many artists who keep a strong distance from it) but I don’t think that’s reason enough to utterly dismiss the overt chauvinism on display here.

The reviews for Yeezus are overwhelmingly positive; nay, glowing.

Pitchfork gives it a 9.5 out of 10. Rolling Stone 4.5 out of 5. SPIN an 8 out of 10. All treat its views on women as a fairly innocuous component of Kanye’s character.

Their job is to review an album, not necessarily to condemn an Artist’s misogyny, but it’s interesting how little anyone is moved by the vitriol. Are we so tone deaf to the denigration of women that we don’t hear it? Do we not care? Or do we simply chalk it up to the genre? “It’s just Kanye being Kanye.” “It comes with the art form.”

I guess I’m in the minority here but I don’t think that’s good enough. My wife is an unapologetic feminist (one of the many things I love about her) and I’d be embarrassed to play this anywhere near her.


So the question is, why does His Lord And Savior Kanye West get a pass?
If he were spouting neonazi propaganda, would we take the same flippant attitude? No, there’s something fundamentally different about our acceptance of female disparagement.

Hell, the song On Sight is being criticized by the American Parkinson Disease Assocation for the line “we get this bitch shaking like Parkinsons.” No one cares that later in the song he says, “But I got her back in and put my dick in her mouth.”

Let me be clear, I’m not calling for censorship or saying that every review needs to mention every bit of sexism. I’m simply pointing out that when it comes to misogyny, we don’t take it as seriously as, let’s say racism. Both are abhorrent but we seem to have a blind spot for the former.

D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is a cornerstone of film history. It’s the first feature length film to combine multiple story lines that converge. The first true epic of cinema as a respected art form. It’s also so insultingly racist, it has to be regarded as history, not entertainment.

Is that Jesus or Kanye overseeing a KKK celebration? It's hard to tell anymore.

Jesus oversees a KKK celebration. Or is that Kanye, it’s hard to tell anymore.

Even though he based it on a book entitled The Clansman, cast white actors in blackface for every black role and ended the movie with a superimposed Jesus Christ celebrating the KKK’s victory, Griffith himself was blindsided by criticism that his epic was actually a masterpiece of shameful racism. So blindsided, that his next film, Intolerance tried to absolve Birth of a Nation‘s sins.

Much like Griffith, Kanye H. West seems oblivious to the implications of his message except for when it concerns his immediate need. It could be argued that The Ultimate Truth West is kind of dumb, or at the very least, willfully ignorant.

As Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone rightfully points out (sadly with a “That’s Kanye” shrug), the song Blood on the Leaves uses a sample of Nina Simone’s cover of Strange Fruit as a backdrop for relationship woes.

It’s a little curious to consider yourself one of the “new slaves” because wealthy white men stereotype your extravagant purchases (though apt) and then later use a celebrated song about lynchings to underscore a former love trying to extort you.

Sorry, I’m digressing again. Like Griffith, Yeshua Ben Kanye has every right to create whatever he wants. He has the right to say whatever he wants. I just think it’s time for us to stop rolling our eyes at allusions to women as possessions and call out sexism when we see it.

This goes for everyone, I’m only really singling out The Alpha and The Omega West because he’s universally lauded at the moment with little to no mention of his clearly anti-female positions. My hope is that in a hundred years, we’ll look back at Yeezus and similar works with the same uneasiness as we do with Birth of a Nation.

Both remarkable accomplishments with an asterisk.