Eminem: A study in opposites

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I am inclined to agree with Mr Mathers in one regard: a person’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, body shape, or socioeconomic status should not affect how you treat them. It’s always a good idea to be nice to those who have been nice to you, but it also wouldn’t hurt to break some ground by being nice to somebody who hasn’t necessarily been nice to you. That’s how you build relationships and establish community…if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

Of course, Eminem’s lyrics and public comments indicate that he is definitely not into community-building. The rapper is notorious for homophobic, misogynistic, violent lyrics. In interviews he shrugs it off, essentially saying that although some of his songs are a constant stream of vile anti-social sentiment, he’s really a nice guy who doesn’t mean anything he says and people should stop taking him so seriously.

Sorry, Eminem, but you don’t get to dictate how other people respond to your lyrics. In the song “Rap God”, Eminem says he’ll be able to break a “table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half”. When confronted by his critics, Eminem’s response is that the word “faggot” doesn’t specifically refer to a homosexual, but to anybody who is…well, let’s just say annoying and leave it at that.

But don’t you see, Eminem, that word has specifically applied to effeminate male homosexuals, and when you use it you degrade them, whether you mean to or not. You use the word as an insult.

It’s impossible to explain to people like Eminem why using terms like “faggot” or “gay” as insults is a bad thing, because they have never been part of an oppressed minority. Don’t bother telling me about Mathers’ rough childhood in a poor neighborhood; at the end of the day he’s still a white straight male with all the attendant privileges. And now he’s a rich white straight male, which is even a greater reason why he shouldn’t be using language that demeans minority groups. Whether he likes it or not, he has a responsibility to make sure that he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of his forebears, mistakes that include using language that a reasonable person would know is insulting.

In defense of his homophobic lyrics, Eminem says:

I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn’t understand that by now, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change their mind about it.

Actually, there is. You can take some responsibility for what you put out and stop pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault for being offended. And if you won’t do that, then you can stop claiming that you’re nice to anybody.


Begin shameless plug: I’m writing another blog called Nerdy Jokes, in which I try to make sense of some of my favorite math and science related jokes. Check it out. End shameless plug.

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