Following Harvard’s College Events Board decision to bring Tyga — a rapper known for “Rack City”— in as the headliner at its annual Yardfest, senior Leah Reis-Dennis, filed a petition at change.org to cancel his appearance on campus. The petition points out Tyga’s “explicitly and violently misogynistic lyrics” such as “Need a bitch that can fuck, cook, clean, right. Turn a bitch out, make her lick twice” in Tyga’s song “Bitches Ain’t Shit”; and “Shut the fuck up and jump on this dick. Nothing but a motherfucking skank” in “Bitch Betta Have My Money.” The petition has gathered about 1,800 signatures so far and counting.
A simple look at his lyrics and his music videos would tell that Tyga, at least in his songs, does not respect women and treats them purely as a subservient object of sexual desire. Women’s voice as a whole dignified human-being disappears, and just the body remains, dancing sensually in the male gaze.
Obviously, the objectification of women or just outright misogyny can be found anywhere in the pop culture these days, and Tyga is just one example of many. Whether this phenomenon should be actively restrained and controlled has been discussed widely. You might throw in the argument for the freedom of expression, or the fact that the pop culture is merely a symptom of the greater illness of the society — not its cause — or even address often racist judgment of black male artists.
However, on this particular act of feminism, I would like to laud Leah Reis-Dennis for refusing to be a passive consumer of the often sexist pop culture, determining what kind of value her higher education institution — a particularly prestigious and influential one — should represent, and standing up for a worthy cause. Even if Harvard does not cede to her petition, which would be a real shame, she would be achieving more than a symbolic triumph by bringing the prevalent rape culture on campus into a public discussion.
Among millennials, even among the most liberal and activist-leaning ones, we often see a dichotomy between issues that need to be taken seriously and issues that you just need to “chill about.” On one hand, activists armed with social media implore an apathetic crowd and actively fight for their respective causes. On the other hand, we take “effortless perfection” as the utmost virtue and make every effort to look “chill” by showing a distant attitude toward a political and social cause, as “caring” seems out of fashion.
However, some things are still worth caring about and even putting up a fight for. Eradicating rape culture on campus and asking for less sexist representation of women in the media? You bet it is. I am glad to see that the general attitude toward this petition has been positive. The Harvard Crimson even published an editorial titled, “A Misguided Choice: The College is wrong to bring Tyga to Yardfest,” supporting the petition. I am curious to see what decision Harvard’s College Events Board would make now. In the end, a school is only as good as its students, and sometimes it needs to follow its students’ lead, however high its institutional pride might be.