Today in using people as props: Macklemore

I realize a lot of LGBT stuff has been crossing my browser lately. The science will return, don’t worry!

File this under things that probably don’t surprise anyone:

Submitted: …[Macklemore]’s a straight, cis white man who is profiting from our plight[…]; we have the right to criticize him.

Response: This just in: people are only allowed to care about things that affect them directly.

Obama shouldn’t have been allowed to speak about marriage equality on his campaign trail because he’s not gay and was clearly just doing it to win votes from gay people. He isn’t gay and shouldn’t have been able to support homosexuals he was just exploiting them and not at all professing genuine support or concern or a desire for change because he believes all people have a right to love and express that love through marriage.

A politician talking about an issue on a campaign trail could, ostensibly, be compared to a singer writing songs about an issue. But holy damn is this a false equivalence here.

Let’s start with Obama. Sure, he talked about LGB issues* on the campaign trail. And no, people didn’t react the same way they’re reacting to Macklemore talking about the same issues – and that’s because Obama puts his money where his mouth is. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?Gone. Defense of Marriage Act? Justice Department was ordered not to defend it –by Obama. He had more openly LGBT staffers than Bush and Clinton combined by the middle of his first term, giving them a voice in politics. Yeah, Obama talks about LGB issues, but he also does things about them, too.

For those of you who, like me, aren’t Hip with the Pop Culture, there was a Big Fat Gay Wedding at the Grammys on Sunday. It wasn’t all gay couples (that article refers to the frequency of same-sex marriages as a “sprinkling” in the 33 couples), but the ceremony was performed to Macklemore’s “Same Love”, which is why this has come up. Macklemore is a straight white male hip hop artist, though the fact that suddenly a whole bunch of white people have discovered that they like hip hop is a rant for a different day.

I have some pretty excellent search engine skillz, but the only listings of “activism” for LGB issues that I could find for Macklemore are that he wrote some songs about gay issues. When he performed “Same Love” on Ellen, she introduced Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with the line “No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.” And there was no jumping in to correct her, to say “hey, there’s this whole genre of hip hop that’s actually performed by queer people”.

When you’re someone with privilege and you’re helping out people who don’t, you need to use your privilege to help people be heard. Don’t use it to talk over them, and definitely don’t use it to tell people they don’t have the right to criticize someone for doing just that.

*Note: I’m intentionally leaving the T out of the standard acronym. Current activism generally applies only to same-sex attraction, not gender identity, and I don’t want to conflate the two here.

2 thoughts on “Today in using people as props: Macklemore

  1. Well, I’m so hopelessly no-hip I had to look up cis to see what it meant…anyway, as to your point, I think Barney Frank once summed it up pretty nicely: “I’m in favor of abortion rights, but that doesn’t mean I going to get one.”

  2. This is ridiculous. Macklemore IS using his skills for activism. Writing songs is his skill. You would prefer that he not write songs that reach millions of people world-wide and go work in the LGBT equivalent of a soup kitchen that would reach maybe hundreds?
    As a gay man myself, I wonder sometimes why straight people even bother. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t as far as many in the gay community are concerned.

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