I’ve been trying not to wade into the Tyler/Odd Future debate. There’s something about the slavish, apologetic bandwagonning in their wake that I find incredibly distasteful. I’m no fan of the collective or their flabby, unoriginal “fuck everything” rhetoric, and I’m equally not interested in the Twitter-fueled phenomenon of band-as-meme, where people who wouldn’t normally give two hoots about Odd Future’s brand of noxious rap feel the need to get involved and become part of the hashtag-laden conversation.
Worse still are the aforementioned apologies that sugarcoat the group’s abhorrent lyrics about rape and women; you’ll find many a cursory paragraph reinforcing OFWGKTA’s ethos that these lyrics and fantasies are okay because they’re the same distance from reality as an unpleasant film, that it’s plain funny to call people “faggot” and “bitch” to wind them up, or that because the collective have a lesbian amongst their number and she’s fine with the terminology they use to refer to women and homosexuals then we should accept it too. This strain of logic suggests that to be offended by Tyler et al is to be embarrassingly conservative.
I didn’t want to be any part of it – I unfollowed Tyler after about two hours, stayed away from commenting on articles about OFWGKTA no matter how much I wanted to, and fired off just two angry tweets in the heat of the first and only time I listened to ‘Goblin’. Then last Friday I saw retweets of an open letter to Tyler and the press as written by Sara Quin of Canadian duo Tegan & Sara, who were my favourite band as a teenager.
For anyone unfamiliar with them, the twin sisters, now aged 30, are gay and have been publicly so throughout their l6-year long career. They have never made any effort to hide their sexuality, addressing songs to “she” and “her”, yet they’ve never allowed it to dominate the conversation.
Sara’s letter is titled ‘A Call For Change’, and questions why misogyny and homophobia aren’t “treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses.” She posits, “people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular.” I agree, and urge you to read the whole piece at Tegan & Sara’s website – it’s infinitely more persuasive, eloquently written and reasoned than anything Tyler will ever write, frankly.
Did Tyler reply? Of course he did, with the erudite defense, “If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!” Attitudes like these follow the work of women everywhere, and likewise, these conversations are nothing new, but Tyler’s hideously offensive, sexually-motivated response has made me angrier than anything music-related in a long time.
His words require no detailed explanation, but as first fan, then journalist, it’s irritated me endlessly over the years that the words “Tegan” and “Sara” seemingly can’t appear without some invocation of their gender or sexuality. “Gay” or “lesbian” is appended to descriptions of their – and others’ – music like “rock” or “dubstep”; whatever you think of genre appellations, there’s no denying that using sexuality to describe a sound is utterly meaningless.
Tyler has dismissed his liberal use of the word “faggot” by saying that words take on different meanings in different contexts. As the etymology of “gay” proves, that’s admittedly how words can become more or less offensive over time. But the widespread chuckling defense of Tyler’s homophobia – because make no bones about it, that’s what it is – will doubtlessly remove whatever semblance of stigma is attached to chucking it around in the locker room. It’s a shame it’ll still hurt the recipients just as horribly as it would have prior to him bringing it back into the conversation.
You may think I’m a total priss for “not getting it” (I do, thanks). Maybe you think that artists like Sara bothering to comment on Tyler’s words lend them the credence and attention that the silly little boy wants. But still, like Sara, I didn’t feel I could continue to watch on and ignore/silently tolerate this pathetic jerk’s behaviour. It wasn’t really that funny in the first place, and it certainly isn’t now.