Over the course of our Tyler the Creator campaign, we've received hundreds of Facebook comments, emails and tweets from fans of Tyler the Creator. Many of them ask the same questions or reiterate the same defences for Tyler's behaviour. We address some of the more common arguments from Tyler's defenders here.
1. "You're stopping him from entering the country!"
Collective Shout does not have the authority to stop anyone from visiting Australia. Like all citizens we have the ability - and the right - to appeal to the Minister for Immigration to deny or revoke a visa for a visitor who may pose a threat to the Australian community.
Tyler the Creator does not plan to merely ‘visit Australia,’ rather he intends to come here for commercial reasons. As outlined in our letter to the Department of Immigration "the content of the product he sells propagates discriminatory ideas about women and other groups, and represents a danger to a segment of the Australian community on the potential basis of incitement to acts of hatred."
If Tyler the Creator is denied a visa, it will be solely because of the product or message he is promoting and/or his behaviour.
2. “You can’t tell me what I can and can’t listen to- this is censorship!”
We are not dictating what music people listen to. We are not preventing Tyler the Creator from making, distributing or selling his music, nor are we stopping fans from accessing or listening to his music. What we are doing is calling on the Australian Government to refuse to give Tyler the Creator a platform here to denigrate and incite violence against women. (What is Incitement? Read here)
Domestic violence has become a national emergency, with two women being murdered by men each week. It is hypocritical for the Government to implement a National Plan of Action, investing billions of dollars, while simultaneously welcoming individuals into the country who vilify women and glorify violence against them for entertainment purposes.
Collective Shout is calling on Immigration to enforce policies that are already in place regarding Controversial Visa Applicants- individuals “whose presence in Australia may, because of their activities, reputation, known record or the cause they represent and propagate, vilify or incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.”
3. “But what about Tyler’s free speech?”
To quote the Department of Immigration and Border Patrol:
“The Australian Government supports freedom of speech. However, the exercise of this freedom involves a responsibility to avoid vilification of, inciting discord in, or representing a danger to, the Australian community.
"In cases where a person is assessed as representing a risk that they may vilify or incite discord, or otherwise represent a danger to the Australian community, a person may be refused a visa."
Tyler has used his freedom of speech to vilify women, he has incited threats against them via dog whistle tactics. It is not only the speech but the behaviour that goes along with it. He whipped up a crowd into a frenzy in 2013 with his verbal abuse towards a female activist - she had already received threats online for several days and continued to do so after footage of the incident was posted online.
He's done the same thing a second time with Coralie Alison. Tyler the Creator has refused to use his freedom of speech to condemn the threats and abuse hurled at Coralie Alison in his name.
Free speech does not mean freedom from criticism. It doesn't mean an individual is entitled to a platform in a foreign country.
In a piece on cracked.com, author Adam Tod Brown made the following argument in response to a comedian who was facing consequences after making offensive jokes:
"His jokes were seen as offensive by more than a few people, and as a result, the insurance company that had been paying him severed all ties with the screechy-voiced comic.
"Is that how freedom of speech is supposed to work? Yes, that's exactly how it's supposed to work. Again, it's not like he was arrested. People have the right to say what they want, and other people have a right to react to it, provided that reaction doesn't infringe upon your right to be a person who's alive and free. Taking a job is not the same as taking a person's freedom, and equating the two borders on insensitive. There are people legitimately getting beaten and incarcerated for the things they say in some countries. Sorry you're less rich because you can't wait a month to start tweeting about a tragedy, though."
Tyler's freedom of speech is hardly in question- he's a celebrity with a large international fan base. Many others do not have similar access to freedom of speech. The voices of women and girls, survivors of rape and physical violence are silenced from these conversations. Why should Tyler's perceived 'right' to exploit women take precedence over women's rights to dignity, justice and equality?
4. “He’s just playing a character- it’s art/irony/satire”
Art, satire, irony, a joke- these are all common go-to defences for misogyny, as if the content should be somehow exempt from critical analysis because it is art or a joke. Read more about this here.
It’s no coincidence however that much of this ‘art’ is at the expense of women, even survivors of rape and violence. This sexualized abuse and exploitation of women is great for generating profits.
While it is entirely possible for artists and musicians to use art, humour and irony to pose meaningful questions and comment on the state of the world and society, Tyler’s near constant uncritical exploitation and abuse of women for entertainment purposes doesn't even come close to that. What is the statement being made? Where is the condemnation of the abusive treatment of women? Rather, the men who degrade and demean women are positioned as badasses who don’t give a f*ck and women reduced to “bitches”.
It’s also worth noting that all of this “art” (and we use the term loosely) glorifying violence against women does not occur in a vaccum, but in a culture where violence and abuse of women is at epidemic levels, with two women being murdered by men every week. While the groundswell is growing, with increasing pressure on the government to take action to save women’s lives, we must acknowledge the drivers of men’s violence against women- the attitudes towards women, ingrained sexism and a culture where women are routinely reduced to mere sexual objects for men’s use and entertainment.
Tyler’s concerts are open to all ages. We doubt that 12 year olds in attendance have grasped any intended irony.
5. “You just need to do your research- have you ever listened to his music?”
We have been campaigning against Tyler the Creator for two years. In this time, we have listened to his songs, watched music videos, read numerous articles, watched countless hours of interview and performance footage, and even attended concerts. Our ears are crying and we want those hours of our lives back.
6. “Your entire campaign is based on a misunderstanding of his lyrics.”
While we strongly object to Tyler’s sexually violent lyrics, detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses, our campaign goes further than this.
Tyler has a history of abusive treatment to real women and inciting violence against them. When Canadian recording artists Tegan and Sara wrote an open letter condemning his misogynistic lyrics, he responded by tweeting, “If Tegan and Sara need some hard dick, hit me up!”
When female activists (including Collective Shout) combined in a campaign calling on MTV to not air Kanye West’s Monster music video (dubbed “a rape scenario set to music”) Tyler responded with a tweet naming two key women personally, Sharon Haywood of Adios Barbie and Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist, calling them “f*cking bitches” with a veiled rape threat to “suck his dick”.
In 2013, when young activist Talitha Stone accused Tyler of misogyny in a tweet, he shared the tweet with his then 1.7 million followers who took the bait and turned on her, with threats of abuse, violence and rape, with one tweeting what he believed to be her address.
When Talitha attended his Sydney concert to report on it, she filmed as Tyler the Creator unleashed a vicious tirade of abuse against her, calling her a bitch, a whore and a c**t as the crowd cheered, unaware Talitha was present. Another young woman present at the concert was raped.
Tyler’s incitement to violence of Talitha was instrumental in New Zealand’s decision to bar him from entry the following year.
Tyler the Creator was arrested for inciting a riot at the SXSW music festival in March 2014. The venue had reached capacity but Tyler instructed the crowd outside to force their way through barricades. (Watch here)
7. “If you don’t like it don’t listen to it.”
The issue here is not one of offence, or personal taste. It’s not about whether or not we, or anybody, likes this music. It’s about the normalization and glorification of violence against women.
To say if “we don’t like it don’t listen simple!” – Yes, that is a very simple statement, but it is a completely ineffective response to violence against women in our culture.
We don’t like it, we don’t watch it, but we have to live in a community with people who do. We have to live in a community with people whose sexist attitudes towards women are reinforced by music like this. We have to live in a community with people whose ideas that women are “bitches” and objects of sexual recreation are affirmed by these events.
We and other women and girls are harmed by this toxic culture, even if we have never personally attended a Tyler the Creator concert or purchased an album.
The glorification of violence against women as entertainment harms all women, not just those who say they choose to participate. “Don’t like it, don’t watch it” makes as much sense as saying “don’t like pollution, don’t breathe.”
8. “Why didn’t you campaign against Eminem entering the country?”
Except that we did.
9. "He doesn't really mean it about raping and murdering women."
Tyler’s motivations for rapping about raping women are largely irrelevant. As a man, he is not in a place to dictate how women or rape survivors should feel about his lyrics that trivialise the violence against them, or to argue it’s just ironic, just as he is not in a place to tell gay people how to feel about his frequent use of a slur against them.
10. “You’re just racist.”
Some have argued that because Tyler the Creator is black, our campaign must be motivated by racism, rather than a desire to fight hate speech against women. In reality, we have participated in campaigns against a range of recording artists who promote rape culture (including Robin Thicke and Brian McFadden). Last year we partnered with a coalition of domestic violence organisations calling on Immigration to revoke Eminem’s visa. We were not successful in this case.
We are a non-profit volunteer organisation with limited resources. If we aren’t prepared to launch official campaigns against every artist who profits from misogyny does that mean we shouldn’t campaign against any?
As Dr Caroline Norma wrote, the debate on violence against women, as glamourized by the music industry, isn’t about colour. Read more here.
11. “You're referring to his earlier work- he doesn't rap about rape anymore, he's evolved as an artist.”
Are we to assume that Tyler won’t be performing any of his earlier work at his concerts? Set lists from his US Cherry Bomb tour suggest that several of his songs glorifying violence against women will be performed at his (all ages) concerts.
Tyler has built his career on the degradation of women. He’s made a name for himself and profited from this material. It’s not enough for him to just not do that anymore, he has to take responsibility for his choices and actions and own up to when he’s gotten it wrong. If Tyler is truly concerned with equality he needs to strongly condemn his earlier work.
Just last week Tyler performed ‘Rella’ live on Jimmy Kimmel (see lyrics here). Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
“Nigga my d*ck’s in her jaw…my bitches white and I need f*cking head..bitches on my d*ck…Your girlfriend had a really nice meeting with my d*ck, I killed that p*ssy and grabbed that knife…met up with bitches, gave ‘em c*m on their dimples.”
Is this supposed to be progress?
If Tyler is truly concerned with equality he needs to strongly condemn his earlier work. Instead, he's made it available to stream via his Golf Media App.
12. "There are so many more important causes- why aren’t you helping the homeless, fighting poverty, helping victims of domestic violence?"
Collective Shout supporters are diverse, and many of us are engaged with humanitarian efforts, education and activism. As an organisation, our core work is campaigning against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls.
There are many important causes to fight for. We would suggest to Tyler fans - particularly those sending threats and abuse to our activists - that most things are more important than fighting for the right of a wealthy rapper to make more money in Australia.
More voices are needed to take a stand against violence against women and the cultural drivers that lead to it. That's a cause worth fighting for.
13. "It's just hip-hop culture."
In an article titled "Why Tyler the Creator's Lyrics matter, a female Hip-hop fan's perspective" Francis Vinall wrote:
People would have you believe that misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop are acceptable because they’re a part of “hip-hop culture,” something which is tied in with black culture, and anyone who is offended just “doesn’t get it”. This is not only misguided, but doesn’t logically follow considering the majority of Tyler’s listeners seem to be straight white teenage boys, as verified in our review of his Melbourne show.
This concept is also racist in itself; as if having dark skin and being from a certain socioeconomic background makes a person inherently prone to sexual violence and hatred. Of course it doesn’t, and that insinuation is a backwards one for any artist to make.
Excusing the behaviour of hip-hop artists on that basis makes the implicit assumption that hip-hop culture should not be held to the same standard as all the other parts of Western society. It implies that hip-hop culture is not of the same standard, which is a patronising and elitist attitude to both those making the music, and the listeners.
The entire article is worth reading. Click here.
14. “He’s actually promoting equality- check out his clothing line.”
Any legitimate attempts by Tyler the Creator to promote equality are undermined by his treatment of women. If he was truly concerned about equality, not referring to women as “bitches” and “hoes” would be a good place to start.
If he was concerned about equality, perhaps his online store wouldn’t sell porn-inspired items like this that reduce women to sexualized objects existing for men’s gratification.
We can't ignore his real life behaviours, including his dealings with women who disagree with him. Threatening lesbians with corrective rape (which is what he’s essentially doing, offering them ‘good hard dick’), silencing female dissent by threatening them with oral rape and unleashing a tirade of abuse on women who criticize his lyrics about rape are not the building blocks of equality.
15. "Tyler the Creator can't be held responsible for the behaviour of his fans."
In an article on Faster Louder, writer Tom Mann rejects this argument:
"Tyler must have known that by tagging in Alison’s Twitter and directly attributing the “ban” to her efforts she’d be inundated with tweets from his supporters. And, sure enough, a furious volley of abuse – including many disturbingly misogynistic comments that graphically detail acts of sexual violence – was hurled at Alison from the darkest corners of the internet. As the abuse rained down Tyler stayed silent. Then, 36 hours after inciting the fury, Tyler returned to Twitter to distance himself from the trolls by claiming that he isn’t responsible for what other people say, which is both true and extremely disingenuous.
"As a rapper Tyler knows more than most about the power of words. He knows that he doesn’t need to tell people directly to go out and attack his critics; that by simply naming them the trolls among his 2.5 million Twitter followers will go to work. Tyler may not have asked for people to tweet abuse in his name but he certainly didn’t do anything to stop it either, and by singling out Coralie Alison he gave his angry and disappointed fans a target.
"But while Tyler may have distanced himself from many of his older lyrics and past accusations of homophobia, he has done himself no favours by directing an attack on Coralie Alison. Even as someone who disagrees with Collective Shout’s efforts to ban Tyler from touring – and who has paid to watch Tyler perform – it’s impossible to side with him on this one. If he’s serious about wanting to “spread good vibes” Tyler needs to own up to his mistakes and call off the trolls. By allowing them to abuse women in his name without explicitly condemning their words he continues to link his music to misogyny and hatred. It’s one thing to claim artistic license and explore dark and at times disgusting ideas, but it’s another matter to allow those ideas to flourish in real life.
It is worth noting that Tyler similarly set his fans on Collective Shout activist Talitha Stone in 2013, who was bombarded with threats of rape and abuse- which was exactly the intended consequence.
It is not surprising that fans of Tyler the Creator would respond in this way, given the themes in his music and the behaviour he has modelled himself. If Tyler the Creator had any desire to demonstrate concern or respect for women, he could very easily call off his attack dogs at any time. Yet the silence continues.
16. "You've never even met him."
No, we have not met him. The idea that we should have just sat down over coffee and talked with Tyler the Creator about our concerns, as some fans have suggested, is frankly ridiculous. We've seen how Tyler the Creator typically responds to women who dare express a dissenting opinion. (See: 6. 'Your entire campaign is based on a misunderstanding of his lyrics' section.)
17. "Are you going to reimburse me for my ticket?"
No. Contact Frontier Touring.
The Department of Immigration is yet to make a statement regarding the status of Tyler the Creator's visa application.
Read and add your name to our letter - Immigration Minister: Deny visa for Tyler the Creator
Confusion as Tyler the Creator claims he's banned from Australia Sydney Morning Herald
Solidarity with Coralie Alison as Tyler the Creator fans send death threats End Online Misogyny