It is suddenly fashionable for student unions to cancel performers, often at great cost, after deciding they’ve done something reprehensible.
Student unions at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa dropped rapper Rick Ross this summer after complaints about lyrics that endorsed date-rape drugs. Ross, who was fired by Reebok over the same song, apologized.
Earlier this month, Western students cancelled Sean Kingston’s performance when they learned of a rape charge against him and then felt the need to apologize after his replacement Classified was accused of joking about rape on stage.
So it wasn’t surprising that the York Federation of Students cancelled A$AP Rocky last week after they learned he was charged with hitting a female fan at a Philadelphia concert. What might raise eyebrows is their choice of replacement. If you’re worried about misogyny—the message York’s Federation of Students is projecting by cancelling A$AP—Major Lazer might not be the best choice.
Consider the plot of their music video for Bubble Butt. Three females stand around looking bored until a giant Medusa-like figure enters through a window, sticks metal hoses in their behinds and pumps their butts up like balloons. They’re then transported to what looks like a strip club where they engage in particularly lewd Twerking while men offer such clever rhymes as, “Damn, b*tch, talk much, I don’t want interviews, I’m trying to get into you.” The apparent message is that women can have a lot more fun if they pump up their butts, stay quiet and allow men to have sex with them.
The first time I saw one of Major Lazer’s videos I was partly offended by the degradation of women and partly amused by the absurdity of such in-your-face sexuality. Perhaps it’s not sexist. Perhaps it’s art. The point is, what one person sees as sexist isn’t offensive in the eyes of another.
Going forward, if student unions plan to use their choices about performers to project values about sexism, racism or homophobia, they’re going to need to develop clear guidelines. Otherwise, they’ll end up sending mixed messages like YFS did when they cancelled A$AP and hired Major Lazer.