Conservative pundits have employed a number of inventive tactics to explain or draw attention away from the sordid allegations about Donald Trump’s history with sexual assault. They’ve done everything from trot out Bill Clinton’s sexual assault accusers to outlining the very-important details of whether the planes where an alleged assault took place had armrests on its first class seats.
But the latest method-du-jour for Trump supporters is to single out lyrics from hip-hop artists as an attempt to highlight liberal hypocrisy. The “argument” is that, if you don’t mind bad words in a song, why would you mind them in a Donald Trump video?
A recent CNN panel featured one breathless commentator reciting lyrics from Beyoncé’s “Formation” as a supposed way to shame Hillary Clinton. And then there was Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter, who called out the Obamas’ friendships with hip-hop artists by quoting Nicki Minaj lyrics (even though Coulter mistakenly attributed them to Beyoncé).
This argument is, of course, a masterclass in false equivalency, with logic so riddled with holes you could strain spaghetti with it.
First, it assumes that the problem with Trump’s statements is that he said “pussy,” or described sex in a graphic manner, since that’s really the only thing Trump’s comments have in common with Nicki Minaj’s or Beyoncé’s lyrics. And this just isn’t the case. In fact, if you had to write a list of the most offensive things Trump has done this week, his word choice would likely not even crack the top five. Because this isn’t a question of diction, this is a question of consent, and a penchant for abusing powerthat Trump’s accusers will tell you extends back decades.
James Hamblin lays this argument out beautifully in his piece for The Atlantic, writing, “Talking explicitly about sex is different from bragging about forcing yourself on people.”
Talking explicitly about sex is what Beyoncé is doing when she describes treating her man to delicious but affordable seafood and cheddar biscuits after great sex. Or when Nicki lists the many bonafides of her lady-parts.
Had Trump merely recounted the thrilling consensual sexual escapades he’s had with women who were not his wife, segments of the American public may have been shocked, but those comments wouldn’t have provoked such horror.
But this isn’t what Trump did. And this isn’t what had Michelle Obama’s voice quavering as she described being shook to her core in her stunning speech against him on Thursday. It was his glowing recollection of the times he forced himself on women without their consent. The Republican candidate for president described, in no uncertain terms, sexual assault–and bragged about committing it. And, if bragging about hypothetical assault isn’t bad enough, there is the ever-growing list of women who have publicly said that yes, Trump did in fact do those things–and more.
What Coulter, Ingraham and others of their ilk are doing is using some raunchy lyrics to somehow deny the very real pain women feel regarding Trump’s behavior.
Moreover, the singling out of hip-hop is a predictable and distracting trope that ignores several notable things.
First, hip-hop lovers take issue with misogyny in hip-hop all the time. If you’re unaware of this, it’s probably because you’re the type of person who only looks up rap lyrics when you’ve got a conservative axe to grind.
Second, bragging about the consensual sex you’ve had or how great your you-know-what is isn’t misogyny.
Third, none of these people are running for president (if Kanye actually runs in 2020, then maybe we can talk).
If we really wanted to play the guilty-by-musical-association game, we could raise issues with Kid Rock, a Trump endorser, and his healthy catalogue of misogynistic lyrics. But we shouldn’t, because equivocating the act of passively consuming “offensive” lyrics, or movies, or jokes, is an insult to victims of sexual violence.
These things are not equal, and to imply that they are is distasteful, dishonest, and actually offensive.