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A Pop Culture Story as told by Twitter
By Ren Martinez
Most of the time, Twitter is the bastion of cat pictures and five-minute internet memes. Other times, it becomes a gladiator pit, featuring a battle with much larger implications.
In a recent interview on "The Breakfast Club," Amber Rose made some damning statements regarding 25-year-old rapper, Tyga. She called him out for dating Kylie Jenner, the 17-year-old girl of Kardashian fame, and publicly denounced the relationship, stating:
"She's a baby. She needs to go to bed at 7 o'clock and relax. Have a glass of milk. That's ridiculous. He should be ashamed of himself. He has a beautiful woman (Blac Chyna) and a baby and left that for a 16-year-old who just turned 17. Like naw...."
This, of course, induced a storm of reactions across the Internet, but most notably from the Kardashian sisters, who took it upon themselves not to decry the relationship between an adult man and a minor, but to remind Amber Rose that her past as a stripper absolves her of any legitimacy.
It was now Tyga’s turn to take the stage during his own interview at "The Breakfast Club." While he denied the rumors that he was dating the 17-year-old girl in question, he did make some questionable remarks that has most of social media up in arms. He stated that, “In black culture, if you hang around someone, you’re smashing. White culture is different — we really are friends.” He also stated that Kylie was a “beautiful young woman” whose “maturity and mentality are different from a lot of people.” He also mentioned, “If I decide in the future that I want to be with Kylie…I’m going to dictate my life.”
I'm not going to suss out whether Tyga is actually dating Kylie Jenner because he obviously is. (If anything, his statements mentioning her “maturity” and "different mentality” are straight out of The Pedophilia Handbook: Ephebophile Edition.) But, this Twitter feud has larger implications regarding wealth, privilege, sex-shaming, and colorism.
When Amber Rose described the situation, her words clearly focus on Tyga’s actions. She calls out the grown man for dating a minor and he is the focus of her outrage. However, when Khloe Kardashian intervenes, the focus quickly changes from Tyga’s actions to Amber Rose’s character. Referring to her past as a stripper deliberately strips her of any legitimacy and also focuses on Kylie Jenner’s comparative purity.
This victim-blaming is nothing new, in which any woman with a history of sex work is automatically decried as spoiled and untrustworthy, even if they were an exploited child at the time. That makes Khloe Kardashian’s attacks even more egregious, shaming Amber Rose for her exploitation rather that protecting her sister from being exploited herself. This also comes after an interview in 2012 on HLN’s The Joy Behar Show, in which she describes her relationship at fourteen with an 18 year old as “disgusting” and that her reasoning for sharing this story was “I have little sisters and my situation was not a good situation.”
The hypocrisy of sex-shaming Amber Rose is furthered because it was Kim Kardashian’s sex tape that propelled her into the fame and wealth that the entire family enjoys today. How is Amber Rose stripping at 15 to feed herself and her family degrading while Kim Kardashian’s sex tape and nude photo shoots are sex positive? Kardashians supporters often point to Kim’s various successes as a businesswoman as evidence as to why she should not be reduced to “a rich girl with a sex tape.” If that’s the case, then Amber Rose, who has had a successful modeling career and is worth around $5 million, cannot be reduced to “teen stripper.”
And yet, Khloe Kardashian’s latest response was to like some photos on Instagram, thus circulating them among her extensive fan base, which happened to be two of Amber Rose’s leaked nudes.
This sex-shaming is compounded by the advantages of wealth. One of Khloe Kardashian’s tweets points out that Kylie Jenner “has her career & shit together at 17.” What she does not point out is the privilege of growing up within a super-rich family and the privilege that affords. Kylie Jenner’s connections to media moguls, modeling executives, music producers, and other industry bigwigs cannot be ignored. Teenage girls in less advantageous circumstances should not be blamed for the choices they make to survive such circumstances, nor does not “having your shit together” at 17 make someone worthy of scorn and derision. And, once again, much of that privilege that Kylie Jenner has enjoyed is the result of her sister’s sex tape.
Tyga’s interview brings up another facet to this epic. Continued from the quote above, Tyga stated, “It’s genuine, it’s different. How we [black people] think, our mentality is different.” This blaming of black culture is his attempt to absolve himself of responsibility. His relationship with Kylie Jenner wouldn’t be considered inappropriate with White Culture; it’s Black Culture that’s spoiling the beautiful purity of his relationship with a 17-year-old girl. This is also indicative of the larger phenomenon of anti-blackness and how white supremacy, internalized racism, and colorism fuels dating preferences.
In the New Statesmen’s article “Colourism: Why even black people have a problem with dark skin,” the author sums up this attitude with a tweet, which states: “Party on Friday. White Girls free. Light skin girls 5 dollars. 50 dollars for dark skin girls.” The article continues to describe the documentary, Dark Girls, which features the voices of dark-skinned women and girls affected by racism and colorism, as well as interviewing black men regarding their preferences. These men give statements such as "I just prefer light skin women" or "Dark skinned women just look wrong next me" and flounder when asked to justify these preferences.
When it comes to putting Tyga’s statement into context, not only did he dissolve his relationship with Black Chyna, the mother of his child and a dark-skinned black woman, but now he is citing Black Culture itself for despoiling his relationship with Kylie Jenner, a white teenage girl.
The outrage regarding his statements was palpable:
So, why is any of this important? It’s just a Twitter feud, fueled by TMZ and paparazzo, a catfight contained in 140 characters. It’s just pop culture at its finest, and it’s the dismissal of pop culture as vapid and meaningless that makes its effect so powerful. The messages within this Twitter war and subsequent interviews are not simply about throwing shade; they are indicative of societal issues that we continue to grapple with. These tweets are part of a larger narrative, a story of sex-shaming, classism, and colorism being played out on a grand scale. Such a tale shouldn’t be dismissed as pop culture candy.
We’re a country with a sweet tooth, after all.
#Real #PopCulture #SocialIssues #SocialJustice #SocialMedia #Twitter #DoubleStandards #SexShaming #Feminism #Allies
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