No one likes to be a downer. No one likes to ruin a party. I would argue that the creators of the petition, “Cancel Tyga at Yardfest,” did not have these motives in mind, and furthermore, that the approximately 2,000 members of the Harvard community (and other interested parties) who have signed the petition didn’t either. The petitioner and signatories aren’t party-poopers. They’re trying to start a productive discussion about morality on this campus. The issue of how Harvard students approach discourse has been of interest in this conversation; do we talk about it as a race issue? A socioeconomic issue? A culture issue? A gender issue? But arguably, any minority or majority group could find some way to praise or criticize of Tyga and his music. To me, we can bandy about the above terms of discussion in any number of permutations, but the issue of the petition itself comes down to a much more visceral, gut notion of what we on this campus think about morality and ethical action.
More often than not, pro-Tyga comments were followed by a “why would you want to cancel a free, undergraduate concert?!” or “try not to ruin this for the rest of us with your armchair feminism!” or “well there goes $30,000.” To me, this represents how the issue itself comes down to tradeoffs. People enjoy Yardfest–I enjoy Yardfest, hell, I even think ‘Rack City’ has a catchy beat. In fact, people enjoy the idea of this concert so much that they seem prepared to forego the importance of realistic, reasoned debate about the issue, and the quite strong opinions of their peers, just so that this event stays on the calendar.
On the other hand, I believe that I, and others who signed this petition, think that it’s important to give up something you enjoy for a cause or idea that you think is valid, whether its Tyga’s hypersexualized depictions of women or his misogynistic language. Even arguments that try to portray Tyga and his lyrics in the most positive light (and that is no simple feat, I assure you), seem to be far more motivated by the desire to dance, drink and enjoy Yardfest, rather than a desire to have a more nuanced debate. Reasonable discussions about Tyga, the idea of culture and misogyny among our generation, the importance of race and black culture in this debate, are and should be welcome; however, arguments that simply label the entire notion of the debate as stupid, and that come to the conclusion that we should just get on with Yardfest shouldn’t be.
Perhaps, this deep urge for a party, regardless of the artist and the implications of their music, is representative of a more primal urge for a greater sense of community on this campus–one that I share as well. However, community at Harvard need not be rallied around lyrics that not only place women a couple of centuries behind in terms of social progress, but that are inherently violent and disturbing. Rather, communities ought to be formed around cultural ideas of what misogyny, sexism and modern-day feminism actually mean at Harvard. Some might say that such activism trivializes the feminist movement, but as an ardent feminist myself, I do not think there is any feminist issue that is so trivial that it should be dismissed the way some Harvard students have dismissed this petition.
Photo Credit: University of California, Riverside