Support for abusive artists proves unethical, disrespectful

Gigi Cepeda, co-opinions editor

A few weeks ago, my friend offered me an earbud, and as someone who often shares music with me, I was interested to hear whatever he deemed adequate for my picky taste. What I heard made me reel back, not because of the sound streaming from the headphones but because of the artist singing the lyrics: rapper XXXTentacion. In that moment I was feeling a moral dilemma: do I take the earbud out with X’s troubled history in mind or do I just give in to the fact that, well, this is a pretty good song?

In case you haven’t heard, XXXTentacion was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness-tampering. In his ex-girlfriend’s deposition, she describes a horrific routine of abuse, including repeatedly threatening to kill her and her unborn baby.

This has been a hot topic of discussion since X’s album came out in March of this year. Can you separate an artist from their art? Do artists like XXXTentacion and Chris Brown, who was convicted of domestic abuse just a few years ago, deserve the listen despite their personal faults, no matter how horrific they may be? Should we acknowledge that by supporting these artists’ music, we are not only supporting the art itself, but also the problematic (and violent) artists?

This isn’t solely a matter of giving artists money or defiling the music by associating it with a personal figure. Moreso, people’s support for abusive artists strikes me as disrespectful to the women who have been assaulted, and the millions of women who suffer domestic abuse each year. How can we preach about Time’s Up and #MeToo when consumers of pop culture choose to ignore women’s voices?  Time and time again, when people continue supporting known abusers, the sound of the men’s music is turned up over the cries of women.

On one hand, many say we should separate artists from their art. On the other hand, many artists would testify that their art is their life. If they’re one in the same, why is it wrong to associate one’s music with their crimes?

I would make the same argument for any athlete, actor, producer or person of otherwise celebrity. I remember, during the 2016 World Series, being infuriated that the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher who was suspended 30 games that season for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy. Some may say the closer was integral to the team’s success, but I just wondered if winning was worth it at the cost of sacrificing the Cubs’ integrity.

That raises the question in sports: do impressive stats override a history of abuse? Similarly, in music: does a unique or well-mastered album override misdeeds in the artist’s personal life? Should we even care?

In a social media-driven world where fame often translates to a personal connection with celebrities, supporting a problematic figure isn’t just about giving them money: we are validating the image they craft for themselves.

My problem isn’t about the money. Rotten people have been rich since, well, forever. My problem is when the people who call themselves feminists turn around and support men that represent everything we are trying to change. If we are truly trying to change a culture that degrades, hurts and kills women, we need to bring more positive figures into the limelight and push aside artists that perpetuate evils in our society and set an example for boys and girls alike.

We need to confront the consequences of our actions and acknowledge that the people we support become the people prevalent in the media, and thus, the people children will grow up watching. Our actions have real, tangible consequences; by changing who we choose to support, we could quite literally be reshaping culture and saving tens, hundreds, even thousands of women suffering from domestic abuse from feeling pushed aside.