Thursday 18 December 2014

Time for women, and men, to fight the hideous 'normalisation' of rape

Published 04/09/2013 | 05:00

A New York City protest against Reebok for not firing rapper Rick Ross
Chris Fountain's rap alias 'The Phantom'
Chris Fountain

WHY is it that so many young men think it's OK to sing, rap or record music that degrades women and 'normalises' rape and violence towards them?

It is no longer the edgy, dark, underground singers that do this. It's mainstream rappers and hip-hop artists whose songs are played on the radio. Music our children listen to, music that we sing along to.

Did you know the term 'molly' is urban slang for a pure form of the drug ecstasy? I thought it was a girl's name. Am I the only one? Do we really pay attention to lyrics? It seems we should.

But it's not just the hip-hop community that glorifies rape in some of its music, now it's 'nice' soap actors too. The 25-year-old actor, Chris Fountain – who played Tommy Duckworth in the popular soap 'Coronation Street' – has been axed from the show after explicit rap videos of him glorifying rape and violence emerged online.

Although the online clips were recorded a year ago under the moniker of masked MC 'The Phantom', they have only just been leaked and TV executives at ITV decided to take immediate action and fire Fountain.

In one horrifying clip, he raps about dragging a girl upstairs, adding: "I will f*** anybody up in the worst way, rape a b***h on her birthday."

Does that seem normal to you? This is not a kid from the projects in Detroit, raised by parents addicted to heroin. This is a 'nice' boy raised in Yorkshire. He was runner-up in the family show 'Dancing on Ice' for goodness sake. He had teenage girls swooning over him. And yet, here he is, spouting lyrics about raping women, bombing houses and stabbing people in the face with syringes.

Luckily for him the expletive-laden videos have been removed from YouTube, but not before being viewed by thousands of people – including young, impressionable fans.

Fountain, clearly terrified of the media backlash to his misogynistic and vile raps, issued an apology and said he is "deeply ashamed" of the videos and lyrics about raping women.

He said: "I would like to sincerely apologise for any offence I have caused. I am deeply ashamed by the lyrics and very much regret my behaviour." I'm sure he does regret his behaviour. No one will touch him with a barge pole now. ITV and BBC have declared him 'unemployable' for at least the next five years.

Nevertheless, it's hard to feel sympathy for him. His lyrics were branded "a disgrace" by leading rape charities across the UK.

His 'Coronation Street' colleagues are said to be upset with the harsh way he has been treated. But, perhaps they should take a step back and look at what he was saying, what he was implying and what he was suggesting.

It seems there is a leaning in young men's attitudes and behaviour towards the 'normalisation' of rape. How can we make them see that it is one of the most heinous crimes you can commit?

Thankfully, women's groups are hitting back. A recent success story was when the popular rapper Rick Ross was dropped by his sponsor, Reebok, after an aggressive campaign by feminist groups.

In a song he penned, Ross glorifies rape by saying: "Put molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it... I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it."

Feminist group UltraViolet harnessed social media to campaign against Ross and his vile lyrics about drugging a woman and then raping her. The group said its mission is to call attention to a culture that tolerates rape.

Nita Chaudhary, founder of UltraViolet, pointed out that Reebok was rewarding a man who glorified rape and that it was just wrong.

When UltraViolet's efforts to contact Reebok executives failed, they circulated an online petition asking the company to end its endorsement deal with Ross. The campaign gained momentum when other feminist bloggers and commentators weighed in. Reebok eventually caved and dropped Ross.

It's an encouraging example of the positive power of social media to negate the negative power of social media. But therein lies the problem. Most people who want to, can video themselves performing their vile lyrics and promote that online with no concerns about consequences.

But now, at last, women are using the internet to fight back. Social media, correctly used, can mobilise an army of women and indeed men, to wage war against these misogynist pigs and make them face the consequences of their actions and most of all, their words.

Irish Independent

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