Sending the Wrong Message
Naya Rivera, actress behind Glee’s Santana Lopez, one of the most high profile lesbian characters on TV, is dating in a very public fashion, the misogynistic, (homophobic) rapper, Big Sean. (I can hear the groaning from here, but stick with me. This is important. Also please note, the focus here is Naya and how her actions are perceived and the much larger problem they represent.)
As is usually the case with an actor, especially actors who play LGBT characters, the actor behind favorite characters become just as special to the fans as the character themselves. Naya Rivera, because of Glee, has become one of these beloved actors, and she has, until now, returned the favor.
In interviews and the causes she supports, like GLAAD and the Trevor Project, has stated the importance of Santana’s role for the LGBT community and been incredibly supportive of the community. As a matter of fact, Naya’s popularity and career exploded once Santana began her journey to come out and love Brittany on Glee.
Naya’s role in Santana’s story has afforded her a passionate fan base, a large majority of whom are female, fierce LGBT allies, and LGBT people. (Yes, she has many, many straight fans.) Naya knows this. She has stated it many times, as recently as her appearance at the GLAAD awards this April, and she seemed appreciative of such a fan base.
But suddenly, Naya has attached herself to a rapper who personifies the homophobia and misogyny that her fans battle in their real lives, causing upset and confusion for a lot of her fans. By dating Big Sean, her previous messages about female empowerment, equality and loving her female fans seems disingenuous. Many fans feel alienated.
For those of you not familiar with Big Sean, he is a rapper whose lyrics are on the more offensive side as far as rap lyrics go. Here is an excerpt from one of his songs, which is dripping with misogyny and screams out the idea that women are sex objects for the gratification of men. (Rape culture). Not to mention, the lyrics are simply vile. (Warning, offensive.):
I walk up in this bitch/
Feelin like the fuckin’ man/
I might take yo bitch/
And make her fuck my mans/
I’m who to fuck, if you fuckin’ can/
Fuck this dick ho, fuck as you plan/
Fuck fuck fuck, you can fuck your friends/
Hold up, I got another “fuck you” again/
I’m a little off like a touch up/
While you gettin’ butt fucked/
Jacking off to two girl shittin in one cup/
I am with two girls, sippin on one cup/
VIP and I got one truck, and/
I got weed that’ll cough yo lungs up/
Forklift liftin’ my nuts up, because/
It’s going, to be, a very, big nut bust/
At about this point, some fans who feel celebrities can do no wrong (note: please remember celebrities are actually human), start screaming at each other that Naya can support who she wants, it’s her personal life, homophobia is just a belief (what!?), it’s just music and doesn’t mean anything, anybody who doesn’t support every decision Naya makes isn’t a fan, those who dislike Big Sean are racist, and it gets uglier and uglier.
But Naya’s actions here are indicative of a larger problem, the glossing over of beliefs that have dangerous, real life consequences. Homophobia as a belief leads to bullying, real struggle, violence and suicides. Misogyny contributes to the staggering statistic that 1 in every 3 women has been sexually assaulted or abused. These aren’t just “beliefs” with no consequences simply because they show up in “just a song.”
Naya Rivera has stated she supports women empowerment and her large, primarily female and LGBT friendly fan base multiple times. Here is an excerpt from an interview with LA Confidential. She gave the interview in February:
Seemingly in the month of May alone, Naya has gone from supporting her fan base, female empowerment and the LGBT community to primarily promoting activities that involve Big Sean. Big Sean was already offensive to a large majority of her fans (and women everywhere) before she even attached herself to him. It might be easier to stomach if Naya kept that part of her life private, but she hasn’t.
Naya spends more time tweeting about Big Sean than promoting her own activities. Though some of Naya’s own music is scheduled to come out in June and she is still allegedly involved as Santana on Glee this fall, all the publicity she has been doing recently has almost nothing to do with promoting her own exceptional talent. Fans are becoming increasingly frustrated that her talent isn’t the focus of her PR activities, but the offensive rapper is.
For a fan base built in large part, in Naya’s own recognition, of “lovely ladies”, there is little to be gained by Naya promoting her relationship with Big Sean, especially because according to interviews the genre of music she is creating is more pop in style, not rap. As a matter of fact, she will lose fans that don’t support the culture Big Sean represents. Even worse, Naya is hurting those same fans by promoting ideals that are damaging to a large percentage of the community that make up her fan base. This is and should be upsetting.
While Naya herself has not said anything that directly implies she is okay with homophobia and misogyny, her silence and continued promotion of Big Sean speaks volumes. Without saying anything on the subject, her actions demonstrate she is comfortable with everything Big Sean represents, and that has sent fans reeling, rightfully so. Hopefully this is unintentional on her part.
Against the argument of Big Sean’s (perceived) homophobia and obvious misogyny, some have said it’s “just music”, and “that’s just how the rap culture is.” That doesn’t make it right and that does not mean it should be given a pass. Mainstream art; music of all genres, just like TV and movies, has a huge influence on society and especially on young audiences who worship these artists.
The fact that people are willing to dismiss poor behavior and harmful values because it just appears in a song or attached to a favorite celebrity is a sad testament to the ingrained normalization and acceptance of both homophobia and misogyny in our culture. People need to speak up against homophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, etc.; in music, in other art, in government, walking down the street, everywhere, or things will never change. Never, ever should misogyny or homophobia get a pass because it’s “just a song”. It goes from that song, to the ears of impressionable minds, and straight to acceptance of violence and discrimination against women and the LGBT community.
The homophobia, misogyny and rape culture that Big Sean’s music promotes has real life consequences for real life people. By promoting her relationship with and Big Sean’s activity, Naya Rivera is contributing to a culture that is the antithesis of what she claims to stand for, and consequentially, losing fans in the process.