This is going to be a difficult subject to talk about, because when we talk about privilege and allydom feathers always get ruffled. But I think it is important that these issues get discussed.
I guess I’m really bringing this up because this week the Macklemore song “Same Love” actually got to #1 on the Australian charts. My first reaction was, “Great!”
And I still think it’s great. A song about gay rights at the top of the charts? Fucking awesome! Especially seeing how gay marriage is an issue of contention and one frequently brought up by voters despite both sides of government refusing to allow it – and although approximately 63% of voters are said to be in favour of it.
But then I began to think about it a little more.
Yes, it’s a song about gay rights. But once again, it’s cushioned in straight opinions, straight feelings, straight reactions. Frank Ocean, despite a burst of sudden popularity, is not #1 on the singles chart with his song of same sex love. The queer artist is overshadowed by the straight artists singing about the issue (leaving aside the inclusion of Mary Lambert on the Macklemore single for one moment).
And that’s because the voices of the privileged always drown out the voices of minorities. The Boxing Day tsunami wiped out hundreds of thousands of Asian people, yet the film that gets made and gets acclaimed, The Impossible, is about a middle class white family who get caught up in it. Stories about minorities are always cushioned by a story about the privileged. Dances With Wolves was more about Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell rather than the First Nations. To Kill a Mockingbird, Ghosts of Mississipi, The Long Walk Home, The Help, etc. are all about how white people were affected by the civil rights movement and how they helped poor downtrodden and oppressed African Americans. I’m surprised Milk actually focused on Harvey Milk (but then, he was a white man, which is also its own privilege within the queer community).
Within the Macklemore song we are once again seeing the voices of the privileged rising above the minority. It wouldn’t bother me so much if I haven’t seen the song be so lauded for it, as if it is a miraculous thing to be positive about gay rights. I suspect that if it was by a gay artist it wouldn’t be as popular. The majority likes the story to be about themselves. If The Impossible was about an Asian family instead of Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor it wouldn’t be as visible to the mainstream public as it is. Macklemore are also praised for being brave. And, yes, within the hiphop community there is a lot of homophobia
But it’s not ‘brave’ to be supportive of gay rights – it’s actually just being a decent, hopefully normal human being
Brave is Frank Ocean, being queer within the hiphop community
Brave is Mary Lambert, a lesbian singer in that same community, even though she sadly ends up being the backup to a straight man in a song about gay rights.
Everybody is brave in their own way, but it’s disheartening when the actual voices of a community are drowned out by their supporters.
To prove that they're out there, a song about gay marriage by gay artists, Tegan and Sara: