Long Reads

Why Kanye West’s joke about Donald Trump is so deeply, deeply troubling

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Kayleigh Dray
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Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

The rapper was asked about Kim Kardashian’s meeting with the president – and his response has gone viral.

Kanye West is a name that is synonymous with controversy. Let’s refresh: West has compared himself to Hitler, gone on live TV to state that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, paused a live show to slate Justin Timberlake (“I ain’t f**king with that Suit & Tie”), allegedly smashed a photographer’s $6,000 camera and refused to let Taylor Swift finish at the MTV VMAs in 2009.

Perhaps most eyebrow-raising of all, though, is West’s undying support for Donald Trump. 

The rapper donned a bright red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat during Trump’s presidential campaign, and met the then president-elect in December 2016. He told reporters that during his meeting with Mr Trump in 2016 they talked about “life” – and has since referred to the POTUS as his “brother” (apparently they both share the same “dragon energy”).

So how did West feel about his wife, Kim Kardashian West, successfully lobbying the president to pardon Alice Marie Johnson (a great-grandmother who served 22 years of a lifetime sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offence)?

“Proud,” he told Jimmy Kimmel, during a recent interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“She’s super passionate about it and it was amazing for her to see that dream come true.”

However, when Kimmel asked if West was ever worried about Kardashian being alone in the presence of the president, the rapper responded with a resounding “yes”.

His reasons for worrying, though, are deeply, deeply troubling.

“He’s a player,” West said of Trump.

Right. Let’s examine that statement, shall we?

A ‘player’ is, according to Urban Dictionary, a person “who makes you feel special” and “like you are the only girl in his life, when really you are just one in 100”. A player is usually flirtatious, charming, handsome and incredibly charismatic – and usually has plenty of notches on their bedpost (to coin an incredibly outdated phrase) as a result.

The one defining feature of a ‘player’, though, is that they readily and frequently attract willing partners – and leave a string of broken hearts in their wake when they inevitably move onto their next fling.

The most important word in that sentence? I’ll repeat it once more, for those in the back: willing.

Trump might be a player by some definitions: he’s allegedly had lots of affairs and dated loads of women (Stormy Daniels was consenting, as was playboy model Karen McDougal). However, he’s also an alleged abuser. Indeed, at least 15 women have come forward with a wide range of accusations against the president, ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behaviour around women. 

Of the women, 13 say Trump attacked them directly and two others say they witnessed behaviour that made them uncomfortable. All the alleged incidents took place prior to Trump assuming the presidency.

Of course, the White House’s official stance is that women making accusations against Trump are lying and Trump has slammed the allegations as “false” and “fabricated” (via a tweet, naturally). However, there’s no forgetting Trump’s 2005 interview with Billy Bush, which saw him brag about abusing his celebrity to grope (or “pussy-grab”) women.

“When you’re a star they let you do it,” he can be heard boasting in the tape. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

When Kimmel asked West about Kardashian being left alone with Trump, he was not implying that the reality star would suddenly succumb to the president’s charms. Rather, the TV host (always vocal in his disapproval of Trump) was referring to the long list of charges that have been made against the POTUS, and alluding to the fact that Trump allegedly cannot be trusted not to force himself on women.

In short, Kimmel was giving West an opportunity to speak up, and speak out. He was offering the rapper a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the public.

West, though, instead decided to crack a joke. He floated the idea that Trump is a ladies man’. That he is, essentially, catnip to women everywhere. That the women who have levelled accusations against him aren’t victims of abuse, but victims to Trump’s charms.

And, in doing so, West has ignored, trivialised and normalised sexual assault. 

While I am disappointed in West, I am not surprised. This is, after all, the same person who rapped that “me and Taylor might still have sex” because he “made that bitch famous”. Who can be seen rearranging the overtly sexualised, lifeless bodies of women around him in the 2010 video for Monster. And who genuinely thought it appropriate to tweet the words, “BILL COSBY INNOCENT”, in screaming capital letters, just days after a stream of allegations poured in about the TV star.

It seems as if, in playing the misogynist, West has become – much like his idol, Trump – a misogynist. And, in a post #MeToo world, we need to make a point of calling out this kind of “locker room talk” whenever and wherever we hear it.

Because (to paraphrase West himself) if we don’t scream, if we don’t say something, then no one’s going to say anything.

Image: Getty