Rape Culture Is Everyone's Problem: Why Male Celebrities Need to Speak Out

The reaction to Theophilus London's tweets has taught us one thing: Young people listen to male celebrities.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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On April 8, 23-year-old Malika Anderson publicly accused stylist and creative consultant Ian Connor of rape. Many of Connor’s followers were quick to defend him in light of the allegations; others went one step further, calling Malika a whore on social media—meant both literally and as a way to describe the kind of person who seeks fame indiscriminately. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, six other women came forward with their accusations of sexual assault against Connor. The reaction was largely the same for each; Malika deleted her Twitter account.

Earlier today, after a period of relative quiet, rapper Theophilus London reignited interest in the matter when he took to Twitter to call Connor a “dirty f***ing rapist.” The tweet followed an altercation between Connor, London, and A$AP Bari at the boutique Colette in Paris. Although he was soon joined by Bari in voicing his disapproval of Connor, London’s tweet was the first time any celebrity associated with Connor had spoken out publicly against him—or publicly about the allegations at all, for that matter. Even as the list of women who said Ian raped them had risen to half a dozen, none of Connor’s famous cohorts released even a single tweet, even 140 characters to express any sentiment about him—with the exception, of course, of London himself, who posted an image of Connor back in April, with the caption: “Ian innocent, photo by me.”

Every time I see u I'm gonna fuck you up, Evrytime u dirty fucking rapist @souljaian #Eveytime

The messages from London and Bari—and the social media free-for-all that ensued once videos of their Parisian brawl made their way online—changed the tenor of the conversation. “Ian Connor is f***ing finished,” one user posted. “How Can Ian Connor's Career Exist If Kanye's Support Isn't Real,” asked another. “Ian Connor is a straight bitch,” another shared, succinctly. To read these reactions online is to learn that in the great hierarchy of offensive acts, getting punched on camera is worse than being accused of rape, and the condemnation of two occasional rappers bears more weight than that of six ordinary black women.

The root causes behind this type of thinking are too tremendous to count—although racism, sexism, classism, rape culture, celebrity culture, and unbridled ignorance all seem like good places to start. But the first step in the course to correct it is much easier to see. It would take someone with a far greater reach than you or I to speak directly to young people and actually compel them to listen to an argument against the dangers of rape culture and misogynistic thinking. Someone who, say, already commands their undivided attention with millions of followers on social media. Someone whose every move is documented by news outlets, both legitimate and questionable, all around the world. Someone who already changes the way young people live—especially young men: they dress the way he dresses, repeat the catchphrases he creates, research the topics he discusses in interviews.

It would take someone with a far greater reach than you or I to speak directly to young people and actually compel them to listen to an argument against the dangers of rape culture and misogynistic thinking.

“He” is not one person. He is any number of the musicians, athletes, actors, and public figures we all adore, all of whom have the power to make their audience listen to and consider and believe what they say, as evidenced by London and Bari today—two celebrities whose clout, if we’re being honest, is dwarfed by the top-tier talent in their immediate vicinity who’ve said nothing. One tweet in defense of a rape victim from any of those men may not change the world, but it would at least cause the world to stop for a moment and take notice. All they need to do is grow a pair and hit send.

Silence is not an option in 2016. Our political leaders are letting us down every single day. Male celebrities can sell—clothes, music, cologne, emojis, all the seats in Madison Square Garden. But if they can’t sell the idea that we should believe women, does any of that mean a goddamn thing?

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