In the wake of the anticlimactic Yale College Council announcement about this year’s Spring Fling acts, extraordinary praise erupted over the decision to invite rapper CupcakKe. Amidst a flood of enthusiastic comments and incredulous citations of her filthiest lyrics, I saw CupcakKe hailed by Yalies as a “queer icon” and “the best thing Yale’s done for the LGBT community.”
I did my best to search for a silver lining. Much ink has been spilled over CupcakKe’s inclusivity, which is apparently as much a part of her brand as her pornographic content. Her discography includes a song titled “LGBT,” a shout-out to the gay supporters who form a significant portion of her fan base and whom she vocally defends on social media. “F- – – out of my way when you see me, I’m rolling with the LGBT,” she sings during the chorus. Sure enough, she works her way through the initialism, acknowledging each letter. (A, however, seems to not have made the final cut.)
As cringe-worthily blatant as the title is, the music video’s surprising homogeneity disappointed me more. Gay men and drag queens overwhelmingly occupied the foreground, dancing playfully around CupcakKe, while the video’s (presumably) lesbian representation was limited to a handful of floral- or flannel-clad girls dancing awkwardly in the back.
If we’re lauding her for inclusive subversion, I have definitely seen better acts. I literally could not — and I’d be hard-pressed to find queer women of color who could — see equal representation in an “inclusive” song whose message is ultimately just as phallocentric as the rest of CupcakKe’s discography. Whatever “inclusivity” can be found in the generic “LGBT,” written by a very heterosexual woman, approaches dangerously close to the level of A$AP Rocky (A$AP Ferg’s frequent collaborator) wearing a Dior “We Should All Be Feminists” shirt in a video featuring misogynistic lyrics. That is, a commodification of diversity, which I find just as difficult to swallow as the rest of her music.
So maybe she’s not the best queer icon. But what about her playfully nasty sexual liberation anthems?
Personally, nothing about her phallus-glorifying lyrics or celebration of kink makes me feel any more empowered. (I look at a lot of classical art. I’ve seen more than enough penises, and I’ve seen enough men.) It also didn’t make me feel better to discover that she’d sexually harassed Korean pop-star Jungkook over Twitter. Behind her brand, I’m sure CupcakKe is well-meaning, and I genuinely appreciate the help she’s offered to gay fans. I am disturbed, however, by my peers’ urge to normalize aggression and crude behavior on a universitywide stage. Realistically, sophisticated defenses of kink culture are a little advanced for a campus struggling to define consent.
It would require a stretch of the imagination to find a public venue appropriate for CupcakKe’s music and supposed feminist liberation. Perhaps we might finally find an anthem in CupcakKe if Yale staged a Thesmophoria, an ancient Greek female-only festival where women baked phallus cakes and sang tawdry songs about their sex lives. Or better yet — a rebellion, a la Aristophanes’ “Thesmophoriazousae,” in which women enraged about a misogynistic poet’s misrepresentation of females as insane and sexually depraved plot their revenge.
CupcakKe is definitely facing more heat than she individually deserves. For all the discomfort she evokes, her invitation has triggered a fascinating debate over who gets to control representations of female sexuality. Supporters have pointed out the equally violent and graphic music of male rappers who have been featured on campus, and rightfully so; the people protesting CupcakKe should take even greater issue with A$AP Ferg.
But if that’s the argument, we should simply screen our performers more strenuously or entertain the exclusion of all graphic music artists, rather than welcoming female participation in music that, to many women, demeans them. Yalies did, after all, protest the invitation of the Ying Yang Twins and Ja Rule for this exact reason. The norm of pornographic sexual aggression in rap and hip-hop does not mean that artists who promote them should be brought onto campus for the cheap excuse of “energy.” CupcakKe fans can attend her concerts and write close readings of her lyrics. Don’t use the student activities fee to normalize pornography and then invite me to dance to it.
Unless there is a more conscientious effort to weigh the moral significance of Spring Fling endorsements, we’ll continue to run useless circles every year around problematic rap and hip-hop picks. For those of us who will be offended, it seems like we don’t have any other option but to look away. For those of us searching for liberation and inclusivity, we would likely be better served by looking elsewhere. I’ll be waiting for my Thesmophoria in the meantime.
Sherry Lee is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .