24 April 2021
“Feminist women love Eminem”
Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady.”
Hands up if you’re an Eminem fan (or should I say Stan?) and a staunch feminist? A femineminist, if you will?
Like many white Australian girls from the suburbs, I’ve idolised Eminem since the age of eleven. His unpredictable and darkly funny lyricism. His unmatched ability to spit fire. His iconic bleached blonde locks. But god, he makes it hard sometimes.
As retrospective think pieces that target problematic elements of yesterday’s popular culture have gained traction, some of the biggest hits such as Friends, Sex and the City, and Australia’s very own Summer Heights High have been called out for homophobia, transphobia, cultural appropriation and lack of racial diversity. Some call it cancel culture (or, a favourite of the over fifties, “political correctness gone mad”.) Some call it accountability.
Whatever your thoughts, Eminem is well and truly in the firing line for his controversial lyrics about sexuality, violence and not least, women.
In Billboard’s article “8 Problematic Early Eminem Songs that Wouldn’t Fly in 2016,” it’s argued that Eminem’s attitude toward women is culturally out of touch and an unfortunate relic of… the mid 90s. Who could’ve predicted back in those Dark Ages that violent misogyny wouldn’t age well!
But is this criticism really deserved? Let’s revisit some of the choicest lyrics from Eminem’s back catalogue and determine once and for all whether he does or does not have a problem with women.
In 1999’s “My Name is,” Eminem confesses;;
“My brain’s dead weight, I’m trying to get my head straight. But I can’t figure out which Spice Girl I want to impregnant.” (Is that one not a little bit funny?)
“I got pissed off and ripped Pamela Lee’s tits off. And smacked her so hard I knocked her clothes backwards like Kris Kross.”
Ok, I’m starting to see it. But when this album was released Eminem was a relative up and comer, trying to make a name for himself. He’ll probably mature and redeem himself as his career progresses. Probably!
“Babysit? You make me sick. Girl, you can jump on Shady’s dick.”
“In a couple of minutes that bottle of Guiness is finished. You are now allowed to officially slap bitches.”
Yeah, a theme is emerging. But what do you expect from a man who dresses in a Jason mask with a chainsaw, and has a tattoo of his mother’s tombstone reading “Rot In Pieces?” Besides, far worse lyrics have been written. By Em, apparently.
“We’ll be friends. I’ll call you again. Chase you around every bar you attend. Never know what kind of car I’ll be in. See how much you’ll be partying then.”
“Put anthrax on a Tampax and slap you til you can’t stand.”
“Support domestic violence. Beat your bitch’s ass while your kids stare in silence.”
Safe to say, he has a pretty disturbing sense of humour*. But it’s worth keeping in mind Marshall Mathers has never been accused of acting on these claims- not to suggest that you get points for not assaulting women. But consider the amount of entertainers who have, and who don’t face half the consequences Eminem does.
Such as Dr Dre, who in 1991 allegedly violently bashed a woman in the middle of an industry party. He never faced charges. Dre is another rap icon of the 90s and 2000s… who happens to be Eminem’s mentor and close friend. Oh.
So what does it say about me, that I continue to buy and listen to Eminem’s music? Probably some not that great things! (By all means, weigh in on that). But I don’t think it makes me less of a feminist. I also think that there’s a difference between legitimate expressions of hatred and playing a character. Because that’s what Eminem and Slim Shady are; characters, alter egos, created to get away with what Marshall Mathers, real person, never could.
Or in the words of the man himself;
“I say that shit just clowning dawg, come on how fucked up is you?”
*I’ve actually excluded some of the more disturbing lyrics, believe it or not.
Girls’ Locker Room Talk: art, articles and entertainment by women, for women (and everyone else)