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Here”s How Homophobia And Hip-Hop Got Divorced: The Genius That Is Macklemore

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By Sameera Khurana:

For those of you who watched MTV Video Music Awards 2013, you will downright agree that it wasn’t just about Miley Cyrus, the so-called ‘Queen of Twerking’. That night, celebrated an indispensable achievement in the hip-hop culture. In one of the ‘poignant’ moments of the evening, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ gay rights anthem— ‘Same Love’ won the award for the “Best Video with a Social Message”.


Before proceeding, it is of utmost importance to establish this fact: Macklemore got engaged to his girlfriend of seven years in the beginning of this year.

As I am writing this article, the video has probably crossed over 7,39,56,052 views on YouTube. But why? Why is this song so exceptional that it is consuming this space? The fourth single released by the rapper and producer Ryan Lewis from their album, The Heist, talks about legalizing same-sex marriage and was recorded during the campaign for Washington Referendum 74, which upon approval in 2012, legalized same-sex marriages in Washington.

“When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.”

The music video blinds you with the bright light of a hospital lamp, and then immediately jumps to images of children playing happily—climbing trees, riding their bikes, gazing at the creek. The camera shifts to an adorable little girl receiving flowers from her shy lover. As the story builds up, you’re made uncomfortable by a young boy who is extremely tense in his surroundings, almost like an outsider. Suddenly, the scene changes to the boy kissing another boy, consciously. And that’s when you understand his internal conflict. He ‘comes out of the closet’ and announces his sexual orientation. Extremely angry, the parents leave the dinner table. However, what proceeds is almost magical. The couple is having the time of their life and ceremoniously gets married (not in a church, obviously). And the video closes with the hospital scene, our main guy lying on the bed and his husband holding his hand, with pure tenderness and care.

“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying.”

So, why is this song so incredible again? Misogyny and homophobia are the two acceptable means of oppression in hip hop culture. It is 2013! Don’t you think there needs to be some accountability? As a society, we are evolving, and hip-hop has always been a representation of what’s going on in the world right now. Not only did the rapper condemn homophobia in mainstream hip-hop, society and mass media but he also managed to produce an anthem for the LGBT community when others of his kind are busy making songs that reek of misogyny and homophobia.

“A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser.”

A scathing critique of homophobia and hetero-normativity, Macklemore’s rap conveys that hate is behind denying gay marriage. This is the same hate that was behind the oppression of religion and races; we are denying people the right to marry by calling them ‘lesser’. While accepting the award, the rapper said that “Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation.” This song has been called as socially relevant, since equality is at the forefront of what’s going on in politics right now. Even today, in India, same-sex marriage isn’t legal.

“And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us.”

Countless number of people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community face discrimination on a daily basis. Macklemore isn’t gay, but it takes tremendous courage to openly support such a controversial topic and wreck havoc in the hip-hop world. The song begins with Macklemore’s candid reflection on his third grade fear of being gay, because of a ‘buncha stereotypes all in my head’ at such a young age, and moves to challenging religious hypocrisy, gay conversion therapy, mainstream hip hop, bullying in schools…and the list goes on and on. I hope that we, the youth, are able to stop discrimination on the ground of gender in terms of love.

Maybe there’s more than one way to express that civilization, but as of now, we might need music videos.

You must be to comment.
  1. Some bored guy in his basement

    “Oh, he doesn’t insult the gay community? He doesn’t demean women? He doesn’t talk about shooting up the club? He must be the first of his kind!”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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