Two months ago, A$AP Mob released the video for "Wrong," in which A$AP Rocky is wearing a Dior T-shirt that says "We Should All Be Feminists," while the track simultaneously refers to women as bitches.
Who cares? I do. And I don't care about much. I always eat snacks after I've brushed my teeth at night, and I once dated a guy who lived in his mom's lounge room behind a wall made out of a bed sheet…for three years. Cares? Never heard of him.
But we're not here to talk about my bad decisions. We're here to talk about Rocky's, and subsequently Dior's. "Wrong" is a song that's about Rocky and Ferg cheating on their girlfriends, apparently because they "couldn't tell the difference," but they know it's wrong so they're begging for forgiveness.
The video clip is nice — the set is an empty-but-grand building, and there are beautiful models cruising/sitting around. It's not unlike George Michael's "Freedom! '90" clip, which is something I'm sure we can all get behind.
So far, so good. It's just a hip-hop track about disrespecting women's hearts, which is about as common and tolerable as violence on TV. Affairs are a part of life, arguably a very sexy part of life (in the moment), and I'm okay with them — so long as they're in the fictional storyline of a rap song, rather than being played out in my bedroom.
So what's the problem? The problem is, while all of this storytelling is going on, Rocky is wearing a well-known declaration supporting feminism on his chest…while his BFF calls women "bitches." Granted, it's Ferg's lines that are incriminating: "Fuckin' on that bitch and I know it's wrong / Wifey walked in and she found that thong / She talk to my dick like an intercom / Then smoke that dick up just like it's a bong." Riveting stuff.
When the clip first hit our screens, many applauded Rocky for his choice of shirt. This really irked me. Was the praise coming from people who've listened to his music? Do these people know that he raps about completely non-feminist stuff, like, you know, playing women like they're sex dolls?
I can say with a fair bit of confidence that, no, they don't. And it really sucks that with the tuck of a tee, Rocky immediately looks like a "conscious" rapper. And the reality that he's just cashing in — and helping a brand cash in — on a significant movement, is somehow super blurring to the casual observer.
It isn't wrong to expect that these guys should be paying careful attention to the messages they're putting out there. Especially in light of the recent sexual assault allegations against fellow Mob member A$AP Bari, to which Rocky has responded by calling Bari a "bitch" on the down-low, before getting into a Ferrari with him a week later, and Ferg has called "unfortunate" (honestly, don't get me started).
Circling back to the T-shirt in question, it was created by Dior for the first collection designed by their first-ever female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. It costs a casual $700, which becomes problematic with or without the involvement of Rocky's chest and his bad-mouthed friend.
Even though it was announced that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each shirt would go toward Rihanna's non-profit Clara Lionel Foundation, the idea of paying $700 to wear a feminist slogan, ripped from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's essay of the same name, is an incredibly privileged way to flex support for a set of fundamental human rights.
It should also be noted that the idea to donate a percentage from sales wasn't even the rationale behind the manufacturing of the garment. It was only after Dior's Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, saw Rihanna in the shirt (and possibly after the design/price copped some flack) that this initiative was put into place.
And so the issue I have with Rocky becomes more complex. Not only is he feigning feminism while applauding his friend for calling women degrading names, he's doing it in an outfit that perpetuates the exact kind of feminism — if you can even call it that — that is quite frankly insulting. It's feminism as commodity, a personal brand, a marketing tool that makes the wrong people more rich.
Broadening the issue further, you could say that Rocky's obviously disillusioned brand of feminism is something not worth getting worked up over. I mean, if the tee alone is drenched in difficulties, what difference does it make if the wearer thinks women are bitches? (See also: does fashion or rap even owe anything to feminism? And does feminism even want a friend in fashion or rap?)
But, to me, this far-reaching perspective is as pointless as ripping a few cones and asking your roommate where space *actually* ends. It's not about zooming out on the issue until implications are blurred. It's about a fashionable rapper being able to say he's a feminist while he says that "bitches" don't mean shit, and the consequences that has on the young, malleable minds that adore him.
Additionally, it's destructive that the same fashion house that received colossal applause for appointing a woman who creates feminist T-shirts is also happy to pay Rocky to star in their campaigns. Let's not forget his 2015 decision to announce through diss track "Better Things": "I swear that bitch Rita Ora got a big mouth / Next time I see her might curse the bitch out / Kicked the bitch out once cause she bitched out / Spit my kids out, jizzed up all in her mouth and made the bitch bounce."
If you feel proud to repeatedly share this kind of storyline with the world, you're not a feminist — just take the shirt off, it's bad for business.