2016-01-13

When Being A Social Justice Warrior Goes Wrong: David Bowie



David Bowie died this week.  I was very sad as I had been a lifelong fan of his music, acting, etc. One of my first celebrity crushes was David Bowie.  I've always been weird, this is no secret.  However, I see a disturbing trend on the internet.  The public shaming and finger wagging of those who embrace or mourn a celebrity or figure they deem not acceptable.   This week I've seen a bunch of people get called nasty and supporting a rapist because they expressed condolences about David Bowie.   I find that appalling and frustrating.  




I totally understand the disgust at sex with barely teenage girls. I totally understand and dislike white supremacy and white supremacists with a burning hot passion; but this is misguided. I'll tell you why.

We are all assuming that everyone listening to David Bowie knew about his "experiences"(read that as rape) with a fourteen year old girl who identified herself as a groupie.  We didn't. I know this is hard to understand for some people, so I'm going to explain why we didn't all know this as common knowledge, and I am assuming most of the people posting this did not know this either until someone on facebook told them and they just shared without any research or context.

Imagine a world where there is not widespread access to the internet via phones, computers, tablets, etc.   Imagine a world where there is no twenty four hour news cycle. There is no Google and Wikipedia. Imagine that when you do see news, it is usually local news, national news, world news that discusses politics, wars, business, and actual events that aren't filled with Kardashians and celebrity gossip. Let's say your celebrity gossip was relegated to super market tabloids and People magazine. Maybe TigerBeat, Dynamite, Jet, Right On, and Bop.

This was the reality for most of us until the 1990s. We heard a song on the radio or watched a music video on MTV and then we got into a car, went to the record store and purchased our cassette tapes or records and then sat in our room reading liner notes and memorizing songs.  If we were broke we would try to record a song on the radio via a probably reused blank tape with bad sound quality.  If you were lucky and went to the bookstore or newsstand with all the magazines, you might find some information on your artist.  That or you tuned into Entertainment Tonight or MTV on television to see interviews from the artist who was usually given softball questions that really didn't get in depth and there was very little "A-Ha Got 'Em!" moments.  We just listened to our music and hoped someone you knew would eventually make a cool zine about your favorite bands or singers.

If you would have asked me anything about David Bowie in the 1980s, I could tell you he made some music I liked and he was the Goblin King. That is about it, I didn't anything outside of that and the fact that he might have had a thing with Mick Jagger back in the 1970s because my friend's older brother said that one time when we watched the horrible music video "Dancing In The Street"in their living room. We didn't know.

So I'm going to ask: Why does that make us who didn't not think to google something that happened over forty years ago rape apologists?   How were we supposed to know outside of Facebook and Twitter?

Let's say I've discovered this on the day David Bowie died, and I vow never to buy his stuff ever again?  What happens when it is discovered I own Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell From Earth, and the vast majority of his discography? Am I now a rape apologist who should be ashamed I loved the song Ashes to Ashes?  Am I horrible to have liked David Bowie before knowing this information?  He's dead, he's not going to produce anymore music, movies, or art. He has ceased, so what does pointing out something now in 2016 do to resolve the issue of what he has done?

We also have to look at context.   We're looking at 1973 when this began.  That's about forty three years ago. Women were still having a hard time getting into professional jobs, even some colleges. It wasn't all that uncommon for 16 year olds to be married at that time.  People not too much further in the past said it was ok for a husband to spank his wife like a child if she didn't obey him. That is warped thinking to us now, but it's true. Patriarchy is a big ass bitch and it's taken us a long time to get here; and we STILL aren't where we need to be.  How many people were appalled at Elvis dating a fourteen year old Priscilla Presley?  The biggest backlash was that Elvis had not yet married her. She was FOURTEEN when they met, her parents weren't like "This old ass motherfucker is trying to rape our child!!"  They were more like "Well it's ok if you date her, but since she's young, here are some stipulations", and all of America was ok with it.    The same girl with David Bowie also dated Jimmy Page, and her friends dated Iggy Pop, and John Lennon and Yoko hung out with them. ALL THOSE PEOPLE!!!!! I have to reevaluate my whole music catalog now. I believe a member of the Rolling Stones dated and married a girl who was 13 when they met.  I think Ted Nugent took legal guardianship of his girlfriend so she could go on tour with him.  All with parental consent.  I'm going to assume MOST parents in 2016 wouldn't do that, but in the 1970s, it wasn't something that was considered abnormal.    

So yes in 2016 we should all be giving David Bowie side eye to the max, but the silence about what he did in the 1970s is simply because in the 1970s, it's wasn't considered as big of a deal because we didn't fully understand the implications of the predatory behavior that was encouraged, nor did we understand basic adolescent development like we do now.  We also as lay people didn't have access to that information outside of the limited media we had available to us at that time. I can't get into my hot tub time machine to keep the kid who liked David Bowie in the 1980s from liking him.

Now a bigger question for the future is this: Are we now supposed to Google every single artist we like to make sure of their background and views before we start to appreciate their artistry?

Are we able to separate the deeds from the person? Can I say I liked David Bowie's music and not like his actions?  How do we reconcile new information presented to us years after the questionable incidents took place?  Are we bad people because we simply didn't know what David Bowie did in 1973?  Do you think he did it consistently or was this something he later on regretted?

Also: Was David Bowie really a racist? I can't find anything on that, maybe you could help?