Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
After years of bad behavior, Kanye West is finally seeing some consequences.
The rapper was suspended from Instagram for 24 hours after hurling a racial slur at “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, who had devoted a segment of his show to calling out West’s behavior toward his former wife, Kim Kardashian. West’s performance at the Grammy Awards, which Noah is hosting, was also canceled – although not at Noah’s request. Three sources close to West confirmed to CNN that he was pulled from performing at the Grammys due to “concerning online behavior.”
West has spent the past several months using his social media platforms to target his ex-wife, Kardashian, and her new boyfriend, “SNL” star Pete Davidson. West has posted complaints about Kardashian’s parenting, saying it’s on him to protect his family and suggesting that perhaps his ex is a bad parent. He released a music video depicting a Davidson lookalike being kidnapped and buried in the ground. Both Kardashian and Davidson have reportedly asked West to stop.
By West’s own account, Kardashian is scared. West posted a series of text messages purported to be from Kardashian asking him to please stop his social media attacks on her and her new partner: “U are creating a dangerous and scary environment and someone will hurt Pete and this will all be your fault,” the message said. Along with the text screenshots, West posted, “UPON MY WIFE’S REQUEST PLEASE NOBODY DO ANYTHING PHYSICAL TO SKETE IM GOING TO HANDLE THE SITUATION MYSELF.” He included an image of one man choking another.
That wasn’t enough to get West suspended from social media. Apparently, going after Trevor Noah was.
The lesson being sent to powerful men is clear: Intimidate your ex and much of the public will laugh, especially if she’s the kind of woman the public thinks kind of deserves it. It’s also safe to assume that women who raise concerns about what your ex is going through will have a hard time being heard. Go after a well-liked man who seeks to amplify that concern, though, and you’ll pay a price.
To be clear, West should have been suspended for what he said about Noah. But his actions toward Kardashian and her new partner are just as concerning – if not more so. West practically put a target on both Kardashian’s and Davidson’s backs. And he made clear that he would like to physically harm Davidson, in part to hurt Kardashian.
Why were his posts still up on Instagram? Why, in the middle of this very public series of online attacks, was he invited to perform at the Grammy awards to begin with?
Instead of seeing this for what it is – a famous man using his notoriety to torment his ex – too many media outlets are portraying it as a “feud.” In a feud, there are two sides fighting each other. This is an attack.
Kardashian is a professionally successful, beautiful celebrity who is notoriously “famous for being famous” as a reality TV star. That seems to be shaping too much of the public response to her current situation. As Noah made clear in his segment, instead of seeing her as a victim of a very public stalking and harassment campaign, media narratives and fan responses position her as one player in a juicy drama.
For many West fans, she’s the villain breaking up her family, and West is a good man scorned. And even some prominent media figures, including The View’s Sunny Hostin, have argued that removing West from performing at the Grammy’s is a form of silencing free speech.
West, on the other hand, has long had issues with women, and the public has simply laughed. When he grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift at the 2009 Video Music Awards, interrupting her acceptance speech, much of the public laughed it off – sure, West was a “jackass” as former President Barack Obama put it, but that was just Kanye being Kanye. Years later, he bragged that he “made that b**** famous” in one of his songs. (Kardashian, for what it’s worth, stood up for West.) West also trashed his ex Amber Rose after their breakup in crude and scurrilous terms, saying, “I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.”
One person who does seem to understand the reality of this dynamic between West and Kardashian is Trevor Noah.
“You may not feel sorry for Kim because she’s rich and famous,” Noah said in the same “Daily Show” segment that drew West’s ire. “But what she’s going through is terrifying to watch and shines a spotlight on what so many women go through when they choose to leave.”
Noah’s accurate assessment of the Kardashian/West dynamic predictably set West off – nothing angers misogynist men quite like being called out for their actions. But it shouldn’t have taken a racial slur to finally, temporarily pull West’s social media access and remove him from a place of honor at the biggest night in music. His behavior toward his ex should have come with its own public consequences.
One of the reasons many women struggle to leave abusive or otherwise unhealthy relationships is fear: Fear of how their ex will behave, and fear that they will face social penalties. We’re collectively seeing those fears come to fruition for Kardashian. The very public shrug-off of West’s scary actions sends a message to women and men alike: Stalking and harassment are normal parts of ending a relationship; men who stalk and harass their exes won’t face consequences; and women who are stalked and harassed can expect that they’ll be treated as wrongdoers and heartbreakers, not victims.
Thankfully, there are men like Noah who use their platforms to identify this dynamic for what it is. But it shouldn’t take a good famous man to speak up for a badly behaving one to finally see consequences.