There Are No Excuses for Abusive Men


Why do people find it so easy to separate the ‘art’ from the ‘artist’ in the cases of abusive men? On the 18th of June, 20-year-old rapper XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Onfroy, was shot dead in Florida. Immediately, all of my social media feeds were filled with people, mainly men, expressing their grief, sadness and upset at his death. However, their grief quickly turned to rampant anger as soon as anybody pointed out that this young rapper had also beaten his pregnant girlfriend within an inch of her life, held her hostage, and also brutally beat a young LGBT teen. After engaging in a few, shall we say, 'discussions' about this issue, I had the same question - how do people separate the ‘art’ from the ‘artist’ with such ease? Is it because violence towards women and other marginalised groups has become so normalised? I feared this to be the truth as I navigated the minefield of dialogue that surfaced after this young rapper was shot.

The death of XXXTentacion got me thinking about other high profile men who have become synonymous with their abuse in recent years. Johnny Depp, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein; all notable contributors to the arts. Although we’ve all said #TimesUp when it comes these men and other abusers, time doesn’t seem to be up when a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon is on the TV on a Sunday. In an extreme sense, we could see this as people valuing hours and minutes of entertainment over the consistent sexual, physical and mental abuse that women have endured on behalf of the men who produced the entertainment. When sexual-misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein were brought to public attention, people quickly pointed to Meryl Streep and other successful female actors as allowing the abuse to happen, coining a hashtag of #SheKnew. To me, it’s laughable and entirely indicative of the point I’m trying to make. Simply put: men are excused for their abuse and the blame is passed, usually onto victims themselves, or the women surrounding them. In the domestic sphere, 1 in 4 women will endure some sort of domestic abuse in their lifetime. For an ordinary woman who sympathises with the testimonies of the high profile women of the #MeToo movement, seeing the blame being constantly shifted and the art of these men still being widely celebrated, even more personal damage is being done. An example is being set, an example of the female voice being entirely degraded, devalued and depreciated.

"We begin to normalise and excuse abusive male behaviour before these boys even grow into men. We’ve all (unfortunately) heard the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ haven’t we?"


Feminist Kate Millet argues that the patriarchy’s key institution resides within the family, and that we begin to normalise and excuse abusive male behaviour before these boys even grow into men. We’ve all (unfortunately) heard the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ haven’t we? A boy would pull our hair when were little girls, or get into a fight with another boy, but this was okay because they were acting how boys are supposed to act within their established social norms. Therefore, we’re already excusing boys for their behaviour before their voices have even dropped.
       It’s this cycle of socialisation that includes excusing abusive behaviour and maintaining women as victims that makes it so easy to excuse abusive male artists, and the abuse of men in general when they’re older. Thus, to see the abuse of women and other groups at the hands of a few powerful men as merely anomalous cases is entirely wrong.

"If our first concern is what we’re going to do with this Netflix series or that rapper’s album before the psychological and physical well-being of a victim, this perpetuates the abusive cycle."


To return back to the ease to which we excuse the art from the artist of notable male entertainers, a question arises of ‘what do we do with their art?’ The angry and vengeful feminist in me screams that the most obvious option is an entire expunging. Why would we dare to have a sexual hierarchy of abuser and the abused demonstrated so clearly on our screens and radios? Spacey, Weinstein, Depp, Cosby, XXXTentacion: burn it all down. 

My anger quickly turns to upset - the complete opposite of XXXTentacion fans on the day of his death - when I think of the victims of this abuse, and then the question of what we do with the art becomes redundant. Sure, I agree with ‘fuck House of Cards’ and the like, but if our first concern is what we’re going to do with this Netflix series or that rapper’s album before the psychological and physical well-being of a victim, this perpetuates the abusive cycle. Working towards empowering the voice of victims, promoting their future wellbeing and taking every measure possible to prevent the continuation of abuse in any workplace is, in the first instance, of fundamental importance.  Violence towards women and other marginalised groups has become normalised, but with Weinstein in handcuffs and more than one million women taking to U.S. streets in women’s marches in 2018 alone, no longer are we excusing abuse. We are leading the change, and holding abusers accountable, whilst offering an open-armed community for survivors.


Follow Lilly on Twitter: @LillyMMurphy