Student leaders should not stay quiet about the Spring Fling headliner

Sarah Blugis, a senior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

Every year, students complain about Program Board’s choice for Spring Fling headliner. Usually, people are upset because the performer isn’t famous enough, good enough or mainstream enough. I’ve complained about Spring Fling in the past, too – for not including enough women as headliners.

But this year, students have an even bigger reason to criticize Program Board’s choice: Action Bronson, the headliner, is a blatant misogynist.

Bronson has a history of public transphobia, and has mocked transgender people on Instagram. He’s also been widely criticized for his song “Consensual Rape,” in which he describes drugging and raping a woman. One of his music videos, for a song called “Brunch,” depicts Bronson cooking a meal next to a woman’s dead body, putting her body in the trunk of his car, then stabbing her repeatedly while shouting gendered insults. Due to this controversy, he was pulled from the lineup of last year’s NXNE music festival in Toronto.

Rather than apologize or show any empathy for survivors of sexual violence, Bronson lashed out. In response to the criticism, he tweeted, “It’s so funny the song that is causing these Torontonians to have their panties in a bunch literally has never been performed, ever.” Then, he tweeted, “5 years ago a lost track. That’s what u base UR argument on? HOW ABOUT THE 9 PROJECTS THAT HAVE COME OUT SINCE? Don’t single me out.” He later deleted those tweets.

Now, this coming weekend, the University is paying this man to perform in University Yard – and a group of students chose him. I’m incredibly disappointed that more student leaders haven’t protested harder against the pick, and I think choosing him was a serious lapse in judgment on Program Board’s part.

“GW’s student organizations hold campus events in accordance with University policies and procedures,” University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said in an email Tuesday. “The Program Board’s decision to host this artist does not imply a University endorsement of his views.”

But even if GW doesn’t publicly endorse Bronson’s views, officials still signed off on him – and they’ll still sign his paycheck.

I have a hard time understanding any possible justification for bringing Bronson to GW, especially given the importance students here place on progressive advocacy. Sexual assault prevention and LGBT inclusivity are two of the most prominent issues on campus, yet Bronson is the antithesis of those two causes. Choosing Bronson blatantly ignores survivors on our campus – as well as all the prevention advocacy students have spent so much time on over the last several years.

In a statement Monday, Program Board said it is “aware of the criticisms” and doesn’t condone the lyrics in Bronson’s song “Consensual Rape” – which won’t be performed at Spring Fling, according to the statement. But the statement comes off as the equivalent of Program Board shrugging its shoulders about Bronson’s reputation – and that’s a problem.

“We hope students will continue to discuss Mr. Bronson and the entirety of his work and decide for themselves whether it has merit,” the statement reads. “The Program Board strives to put on inclusive events for the entire student body and will continue to do so.”

In its own Facebook post, Students Against Sexual Assault said Monday it is “proud” of Program Board “for acknowledging this situation and for moving forward proactively, in order to hold events that are inclusive for all GW students’ experiences.”

I’m not proud, and I fail to see how allowing Bronson to perform is inclusive in any way. Regardless of whether his work “has merit,” some of it harbors harmful beliefs and normalizes violence against women and LGBT individuals. There are people on our campus who are likely afraid to even attend Spring Fling because of Bronson’s hateful rhetoric, music videos and social media presence.

It doesn’t matter that Bronson won’t perform his song about sexual assault. What matters is that the University is paying him to perform at our school, on our campus, for our student body – the same student body that forced GW to rescind Bill Cosby’s honorary degree just a few months ago.

Even though Program Board announced Bronson’s performance last week, students have only just started talking about it online. Some have argued that if you look, you can find something wrong with almost any artist – and that’s true. However, they’ve also argued that critics are “too sensitive.” But Bronson glorifies, embraces and glamorizes the rape and murder of women, and that’s something we should be sensitive about.

Yes, Program Board has a limited budget, has to work around scheduling conflicts and is tasked with the extremely difficult project of finding a suitable artist that appeals to as much of the student body as possible. But Bronson certainly is far from suitable – which is obvious from a quick Google search.

And allowing Bronson to come to campus highlights the University’s double standard when it comes to Spring Fling performers: In 2014, when Program Board tried to book rapper Angel Haze, GW requested that she avoid cursing during her set. But Bronson has a much more problematic history with vulgarity and violence than Haze.

I’m disappointed in Program Board’s choice. I’m disappointed in the University for signing off on that choice. Most of all, I’m disappointed in our student leaders who haven’t stepped up to protest this choice. GW’s most progressive student leaders are known for speaking up about things that make them angry – and I’m wondering why everyone is so quiet now.

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