Mountain Dew

As controversy surrounding the now infamous Mountain Dew ad created by Odd Future front-man, Tyler, The Creator, gained in intensity, in large part due to my friend and colleague, Dr. Boyce Watkins, labeling it “the most racist ad in history,” the many varied and nuanced responses to it began to form their own separate story.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the fact that a woman appeared to have been violently raped has warranted little more than a dismissive mention in this post-deconstruction phase, pushed to the back in favor of debating the accuracy — of lack thereof — of distilling racism from a commercial featuring a talking goat.

After Mountain Dew pulled the ad, offering a flippant mea culpa on par with Lil Wayne‘s and Rick Ross‘ last-ditch efforts to appease their corporate masters sponsors, a Facebook friend of mine asked me how I felt about the ad and I gave him the abbreviated version:

Tyler

Mountain Dew, a PepsCo company, may have taken away Tyler’s piggy bank and dapped it out with Black men offended by the police line-up trigger — because they “perceived” it to be racist — but there has still been little to no mention of the fact that a mockery was made of a woman being assaulted and raped to increase the product’s attractiveness to young men.

“You shoulda gave me some more, I’m nasty,” said Felicia, the Goat in a raspy voice. “”Keep ya mouth shut, I’m going to get out of here and Dew you up!”

Show of hands: How many of you have seen media space dedicated to the problematic nature of that statement — conceptualized in the mind of a man who thinks rape is nothing more than a clever line in a rap song?

I acknowledge that one-dimensional concern about the safety and well-being of women –regardless of ethnicity or race — may be beyond the scope of concern for some men, especially those who justifiably see clear manifestations of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy embedded in a police line-up. But the obvious intersectionality of race and rape culture in this one ad is just too glaring to miss.

First, we have a goat, who is clearly a conduit for cultural onomatopoeia. Spouting “gangsta” Hip-Hop catch phrases, from “you better not snitch on a playa” to ” snitches get stitches,” he is clearly intended to embody the stereotypical, hardcore, sinister, animalistic, barbaric, aggressive, Black man who forces innocent white women to clutch their pearls and move to the edge of a sidewalk wide enough to fit 20 people.

That’s the obvious racism, but there’s much more — less visible to the myopic eye, but embedded in the very fabric of this nation and the literature that we teach our children.

  • Tom Robinson, a Black man in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, was tried in the court of public opinion and faced being executed for allegedly raping a white woman.
  • Bigger Thomas, a Black man in Richard Wright’s Native Son, was so afraid that people would think that he raped a white woman that he accidentally murdered her instead.
  • In a tragic twist of irony, Emmett Till, the Chicago teen who was brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman, and who was at the center of Lil Wayne’s own Mountain Dew controversy, is the ultimate example of why a malignant joke about a Black man — albeit one in muppet form — raping a white woman is the height of offensiveness and cultural insensitivity.

But to even peel back that layer, one must grant the sole woman in the ad a grain of importance. One must feel that her victimization matters before one can even begin to dissect the bloated racial symbolism.

But she didn’t. We don’t. Not to corporate America and not in a patriarchal society where it doesn’t matter if a woman has been raped as long as the police line-up has some diversity.

I spoke with Dr. Boyce — who deserves credit for taking note that the woman appeared to have been sexually assaulted –  to get his take on the lack of concern as it pertained to the misogyny in the ad. I wanted to know why, as a man, and as a black man in particular, the racially charged gender dynamic did not resonate with him as much as the police line-up and his response was extremely interesting:

“On one hand, we could say that this was just a person who’d been beaten by a goat. Goats aren’t usually accused of domestic violence,” Dr. Boyce said. “But if you look more deeply at what is going on, you realize that the goal fits right in with the scary-looking black men around him, and carries the spirit and voice of a black man (Tyler, The Creator) who, at times, has shown a degree of immaturity when it comes to sexism. It’s not a stretch to imagine a man who made a song called, “Bitch Suck Dick,” might be a wee bit insensitive to the issues being brought up in this ad.

“As a father of daughters myself, I admit that it takes a very long time to unlearn the sexism that is taught in our society.”

But what about the fact that the misogyny was considered a secondary offense at best, and ignored at worst in a dialogue focused on patriarchal racism? Is it because one-dimensional race issues are considered by some to be a “man’s” issue that takes precedence over a “woman’s” issue?

“I wouldn’t say that it was ignored and I can only speak of my own response,” said Dr. Boyce. “Personally, I wrote about racism because I believe that most of us response to the societal ailments that affect us the most. I’ve rarely been a victim of sexism, other than when my daughters force to play Trey Songz on the radio when I want to listen to Ice Cube.

“But to your point, ignorance is not always a crime, as long as your mind is open for being educated. Once someone (i.e. Kirsten WS) made me aware of other things going on in this ad, I too supported efforts to speak to those matters as well.”

No, ignorance isn’t always a crime, but in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

We live in a “molly” culture where even the sexual assault prevention chief for the United States Air Force has been charged with sexual assault. In this rape culture, sixty percent of African-American girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. One-in-six white women reports their rape, while only one-in-sixteen African-American women report their assaults.

That speaks volumes in a community where it’s not only male “snitches who get stitches.”

Saying, “Hey, we apologize if we offended you, Black guys!” is not even in the vicinity of enough.

Women deserve an apology, and that should not be an optional afterthought. If we don’t hold PepsiCo and Mountain Dew — and their voluntary Hip-Hop  scapegoats — accountable for being complicit in the glorification of sexual violence against women, then pulling the ad will be remembered as an incomplete victory.

***

Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.

  • Monique

    I don’t feel like they owe me anything. I’m tired of insincere, coerced corporate & celebrity apologies. In the meantime, I’ll just be more selective about what tooth-rotting, diabetes-inducing products I purchase!

  • ….

    but the woman in the ad was assaulted by the goat, yes, but wasn’t raped.
    the ad in question is the 2nd in a series and all criticism being given is being done so out of context.

  • bob

    She was assaulted by a goat. If it was a man assaulted by a goat it would be funny ” haha this man got beat up by the goat” but because its a woman its wrong. Its just a commercial. They really think people are going to start beating on women because of a commercial where they saw a goat attack a women a goat.

  • Beks

    thank you. you have a clarity of voice that is clear to those who have the heart to listen. this was great!!!

  • Anthony

    It’s not an excuse, but my guess is that old white women don’t stir much sympathy from black men. If she had been an old black woman or a young black woman, there would have been more sympathy, but there would have still been a blind spot for many men.

    Dr. Watkins is right when he says that sexism is very hard to unlearn.

  • DEE

    In the commercial rape may not have been said, but what was said definitely alluded to rape.

    “You shoulda gave me some more, I’m nasty,” said Felicia, the Goat in a raspy voice. “”Keep ya mouth shut, I’m going to get out of here and Dew you up!”

    Whether you know the context of the commercial or not, that’s what these lines specifically will conjure in your mind, especially when there being yelled at a beaten women trying to pick someone out of a police line up. If you’ve ever heard a song by Tyler you wouldn’t doubt that’s what he’s implying through those words.

  • The Other Jess

    Well, a Black man, or Black men, are the ones who made the ad. Pepsico just approved it and aired it. So what do you do? Stupid is as stupid does and gets what it deserves. No sympathy here. Black men just keep doing stupid ass stuff and want everybody to cry for them. Sorry. By now, everybody should know PepsiCo doesn’t mind airing their racist laundry – if black people join them, that’s on us.

  • L

    These ads are getting ridiculous. I saw an ad for an insurance company with a black woman receptionist being extrmemely loud, with a scarf on her head and big gold hoop earrings. I had an instant WTF moment. I was more offended by this insurance commercial than this mountain dew ad.

    And the reason why they do this is becuase they know even bad publicity is publicity. We will create a petition on change.org, contact every urban blog, make sure the local news gets a piece of our opinion and so on. We help them do exactly what they want to do, get people talking about the product.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    Right. It’s just a commercial to you because you aren’t the one who is being targeted.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    “If she had been an old black woman or a young black woman, there would have been more sympathy”

    Are you sure about that?

  • Tina

    It’s incomprehensible why Mountain Dew or Pepsico would associate with Tyler the Creator or Wayne given the blazing trail of misogyny they have created. Moreover, Wayne openly endorses the use of cough syrup as a recreational drug but they use him in ads targeting young boys? What executive(s) thought that was a good idea?

  • sierra tango oscar mike yankee

    This is the most stupid ad. Ever

  • Anthony

    I do think that an old white woman was chosen purposely because young men wouldn’t be as sensitive to her plight. A young and pretty woman beaten up could not have been laughed off or ignored as easily. A young white woman would have pushed all of the obvious buttons, and a young black woman would have touched off outrage among black women as well as awakened a sense of patriarchal protection in black men.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    ” If she had been an old black woman or a young black woman, there would have been more sympathy”

    “As well as awakened a sense of patriarchal protection in black men”

    Are you sure about that?

  • lexie

    first off i get a jolly off of watching satire but, when i watched the ad what i noticed first wasnt rascim but the blatant sexual assault the woman suffered. this video glorified the love to portray women as a sexual object.

  • Anthony

    More sympathy does not equal total sympathy. A majority still would have been more incensed about racism than rape because the racism directly affects the men. Concern about rape takes empathy, and that is something that many people lack.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    don’t WE control the income of tyler?

  • Che

    “awakened a sense of patriarchal protection in black men”

    lololol funniest thing i’ve read so far this week. it’s patriarchal men who make light of the rape and sexual assault of black women. now they’re gonna turn around and “protect” us lololol

  • bob

    I dont think this advertisment went over the line family guy does way worst its a joke , im not even mad about the racism about black males being criminals because it is a joke. I know rape is a very serious crime. but its just a comercial. A wacky not well done comercial who will take this stuff serious ?

  • The Moon in the Sky

    I wish you would quit it with this ‘we’ stuff. Black people are not a monolith.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    Exactly, Che. WTF!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    who provides this guys income?

  • Anthony

    I never said it was positive. I said that portraying a young woman being raped would elicit a patriarchal response.

    In my opinion, the right response is that rape is wrong, period, not “don’t rape our women!”

    All I have tried to do is explain how I think many men would see the ads, not how I personally feel about them.

  • Pat

    The area in which this ad sickened me the most was with its implications of the black man. This is not to say I don’t care about misogynist insensitivity. PepsiCo should rightfully apologize to both. Besides the obvious racism against black men and continued glorification of sexual violence, I think this goes beyond that. Reflections of one of our communities’ shortcoming is placed on public display saying, Hey…it’s okay to be a thug. It’s cool to get involved in a crime and not snitch. And snitching is one of the problems of why black on black crimes continue to go unsolved. Besides not committing the crime at all.

    This ad is offensive on so many levels. It is also illustrating that black men continue to be a menace to society and its most priced asset. Uneducated thugs and gang affiliated; on the streets with no home life and no proper upbringing. Also, this ad is perpetrating black men to the world to live in fear (history hasn’t changed) which breathe unnecessary mistreatment and lynchings. As far as Tyler, The Creator – he isn’t any different from these other rappers (producers) profiting off of the likes of black people and women. And the reason why I’m not surprised at PepsiCo – PepsiCo is going to go with the best marketing scheme to reach its audience and sell its products. What better way to escalate profits other than through another lost black boy. PepsiCo MAY not have realized its bad judgment because these hip hop/rap disrespectful lyrics have been accepted for so long. If we’re purchasing the rappers’ music – then what is so wrong with airing a racist television ad with the mistreatment of women to boost product revenue?

  • E.M.S.

    That’s just it though, even though it’s meant to be a joke, if we decide to take it lightly, then people take rape lightly.

    As for Family Guy, I’ve gotten sick of Seth McFarlane’s clear lack of respect for rape victims in that show as well as American Dad. The rape jokes aren’t even funny, they just make me uncomfortable and it’s painful to watch.

  • Ricky Rozay

    Who is ‘We’? Did you buy his album?

  • Che

    “I never said it was positive. I said that portraying a young woman being raped would elicit a patriarchal response.”

    but…patriarchy sanctions the rape of women and especially black women when you take into account how our bodies have been sites for dehumanization and sexualization. so i’m not seeing where the protection part comes in.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    so black people cannot control black artists?
    we seem to be doing a pretty good job at keeping the jazz artists poor.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    Certainly not me.

  • JS

    Honestly I think the whole thing has been blown up and taken out of context by certain people. I watched the ad and while I can definitely see the view of it that criminalizes Black men and feeds into the stereotype if “he’s black, he’s guilty,” however I saw it differently. The video seemed to be making fun of that stereotype to me. Openly embracing it and pointing out the ridiculousness that even if it’s obvious the criminal is not a Black man, it can be as obvious as a damn talking goat, the Black man will still be criminalized in this society.

    I believe this is lost when you take it out of context and choose to focus more on the woman. The woman’s assault is important and I don’t think it was trying to belittle the actual assault but this morally corrupt goat can be seen characterized the same in different ads so its not like the goat was specifically aiming to attack women here.

    Perhaps I am giving Tyler too much credit. Bottom line is, we all knew how Tyler was from jump. He has been around for more than a little bit and obviously has a fan base. If an apology is warranted its from Tyler, not Mt.Dew. “A company’s only responsibility is to its shareholders,” as quoted from the supreme court. Mt.Dew only chose Tyler because of the following he has and money he could generate. I think people have bought way too much into CSR lately and think that means companies actually care, past money.

  • Anthony

    Patriarchy is based on the explicit or implied ownership of female bodies by men. I said female bodies because inequality is obviously inherent in that sort of thinking.
    If a man or group of men “own” a group of women, then those men will want to “protect” their property. That is why I alluded to the idea of protecting “our women from rape” in an earlier post. Needless to say, this sort protection is aimed at men from the out group, not from members within the designated community. So obviously, the kind of mindset I am describing would turn a blind eye to intragroup rape.

    I suppose I have undermined much of my earlier argument, but I still suspect the depiction of a young and pretty woman being raped, especially a black woman, in that commercial would make many men uncomfortable.

  • thetruth

    The idea that you can’t joke about serious matters is completely absurd. The best comedies in history poke fun at serious matters. Not because the issue is a laughing matter, but to show us you can find humor in anything. Satirizing these problems actually makes you aware of just how terrible they are while NOT losing your mind at the same time,

  • thetruth

    @ The Other Jess

    Now if somebody threw all all Black women under the bus because of the cast of “Love & Hip Hop” you would be the first one bitching and moaning about being stereotyped. You and all the punkass hypocrites who agree with you.

    Black women hate to be judged by the actions of a few but love to do it to everybody else…ESPECIALLY black men.

  • thetruth

    “I’ve rarely been a victim of sexism….”

    Oh, really?

    Is the criminalization of Black men and boys due to the fact that they are both Black and Male NOT an example of sexism?!?!

    I totally disagree with this popular notion that Black women are somehow unique because they face racism AND sexism.

    NEWSFLASH: So do Black Males!

  • Em

    Because the stereotypical Bitter Black woman does that, you choose to make assumptions as well??

    This is the problem with our community… We’re so bent on being against each other , pointing out each other flaws we have no idea what damage we’re going…. Living out the Willie Lynch dream.

  • Em

    You must not understand Tyler’s motive… Our energy as whole makes Tyler. He only reflects what is in front of him as a 20 year old frustrated, fatherless Black Male.

  • talaktochoba

    and where is Dr. Watkins every Thursday when a white-makeupped, white hairstyles, white dressing black woman hops from one white man to another, spurning the legitimate offer of marriage from a powerful black man to continue playing Sally Hemmings?

  • bbg

    Laughing at you. What does this have to do with anything??? Try to focus on the subject at hand my dear.

  • SayWhat

    I guess I’m in the minority because I felt he was referring to ‘assault’, not ‘sexual’ assault. NOT Saying that that excuses it, but I did not see or think rape.

  • talaktochoba

    try to follow along, will you?

    in both cases, women are objectified as sex objects, veritable spittoons for men’s carnal desires;

    and any behavioural scientist will tell you, rape follows objectification surely as a requiem shark follows blood;

  • The Moon in the Sky

    “I still suspect the depiction of a young and pretty woman being raped, especially a black woman, in that commercial would make many men uncomfortable.”

    You are out of touch with reality if you think that.

  • http://www.juwandickerson.com Juwan Dickerson

    I preface my comments by admitting up front that I am Black but I’m also a male and by virtue that does come with some sort of privilege when speaking on issues regarding sexism and violence against woman however that being said…

    I think that the whole Tyler The Creator controversy has been blown up a bit to much. I watch the whole ad series and I agree that the video series is problematic and puts forth images that reinforces negative stereotypes toward Black men but I did not see any form of rape that took place in the ad. I do agree that the goat is shown to be physically assaulting the woman and knocks her down and runs away, calling it a rape though might be projecting. Again this may be my male privilege speaking.

    I also happen to be a reluctant fan of Tyler and Odd Future and while I don’t always agree with everything he says and raps about, being a artist myself and a first amendment activist I don’t want to ban his right to say it.

    One of the things that kind of irritated me about the controversy was it seems that when some Black people push the boundaries of entertainment and are anti-establisment, anti-hero, and subversive they recieve major backlash from the Black community but when others push those same boundaries they when awards. Of course everyone recieves scrutiny for the work that is put out there but I’ve heard calls of boycotts against Tyler The Creator and demands that his show Loiter Squad gets cancelled but no one is trying to Boycott Archer which is a show that almost revels in it’s mistreatment of its female characters and also promotes negative stereotypes.

    The question I’ve posed is, is there a space for Black created entertainment that can push those boundaries and be subversive? Or must must Blacks be held to a higher standard when it comes to putting certain images out there?

  • Nadell

    Pepsi must currently be in a financial bind or crises. There’s no way their marketing team is that oblivious! First endorsing Lil Wayne and then approving Tyler’s ad? It is quite baffling that they recently signed the mega-star Beyoncé and then come around with the likes of these two artists…..
    There’s so much wrong in that ad that I doubt the viewers had time to dissect. Aside from perpetuating the stereotype w/ black men people inadvertently missed the sexually assaulted victim. I guess by all means necessary to stay relevant. IDK

    And their tweet…..um ok.

  • mamafishy

    My father wasn’t fatherless – at least there may be blameless reasons for this to happen. Mine was kicked out of the house by a father who’d rather womanise than be there for a young man. My father did not self-destruct or encourage others to self-destruct. He worked HARD to put himself through university and do something great with his life. I don’t feel sorry for Tyler – not one bit. He is glorifying a way of being which destroys everything it touches and diminishes everyone.

  • Courtney**

    First, I’d like to sincerely thank you as black man posting on a site targeted to black women/young adults by respectfully explaining your position without attacking us, “mansplaining,” gaslighting or engaging in the myriad of unproductive victim-blaming tactics many borderline-trolls do when they disagree with the predominant narrative or feelings expressed by black women when we comment about such topics as this. Seriously. Thank you. If we had more opinions like these posted by black men and young adults on this site, we might actually have a respectful dialogue started that could actually change things outside of the internet.

    Second, I have watched Loiter Squad and that is pretty much my only experience with Tyler the Creator. I have found some of the ideas amusing and some not, but I have observed regarding their more “reality” environment sketches that there are usually tons of young white men, several young latino men and black men, many young white women and almost nada young black women. I’ve always found that really, really curious because if they live in an area where there are enough black familes to produce sons, surely there are some daughters as well. It also seems like his fan base is almost exclusively white but he seems intelligent enough to also appreciate and understand his position in society as a young black man and what that means (as far as him possibly not being able to engage in the same behaviors as his lighter colleagues or suffering worse consequences for doing so). Someone else had posted lyrics of his in a previous comment that were really pretty bad and so I’m disappointed, but not exactly surprised that there is a misogynistic slant to some of his songs.

    “The question I’ve posed is, is there a space for Black created entertainment that can push those boundaries and be subversive?”

    I am conflicted about the commercial. I consider myself to hold strongly feminist leanings and the goat did physically assault the woman. However, the phrases used by the goat were very closely aligned to phrases used to intimidate victims of sexual assault, not non-sexual physical assault. I think the IMPLICATION the commercial is supposed to leave you with is an implied sexual assault due to the language, but for marketing/liability purposes, Pepsi did not allow this to be more strongly implied. I admit that I could be wrong, of course.

    I actually like the fact that Tyler is using the stereotypes about black men and going completely over-the-top with them in a patently absurd manner to show how ridiculous they are. That is part of the commercial that I found amusing. Of course, making light of assaulting a woman completely negates that amusement and then some. This really is the kind of stuff that contributes to rape culture. The more men joke about it, the less serious it becomes. And then we wonder where the hell a group of teens thought it was okay to stick foreign objects into a passed-out girl in Ohio and take photos to share with their friends?

    That is not to say that I have never laughed at any jokes about rape. But it really and truly is about WHY the joke is funny, WHO is making the joke and WHERE they are coming from with it (what is their intention?). No one is saying that black people cannot push boundaries. No one is saying that black people need to be creatively uniform in expression. That is not the intent of the article and that’s not what the article takes issue with. I think you’re kind of missing the point with your focus on that. Since you are already open to the idea that you have some blinds spots due to male privilege, I think the issue is that you can’t fully appreciate where some of us as black women are coming from when we take issue with the perceived mockery of implied (sexual) assault in the commercial. Behind Native Americans and I believe “mixed” (two or more) different races, Black females have the highest rate of sexual assault (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf). I think we used to have the highest rate of domestic violence as well but I think this has also now changed to us being second to Native Americans – I can’t find the pdf on the Department of Justice’s site right now about this. And when Tyler or any other black male rapper casually discusses or promotes this violence, black women and girls will be the victim of that mentality at home – regardless of who is actually promoting and consuming the music, So even if a white woman is used in this particular commercial, the mockery of assault fosters and contributes to an attitude of acceptance that will “trickle down” to us, not them.

    Also, the First Amendment specifically concerns the GOVERNMENT’S ability to censor freedom of expression of its citizens. Calls to ban these commercials or whatever are not in any way an attack on his first amendment. He still has the right to make the commercial and air it. And anyone else has the right to say it is not something they want to be subjected to or an attitude they want condoned due to the effects it has on them. It’s the same thing as the Lil Wayne/Emmett Till blowback. Anyone can say anything they want to, but that does not mean guaranteed freedom from consequences. First Amendment doesn’t mean you have the right to air your expression anywhere at any time and not have that expression curtailed because others express their First Amendment right to oppose it.

  • donnadara

    Did it occur to anyone in the Air Force to appoint a woman to be in charge of sexual assault prevention? Even (gasp) one of the far too many women that have been the victims of sexual assault in the Air Force? And I find it hard to believe that this is the first time that he behaved that way. Nobody is his circle said to his superior, off the record, this guy has issues with women? This is not the job for him? But hey, boys will be boys, right?

  • Gina Wild

    Chill out on that “WE” thing, sweetie. We don’t all contribute to the Tyler character income. I don’t.

  • Gina Wild

    @jamesfrmphilly
    The Jazz artists have to innovate, make alliances, apply different marketing strategies, etc. Many rappers lack in musicianship but hey sure know how to market themselves.

  • Anthony

    Moon in the Sky, I have been a man for more than half a century. I have a pretty good idea about how men think.

    Most men would be turned off by a commercial that implied the rape of a young woman. That does not mean that these same men aren’t guilty of sexism or have issues with sexual violence themselves.

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  • Kyla

    I, in no way, what-so-ever, want to discount the broader argument you are making against this ad(which is think is indeed quite abhorrent) and about sexism and misogyny in general. I’d just like to point out that, whilst it may be misinterpreted out of context, the context of the ad has nothing to do with rape or sexual assault. It is a follow-on from a previous ad which depicts a violent attack by the goat for the lady withholding Mountain Dew (certainly still not acceptable or appropriate).

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