Show caption ‘Of course, it’s only love when a man does it.’ Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP The Week in Patriarchy Whatever’s happening with Kanye and Kim, his behavior shouldn’t be normalized Arwa Mahdawi Their divorce may be a private matter between the two of them but further normalizing the idea that persistent pursuit is romantic is harmful for everyone Sat 19 Feb 2022 14.00 GMT Share on Facebook
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Stalking is abuse, not love
I do not, as a rule, keep up with the Kardashians. And I try to pay as little attention as humanly possible to the erratic antics of Kim Kardashian’s ex Kanye West (who recently changed his name to Ye). But over the last couple of weeks I’ve made something of an exception to my “avoid losing braincells through exposure to Kimye drama at all costs” rule because Ye’s public behaviour has become increasingly disturbing. Even more disturbing, however, is the way his behaviour towards Kardashian is largely being treated as entertaining gossip by the media instead of being called out as harassment. While a handful of (mainly women-focused) media outlets, including Elle and Jezebel, have sounded alarm bells at the way Ye is acting, his behaviour is still being dangerously downplayed.
Some background for everyone who hasn’t been following the saga: Kardashian and Ye, who have four children, are in the middle of ending their nearly seven-year marriage. The divorce proceedings, initiated last February, have not been low-key: this is no Gwyneth Paltrow-esque “conscious uncoupling”. Things got even more acrimonious when Kardashian started dating the comedian Pete Davidson late last year: Ye started veering between over-the-top displays of affection towards Kim and outbursts of anger. A small sample of his recent behaviour includes:
Sending a truck filled with roses and emblazoned with the words “MY VISION IS KRYSTAL KLEAR” on its side to Kardashian’s house for Valentine’s Day.
Posting what seems to be private correspondence from Davidson online.
Encouraging his fans to scream “Kimye Forever” at Davidson if they see him in public.
Leaking what appear to be private text messages from Kardashian on social media. He later acknowledged this “came off as harassing Kim” but then continued to rail at her online.
Publicly accusing Kardashian of kidnapping their daughter Chicago after she threw her a birthday party and allegedly refused to tell him the address. He also turned up at the birthday party despite reportedly having agreed to host a separate event for Chicago.
A bizarre number of media outlets have characterized what’s happening between Kardashian and Ye as a “war of words”. But that implies that there is some sort of equivalence between their behaviour. There isn’t. Ye is harassing Kardashian and she is asking him to stop. Earlier this month she released a statement decrying his constant attacks on her in interviews and on social media. “Divorce is difficult enough on our children and Kanye’s obsession with trying to control and manipulate our situation so negatively and publicly is only causing further pain for all.”
Obviously I don’t have all the facts when it comes to the relationship between Kardashian and Ye. However, what’s playing out in public feels depressingly familiar: a man is refusing to take no for an answer and it’s being treated as a silly spectacle instead of serious stalking. Here’s the problem: decades of Hollywood films and popular culture have taught us that it’s romantic for a man to aggressively pursue a woman who has spurned his advances. It’s taught us that a man showering a woman with unwanted gifts is a cute gesture, not manipulative love-bombing. Men relentlessly pursuing women is such a common theme of romcoms that the website TV Tropes, which tracks frequently used narrative devices, has an entry for it called “Stalking is Love”. (Of course, it’s only love when a man does it. If a woman so much as calls her ex up she’s immediately characterized as “crazy”.) In a 2016 paper on Hollywood’s depiction of “persistent pursuit” the researcher Julia Lippman found, unsurprisingly, that exposure to this trope normalizes the behavior. “[T]he romanticized pursuit behaviors commonly featured in the media as a part of normative courtship can lead to an increase in stalking-supportive beliefs,” Lippman states.
Once again, I have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes with Kardashian and Ye. But what’s happening in public should not be dismissed as entertainment; Ye’s online harassment should not be dismissed as harmless. Their divorce may be a private matter between the two of them but further normalizing the idea that persistent pursuit is romantic is harmful for everyone.
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Big news in the bug world this week: London’s National History Museum has confirmed that a pet green bean stick insect called Charlie is male and female. That’s a “gynandromorph” if you’re being fancy. Charlie is apparently the “first reported gynandromorph” in that species and has now been donated to the museum for scientific research. Woke culture really has gone too far, eh? Even stick insects are coming out as non-binary.
Arwa Mahdawi’s new book, Strong Female Lead, is available for order