Since it went live on Sunday, the petition to have Big Sean dropped as the Lawnparties main act has fueled an intense debate within the student body. The Editorial Board supports the discussion about misogyny in music and the role the campus community has in perpetuating it; however, the Board thinks that the petition’s focus on the Undergraduate Student Government should be expanded to a more holistic critique of campus culture in general. Instead of looking to blame USG president Ella Cheng ’16 and social chair Simon Wu ’17, the Board thinks that those who have signed the petition should look at the campus community and the choices that have led to his invitation, as well as the role that music with derogatory lyrics plays in our social lives.
The announcement of Big Sean as the main act for Lawnparties was initially greeted very favorably. Pictures printed in The Daily Princetonian showed elated students celebrating a musical act whose music is frequently played on the radio and danced to on the Street. Given this, the Board cannot entirely fault USG for its choice. Without knowing the other options USG had, it is clear that the choice it made was intended to satisfy its mandate to bring the most popular act to campus. As the reaction to previous main acts has shown, USG is under constant pressure to find acts that are not only affordable, but also popular and well known. It is clear that Big Sean is both. It is hard to entirely fault USG for carrying out the mission to find popular artists that the students have repeatedly asked it to complete given that students have complained when past acts were not up to their standards.
However, given this, the petition does force the campus community to ask some uncomfortable questions about the role of music that contains derogatory lyrics in our campus culture. Given the role that the Street plays in campus social life, an eating club regularly playing Big Sean’s music or music that is equally or more problematic on its dance floor may very well be more exclusionary than USG’s invitation for Big Sean to headline this year’s Lawnparties. The petitioners raise valid points, but we urge both those who sign the petition and those who do not to use this as an opportunity to consider the role that music with degrading lyrics plays in our own lives.
The hard truth is that Big Sean does not exist in a vacuum. He is a symptom of a problem that is much larger than music, much larger than the University and much larger than each of us. Not attending Big Sean’s concert or signing a petition is easy. It can make us feel absolved of personal responsibility in showing solidarity with issues that we care about. Signing a petition or boycotting the concert may be admirable if done for the right reasons, but that alone is hardly enough. Whether you sign the petition or not, the Board encourages you to think about the role music that contains degrading or offensive themes plays in your life. What role does it play in your personal music choices? What role does it play in the parties you attend? What role does it play in the communities you are a part of? More importantly, what role should this music play in those spaces? These are hard questions, but that should not distract the campus community from answering them. Taking meaningful steps to end misogyny on campus does not happen simply by blaming the choices of USG; it happens by examining what the University community chooses to value.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-In-Chief.