Kanye West’s new song “I Won” is making headlines (because everything he touches turns to mass media hysteria) mainly for the fact that he appears to mock Kim Kardashian’s exes, Kris Humphries and Reggie Bush. However, perhaps it should be the rest of the song that people should be making a fuss about, as the new song by “Yeezus” (as West is also known in an incredibly questionable allusion to Jesus) is being seriously misjudged. Rapping about his fiancee, reality star Kim Kardashian, and her immediate family as “trophies” and prizes to be won on a level comparable to the Superbowl, “I Won” is clearly meant to be a celebration of his, ah, achievements in landing such a prestigious trophy as his lady socialite. Yet the underlying message of the rap is a much more uncomfortable portrayal of how the man sees the main woman in his life.
Rap music is notorious for sexist and derogatory lyrics about women, but they are not normally dressed up in a supposed celebration of the woman in question – normally they are just transparent efforts at self-promotion and self-congratulation on being born with over-sized male genitalia. In fact as rap lyrics go, the words of “I Won”, while clearly a master class in arrogance and self-worship (two talents which no-one can dispute West has in abundance), are not half as abusive as many other rap songs out there. So why does it leave such a sour taste in the mouth? Well, maybe because of the fact that it masquerades as a celebration of a particular woman, a childish dance of success at finally laying claim to something so wonderful and beautiful that the whole world needs to know about it, while actually demeaning women to the status of mere accessories only to be used as a means of showing off.
Say what you like about Kim Kardashian (and there is a lot to say), she doesn’t really fit the stereotype of a traditional “trophy wife” – not least because she is not actually married to the rapper yet. She is, whether people like it or not, an incredibly successful business woman who has used personal promotion in the most crude and blatant forms to make a financial fortune. While men might have been instrumental in terms of playing certain roles in the making of her success, there is little to suggest that they were the mastermind behind the route to fame which Kardashian trod. Unlike most “trophy” wives, she is not, and never appears to have been, reliant in any financial way on her other half and while his name might attract a different sort of attention, the sheer numbers are probably not that different in terms of how much attention both of them receive. So while West’s new song is intended as a testament to the beauty of Kardashian and a possible dig at the men who clearly lost out on this “trophy”, maybe people are looking at the wrong parts of the song and making a serious misjudgement about its core meaning.
Who knows what the image-conscious television star thought when hearing the words “now that ass gettin’ fatter” as the rapper referenced her recent pregnancy and the birth of their daughter who is now the most fashionable direction, North West. She might have been perfectly fine with it given that he does not seem to criticize the weight gain (unlike the media which pretty much had a field day every time the poor woman appeared during her pregnancy). Or maybe she was more concerned by the line meant to be a shout out to her other sisters, all of whom are called trophies as well – which seems to undermine the significance of her own status as such a coveted prize…In reality she was probably just incredibly happy to have the rapper fawn over her as according to the media that has been her mission in life for the last five years. Yet this is a little difficult to believe given the woman’s clear pride in the empire she has been instrumental in building around her family name. A self-confessed workaholic who broke up with one of the exes alluded to in the song because she was unwilling to compromise her work schedule, Kardashian has never seemed happy to just sit by and play second fiddle to someone else – not even other members of her family. So it would be quite a sudden change of pace to go from high-flying business woman to someone willing to just be taken out for her husband to show off.
It is also interesting that people continue to be fascinated by the rapper insulting the men Kardashian used to date (or married). The line in the song does not even mention either of the well-known exes by name, merely referencing their profession as West says, “made it over NBA, NFL players” in his battle to gain the ultimate Kardashian prize – Kim’s hand in marriage (not that she is particularly difficult to convince to walk up the aisle as her upcoming nuptials with West will be her third time). In the context of the song though, this reference is not only insignificant as the rapper’s animosity towards the men is well documented, it is only there to reinforce the feeling of victory West clearly promotes. The whole basis of the song is the idea that Kardashian is just one more accolade for him to add to his trophy cabinet and wave around in boyish delight to anyone that comes within a few feet. It would not be such a problem if this representation of women was not meant to be seen as a compliment – even Kardashian has more to offer than just her ass – “dipped in gold” or not. This is not just a conventional show by a rapper bragging about his prowess in the bedroom, dominance or demeaning of the opposite sex; Kanye West’s new song is being seriously misjudged instead as a commendation of his future-wife-to-be. The fact is, even for someone as vain and vacuous as Kim Kardashian, it is more than a bit insulting.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion