Lil B is no stranger to the weird, debatably “toxic” world of online feminism. The prolific Bay Area rapper — creator, most recently, of 101-song mixtape 05 Fuck Em, dropped on Christmas Eve — regularly dispenses pearls of wisdom to his nearly 900,000 Twitter followers, from the relentlessly positive (“Try and get good grades in school for Lil B, i love you and thank you for trying”) to the endearingly weird (“i wanna send respect to all the animals that die everyday like walrus and others who people tend not to talk about and forget about”). The Based God has sounded off on behalf of his female fans before, most notably in response to Wendy Davis’ pink-sneaker clad filibuster this past June.
“When politicians try to restrict women’s rights, it hurts. These things should be up to women,” Lil B told Rolling Stone after posting mini-manifestos like “STAY STRONG #WOMEN EVEN IN THIS MALE DOMINATED GOVERNMENT, STAY POSITIVE! YOUR BODY IS YOURS!” He continued: “It’s up to a woman how she wants to bring a child into the world, or if she wants to continue with her life and mature more and bring a child in when she’s ready.” No wonder The Cut‘s Kat Stoeffel dubbed him “Your New Favorite Male Feminist.”
Enter the running debate that’s taken over Lil B’s Twitter feed for the last couple days. If a reader scrolls past the various retweeted pictures of fans and their pets (such is the power of Lil B declaring “Real cool people are kind to animals”), they’ll find dozens of users sounding off on the relationship between gender and sexual assault, the problem of military rape, and the definition of “rape culture.” It all started with this post from Monday, which apparently wasn’t intended to address sexual assault at all:
Which led to objections like this one:
Which, to his credit, Lil B retweeted. And then decided to turn the thread into an even broader discussion than the already hefty topic of the myth that women’s clothing is related to rape. Just a week after fellow Twitter user @steenfox sparked an uproar (not to mention a debate over whether a publicly accessible website is, uh, public) by retweeting survivor’s descriptions of what they were wearing at the time of their assault, Lil B sent out this prompt to nearly a million people:
The retweet spree that followed, consisting of hundreds of replies, continued through yesterday afternoon. The sheer range of beliefs on display is astonishing; opinions run the full gamut from bros who’ve clearly never heard the term “rape culture” before to seasoned feminists to, most importantly, survivors sharing their stories publicly. Twitter’s a great platform for quickly and efficiently sharing opinions, but it’s also a place where communities often develop into echo chambers. It’s thus rare (har, har) to see opinions as divergent as these sharing the same feed in a relatively civil debate:
Some of these perspectives seem more worth sharing than others — I’m not even going to touch the guy who thinks rape culture doesn’t exist because there’s a general consensus that rape is bad — and Lil B himself is far from a picture-perfect feminist. These two in particular are fairly cringe-worthy:
But when it comes to celebrity’s politics, being in the right to begin with is often less important than showing a willingness to learn from one’s mistakes. And one of the many things that stands out about Lil B’s impromptu open forum is his willingness to broadcast and, by implication, listen to fan’s criticisms. Like this succinct call-out:
The impromptu open forum is as much a master class in being receptive to criticism as it is an opportunity to publicize important ideas about gender and assault. More than his vocal support of Wendy Davis or even his female friends, Lil B’s live education in followers’ experiences with sexism and rape culture is fascinating to behold. Celebrities posing tough questions to their massive social media followings isn’t common; turning those questions into a productive conversation, even less so.
Lil B’s characteristically optimistic sign off speaks for itself: