The media recently turned its attention upon Eminem, the US rap singer, during his British tour. Eminem's sexist and anti-gay lyrics led Sheffield University Student Union to ban his songs and image from campus. His concerts attract angry protests from gay rights activists. Socialist Worker spoke to people in the age group 14-17, Eminem's main fan base, about the rap star.
'Eminem is a very talented guy,' says Paul Afshar, a 17 year old from Bradford. 'I like his music but hate his lyrics for their sexism and homophobia. He appeals to people my age because he seems to be angry, and standing up against authority and the things that repress people.'
'He's rebellious and people my age just want rebellion,' Jack Shenker, a 16 year old from east London, said. 'The more mainstream society seems to be against him, the more young people like him.' 'Most of the things he does are purely for shock value,' Laura Bruneau, a 15 year old from west London, said. 'If parents hate him, then kids who want to rebel will go and buy his records.'
Alex Souter-Randall from Coventry is 14 years old. She said, 'The thing is, he doesn't stand up for the right things.'
'All the things Eminem sings about are part of the status quo of society – being sexist, homophobic, driving flash BMW cars,' says Paul. 'He's not really rebellious. A lot of people who are his fans agree with me when I argue against his homophobia and sexism. They say he goes too far.'
'All of my friends are big fans of his music but they all agree that he's a bit of a dickhead,' said Jack. 'Lots of people understand about the words he uses. They say things like, 'It's only words – we all know better than that',' said Alex.
'There's a few gay and lesbian students at my school who've been standing up for their rights and arguing against Eminem. While they're not quite accepted by the majority of kids, they don't get abuse. So liking Eminem's music and attitude doesn't mean people behave aggressively towards gay and lesbian students.' 'Bigoted ideas like sexism and homophobia run right through society,' says Jack. 'Eminem is a symptom of that, not a cause.'
'I agree with the people who are picketing his concerts,' said Paul. 'But I think the ban at Sheffeld University was divisive. We need to tackle the wider issues to stamp out bigotry, not just ban one product of this in society. 'The protests and critics have been successful and have pushed Eminem to sing with Elton John, one of the most famous gay men in the world, at the coming US Grammy Awards. As socialists we need to realise that even though somebody's a talented artist, and we don't agree with individual censorship, we should still be able to criticise him.'