Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards offered one of the best examples of how power and privilege can be used and abused.
The very first Moonman of the night went to 19-year-old Taylor Swift, who won the award for Best Female Video for her song “You Belong With Me” – topping music powerhouses such as Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and P!nk. As Swift began her acceptance speech, singer Kanye West – apparently upset at the outcome – hijacked Taylor’s spotlight: he took the stage, grabbed her mic, and said, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you. I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”
Then West shrugged his shoulders, handed the mic back, and left the stage, but the damage was done. Swift stood stunned while the rest of the crowd, including Beyonce, looked on in disbelief. She never got to finish her speech.
I was immediately infuriated. And believe me, I wasn’t the only one – the Twitterverse erupted in contempt for Kanye, and within an hour Swift’s supporters had made “teamtaylor” one of the top 10 keywords on the microblogging site. Most of the comments lashed out at Kanye, calling him one synonym for “jerk” or another. But I had only one thought.
Why do some people believe their right to have their voice heard is more important than others’?
Kayne’s outburst shows precisely how power and privilege can be exercised at the expense of others. Whereas others in the crowd or home audience may have disagreed that Taylor deserved the award, Kanye, for whatever reason, felt so strongly that his opinion deserved to be heard that it didn’t matter whose rights he had to step on in order to achieve it. And, because Kayne is who he is (insanely famous, rich, and respected in the industry), no one stopped him from crashing the stage and physically taking Taylor’s mic away from her in the middle of her speech. The scene epitomized the dynamic of relational aggression.
Beyonce Knowles and Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards.
But not everyone uses their power to dismiss others. My faith was redeemed by this moment: At the end of the night when Beyonce won the Video of the Year award, the 28-year-old singer graciously invited Swift back to the stage to finish her speech, saying “I remember being 17-years-old, up for my first MTV Award with Destiny’s Child and it was one of the most exciting moments in my life. So I’d like Taylor to come out and have her moment.”
Sure, Beyonce may have just been trying to save face (who wants 2 million 13-year-old girls on their bad side?) But she still used her position of power to make the situation right. Her action illustrated that Taylor – and every person – has the inherent right to have her voice heard. Whether it’s in front of 50 million people on live television, or five people in the lunchroom, that right is nonnegotiable.
Kanye West is to music what Terrell Owens is to sports–very talented, but arrogant to the point where that trait is becoming as synonymous with their names as their music and athletic abilities. They should go live on an island alone somewhere and complain endlessly about how no one appreciates them.
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by EmilyBartek. EmilyBartek said: RT @RosalindWiseman: Lesson on how power & privilege is abused: @candacenuzzo's blog on #Kanye's #VMAs outburst http://tinyurl.com/n25k7u [...]
Rosalind Wiseman is an internationally recognized author and educator on children, teens, parenting, education and social justice. Her work aims to help parents, educators and young people successfully navigate the social challenges of young adulthood.