Before, during and after the trial of Tory Lanez, Megan Thee Stallion was treated as more of a villain than he was. Let’s talk about it.
OPINION: The Houston rapper has been the focus of gossip, rumors and flat-out lies about what really happened in July 2020.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
On Friday, Canadian rapper Tory Lanez was convicted of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, having a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle and discharging a firearm with gross negligence — charges related to the July 12, 2020, shooting of fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion. Because the jury agreed that there were “aggravating factors” in the shooting, Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, faces up to 22 years in prison and deportation after he serves his sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25.
In the two-and-a-half years since the shooting, Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete, has faced online harassment and abuse from fans of Lanez, others in the hip-hop community and people in the general public who did not believe her story. Friday’s conviction of Lanez did not change that at all; people are still positing that she lied about the entire situation.
The entire situation stinks of misogynoir, and it serves as a reminder of how much Black women go unprotected in this world, even as many claim to love us and want to protect us.
Pete was subjected to a targeted campaign of weaponized misinformation and had her name dragged through the mud day after day. In her testimony during the trial, she tearfully related how this entire situation has impacted her life and made things harder for her, saying at one point, “Because I was shot, I’ve been turned into some kind of villain, and he’s the victim. This has messed up my whole life.
“I wish he would have just shot and killed me (rather than) have to go through this torture,” she said.
Victim blaming and shaming is nothing new; we see it all the time.
What makes it especially egregious in this instance is that Pete did not initially tell police that Lanez had shot her, possibly saving Lanez from being yet another hashtag.
Read that last part again, because the fact that she didn’t initially tell police she was shot has become a talking point folks have used to villainize her and say that she made up the entire shooting. Pete didn’t tell police Lanez shot her because she was trying to prevent him from becoming yet another hashtag. Imagine if the police knew in that instance that he had shot her? How would that scenario have played out?
We will never know, because Pete kept it to herself and didn’t speak publicly about it until rumors began spreading about what occurred that night after they left Kylie Jenner’s party, forcing her to have to defend herself publicly.
Megan Thee Stallion was shot in the feet after an altercation occurred in the car she was riding in with her former friend Kelsey and Lanez. This is a fact. There is medical documentation as well as the testimony of the medical doctor to corroborate this.
Lanez went on trial for two weeks to face charges in the shooting incident, and he was ultimately found guilty on all charges related to the shooting. This is also a fact.
A Black woman was harmed by a Black man, yet the Black woman is the one who suffered the most umbrage from the general public, and that is telling about us both as a society and as a people and culture.
Black women are repeatedly disregarded in situations like this, and Pete is just the latest example — except for her, it went even deeper than that.
Pete was the victim of a targeted campaign of weaponized misinformation throughout her entire ordeal. As reported by NBC News, “popular hip-hop bloggers, podcasters and social media accounts” — who don’t follow the same journalistic standards of ethics as the rest of us — have put forth unsubstantiated theories about what really happened that evening, and those theories have been read and spread by their millions of followers, whether they were true, based in fact, or not.
These online personalities draw thousands to millions of viewers for celebrity-related news, and often share provocative, unverified rumors to their throngs of followers. The result is online fervor fueled by misogyny and misinformation that pits a high-profile woman, such as Megan Thee Stallion or Amber Heard, against a man accused of destructive behavior, such as Tory Lanez or Johnny Depp.
As Catherine Knight Steele, a communications professor at the University of Maryland and the author of “Digital Black Feminism,” told NBC in the same report, “This points to the way that mis- and disinformation, and misogynoir, is trafficked because of its profitability, even in the Black community. It’s profitable for these sites to traffic in the most-vile stereotypes about Black women.”
Milagro Gramz, a hip-hop news commentator, admitted to NBC that not everything she posts is meant to be factual and that at times she just posts things for “comedic effect.”
Too bad Milagro Gramz is too goofy and drunk off internet clout to realize the damage she and others like her are doing when Black women are actually harmed.
Or, as Steele put it, “Whatever can garner the most controversy can go the most viral. It’s profitable because being anti-Black woman, using Black women as scapegoats or villains, works for a variety of audiences, white audiences, Black men audiences and, most, unfortunately, in spaces where Black women use misogynoir to distance themselves from the negative implications of being associated with other Black women.”
A lot of people want to argue that the things they have said about Pete are just their “opinion,” but here’s the thing: Opinions need to be rooted in fact.
If your opinion is not based on facts or rooted in fact, then you have just made something up and are putting it out there as if it were facts, and that is harmful to us all.
Improved and increased media literacy could have gone a long way to prevent a lot of these rumors about Pete from spreading, but I’ll save the media literacy lecture for another day.
Suffice it to say that Pete is the victim in this situation, not Lanez.
Dragging her through the mud, weaponizing her sexuality against her, and making her truth seem like a lie in favor of defending the man who shot her is the lowest form of “journalism” out there.
Everyone should be ashamed.
Tory Lanez was convicted on all three charges Friday, and while it may seem like Pete has gotten the justice she deserves, she really hasn’t.
Justice won’t be served until everyone who spread rumors about her during this ordeal has been dealt with accordingly.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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