5 Things We Learned from the Victory Over Rick Ross and Rape Rap

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I have to say I was surprised when Reebok announced their decision to drop Rick Ross's endorsement deal. Corporations usually sweep these issues under the rug and hope the backlash will pass. Fortunately, the voices of men and women across the world and country were heard. We will not stay silent while prominent voices endorse sexual assault. Bravo to everyone who contributed to the effort.

This triumph can serve as a guide for future endeavors. Here are a few things we can learn from this battle won in the ongoing war against rape culture.

Online Activism Works
The men and women truly committed to creating a change won this victory. The work might have begun with the distribution of online petitions, but that is not where it ended. The organizing of countless bloggers, activists, and organizing platforms like UltraViolet, Color of Change were supplemented by offline organizing. Without the work of activists online, this would never have become a major news story. That's the power of social media.

Demand Accountability from Corporate Sponsors
Appeals to a record label asking them to hold any artist culpable for the lyrical content of their music yields few results. Rick Ross will continue to earn Def Jam tons of money, so they stood behind him and his reprehensible rape rap. Def Jam's silence exemplifies the problems with the commodification of violent, misogynistic lifestyles. Preserving Ross's image was more important than addressing endemic rape culture.

The Ultraviolet-led rebellion against Ross's sponsor Reebook proved far more successful because the company has relatively little invested in Ross in comparison to the cost of a wall of negative press for days on end. Women and men like Wagatwe camped out in front of the athletic wear's corporate office in New York creating  Ross losing his Reebok endorsement deal also forced him to offer a real apology for fear of losing future earnings.

Apologies Mean Something
I'm endlessly frustrated by the sentiment that people should never apologize for the things they've said or done if they mean them. Admitting wrong doing is an essential first step in changing a culture that actively endorses violence against women. Far too many felt Rick Ross had nothing to apologize for. They could not and still can not see how slipping a drug into a glass of an unwitting woman and engaging her in nonconsensual sex is rape. An apology offered under duress may not change the heart or mind of the person who committed the offense, but it offers a clear statement that the behavior was socially unacceptable.

Women Need Allies 
From my understanding, a male writer for a rap blog originally posted about Rick Ross's rapist-approved lyrics. He brought important attention to a verse that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. We need men who recognize the seriousness of sexual assault to take a stand as soon as they see questionable behavior. Women should not always have to lead the charge. Allies are necessary. But to be clear, women do not need male allies who are more concerned with maintaining the type of patriarchy that makes them most comfortable than fighting for the full humanity of women. I discuss this further here.

There's Hope 
The enormity of the problem culture that disregards the safety and security of women can feel like insurmountable. It's important to recognize that misogyny and sexism isn't confined to a certain demographic or a certain genre of music. It pervades everything we touch. All of our interactions are colored by conditioning that teaches us women as inherently less valuable. However, victories like these remind those us working for change that our labor is not in vain. Stay encouraged, stay organized, and fight battles you believe in.

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or

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