Action Bronson is an American Hip Hop artist known as much for his misogynist lyrics and imagery as anything else. He was booked to headline this year’s NXNE, a Toronto-based festival/conference which is in part publicly-funded. The venue, Yonge-Dundas Square, is a public, city-run venue on one of the city’s busiest intersections.
A review by Julia Leconte from his 2013 performance at the Danforth Music Hall said:
“During one song, Bronson brought a woman onstage, threw her over his shoulder, put her down in front of him, and proceeded to grope and shake her breast for…like, a long time. Then he tossed her away like a piece of trash… the most disturbing part was the uproarious cheers from the mostly college-boy crowd.”
In late May 2015, Toronto resident Erica Shiner started a petition to ask NXNE and the City of Toronto to take Action Bronson off of their lineup this year. Within a week it had more than 40,000 signatures.
NXNE initially responded with a press release that leant heavily on a defense of artistic freedom and free speech, both of which aren’t applicable arguments in this case – the right to ‘free speech’ only protects people from arrest/punishment by the government, not from consequences, and no one is actually censoring Action Bronson – just denying him a platform from which to amplify his message.
As the story gained international attention, it also drew comment from Mayor John Tory, who described the lyrics as “astonishing and very disturbing.”
A few days later, NXNE released a second advisory, stating that they are withdrawing Action Bronson from the public venue and offering him an indoor, ticketed venue instead. While the move was a responsible one, the tone of the press release remained a bit sulky, equating the rapper’s performance with political rallies.
A number of responses from writers and community members have gone up online, with one of the best being Carla Gillis‘ ‘We’ve Had Enough,’ wherein she says:
“All I know is that when it comes to misogyny – in music or anywhere else – we’ve had enough. And if the overwhelming support for this petition (42,738 signatures and counting) signals that we’ve reached a point of zero tolerance toward those who promote the degradation of others through music or any other way, then three cheers from me. ”