Talks with Cox: The Kanye Situation

Gracie Cox, Opinions Editor

We’ve all seen the screenshots, memes and Instagram posts surrounding and often made by Kanye West. They’re scattered, written in all caps, and seem like they could be from a fake account. It’s easy to write all of these posts off as an unhinged divorcee sharing his jealousy and hatred for his ex’s new boyfriend with the world. But, as difficult as it may seem, don’t mock Kanye, as his outbursts are as a result of his extreme mental illness, which he shouldn’t be mocked for.

For a little background, let me tell you a brief history of Kanye. Unlike the male manipulators out there, I won’t be talking about his music, but instead his lifelong struggle with poor mental health. More specifically, bipolar disorder. Bipolar, as described by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “…is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.” An oftentimes debilitating disorder, bipolar is one to be taken seriously, even when it comes to discussing star-studded celebs.

Over his professional career as a rapper, Kanye has had a number of public “outbursts,” going from his interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMA’s to his 2020 presidential campaign (I bet you forgot about that, didn’t you?). At the time and still, currently, all of these situations have been boiled down to a spoiled member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan finally breaking down. But, there’s more beneath the surface, as these are prime examples of manic episodes or periods of abnormally high energy that people with bipolar may experience.

It’s easy to laugh at or mock Kanye’s behavior. Up until a few months ago, I did the same. But, as his outbursts are a matter of poorly-managed mental illness, it’s unfair to do so.

And, even if bipolar was taken out of the picture, the Kanye situation is still far more serious than the media portrays it to be. His actions have a direct impact on the people around him. For his children, this means embarrassment and knowing that their father is being slandered across the Internet and back. For Pete Davidson (or “Skete” going off of Ye’s posts), this means potential danger as a result of Kanye’s slandering. And for the 7 million sufferers of bipolar disorder, the stigma surrounding their illness only increases. With Kanye serving as a poster child of the disorder, the rest of the community is expected to be just as unhinged as their most famous member. Considering the recent leaps and strides towards destigmatizing mental illness, this is especially disappointing.

Then, there comes the hypocrisy of the situation. Kanye, as a male artist, is given much more “slack” for his irrational behavior, but not necessarily in a positive sense. If a female artist, let’s say his arch-nemesis Taylor Swift, for example, behaved in the same way, they would be described as off their rocker and had their career derailed. It’s frustrating to see successful female artists written off as crazy and over-emotional for sharing their feelings, while male artists such as Kanye are believed to be “visionary” and keep coming back album after album and mistake after mistake. And for female stars with bipolar, like Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes, their careers are dismantled, and their entire lives may be controlled through conservatorships. The discrepancy is obvious, and I don’t expect this to change anytime soon. To women in the public eye, I recommend just embracing your “crazy” reputation and going all-out, because you’re going to be depicted as such no matter what you do.

With my tangent over, let’s get back to Kanye. Now, I’m no Kanye sympathizer. I see clear flaws with his character such as supporting not one but two notorious rapists, but to what extent can we judge him for his actions? Is he truly in control over himself and what he posts, or does his mania take over for those Twitter rants and flushing down the toilet of Grammys? I’m afraid I don’t have the expertise to answer these questions, but I’ll leave them for you to ponder yourself.

In the complicated world of mental health and stardom, much is left in the dark. And what is exposed, most often through social media, sensationalizes the reality of a situation. Without platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, we would have no idea about what is going on between everyone’s favorite SNL star and Ye himself. But, maybe that would be for the best. Simply put, some things should be left out of the public eye, manic episodes included. It’s entertaining to watch the dumpster fire of drama burn, but think about what it singes in the process. Relationships, trust, professionalism and respect are lost in the smoke. With this in mind, I ask that you keep in mind that others’ mental illness is not a joke for you to laugh at.