Fans of Megan Thee Stallion are trying to shift the public’s attention away from what they believe to be a misogynistic narrative around the current trial against Tory Lanez, who is accused of shooting the rapper in the foot.
Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, was charged in 2020 with assault with a semi-automatic firearm and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said. Prosecutors added a third charge, discharging a firearm with gross negligence, earlier this month. Peterson has pleaded not guilty — if convicted, he could face more than 22 years in prison.
Peterson’s legal team has said it’s a “case about jealousy,’’ telling jurors that Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, and her former friend Kelsey Nicole Harris, who was also in the car at the time of the incident, had gotten into an argument about Peterson and other men. The alleged fight is among the conversation points that have been highlighted by blogs and commentators, in addition to speculation surrounding Pete’s sex life and intimate relationship with Peterson.
The public attention on Pete’s sexual history has sparked backlash from her fans, who are utilizing social media to show their solidarity with the rapper. Rather than allow slut-shaming or victim-blaming to proliferate online, many “hotties” — what fans of the rapper call themselves — have made it a point to question why people are using Pete’s sexual history to distract from the act of violence committed against her.
“I personally don’t care if Megan slept with the entire city of Houston,” one person wrote in a viral tweet earlier this week. “WHY WAS SHE SHOT?”
It was among the thousands of tweets about the trial this week. As Pete took the stand to testify Tuesday, some of her supporters gathered outside the courthouse while thousands online used the hashtag #WeStandWithMegan to rally behind her virtually.
The "hotties’" response to the trial and their vocal support of Pete is an example of “digital alchemy,” according to Dr. Moya Bailey, a race and gender scholar who coined the term “misogynoir,” or the specific misogyny against Black women where sexism and racism intersect. Digital alchemy is the practice of Black women and women of color using the internet to combat and counter misogynoir.
“I see Meg’s fans as being part of a generation that is considering how women’s sexuality and Black women’s sexuality is being targeted in popular culture,” said Bailey, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. “One of the ways to address that and speak back to it is through Twitter, through hashtags, through these digital platforms.”
There are two types of digital alchemy, according to Bailey: generative, or the creation of content and hashtags to drum up support; and reactionary, meaning the strategic response to an inciting incident.
“I think it’s really empowering that people can find and use social media platforms as a space to get that other voice out,” said Bailey. “So that the naysayers are not dominant, so that there is a real contingent of people who are saying, ‘focusing on her sexuality is victim-blaming, is slut-shaming.’”
Luis Hernandez, who demonstrated outside of the courthouse Tuesday to “really champion” Megan Thee Stallion, was among the group of activists who organized the #IStandWithMegan demonstration. He said he believes it’s important to show solidarity with women who experience violence and harassment.
We know that so often Black women are not believed, are disregarded, are disrespected and are not treated with grace, both in our judiciary system but also by community members.
- Luis Hernandez, one of Megan Thee Stallion's supporters
“We know that so often Black women are not believed, are disregarded, are disrespected and are not treated with grace, both in our judiciary system but also by community members,” said Hernandez, who serves as the national director of youth campaigns for The Gathering for Justice, an advocacy group that was created in 2005.
“It was essential to be there [outside the courthouse] ... and ensure that she felt loved, centered and supported.”
Shani, a Megan Thee Stallion fan who asked to use her first name due to harassment fears, echoed similar sentiments.
“Because this could be anybody,” said Shani, who was not present in-person on Tuesday but has been vocal for her support of the rapper online. “Especially for Black women, violence against women in our community is very common.”
She noticed that online a lot of fans are calling out people who are highlighting Pete’s sexual history.
“We all know this is not relevant to the trial, because even if she did have sex with any of these men, none of that changes the fact that it’s been proven that Meg was shot,” she said. “Like we’re not focused on her sexual past, we’re not focused on her twerking online, that’s irrelevant. None of that justifies what happened to her.”
Despite the fact that Peterson is the one on trial, many people following the case are treating Pete as if she is on trial herself, said Treva Lindsey, a professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at The Ohio State University.
“People have called it the Meg and Tory trial when she’s not on trial for anything,” Lindsey, who is author of “America Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and The Struggle for Justice,” said. “Something happened to her and she has to testify about it, despite initially not wanting to say anything about what occurred to her.”
Pete told the court that in the months before the shooting, she and Peterson had become friends and occasionally had a sexual relationship, the Los Angeles Times reported. But she expressed frustration about the fact that the case had largely focused on whether she had Peterson had sex.
“This whole story has not been about the shooting. It’s only been about who I been having sex with,” she said Tuesday, according to the LA Times. “When people talk about Megan Thee Stallion getting shot, all the headlines are Megan Thee Stallion is on trial and I’m not on trial!”
Hernandez said supporters recognize that slut shaming is being used to discredit Pete and paint her as an imperfect victim.
“It’s a tool used to embarrass and humiliate women like Meg the Stallion,” he said. “But we want people to know that that is not going to distract us, that does not change the facts of the case and that does not distort from the fact that she deserves our support as someone who’s been victimized by gun violence, and also discredited because of the fact that she’s a Black woman.”