Does homophobic DJ Ten Walls deserve a second chance?

Wouter van Dijke

Marijus Adomaitis is gonna have a quiet summer this year. The Lithuanian DJ and producer, who is better known under his stage name Ten Walls, wrote a rather homophobic post on his Facebook page last week. He called gay men ‘a different breed’ who would get ‘fixed’ in the ‘good nineties’ and compared homosexuality to sexual abuse of children by catholic priests.

In reaction, a number of large dance festivals throughout Europe dropped him from their bills. A Dutch radio DJ promised never to play another Ten Walls record, other musicians spoke out against him and even his booking agent fired Adomaitis. An abrupt end to the DJ’s career, it seems.

It’s understandable: no one wants to be associated with someone who spews so much hate. But I think demonising Ten Walls is not the right solution.

Simply ignoring any voice you do not want to hear, that’s treating a symptom, not a cure. It doesn’t change anything. A festival has every right to ban homophobic performers, but it’s just too easy. Right now there is a fantastic opportunity to create actual change. Festivals and promoters should give Ten Walls a second chance, imposing their own strict conditions. If anyone has the chance to change a performer’s mind, it’s them.

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In fact it has already been done in other genres. After a number of Jamaican musicians got discredited over homophobic lyrics, which sometimes even promoted violence against homosexuals, a number of large promoters worked together with the Stop Murder Music-campaign to draw up the ‘Reggae Compassionate Act’. In this covenant participating performers promised to ‘respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender’. Any performer that broke this agreement could end up having their shows cancelled and sponsorship deals revoked.

To enforce compassion through a covenant is strange: it shouldn’t be necessary. But when it works, it has important benefits.

First of all it forces artists to reevaluate exactly why they are being made to sign such a contract. Why are they homophobic in the first place? In the case of Ten Walls, the culture of his home country will be an important factor. In a 2009 poll, 81 percent of Lithuanians said to consider homosexuality a ‘perversion or disease’. Prompting anyone to take a critical look at their own opinion could be enough to change it.

If Ten Walls would indeed change his mind about homosexuality, it could immediately have a major effect. Celebrities like Ten Walls serve as an example and young fans who see their favourite artist come to their senses might end up reconsidering their own prejudices. In a country so rife with homophobia, an example like that is urgently needed.

On top of that, taking swift and decisive action could help avoid homophobia in music becoming normal. In some genres like rap and R&B, it seems completely normal to describe how much you want to rape ‘bitches’. This music is very popular, no festival would cancel Robin ‘I know you want it’ Thicke and no European radio station banned Chris Brown after beating up his then-girlfriend Rihanna. Apparently misogyny is so commonplace that few people even bother being outraged or offended.

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That Ten Walls’ post does lead to mainstream outrage, shows that homophobia has the attention of both the music business and the public at large. And it should: statements like these create a highly toxic environment for (young) LGBTs. Gay youth is five times more likely to attempt suicide and claims that gays are ‘a different breed’ contribute to this.
If Ten Walls is banned, we protect listeners here from his dangerous ideas. But Ten Walls’ opinion remains unchanged. Now more than ever the music industry has a chance to get him on the right path. Promoters could demand that Ten Walls engages a dialogue with Lithuanian LGBT organisations or that he takes a closer look at the history of his own genre, which is rooted in the gay scene. That way, Ten Walls could save his career by bettering himself. He’d be forced to, if he ever wants to produce music again. Music shouldn’t be a means to incite hatred; it should be used to spread good things. Let’s do exactly that in our response to Ten Walls: Don’t hate him, change him!

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About Wouter van Dijke

Wouter van Dijke is a biology and journalism student from The Netherlands. Besides his passion for writing, Wouter loves to travel and party. He's quite good with science-y stuff, too, as long as no maths are involved.