MY love affair with rap and hip-hop has taught me a lot about language, my other love.
A 'Bad Bitch', Rose defines, is a 'a self respecting, strong female who has everything together'
Via rambunctious beats and infectious hooks, I’ve studied the colourful use of metaphors. It taught me ‘bad’ can certainly mean ‘good’, that there’s no better verbal weaponry than a well-timed f-word, and despite better judgement you can reclaim words - evil words, that have historically been used to demean a racial class or group - and strip them of their ammunition.
We all know which word I’m talking about. Yet I’m still uncomfortable with writing it down.
So yes, on the flip side I don’t agree with all of hip-hop and all its controversial use of language (let’s not get me started on the misogyny) but the so-called 'repossession' of the N-word has allowed victims of other harmful words to take ownership.
Should gay men welcome ‘fag’, lesbians adopt ‘dyke’, the overweight claim 'fat' - and if I call you other women folk 'a bitch' in jest will you take offence?
Is it time to accept rather than reject?
Take Amber Rose; a model, a former stripper and now most commonly known for her dalliances with rappers Kanye West and former husband Wiz Khalifa. West, known for saying a whole bunch of controversial conjecture (or is it genius?), claimed in a recent radio interview that before he jumped into his marital bed with Kim ‘sex tape’ Kardashian he had to ‘have 30 showers’ to cleanse himself of his relationship with, we’re assuming, a dirty Amber Rose.
It’s a classic case of slut shaming. ‘Slut’ – another hate label dying to be reclaimed.
Rose’s retort to West has been, in the main, excellent (Twitter gold). She, and another scorned former wife of rapper, wore outfits emblazoned with the words ‘slut’, ‘hoe’, ‘goldigger’ and 'bitch' to address negative female focused labels.
Amber Rose’s widely celebrated and criticised slut walk followed. Women gathered together for a provocatively dressed protest in aid of female sexual empowerment and to attempt to rid outdated sexual stereotypes. They raised $45,000 for sexual health charities. The Slutwalk's message was clear, if I’m a slut you are too. This word can no longer hurt me. Slut and proud, sing it loud.
Amber Rose has gone on to write her first book named How To Be A Bad Bitch.
A 'Bad Bitch', Rose defines, is 'a self respecting, strong female who has everything together'. Advice includes 'stop overthinking your blow jobs' and ' a bad bitch never messes with a woman's man'.
For some, this has been empowering. Others regressive.
What’s happening here? What precipated this movement which encourages us to take ownership of the labels designed to offend us and wear them like a badge of honour? Ah yes, hip-hop again. The genre's roots in socio-political movements is certainly catching.
But ‘bitch’? That’s tough for me. Call me a bitch and we're fighting.
To accept bitch as a term of endearment in this #feminist age feels counterproductive. As women continue to climb high to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling, to acknowledge the word bitch, a heavily loaded word, as anything but offensive will inevitably drag us down.
I’ve been called a bitch. I’ve called others a bitch. I’ve hissed it. I’ve said it for comedic effect (i.e me and ma’ bitches. Werk it, bitch. Yaaaaas’) but there’s no way in hell I would use it to define me or my character.
As I'm writing, I’m listening to a hip-hop song that uses ‘bad bitch’ as a term of endearment and power (I swear a ‘Hip-hop and Feminism - a contradiction?’ article is on the cards). Sure I sing along but, in all sincerity, I am no one’s bitch. And my ability to disassociate from the 'bad bitches' rapped about in some of my favourite songs is becoming far more difficult.
Of course, language evolves and changes; as popular culture would suggest 'twerking' or ‘twirk’ no longer simply means to twist open an object. And 'bitch' when used playfully does not have to mean 'you female dog'.
Yet as a writer, it would be wrong to say that negative labels don’t resonate. Or that the most heavily loaded of words - and all their historical, political and societal baggage - could ever mean anything other than their original intent: hurtful, degrading, belittling insults.
How can 'bitch' mean anything but bad? Urban dictionary's synonyms are 'whore, slut, ho,etc, etc' - that says it all.
I can hear my mum in my ear, as she says ‘speak something enough and it becomes your truth’.
I've just turned up one of favourite songs Poetic Justice by Kendrick Lamar (typically an excellent, progressive lyracist). He raps, albeit ironically, ‘If you a bad bitch put your hands up high’. I listen with the same enthusiam as always, yet today I feel less inclined to raise my arm from my sleeve.
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