B**** Ain't Nothin' but a Word – or Is It?
Updated: Jun 14
Photo courtesy of People.com [http://www.people.com/article/kanye-west-tweets-taylor-swift-famous-lyrics]
WARNING!! Contains explicit content.
TayWest vs KSwift
I’ve never been a fan of TMZ. The concept of watching television shows and reading rag mags dedicated to the further exploitation of the lives of those we deem worthy of celebrity status is oft times lost on me. My interest is diminutive and is only piqued weekdays that find me home with nothing better to do between the hours of 4-5pm when TMZ Live airs. For me, it’s less about finding out what trouble my favorite stars have gotten themselves into, and moreso the idea of men who span a couple of generations hanging around discussing the goings on and gettings in of Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose!
And speaking of Kanye West…the latest recap of his most recent folly involving one Taylor Swift signifies the first time that I actually took a genuine interest in what a TMZ story segment was about. The battle of the cross-genre hitmakers debating whether Yeezy’s lyrics on his latest song Famous were Teezy approved, seem to be the focal point of their latest embroilment. Says Tay-Tay, per her peeps-in-charge [and I’m paraphrasing here], she was totes anti the release of a song with such a strong misogynistic message, while Yeezus tweets that she was not only down [with the song] but approved the lyrics citing them as…well, funny. Hm.
So what is this all too important lyric that is causing all the raucous and furthermore, why should I care? Here goes:
"For all my Southside niggas who will know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why, I made that bitch famous / God damn / I made that bitch famous."
Now supposedly there is some controversy about whether or not K-dub’s intent was to diss the blonde bopper who I have no doubt will Shake It Off. However – and this is where my damn was provided – per YeWe, it was actually not a diss as the word bitch in Hip Hop is a term of endearment.
[insert record screeching noise here] Say what, now what?
I suppose feigning shock at this assertion is a bit callow. It’s not as though I haven’t heard women refer to one another in this fashion as a term of endearment plenty. And although I’ve most certainly found it cringe-worthy, I didn’t find it take-a-stand worthy. The habit was even picked up on ABC’s The View [Barabra Walters would be turning over in her grave if she were not still alive!]. But these are women speaking to other women. And I get it. Like the word “nigger/a”, it was decided by some zesty femenista majoring in Women’s Studies and dating a girl named Dan, or possibly some thot named Cookie dating a dope dealer named Southside Dan, that we would strip the word of its historic mysongonystic degradation, pain, and humiliation, and mold it into something positive and new!
Creativity, I can dig it.
Ain't Nothin' but a Word to Me
I see but one issue with the repurposing of the word – it is NOT a positive word. You cannot remove the malice embedded in it any more than you can with the quote-unquote N-word, by simply allowing your voice to swing up in octave while you say it, cocking your head to one side and snapping your finger in an arc. It just doesn’t work that way.
So the question that I pose to my people and the children of the generations coming up behind me is this: Where do we draw the line? I cannot front, I have been just as guilty. Although I refrain from the use of such counterproductive appellations as bitch and nigga, I also, at one point, elected to adopt someone else’s belief that as long as those words were said by the right people, to the right people, at the right time, with the proper tone and inflection, then it was okay and we were somehow taking our power back! Or something like that.
But if for a word to be acceptable it requires a laundry-list of addendums, how acceptable is it really? However, that is not my issue. To each his and her own. So for me to better illustrate what troubles me so, you must allow me to take you back a ways…
The year is 1990. The residence is a rooming house on 55th Street on the south side of Chicago called “The Alamo”. The song is Ain’t Nothin’ but a Word to Me by Too Short [feat. Ice Cube]. And the highly explicit opening lyrics are as follows:
“Now take my bitch / She won't complain about shit / Becuase, she's my hoe / She don't belong to a trick / So when you fuck her, and give her all your cash / I get paid, or put my foot in her ass…”
Short Dog's in the House album cover, released September 11, 1990
Appalling? Sure. But for me, although that entire concoction of thought is admittedly destructive, abusive, offensive and whatever other –ive one wishes to toss in here, it didn’t bother me not one bit because it was "just a song" and "I am not a bitch". I know this because my family, and especially my great-grandfather, made sure that I knew my worth. The song wasn't about me – and that is exactly the point that I missed.
Unfortunately the trouble with proclaiming such terms as acceptable while carelessly flaunting them in the faces of the masses, is the callous dismissiveness of hundreds of thousands of women and children for whom these words are NOT innocuous – and never can be. For me the word bitch may have been just a word but the same may not be said for the young girl across the street who is reminded constantly that she is a dumb, worthless bitch who will not amount to anything – and so she doesn't. The little boy who is consistently referred to as a piece of shit nigga – and so he becomes one. The mother in the physically abusive relationship who hears bitch so often as fists rain down upon her that she confuses it with her own name.
These songs mean nothing to me, but speak volumes to them.
Industry People Problems
So who is in the right in this discussion? Ye or Tay? Honestly, the relevance of who said what is negligible. Because whether or not Miss Swift cares about the word being used in conjunction with her likeness, she has absolutely no authority to offer her approval anyway. Taylor Swift is a role model to a great many young girls by chance as well as by choice and for her to stamp an approval of being referenced as the b-word on “wax” would be tantamount to telling each of her followers that everything that she has led them to believe about the power of woman has been a lie. That it is acceptable for men to outright disrespect them, degrade them, and belittle and take credit for their accomplishments because – tee hee – it’s funny!
And for West [per Harvey Levin] to assert that his use of bitch was the positive form as it is known to be within the Hip Hop community… well, I have an extensive collection of misogynistic show tunes on my playlist and not a one of them ever used bitch in a way that made me feel the least bit endeared.
Gone are the days of referring to each other as brother and sister, words that promoted the idea of family, unity, and community. Kings and Queens, words of power and distinction. Words of encouragement. I ponder whether there is any hope, nay, desire to return such terms to the vocab of the masses. Especially where it is needed most, in the most impoverished, neglected communities where innocence is lost at conception.
Okay, okay, alright, I’ll be realistic. My generation and those surrounding it are set in our ways. Advocates of the use of the b-word and n-word are not likely to drop them anytime soon for any reason as they are engrained in their vocabulary and honestly, I can live with that – within ones inner circle. But outside of that?
Our children are going to be subjected to such pejorative terms from the world at large from the moment they step out their front door or log on to some www dot website or turn on the television. From the people that hate them for who they are, what they look like, and what it is believed they represent. Possibly if we choose to change the narrative within the community [physical and Hip Hop] and start them off with the belief that they are powerful, important, worthy, respectable, and worthy of respect, they will BELIEVE that they are all of those things despite their surroundings and what labels society attempts to place upon them. Perhaps they will aspire to be all of those things. Perhaps they will know that they are bigger than their circumstances. And they will reject anything or anyone that says otherwise. There must be a line in the sand.
Stop Saying Bitch, Please.
Photo Source: https://thisbishawesome.wordpress.com/tag/bitch/
Truth be told, I can be a bitch at times. Whoops! Did I just type that? I suppose there are instances where the term Bitch does feel endearing, or better yet empowering. Beautiful. Intelligent. Talented. Creative. Honest. And as a self-proclaimed [very rare] occasional bitch, I have the power to make that choice for myself. No man has the right to make that proclamation on my behalf. I can because I know who I am. Too many others, however, do not. If we cannot bother to step outside our comfort zone for the sake of uplifting our own, then who will?
mik.fresh the illest
Miki Starr is an author and digital content creator by profession. She has published 9 novels and co-authored a book of poetry. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she now resides in Hopkins, Minnesota with her composer spouse and their cat-babies, Hendrixx and Ella.