Friday, August 31, 2012

Bad Bitch Or Bitch Bad?: Mixing Up Messages For Younger Generations

By Nancy Campos


Photo courtesy of http://soundcloud.com/atlanticrecords/lupe-fiasco-bitch-bad-explicit

What’s in a word? Many of us grew up hearing some version of sticks and stones may break my bones, but names (or words) will never hurt me. As a child, this message was often used as defense against those who resorted to name-calling and teasing; though in retrospect, this saying could not be more wrong
. It allows children to get away with calling each other names, as long as they don’t physically attack another, but as we grow older, the names we call others and the words we say get worse, especially once we reach that age when we become better acquainted with profanity and all the wonderful cusses and swear words that make up a language. We even go as far as learning how to insult others in a different language; a language we might not be proficient in, but one we can now insult someone in. The point is: words are powerful. The messages we send people, especially children, through our words are very powerful and are subtly, and not-so-subtly, picked up every day and interpreted to create ideas about the world around us.


The words we grow up using have an impact on ourselves, and others around us, and the on-going discussion usually seems to be an argument for or against censorship and/or political correctness, but what if the discussion goes deeper than that? Last week, well-known rapper, Lupe Fiasco, released a new video for his single, “Bitch Bad”. In an interview with MTV, he said, "I just wanted to have a conversation. It was more to just put it out in the world and see what happens." Since the video's debut, many have weighed in on their opinions about the video, the lyrics, the rapper, and the message that he attempts to convey. It seems simple enough: the lyrics and video attempt to discuss the mixed messages that are sent out to the public, especially youth, about women. Lupe uses the example of the word "bitch" to describe how a young boy and a young girl might interpret what they see and hear associated with the word differently. While Lupe has received some backlash, most notably a harsh review by Spin magazine that has sparked some controversy, it is important to really look into the dichotomy he attempts to portray here and the message he attempts to send to other artists, but specifically to the hip hop world.






Video: Bitch Bad by Lupe Fiasco



Some would argue that Lupe’s attempt at starting a conversation about misogyny is, in fact, misogynistic in itself, as the video can be interpreted to be a form of “slut-shaming” coming from a patriarchal point of view, in which women should behave, talk, dress, etc. a certain way in order to be taken seriously in the world. In the third verse, when the young boy and girl meet as adults, their conceptions of a “bad bitch” are completely at odds, as the man sees her “ass, titties, breasts like that, all out to impress like that” and automatically shuns her for being a “bad” woman, while she is under the impression that she is a “bad bitch,” meaning a strong, independent, free to do what she pleases, type of woman. Now, we can go back and forth forever about the reclaiming of the word “bitch,” but the fact of the matter is, that word is still used negatively towards women, by men and women alike, more often than not. “Bitch” has more negative connotations than positive ones, and usually refers to something detestable, something no one wants to be. A woman can call herself a bitch or some variation (bad bitch, queen bitch, etc.) or her friends, bitches, in an affectionate way, but have you ever been in the presence of a man who has called a woman a bitch? Or in the presence of a woman who calls another woman a bitch? Shit gets real, quick.

Photo courtesy of http://bitsofwisdom.org/2011/11/10/dont-call-a-woman-a-bitch/

Stepping away from the conversation about the use of the word “bitch,” as we are all aware that the context is of utmost importance when it comes to this word, let’s attempt to examine what else is going on because the conversation should not just end on whether that word is a form of empowerment for women or not. Lupe is using the word as a “psychological weapon, to set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions, discretions, reflections.” It’s more about thinking about the possibility that by using this word as a synonym for women, we (society) may be doing more harm than good. Women, and men, for that matter, receive all kinds of messages about what it means to be a woman in today’s society. As is portrayed in this video and song, our youth are picking up these messages every day. Young men and women grow up in a society where women are mistreated, misrepresented, and stripped of their rights, all while being told what is appropriate female behavior and what isn’t, which can be very misleading and confusing. A woman who shows too much skin is automatically labeled a slut, while a woman who abstains from sex is labeled a prude, and there are all sorts of variations of that same message.

Photo courtesy of http://weknowmemes.com/2012/03/i-see-so-if-i-dont-have-sex-with-you/

Young girls are inundated with images of women (potential role models) on television, in magazines, and on the Internet. There is no question that kids are growing up faster than ever, with young girls wearing makeup and high heels by the time they are ten years old, and for what? Yes, adult women can choose to dress how they want, express themselves however they want, and even call themselves bad bitches, but where does that leave our young girls, who idolize what they see and hear on TV and in music? We also cannot take for granted that it is men, not women, who are in positions of power and control most of what goes on the air. Is it possible that artists, especially female rappers who have a long history of being undervalued, are playing into the already misogynistic society we live in?

I think it is important that we at least consider, or reconsider, the messages that are being distributed so widely. As most feminists will tell you, sexism and misogyny are harmful to everyone. We cannot just think about how words, like "bitch", and the images that are attached to them, hurt young girls, but we must also think about how they hurt young boys, as well. While young girls are receiving mixed messages, young boys are also receiving these same messages, and are being taught where a woman's place is in society, which is not exactly equal to men. A society is most productive when all its members are respected and viewed as equals because everyone has a chance to compete, and then truly the best will come out on top. There are benefits to a society in which both genders are viewed as valuable, contributing citizens, and if we continue to view women as bitches (meaning unequal), whether meant negatively or in a reaffirming way, we will never truly see all those benefits. It is our job to continue to think about society's messages to our youth. Besides, wouldn't it be great to live in a world where bitches didn't exist - only strong, independent, assertive, intelligent women?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"A society is most productive when all its members are respected and viewed as equals because everyone has a chance to compete, and then truly the best will come out on top."

Best beleive.

Imagine an entire NATION dedicated to that concept!....Then Imagine the late 60's...and viet-nam...then the seventies.....ughhhh....and Reagan...then H.W....then Monica Lewinski....then 911...then the war in iraq...next thing I know a bunch of idiots are in charge and everyone thinks I'M crazy.

What's this article about?.......Oh yeah right....I don't know who that rapper is...but I use the term "bitchy" to specifically describe the kind of women I prefer...in fact...I prefer "bitchy" AND "bossy" women. I love them. Especially if they act all cute and adorable...I absolutely eat that up......can barely control myself...anyway.....These trends come and go at such a rapid rate, they really aren't as permanant as anything that matters.

I guess I could watch the video...I haven't liked Hip-hop since 1993, but my favorite rap artists were never politically correct and invariabley used all kinds of language that was nothing but offensive.....and often misogynistic.....but hip-hop is not the product of an enlightened society...hip-hop is of a dark struggle that screams nasty words at the top of its lungs. It has to.

I don't think the word "bitch" has any power over women anymore....and women have only become more empowered since the prominence of hip-hop...so women are not really damaged by it. The world of hip-hop is frightening. It's not a subject....it's a sub--culture.

You can't expect it to behave.

If the women I loved were more common types, no one could EVER say "bitch" without being damn funny.

I'm funny...

I miss her so much...

that is all.

Anonymous said...

Hey....sorry about those typos. The dude in the picture should tell the girl:

"No...actually I'm the sensetive guy that gets treated like shit. I appreciate you enough not to judge you in any way...regardless of whether you use the pill or not...I'm looking for something genuine and sincere but people lie to me all the time. You are beautiful. It's painful that you won't give me a chance....I was actually just hoping I could get unblocked on facebook...I don't expect you to sleep with me, but I miss you...and it made me really sad to see Avengers by myself...How are you?"

Anonymous said...

-Let's say you were forced to leave Los Angeles because you offended a cult that screws with people psychologically and emotionally....and you find yourself all psychologically and emotionally fucked up one day, and the reasons can't be sorted out...because you only have enough information to be insane.

Under normal cirucunstances, you can talk to people, ask questions and sort out mis-understandings until you achieve "clarity", at which point you respond accordingly and move on with your life...

When you can't get to this point, because people refuse to treat you fairly...and they allow you to suffer for years and years without any explanation...well...

Is that who you were when we met?

-By that point Scientology had destroyed the cult awareness network and was recruiting people with a creepy ass drug rehab program narconon. (YES. NARCONON is SCIENTOLOGY. Look it up.)

This is what it would take to mess with my mind. It would take ALLISON DOWER. I love her...and the time I spent with her may have been nothing more than a program in which I was exposed to coercive psychology.

Also...she's weirder than I am. If this actual karma...she has to marry me.

I'm ZEK LIGHTNING.

That is all.