WONDER WHY THEY CALL YOU BITCH?

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Sexism and misogyny in their myriad destructive forms permeates every aspect of American life from the church to the work force. As a man, I didn’t realize just how white America’s deep-seeded culture of hatred and prejudice toward women and people of color had warped my views and interplay with the opposite sex. For that much, I don’t think many men have slowed down enough to take heed to how this culture objectifies and exploits our mothers, sisters and daughters. For one, it subjugates them by proclaiming they are the weaker sex. But any man who has witnessed a child being born knows better. Nevertheless, as a consequence of such beliefs that men are physically superior to women, women are exploited sexually. Rape, prostitution, and polygamy are but few examples of the exploitative nature of power relations that have arisen as consequence of such beliefs. Despite all the proclamations of equality, we live in a society that to this day denies women the right to live, to be free and make life choices in matters of child birth, contraception, and profession.

Being very much a product of this culture, hip hop has unapologetically exploited this love/hate relationship America has with its women. “[T]he positive response to sexist and/or misogynist rap music (Fame, wealth),” writes bell hooks, “reinforces the reality that these attitudes and values will be rewarded in this society. If black males find that they can make much more money flaunting lyrics that are sexist and misogynist, it is mainstream consumer culture that creates the demand for this product.”” Just as the consumer demand had an impact on conscious rappers and the message they promoted, so too has this nation’s sadomasochistic sexist and misogynist culture done the same.

Very much like Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and Hustler’s Larry Flint, rapper/entrepreneur Luke “Skywalker” Campbell and the 2 Live Crew would be the first to tap into this “mainstream consumer culture” that bell hooks writes of. With their 1989 debut rap song “Me So Horny,” 2 Live Crew would gain world wide fame for their mixture of hip hop and hedonism and their attempts to push the 1st Amendment to the limit by claiming that they could be “as nasty as they wannabe.” Today, because of their unprecedented success sexually explicit lyrics and provocative images of scanty-clad video-vixens are essential to the success of any music video, album, movie, or burger commercial. In addition, like Hefner and Flint, Campbell also opened doors for magazines like King, Smooth, Blackmen, and many others to gain tremendous circulation with the scanty-clad exposés of (predominately) curvaceous Black and Brown video-vixens, models and actors.

But at what expense has this fame and fortune cost the integrity and image of women? When I listen to the rap-and I’m not just referring to hip hop artists, I’m also drawing from the rap (i.e., talk and attitudes) on the prison yard, the rap in the ‘hood-I hear and see just how America’s sexist and misogynist culture has distorted our reference point when it comes to how we relate to and address our sisters and how they themselves relate and address each other. When I convene with the brothers on the yard I get the whole Willie D attitude: “Gotta Let A Ho Be A Ho!” It’s like when we rap, they rapping about a “gender war”; an act of self-defense to take the vantage point by abusing women before they get abused. The Game as they practice it is to “go hard on a bitch” and “it’s all on a bitch!” Conversely, they rap about their love for their mothers. Others rap about how their mothers emasculated them as men; poisoned them on their fathers, etc.
Of all stories, the one that greatly serves to illustrate just how intense this gender war is, is the one that my cousin tells of the day she learned she was HIV positive. Her story is one that many women have had to painfully endure due to treacherous interplay with a companion who sought to extract vengeance with a scarred phallus. In short, after some all-revealing blood-work, she hesitantly approaches her boyfriend with the results only to get hit with the whammy of all betrayals: “Yeah, I knew… I was infected years ago by one of you bitches, so I’m out to infect as many of you bitches as I can!” As I sat there listening to her sob and wearingly plead her future demise, I was immediately overwhelmed with grief and anger. Questions began to flow non-stop one after another. Some were stupid to say the least: Weren’t you using protection? “No, this was my boyfriend,” she responded; What made you go get a checkup? “Something, something, just wasn’t right!” Maybe the test was wrong? “I’ve been tested three times-all were positive!”; So, run that by me again-what dude said when you told him… At that point my anger took over. Where yo brother at? And what the fuck! I know he headhunting, right? Somewhere in the back of my head illogic wanted to blame her. But the treacherous circumstances would not allow such a notion. She had been hoodwinked by someone she trusted who unquestionably was caught in the wrath of circumstances that allowed for him to buy into the sickness of America’s sexist and misogynist culture. Like that, what seemed to be a promising year-long relationship ended with devastation complimented with a turbulent future that has thus been riddled with various health complications garnered by intimate pleasures of love and hate.

The above instances of female/male relations are but few examples that foster the sexist and misogynist attitudes that today have reduced our reference point to women as mere objects and “bitches.” And it’s not simply a hip hop thing as critics have so wrongfully accused. They assail the artist for their often sexist and misogynist lyrics; when, in fact, it is not the artist that there is something terribly wrong with. Rather, it’s the society that we live in. Again, hip hop is a reflection of American culture and values. A culture that I might add, promotes its sexist and misogynist values through television and other media with shows like “Don’t Trust That “b” In Apt 23.” And it’s not just men who are pushing the letter. It’s women too! Staff writer Apolonia Jordan writes of the matter:

It’s not uncommon nowadays to walk down the street and hear young Black girls and women having a conversation speaking to each other disrespectfully and calling each other bitches and hoes… [W]e don’t even get offended when these things happen because we have allowed it to seep into our culture and become a part of our basic language. We try to adopt the word bitch like Black people have adopted the word nigga…..

Initially, when I read Ms. Jordan’s article I must admit the gravity of the matter did not weigh in on my conscience. But then shortly, thereafter, I was having a conversation with my baby sis and could not help but notice her frequent reference to our other sisters as bitches. It was bitch this and bitch that and that bitch this. I was like “HOLD UP!” What’s this you referring to our sisters as bitches? Her response lead me to believe that she didn’t think much of it; that it was simply colloquial language that did not carry derogatory or insulting connotations. Indeed, it was time for a Dr. Phil moment. So I explained to her that whether she intended to or not to insult or degrade them with such language, it was extremely derogatory and insulting, not to mention disrespectful. Moreover, I thought it important to point out to her that when such terms as “bitch” or “ho” are used to address our sisters, she was not only reinforcing sexist/misogynist values that were made to express contempt for women as human beings-but her self as well.
On another, yet related topic, society at large has long since had this problem of wanting to put women on this pedestal; that when they don’t live up to the expectations and standards of our patriarchal society-we instantly jump to degrade them. Some simply refuse to accept the fact that like all things else, the image and role of women in the world has changed. Women are no longer mere child bearers, housekeepers, and sex objects. They are now business owners, clergy, soldiers, politicians, presidents, and other highly respected and leading professionals.

Consequently, the predominately male and competitive nature of professions which women have made tremendous gains in over the past 100 years has caused much of what we see today in terms of sexist and misogynist culture. As men, I honestly believe that we are threatened so by these gains in professions which traditionally have appeased our ego and catered to our identity as the dominate sex. For this reason, and this reason alone some men, if not the majority, will never accept women as equals. Therefore, they will always be inclined to embrace sexist and misogynist attitudes so as to afford them some sense of security and identity. This, needless to say, is classic male, white supremacist behavior. They fear competition and know they are at a disadvantage due to the power (i.e., the power of the p¢$$y) women have over their lives and their ability to create. Thus, it is only by keeping women in a subordinate position that they feel they can maintain leverage enough to force them to conform to their patriarchal, male white supremacist ways-the pimp of all pimps!

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