being a mom

Bitch, Bad: When Rap Music Forces Us To Confront Misogyny

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I’m a mother of four kids, and a fan of hip hop and rap. I’m also white. I’m also middle-class. I say the above to illustrate where the points I’m about to make stem from in regard to Lupe Fiasco’s new video for Bitch, Bad. A young black man will have a different perspective on things than I do. An African American woman of my age will have a different perspective. I can only speak from my perspective, as a Caucasian, middle-aged woman who has a strong affinity for hip hop music. Yes, every genre of music is for everyone and just because I’m old, white and a chick doesn’t mean that I can’t like what I like, but when discussing the video for Bitch, Bad it can help to shed light on how I interpret it.  A few days ago, Chicago-born hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco released the first video from his upcoming CD release Food and Liquor Part Two. And basically broke the internets.

Brandon Soderberg, a blogger for Spin magazine, takes Lupe to task for “mansplaining” (A term used to describe men who condescendingly explain about something that mostly concerns women) the word “bitch”, its cultural, sexual, and historical context in popular culture in Fiasco’s video.

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 Like Todd Akin’s ridiculous and insulting statements regarding women and their magical uteruses and how women can shut down pregnancies that are a product of rape, Fiasco has thrown the word “bitch” out there and it’s been interesting to see what the internet and media does with it.

A lot of women have reclaimed the word “bitch.” We use it to describe ourselves, our friends, we read a magazine entitled with the word. And even though it at times has come to mean a woman who is strong and smart and unafraid to speak her mind, it also, at times, is still used as an incredibly derogatory insult directed at women who are strong, smart and unafraid to speak their minds. Bitch can be synonomous with queen or synonomouys with skank. And Lupe Fiasco is challenging us to take a harder look at the word.

In the video, Fiasco illustrates a young boy of about four or five with his mother, a woman singing along with the radio about being a “bad bitch” and he raps:

 Couple of things that are happenin’ here

First he’s relatin’ the word “bitch” with his mama, comma

And because she’s relatin’ to herself, his most important source of help,

And mental health, he may skew respect for dishonor

Verse two then goes on to illustrate a group of young girls watching music videos on the internet :

 Yeah, now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve

On the internet watchin’ videos listenin’ to songs by themselves

It doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance

They understand the internet better than their parents

Now being the interent, the content’s probably uncensored

They’re young, so they’re maleable and probably unmentored

A complicated combination, maybe with no relevance

Until that intelligence meets their favorite singer’s preference

“Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches

That’s all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches, bad bitches”

Now let’s say that they less concerned with him

And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims

Ah, the plot thickens

High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim

Reality check, I’m not trippin’

They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch

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5 Comments

  1. Margaret M. Barreca

    August 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I love it because it’s sooo true, even for little white girls growing up with the internet and reality tv culture (which basically exploded when I was in middle school and continued through high school.) I don’t think race matters, it’s the same for every race because it’s discussing media as a whole. TV, music videos, and movies all glorify scantily clad “slutty” women, and to a 16 year old girl watching the Kardashians and hip hop music videos it seems glamorous. Who doesn’t want to be gorgeous with men falling all over them at that insecure age? The problem is that it breeds girls who try way too hard to be sexy, and while it’s hot to guys on tv, in real life they demean women who act that way. There’s a really fine line between being pretty, stylish, classy, and sexy – and going overboard with it all to emulate what you see on the screen. I think women and girls just need more positive, PRETTY role models on screen. I say pretty because girls need to see that you can be beautiful AND smart. All too often the smart woman is portrayed as less attractive, not feminine, stuffy, and neurotic. I didn’t learn this until I was 20 (a little over a year ago) and I wish I had known as a teenager. I love love love love Lupe Fiasco for this video. It’s also extremely interesting that he added the blackface aspect. It’s 6 in the morning and I’m too tired to really process what he’s saying there right now but I’m leaning towards thinking he’s pointing out that both are destructive and not a good representation of the people they’re supposedly portraying. That’s all! Forgive my long comment =)

    • Eve Vawter

      August 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

      I love your comment! And yeah, there are SO many levels in the video, the obvious mocking of 50 cent, the blackface, which I’m sort of assuming, not only being an homage to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled , but also an acknowledgement of how popular culture + record companies expect male rappers to appear in videos. I think it’s all super interesting and goes far beyond race, it’s not just little african american girls who see this but white girls as well. I think Lupe is such a brave performer and artist, and this isn’t knew for territory for him, like in Dumb It Down etc.

  2. Ali H

    August 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Wow..love this article. What a mind opener! LOVE IT!

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