being a mom

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

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What I interpret thus far, from the views of a middle aged white woman, is that Fiasco is saying that young boys grow up with their moms, strong, nurturing, caring, who relate to themselves as a “bitch.” In a positive sense. In the meantime, young girls are watching videos by rap artists spitting the word bitch, and this term is directed at attractive girls who are eager and willing to do anything a young man wants. And the young girls don’t see these women as paid actresses, they view them as sexy high-heeled scantily dressed women having a good time trying to snag a man, please a man,  genuflect to a man.

And then onto verse three, which sort of confuses the issue, but doesn’t really detract from the conversation Fiasco is trying to invoke:

 Disclaimer: This rhymer, Lupe’s not usin’ bitch as a lesson

But as a psychological weapon

To set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions

Discretions, reflections, it’s clever misdirection

Cause, while I was rappin’ they was growin’ up fast

Nobody stepped in to ever slow ‘em up, gasp

Sure enough, in this little world

The little boy meets one of those little girls

And he thinks she a bad bitch and she thinks she a bad bitch

He thinks disrespectfully, she thinks of that sexually

She got the wrong idea, he don’t wanna fuck her

He thinks she’s bad at being a bitch like his mother

This can sort of be summed up as slut-shaming by proxy. Fiasco is juxtaposing his idea of a bad bitch, a strong, smart woman, with that of a young girl raised on a diet of misogynistic music videos and trying to emulate the girls portrayed in the videos. For me, analyzing aspects of the song too much detracts from the brilliant conversation the gist of it raises.

 The hook of the song is:

Bitch bad, woman good

Lady better, they misunderstood

(I’m killin’ these bitches)

Which to me just means that Fiasco is giving us alternatives to the word, by “killing these bitches” he is stating that the word has so many connotations, both positive and negative, that maybe it isn’t the best word to describe a woman at all.

I like the song. My 16-year-old son, a huge fan of Fiasco’s, purchased the song and is eagerly awaiting the full-cd release. As a mother of a kid who is a fan of Fiasco’s music, I applaud him (loudly) for creating such an interesting dialogue that I can share with my kid. I can’t think of any other mainstream young male rappers who are challenging us to look at the word and what it means to us and our kids when they are exposed to the word on a sometimes continuous basis. It’s a great conversation to have, especially when you are trying to raise boys in this world who will grow up to be men that we want to respect women, and I think any mother, regardless of race, wants this for her son.

So for blog critics like Brandon Soderberg, and his accusations of mansplaining, a lot of women don’t mind men speaking up about misogyny, especially when so many men don’t. Fiasco has challenged us to take a look at the politics of word choice, and even though it’s far too easy to convolute his song and get wrapped up in whether or not he has a right to speak for women and what we want to be referred as, it’s a far more interesting conversation that Fiasco has presented to us. One that I will be discussing with my son when this song comes on the stereo.

(Photo: Entertainment Weekly)

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  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 this article. What a mind opener! LOVE IT!

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