Okay, I’m going to say something a bit shocking: Kanye West has had a twitter rant (again), this time raising a topic warranting some real thought. It’s not often that I would long ponder the words of the infamously contentious West, but the singer has offered up some real food for thought on a relevant issue. It seems that Mr West has recently copped some flak over his use of the word “bitch” in some of his music, driving him to ask the question: ‘Is the word BITCH acceptable?’
Now, I would think that, for most people, the natural reaction would be to answer ‘no’. I certainly would. But I think it is important we do not overlook the real issue at play here: why is it even necessary to be asking this question? It seems that the word bitch has become almost normalised in recent years, present not only in music, but film and television, on social media sites and, eventually, filtering down into the vocabularies of (mostly) young men and women.
Have we as a society become so desensitised to the way women are referred to in popular music that we no longer stop to think about what it is we are actually accepting? I am sorry to say that I too have been guilty of overlooking the real messages being sent out by popular media, and even found myself dancing around singing ‘damn she’s a sexy bitch’ at the top of my lungs, without even stopping to think about the words coming out of my mouth.
If we accept that it is alright for women to be called bitches in music, I’m afraid we are descending a slippery slope towards accepting the use of the word bitch in everyday language. West tweeted, ‘Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word?’ I’m afraid to say, I think it may have.
But I ask: if it’s okay to call women bitches, are we saying it’s also okay to treat them like bitches? How far down does that slippery slope go?
Now, I understand that there is a difference between what is expressed in music and the everyday translations of these messages, but should hip hop music get a free pass just because it is “art”? West tweeted, ‘I was recently questioned about the use of the word BITCH in my music and initially was offended by anyone questioning anything in my music’, which would lead me to believe that artists do separatewhat they feed out into the world through their music, and the way that it’s interpreted by listeners. The belief that art is ‘untouchable’ and should receive no reprimand is just irresponsible, especially in the arena of popular music where these lyrics are received by the masses and worm their way into our thinking.
West then went on to liken the use of the word bitch to the recent normalisation of the word nigga, tweeting: ‘do we love this word as much as we love the word NIGGA in an endearing way?’ The use of the word nigga is an extremely potent subject on its own, but the likening of the two does illustrate just how present issues of the appropriation of what was formerly incredibly offensive language is. It does also raise the question of whether or not the intent behind the use of the word influences whether it is right to say or not.
Perhaps West was referring to his use of the word in his recent song entitled ‘Perfect Bitch’ which he says he wrote for his girlfriend Kim Kardashian. How sweet. But regardless of Kanye’s intent in using the word, he is still broadcasting it across the world to billions of people who may not see Kanye’s “loving’ purpose. Bitch is still bitch, even if you say it means “I love you”.
I think when it comes right down to it, bitch is a degrading word; it wasn’t designed to make a woman feel respected. By calling a woman a bitch, you are essentially asserting that it is okay to use offensive language toward someone that you may respect, or even love.
West tweeted, ‘Here’s the age old question, would we refer to our mothers as bitches?’ I’m sorry, but to whom is that an age old question? Who out there is really challenged about whether it is okay to call their mum a bitch. For most, their mothers are the ultimate female figures for respect and love, so (I hope) the question of whether you would call your mum a bitch just seems outrageous.
Call me a dreamer, but I think that we should all be striving to emanate the respect we have for our mothers to an open respect for all women.
So no, Mr West, it is not okay to call a woman a bitch. No matter how sexy, perfect or bad she is.
By Laura Bianchi