Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Media Moment, Bitch Bad? Or Bitch Good?

Recently, rapper Lupe Fiasco released a song called "Bitch Bad" from his then upcoming album. Fiasco has always been known to make statements about the larger issues, whether they be race, politics or blood diamonds, in his songs and it is this very quality that makes him stand out for many of his fans.

With the release of Bitch Bad, however, Fiasco's avid listeners were split on the verdict. First, here is the song + music video:

The song essentially discusses the different ways in which a young boy and a young girl interpret the word "bitch" due to their experiences growing up. Whereas the young boy associates "bad bitch" with strength and independence (and his mother), the young girl associates it with promiscuity. He traces this disconnect as the boy and girl grow older. The hook is interesting:

Bitch bad, woman good
Lady better, they misunderstood
(I’m killin’ these bitches)

Spin Magazine instantly published a scathing review, and in the ensuing back and forth, Fiasco claimed that his point was to start a conversation. Much of the criticism surrounding the song and video is that Fiasco seems to focus a little too hard on how proper the young woman is and what her clothing is like - dangerously reminiscent of slut-shaming. His insistence that "lady better" is also odd and weirdly patriarchal, considering the outdatedness of the word lady and his implication that a woman should be a lady (i.e. very proper and feminine).

Finally, another very valid criticism is that rappers and artists within the black community have been having this conversation that Fiasco suggests he is trying to initiate for a very long time - and their contributions have been more radical and effective. Examples of Azealia Banks' song 212 Jay-Z's 99 Problems are given. Whatever good intentions he may have, Fiasco may actually be setting the conversation back.

What do you guys think? Specifically with relation to language and resistance, is it possible to reclaim a word that has historically been used against a certain group? Can only that group do the reclaiming? More specifically with regards to Fiasco's song, how do you view his deconstruction of the word bitch?

**If anyone is interested, this is a piece Jezebel wrote on the same issue, and I find it useful for the extended definition it provides of the word "bitch" as it used in the modern day.

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