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commentary by Grace Liao, 2006
Some women refer to each other as “bitches” or as “hos” (whores). And even though most women hate being called these names, we hear the words being used everyday on MTV. The music is still popular, even though those words are used. It’s good news for rappers, rockers, and chauvinists who apply these labels to all women.

Some rappers say they’re just being honest. They say nice women—those who are neither sluts nor skeezers (women who use men for money)—should take no offense to names that don’t apply to them. They’re just dissing the women who deserve it.

So that means they would make allowances for a white politician who was revealed to routinely call black folks “niggers,” so long as he explained. “I use that term in reference to black people who kill others, you know, criminals. The rest of you—take no offense.”

The worst thing about the B-word, and the N-word, and every denigrating term, is what it assumes. It assumes that everybody—all women, all black men, all members of the group—are alike. The person who disses all women because of the actions of some is as unenlightened as the racist who denies all black people’s humanity because some blacks act inhumanely.

In 1920, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed on the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. This was a big step towards equality among men and women. Yet people still find ways to degrade women by labeling them as “bitches.” Isn’t this a step backward, away from equality? Is anybody doing anything to prevent it?

Kevin P., a freshman marine biology major at HPU, said,“The term is demeaning to all women,” and it “will desensitize future generations.”

Some women disagree. Linda Rico, a sophomore majoring in visual communication said, “No, I think we’re just trying to take control of the situation.” She explained that she believes the more such words are used, the less power they hold.

She has a point. If women embrace the word, by using it among themselves, as Black Americans use the N-word among themselves, they may be able make it their own so that no one can hurt them with it.

But that doesn’t address the desensitizing of young people. “Rap music media is mainstream,” said Sheika-Ann Ambatah, a junior in entrepreneurial studies. She believes that “more and more people are being exposed to this [anti-feminine] mindset.”

Ambatah is ashamed that some of her male friends use the B-word to refer to their girlfriends.
“ Maybe if people continue using this word it will become a part of society’s language and everyone will forget the true meaning of the word,” said Angie Wong, a freshman liberal arts major. Still, she continued, “I feel these women who allow people to call them this way are allowing other people to treat them in whatever way the other person wants… These women have no pride.”

“ It devalues the person,” said Rev. Gregory Johnson, retired assistant professor of religious studies at HPU. It causes “loss of respect, and [makes it] easier to engage in acts of abuse and violence, if she’s a ‘bitch,’ rather than a human being,” he explained.

“ Hip-hop teaches people not to respect women, particularly African-American women,” said Jacqueline Langley, program chair for multimedia at HPU. “Some women want men so badly, they’ll do whatever it takes,” she added.

“ Kids who listen to offensive rap music with this language will think it is OK to degrade women and look at them as objects or pieces of meat,” said Dustin Getty, a freshman marine biology major.
A popular femnist magazine is devoted to incisive commentary on our media-driven world. It features critiques of TV, movies, magazines, advertising, and more—plus interviews with and profiles of cool, smart women in all areas of pop culture.

And it includes articles by feminists who try to teach women to be more aware of the words being used against women.

Its subtitle is Feminist Response to Pop Culture; unfortunately, it’s maintitle is Bitch so it promulgates the very mindset it is trying change.

Donna Britt, a columnist for The Washington Post, wrote in 1993 that “bitch” was “A one-word assault on women.” She pointed out the irony that “almost every name-calling rap or rock video is decorated with the bodies of hip-grinding young women.”

She also pointed out the lack of labels for men. Men who play around are called players, but when women play around, they’re labeled as “sluts,” “bitches,” and/or “hos.”

American freedom of speech makes it possible for these words to be used, but their use makes it incumbent on everyone who finds such words degrading, to answer with speech of their own objecting to the degradation. Unfortunately, degradation is often commercially profitable.

“ The messages many are selling are to—and about—blacks,” said Brittany Yap, a recent HPU graduate in journalism. What they are saying is: “You don’t deserve to live. Your women are sluts and animals. You kill without remorse and copulate without love or responsibility.

“ Sure that’s all a lie. But slap a beat on it, apply a coat of glamour, and someone, somewhere will dance to it.”


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