If you haven’t gotten into Azealia Banks’ music yet, you’re missing out. She is a great rapper, is super outspoken, sticks her foot in her mouth sometimes, and isn’t afraid to get mad. I like that.
Far from perfect on the feminist front, Banks (who is only 23 years old, so imagine the kind of shit that would come out of your mouth at that age…) has made some fairly anti-woman comments in the not-so-distant past and responded to Erykah Badu’s shade (who I’ve been a fan of far longer than Banks, of course) on Twitter by calling her “old” and “jealous.”
BUT! In December she spoke passionately, angrily, and emotionally during an interview on New York’s Hot 97, about America’s ongoing appropriation of black music, talking about how America rewards mediocre pop-rappers like Macklemore (Like, no. There is no fucking way in any universe that Macklemore’s record was better than Kendrick’s) and Iggy Azalea for their work instead of the scores of far-more-interesting-and-talented black artists who originated hip hop culture to begin with.
Banks said “[The message] to white kids is, ‘You’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have shit. You don’t own shit, not even the shit you created yourself.'”
She went on to say that “the basis of modern capitalism is slave labor” and that if until we’re going to talk about reparations, “at the very least y’all owe me the right to my fucking identity and to not exploit that shit. That’s all we’re holding on to with hip-hop and rap.”*
She’s not one to mince words, thank god. In a culture wherein our idols are all celebrities who either refuse to say anything even mildly political or, if they do, say a bunch of ignorant b.s., it’s refreshing to hear a young woman, in particular, getting angry and speaking out about things she isn’t supposed to.
Most-recently, Banks called out the misogyny of gay men in an interview with QutQ‘s Xorje Olivares on Sirius XM. And WOW. Talk about the untouchable truth. With regard to white gay men in the media, she said:
I definitely think a lot of the time with the ‘white gay media’ – especially with female artists – in order for you to seem successful or seem feminine you have to desire their approval. I feel like a lot of times gay men can be way more misogynistic than even straight men. Even how they come to you picking at your hair, telling you you’re fat, telling you all this other shit. Telling you how to be a woman. What the fuck do you know about being a woman?
Why, as women, are we expected to bow down to gay male culture and take misogyny from men, simply because they are men who have experienced discrimination? If anything, gay men, having been attacked and bullied for decades because they don’t live up to masculine standards set by patriarchy (which is wholly attached to fucking women — when men fuck men it disrupts that whole hierarchy and the idea of women — not men — as “fuckable”), should be our allies, as feminists. But far too often they are not.
It’s odd that so many gay men (and you’ll see this in drag queen culture too, of course, which is very much attached to gay male culture) seem to hold a kind of entitlement around sexist and derogatory attitudes towards women and that is so widely accepted and defended.
Banks was asked about her use of the word “faggot” (a word that, honestly, I really hate), which she says she’s never understood to mean “gay.” Rather, Banks says, “the word… came to me from my mother. And it was never a thing about a guy being gay. It was always just a man who hates women…. You can be a straight faggot… Faggots are men who want to bring women down, fuck with their heads, control them.”
She points out the deep hypocrisy in gay men’s anger at her for using the word “faggot” when, Banks says to the host, “I read your blogs — I read what the gay writers say: ‘Look at this bitch, she’s a ho, she’s a slut…’ And even when you aren’t using those words, you’re commenting on this woman’s weight or her body — that shit is wretched.”
“When I use the word, ‘faggot,’ it comes from a feminist point of view, not a homophobic point of view. It’s like when you feel attacked as a woman.”
“If you call me a bitch, I’ll call you a faggot –what’s the difference?”
Banks also criticizes the way in which white gay men appropriate black women’s culture and says that many white women will get all up in arms over the use of the term “faggot” but say nothing about racist slurs.
“Whose rights are you really standing up for,” she asks. “If you want to stand up for rights… you gotta get mad when I say ‘nigga,’ you gotta get mad when I say ‘bitch,’ you gotta get mad when I say ‘cunt.’ America cannot pick and choose when it wants to be offended.”
Seriously. Like, you’re all for “gay rights” because it’s no longer radical to do so — every liberal and their dog supports gay marriage — but still accept the casual use of racist or misogynist slurs? That says a lot about who it is we care about and are willing to stand up for in this culture — that is to say, not those who were enslaved or who have a history of being owned by men (white men in particular).
It’s worth noting that Rose McGowan, said something similar last year and was put through the wringer over it.
“Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so,” the actress said. “I have an indictment of the gay community right now, I’m actually really upset with them… You wanna talk about the fact that I have heard nobody in the gay community, no gay males, standing up for women on any level?”
“I see now people who have basically fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange speedo and take molly.”
TRUE. And so no big surprise that so many white liberals are right on board with that shit and not much else.
Banks adds, “You say, ‘what about the gay kid that the last word he hears before he dies is faggot?’ Ok, well what about the woman who get beat in her head by her fucking husband and the last word she hears is ‘bitch?'”
It’s funny how dehumanizing women never goes out of style. We are expected to perform to the male gaze even when those men don’t want to fuck us.
“It makes female artists feel like they have to be liked by gay men,” Banks says. “Like I have to be a fantasy of a woman for you so that you can relate to me. No. I’m a real person. I’m not here to be your diva, your idol — I’m here to be myself.”
Imperfect as she may be, it’s such a relief to hear a young, relatively well-known female artist speaking out about this. White gay men do not decide what counts as oppression, nor do they get to dictate what a woman is or is not.
Just because you got your rights doesn’t mean you get to shit on those still struggling for theirs.
*Banks mentioned Bill Cosby here, in a defensive way — the implication being (one assumes) that he shouldn’t be criticized with regard to the numerous sexual assault allegations made against him. Again, far from perfect, young, says some great stuff and some really not-so-great stuff.