Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Letter to Lupe Fiasco

Dear Lupe,
I adore and admire you. Your courage and light shine through in more ways than one. Even though we rep different "sides", we're from the same city. When I watched you cry on the couch with Sway, I knew what it was and I knew it was real. My cousin was killed in front of Parkway Gardens not even a month ago. He was 19 and he didn't make it out. Ashe.

You tweeted last night that you were heartbroken and that Food & Liquor 2 would probably be your last album. I would beg you to stay and tell you that we need you in that space but I guess you know, just as I do, that the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. The struggle is real and I hope you find the peace you deserve.

Immediately following that, you mentioned that literature was your first true love. It was, and still is, mine, too. So from this place
of mutual love I hope you can respect what it means that I am writing to you today and think critically about what follows. As man and woman, brother and sister, we need to talk about "Bitch Bad"....

As a writer, it would be sacrilegious for me to ignore the power of language. When you talk about the internalization of the word bitch by children, you remind us that our babies are always watching and listening and creating meaning for language we use. And in this regard, I appreciate verses 1 & 2 (Act I & II in the video) of "Bitch Bad".

But then you took a turn in verse 3 and that's what I'd like to talk to you about. Just when I thought you were going to send us off with a message about reconstructing beauty ideals; or reconsidering the imagery of Black men and women in hip hop and mainstream media; or even the hyper-sexualization of Black women, you don't. Instead you reiterate that Black women are hyper-sexual and suggest that it is our fault because we embraced the term bad bitch and it's association with fat asses, small waists, and long weaves. You actually suggest that while young brothers are living in reality, young sisters are caught up in an illusion.

Brother, it's not an illusion at all. That little boy might associate the word bitch with his mother but that doesn't mean he isn't going to grow up and demand that his female partner have a fat ass and light skin. It's very real that Black women and girls feel that the only chance they have to connect with Black men is when their ass is round and their hip to waist ratio is on point. And this isn't my theory, this is experience. I've heard my male friends and cousins and brothers, from various class backgrounds, talk about "bad bitches".
Contrary to the young brother in your verse 3, they absolutely want to fuck her. And date her, and show her around town, and be a proud husband when she also cooks, clean, and has an education. And these realities are not contingent on women being called "bad bitches" or "beautiful queens". They just are.

To suggest that young brothers are somehow interpreting the term differently than young sisters is a real misunderstanding. Furthermore, by considering young brothers to be the only ones who are able to re-appropriate the term to mean something outside of flamboyant sexuality (because they heard their mother say it) is a disservice and insult to women who have used or identify with the term. This blog is a perfect example of that.

"Bitch Bad" seemed to suggest that the blame was on women. It seemed that the blame was on mothers for using the term in front of their sons; on girls for accepting false imagery without question; and on young women for being sexual and ever having the audacity to refer to themselves as bitches, despite who else does. But dear Lupe, the word bitch (or whore, or any of the other words we use to demean women) was not created by a woman. Women did not make the term popular in a negative or affectionate way. Men (especially those in hip hop) did that.

The truth is that Black women should and do have the ability to define ourselves, for ourselves. This is true even as we struggle with our image. And for some of us that means using the language of the brothers we love and wish to connect with. I can and will call myself a bad
bitch if for me that means being educated, humble, sincere, connected, and loving. This is how we speak in a space where we have been silenced. This is how we insert ourselves into the conversations and bring ourselves back to the table.

Black women will still experience sexual assault whether we call ourselves bitches or queens.
Domestic violence will still happen whether we call ourselves bitches or queens.
We will still die in the streets, whether we call ourselves bitches or queens.
Sexism will still be poisoning our communities whether we call ourselves bitches or queens.
Girls that are too fat or too skinny will still be pushed away, whether they call themselves bitches or queens.
Our sons and daughters will not know love unless we teach them, whether we call ourselves bitches or queens.

I hope you understand. Peace and much love 2 ya!

In solidarity,
Sesali (one of your fans, sisters, and a bad bitch)

P.S.- I was at your show at DePaul. It was awesome sauce!