John M. Becker

Azealia Banks Just Can't Stop Saying 'F***ot'

Filed By John M. Becker | February 22, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Azealia Banks, bigotry apologism, double standard, faggot, feminism, homophobia, homophobia apologism, misogyny, slur, white gay males

azealia-banks.jpgRapper Azealia Banks just can't stop using the word "faggot."

In January 2013, she picked a fight on Twitter with fellow rapper Angel Haze, who had the nerve to include in her breakout single a snippet of a song praising New York City -- even though Haze is totally not from New York, you guys. (Seriously.)

Things escalated quickly, but they took a homophobic turn when openly gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton jumped into the fray and weighed in on the side of Haze. "lol what a messy faggot you are," Banks tweeted to Hilton.

A Twitter firestorm ensued, with fans defending and critics slamming Banks for her use of the homophobic slur and other tweets containing derogatory words about women and people of color. (It should be noted that Ms. Banks is a woman of color herself.) For her part, Banks doubled down on her initial comments and attempted to justify them. She tweeted:

"A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There's a BIG difference... As a bisexual person I knew what I meant when I used that word."

Needless to say, this didn't go over well with the folks at GLAAD, the group that monitors the media for anti-LGBT defamation. Matt Kane, GLAAD's director of entertainment media, responded in a statement:

Banks' claim that the word "fa**ot" doesn't mean a gay male is not true. Regardless of her intent or her personal definition, what matters is the meaning given to that word by those who hear it, and the damage it causes when they do. Undoubtedly there are gay kids who follow her on Twitter who hear this word in an entirely different context. This word is used almost universally by bullies, often as part of a larger verbal or physical assault. This word hurts those kids, no matter what Banks meant by it.

Banks retorted that GLAAD was nothing but a group of "media whores" who "pick and choose when to be upset" about celebrities using anti-LGBT slurs. Over the ensuing months, an apparently publicity-hungry Banks continued to periodically resuscitate the "faggot" story.

She deployed the slur again in another Twitter feud with music producer Baauer, then apologizing for her use of it after a performance at LA Pride in June 2014. The Advocate observed that Banks's homophobic outbursts seemed to conveniently surface whenever she had new content to promote, and noted that the feud with Hilton over the word "faggot" caused her album sales to spike by 18%.

In November, The Guardian asked Banks about the controversy, and this time, she defended her words in a different way: by claiming she's allowed to call gay men "faggots" because gays are misogynists.

"A lot of gay men are way more misogynistic than straight men," Banks said. "The shit they say about women behind their backs, it's like: 'Wow, oh my God!' You can be a straight faggot, you can be a gay faggot. A faggot is anybody that hates women.

"It's like, y'all sing along to my words when I'm saying 'nigga' and 'cunt', but as soon as I call this one white man a faggot the whole world exploded. Listen, I didn't say all gay men are faggots; I said Perez Hilton is a faggot, so don't try and bring the rest of the gays down with your faggotry."

She continued beating on the gays-are-misogynists drum in an Instagram post this month, writing:

"Why is it okay.....For a gay man to colloquially use the word 'Bitch' to refer to women, but is it not okay for me to colloquially use the word 'Faggot' to refer to myself or an opponent? Do gay men get a special pass to say misogynist things simply because they Like dick? The argument is that countless gay kids hear the word 'faggot' before they are beat to death...But do you know how many women hear the word 'Bitch' before their husbands beat them to death? Before they are murdered/raped?"

Banks is correct that the LGBT community, like society at large, is infected by misogyny. Men calling women "b**ches," making derogatory remarks about their appearance, and touching women's bodies without their consent occurs with disturbing frequency, even in LGBT spaces that are supposed to be safe. The conversation that the LGBT community is currently having about sexism and misogyny is both critically important to our continued forward progress and long overdue.

verbal_abuse.jpgBut if Banks is interested in participating in that conversation in any kind of a productive way, she needs to do so without using words that oppress and hurt others. The word "faggot" isn't hers to redefine, because she is not a gay man and has never been targeted by that word.

Banks has never been called the word "faggot" on the playground, never been chased down the street by people spitting that slur at her, never been beaten within an inch of her life by mobs wielding that word, along with their fists, as weapons. She has absolutely no business belittling others' experiences of discrimination, even if they're gay men (or even -- gasp! -- white gay men).

So here's the thing, Azealia: "faggot" is a word of violence against gay men. Period. You don't get to call me by a term of such profound disrespect and then turn around and demand that I respect you and engage in dialogue with you. That's not how this works.

And no matter how salient the point might be that you're trying to make about misogyny in the LGBT community, it doesn't grant you a free pass on hate speech. Using bigoted, violent language doesn't just detract from the merits of your argument, it shuts down the conversation before it even starts.

One final point: as a female-identified person, Azealia, you have been personally targeted by misogyny in a way that I never have been and never will be. So in conversations about sexism and misogyny, I -- along with every other male who considers himself a feminist -- have an obligation to sit down, shut up, and defer to the voices and perspectives of all women who experience it.

But it's the same with homophobic, anti-gay male oppression: you don't experience it and you never will, so in conversations about it -- and about anti-gay slurs like "faggot" -- you need to do a lot less talking and a whole lot more listening.

Originally published by the South Florida Gay News.

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