Do I agree with Azealia Banks when she says “ Faggot means coward, liar, backstabber…….?” No and the same can be said of her original breakdown: “A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There's a BIG difference.”
Still, she’s a young woman who has proven time and time again to have a strong affinity for gay Black male culture, and like it or not, this sort of gender-bender-chiding behavior is not uncommon among gays overall and uniquely among Black gays. So I take issue with the framing of her character over her use of the slur “faggot” against gossip blogger Perez Hilton and now “Harlem Shake” (the fake one) producer Baauer.
I don’t agree with the language or the context, but how you approach her determines whether you “elevating” her thought process or compel her to defensively maintain it.
Banks has repeatedly noted the shift in the use of the words “nigga” and “bitch” are not that far off from “faggot” and at one point tweeted: “It's really time for a cultural shift. All these leftover old world social themes we're all still trying to hold on to are BOOORRIIING.”
That may read as a “little hood Freddie Brooks,” but I’d be dead wrong for pretending that what is an ugly, hateful slur to me is an opinion now widely shared by those who love like me my age and below.
You’d think that would dawn on people like filmmaker Ryan James Yezak who shot a video aimed at Azealia stressing her language helps escalates violence aimed at men who don’t fit society notions of masculinity. Funny enough, he used the term “queer youth” as if the word queer is not a term used to demean men who don’t fit the traditional picture of masculinity.
Similarly, Azealia asks of GLAAD: “Why are all these other things like murder and sex and violence and all these other things accepted, but as soon as I call one gay white man a faggot, his feelings are more important . . . Freedom of speech, you know, and with freedom of speech comes the freedom to be offended, you know?”
Well, one wonders how Isaiah Washington can lose his job over his use of the word faggot yet Kathy Griffin who invokes the word in her comedy routine and receives GLAAD Awards. And we can’t forget that much of Perez Hilton’s success has built on the backs of gay men he exploited by outing without their permission. Likewise, Dan Savage, who uses phrases like “house faggots” and had absolutely no problem blaming Black people for the passage of California’s Proposition 8 among other race-baiting rants. There’s even an entire Web site dedicated to his anti-bisexual, classist, racist, and other misogynistic musings over the years.
But you know, it gets better.
So Azealia is right when she argues: “As if I would be a f*cking homophobe…. As if I even gave a f*ck what you did with your d*ck….”
Or when highlights how people pick and choose when to be offended; is tired of people trying to put her in her place; laments on hard it is to be a female rapper, particularly one without the direct co-sign of a man.
What annoys me most about this entire discussion about Azealia Banks and sexuality is that when it’s finally at the forefront it’s about a poor choice of words versus her being a pioneering figure in rap.
This is someone who at the very start of her career with the release of “212” was open about her bisexuality. Lesbians in rap have been just as closeted as gay men, and before Azealia Banks the closest we had an openly mainstream LGBT rapper was Nicki Minaj, who ultimately went on to tell Rolling Stone that she pretended to be bisexual for attention.
As Ernest Hardy noted in the Los Angeles Times, Banks “hasn't gotten the same level of critical consideration afforded R&B singer Frank Ocean, who didn't really come out repping any specific sexual orientation.”
There are some gender politics behind that, but Hardy went on to note: “What's also interesting is that she allows the men she dallies with in song to have the same sexual fluidity she claims for herself; she never buys into the demonizing of ‘down-low’ brothers.”
Banks’ poor phrasing makes her partially culpable for poor framing of her contributions to pop culture, but the reasons why she’s not giving the kind of leeway white gays get is frustrating.
In a New York Times profile, Banks said: “I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don’t live on other people’s terms.”
She may not be living on other people’s terms, but she’s certainly being judged by the majority’s terms.