Earlier this week I was perusing The Root when a headline among the site’s top stories caught my eye: “Misogyny Is the New I Love You.” It was an article about Kanye’s new single, “Perfect Bitch,” which he’s said is about his latest love interest, Kim Kardashian. She’s said that she’s flattered by the song and that Yeezy meant “bitch” in the “nicest” way possible. Okay. Whatever. I’m not here to talk about that.
What I do want to address is why the title caught my eye. I’ve been thinking a lot about male privilege and, well, the misogyny that seems to accompany it lately. I’ve often said that while a lot of men like having sex with women (i.e., they are heterosexual), they don’t actually like women. Attracted to them? Yes. Pursuing sex or relationships with them? Of course. But actually finding them deserving of respect or perceiving them as equals? Not so much. This mindset is revealed in the way so many men — but by no means all — speak of women and treat them.
Until last year, I’d spent the better part of one of my weekend mornings in the barbershop. I needed both sides of my hair shaved, and I could pay a stylist $40 for a cut, or a barber $15 including a tip (which was $5 more than he charged men, but so be it). I sat quietly, waiting for my turn, pretending to play with my phone and trying to be inconspicuous since I was invading male space. Mostly, I listened to the guys talk, using “bitch,” “ho” and its supposedly better euphemism “female,” and other synonyms for “woman.” Only the most enlightened among them would apologize for his vulgarity in my presence after he dropped one of the offensive bombs.
Flashback: A few months ago, I’m heading to the gym. I get off the train in downtown Brooklyn, minding my business and not meaning to overhear the two guys walking in front of me. But I can’t ignore them. One is talking about a woman — “this whore,” as he keeps referring to her. She did something to not tickle his fancy and he’s dismayed. His friend commiserates with him about how “these bitches out here ain’t worth [expletive].” I turn my headphones up.
Last month, I’m leaving a party and headed home with some friends who live nearby. The driver among us, an associate, is headed our way and offers us all a ride. As we’re getting in the car, a woman on her way to work approaches to ask if he can hold on a sec on pulling out so that she can park her car in our legal space. We wait for all of 30 seconds for her to zip back around before the driver wonders aloud, with me and my girls in the back seats, “Where is this bitch?” It rolls off his tongue like “bitch” is the woman’s given name.
I didn’t object, and maybe I’m part of the problem, like Kim Kardashian, for not speaking up in those instances. I have before, plenty of times, and it’s fallen on deaf ears. When I’ve called them out, they profess a love for Black women — usually their mothers, sisters, other relatives and loved ones — but I’m baffled as to how that love, or even respect, can’t extend to others. Aren’t all those bitches and ho’s someone’s mama and sister and auntie and girlfriend and wife too?
If “bitch” is the new nicety, I’d rather be hated. Sometimes, from some guys, I feel like I already am.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk