By Theresa Ruth Howard
“Bitch” used to be the go to insult towards a woman. The hurling of that word could plummet a woman from the height of heights to the darkest depths, however women (and bitch callers male and female) all knew that somewhere within the utterance they were in a way conceding the fact that the object of the insult possessed a certain power, an unapologetic sense of self, a refusal to back down, an inability to be intimidated. In certain situations when called a ‘Bitch’ a woman knew she had her adversary on the ropes, in our heads minds we would say, “Oh, is that the best you’ve got? What’s next, are you going to ask if I’m on my period?”. Where word ‘Bitch’ is meant to be reduction, most women have made antibodies to combat it, and are now more or less impervious to its effects.
Alas, as with everything these days ‘Bitch’ has gotten an upgrade, or would that be a downgrade? (I suppose it depends which side you are on). Today, if you want to wound a woman, or her reputation you call her a ‘Whore’, or the urban back clip, ‘Hoe’. Where most women can shake off the odd ‘Bitch’ calling ‘Hoe’ is a term that lands in a very different place mainly because it goes to the heart of the antiquated patriarchal concept of what women should be under that paradigm. It states that women should not sexually liberated or free to “behave like a man”. Whether true or not, calling someone ‘Hoe’ will smart far more then the all too common ‘Bitch’.
The latest Hoe-down has come in the form of Amber Rose (Kanye’s ex, and most recently Wiz Kalifah’s estranged wife) trading hoes jabs with the Khloe Kardashian. If you are not up to date, Rose was on the Breakfast Club radio show and was asked about rapper Tyga dating 17 year old Kylie Jenner.( * a little back story Tyga was with former stripper Blac China, who is now good friends with Rose). She basically said that the 25 year old rapper should be “ashamed of himself” for dating the underage Jenner saying that she’s “A baby, and needs to go to bed at 7”. Khloe K. fired back on twitter calling Rose out for being stripper at 15. Then the first hoe salvo was fired :
“@khloekardashian I’ll be that lil whore to support my family like ur older sister is a whore 2 support hers. We’re even Kiss mark #MuvaGivesFacts”
After a few back and forth Khloe tweets:
“@DaRealAmberRose lol #DontPanic well damn, I didn’t realize I called you a whore… But at the end of the day”
And later again:
“@DaRealAmberRose I guess people love to call us all whores. Easiest jab to throw. It is what it is. We still livin though.”
Today this type discourse is par for the course, a by-product of gossip blogs, social media and reality television that has bled over to everyday women and high school Facebookers. Let’s talk about reality television for a moment since most of this is generated by the personality begotten form the genre. Whether it’s on their shows, social media, or TMZ video snippets, cast members trade jabs and drop, ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’ like Bush’s Shock and Awe campaign, and that’s how it leaves us, shocked and awed! One of most disgusting comments of late came from Atlanta’s Real Housewife Nene Leakes, in a fight with newbie Claudia Jordan, she slung this gem:
“You’ve been f—–d by everybody in Hollywood. They done wore that out,” NeNe says. “What you got, this half-breed s–t? That’s not in Atlanta. They ain’t looking for you. You’re a whore, you done slept with everybody. Your clit has left your body!”….
I ask you who talks like that? If that curdled your stomach I’ll spare you the goings on the likes of Love and Hip Hop, Mob Wives, and even Little Women of LA. are tossing ‘whores’ back and forth like ping pong balls. Perhaps this is all orchestrated for dram and rating but is is quickly treating a culture. A culture that says, “Its ok for you to call a woman a whore, whether its’ true or not”What is so amazing is that the criteria for being labeled a ‘Hoe’ has little to do with ACTUALLY being a Hoe.
Before we go further let’s take a look at the actual definition of the word:
a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money; prostitute; harlot; strumpet.
verb (used without object), whored, whoring.
to act as a whore.
to consort with whores.
verb (used with object), whored, whoring.
Obsolete. to make a whore of; corrupt; debauch.
Today the concept ‘Whore’ the noun, (one who has sex for money) has become elasticized stretching into the verb ‘Whoring’ which includes (but is not limited to) doing things of a sexual nature (for money). Ostensibly this includes dressing provocatively, posting provocative photos or videos, partying, or being photographed with numerous males (while dressed provocatively at a club is a double whammy) these actions can earn you the scarlet letter. What is really disturbing is that. it likely won’t be men labeling you (hey they love a sexy pic on Instagram), no, it’s other women, the fairer sex is the biggest offenders of such speech, both where ‘bitch’ and ‘whore/hoe’ are concerned. In fact when it come to ‘bitch’ women have in effect co-opted the word ‘bitch’ turning the once insult into an intimacy i.e. “My Bitches” as in “my girls”, much the way some African American’s say they have flipped the script on the “N” word. Women are also using “Bitches” as a passive aggressive, razor wrapped silk, a now socially acceptable way to say, “I like you but I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you” insert side eye-here.
The usage and meaning of ‘Whore’ is less ambiguous in it’s meaning. When someone is calling you a whore, they are unmistakably saying that you sleep around, or (and here comes that elasticity) you look like a person who sleeps around. Let’s make this clear, a stripper does not necessarily a whore make. One could post ass pics, twerk online, and dress as provocatively as one wants and still not be a whore. Just because you dance naked in a club for tips doesn’t mean that you are in the champagne room delivering sexual favors ( because we ALL know, there is no sex in the champagne room), even making a sex tape with your boyfriend and that somehow gets leaked and you (Or your mother) negotiate the rights to make money from it that does not a bonafide whore make, though some could argue that it could make you a whore by default as there is sex and money exchanged, but it seems as though we are splitting hairs (certainly not pubic as it seems no one has them anymore).
The real question is why does the word Whore have the power that Bitch never did? I suspect it might have something to do with the sexual double standard historically present in our patriarchal society. The idea that women are supposed to be pure and chaste, the “Madonna” and anything that falls short could be called the ‘Whore’. Women have endured, we have gone through suffrage, burnt their bras, and made it through the age of Aquarius and “free love”. The Women’s Movement fought for equality both in the boardroom and the bedroom, and won, for the most part… Yes today Women are making wages closer but not always equal to that of men, and now hold positions of power in companies, organizations, corporations, and government, however what the Movement could not do is change how people feel about women doing these things. Today women in business, who “handle their business” with most assuredly be branded ‘Bitches’ because they are ball-busters just like their male counterparts. Today women have the power post provocative pics, and twerking videos, dress scantily, and exercise their right to sexual freedom, albeit unfortunately they might well be branded ‘Hoes’, not because they are getting it as good as their make stud counterparts, no, they will be labeled because they are *women doing this things.
What interests me is why it it’s the aspersion De Jour, why does being called a ‘Whore’ land in a different place then ‘Bitch’?
Even in our modernity, in our liberated state somewhere down deep we as women still carry the shame and stigma of acting on our sexual liberation even though it was fairly fought for and won. On a cellular level we have not fully embraced the reality that we it’s okay for us to have a healthy sexual libido and act on it, like men, that we can take a lover and not want relationships, like men, we find it hard to own, because in our heart of hearts we know that double standard will creep up and bite us in our over exposed ass. Even when we ourselves find nothing shameful in our behavior, the fact that someone can call us out always lurks just below the surface. There are women who count their sexual partners, and try to keep their “number” low, often resulting in what I call “sleeping backwards” with men we have broken with, rather than find someone new and raise our ‘number’. The basis for this behavior is that since we know the ex, and we know what the sex is like, we would rather booty call him then add another notch on our bed post). Women don’t function like men, notches don’t necessarily give us s sense of prowess, often they can serve to make us feel shamed. It can make us feel like….A Whore.
Though on the surface we have been “allowed” our sexual freedoms, but because of that double standard, once we exercise them, we open ourselves up to judgment by both men and women. Television host Wendy Williams will at once love a Rhianna or Miley for their sexually provocative “bad girl” antics, but then will say “But you wouldn’t want to take her home to mama”. Yes it might well be true, but how can you tell a girl to “Rah Rah Rah, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, you’re young!!!” and then when she leaves the room say, “ Ugh just a mess, no good man is going to want her?”. Why is it that men are allowed, even encouraged to sew their oats but women must either feast and be a hoe, or endure a self imposed famine waiting for the man who will make an honest women of her? Why are all the female pop icons encouraged and celebrated for baring all in videos,magazine covers and sexy pictures on Instagram then subsequently taken to task for doing so? And heaven forbid you become a mother, then all bets are off. We live in a world with a split personality, where the female body and hyper sexualization of it is one of the largest commodities to be cashed in on through multiple mediums, and yet when a young woman takes advantage she is stigmatized while being hailed.Yes, Society giveth and it taketh away…
‘Bitch’ has been sublimated to a badge of honor, but the words ‘Whore’ and ‘Hoe’ land in a place where women have been rubbed raw from the tug of war around this subject. It lands in a place that is tender for trying to grow into a space we have been told has been prepared for us, yet is still stifled and forbidden. It falls on a place where even though those words may not be true, we as women, in the privacy of our own thoughts, question ourselves… Am a I whorish because I wore that? I said this? I slept with him? Internally, we fret and struggle, worried that we at times have lost our footing on the very thin, slippery, difficult to discern line of what makes us a “good girl”. We at times wonder, “Does that make me a whore?” so when someone calls us one, our uncertainty makes us vulnerable to that particular lance, in a way that we never were to the word ‘Bitch’. The closest I can come to an analogy would be to say that it is akin to calling someone a bad mother. Even though in your heart of hearts you know you are a great mother, you always carry some doubt that you are not doing it right,so when someone makes that charge you are sensitive to your own insecurity, that is what ‘Whore’ calls up in women, the fear, the insecurity that somehow we might just be one, because we have all done things that in the light of day we might not want to claim….
This type of social psychosis has us in a moral crisis. Women, young girls are confused as to who, what and how they should be, and where they fit in the larger scheme of things. Everyday we see the female image exposed, legs spread, bent over, on all fours, she is the object of the desire and concomitantly one of disdain. Men and women alike do not know how to feel about her image. We raise her up, then tear her down.There is attraction and repudiation mixed in one. People have achieved great fame and wealth for little more then literally showing their asses, and understandably young girls seek to emulate them in the hope of attaining the same level of success. The internet, with social media has become the great equalizer, over night a disenfranchised individual with a cell phone can be the IT Girl (or Guy) and live in the lap of luxury in a matter of months, and yet what they become known for…there is something inherently icky about it.
Personally I have strong feelings about some of the behavior of women and young girls these days, I truly think that we have to reexamine who we are as women and more importantly who we want to be, and how we want to get there. I see some of these images of women, and some of the behavior and though not a prude it does leave me shaking my head. I wonder how I live in a world that can give us Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice and at the same time beget the likes of Kim Kardashian, and Amber Rose? Of the latter though I find some of their antics despicable, and at times desperate, I would have to hesitate in calling them Hoes, I would say they have some hoeish tendencies…is that wrong? I myself am torn, I support their right to be able to do what they choose with their bodies and their images, but knowing that double standard exists, you have to be prepared for what you wrought. Yes, women are the possessors of their bodies “My body My choice” however, there is still that pesky thing called reality and not the television kind. I see the issue of “A Right to Bare Ass” as tantamount to the parameters of the First Amendment which protects your right as a citizen to say whatever you want without fear of persecution from the government, but it does not protect your from people’s reactions to what you say. You as a citizen have to bare the full brunt of the responsibility of your words and in this case actions. I think exercising your sexual freedom in certain ways has the same results, you have a right to do it, but knowing the contradictory world we live in, there will be a price to pay. I’m not saying I agree, but I’m saying that is real talk because I don’t think the double standard of Stud/Whore is going anywhere anytime soon. I do think that we as women don’t have to help it strengthen its roots by participating. To me the answer is quite simple, if we are going to keep shaming through an old paradigm then we can solve the problem through one, and women can just start acting like ladies.