Recently, rapper Kanye West decided to express his love for current girlfriend Kim Kardashian by writing a song about her called “Perfect Bitch.” Kardashian said she was not offended at all, and in fact was honored to be called West’s perfect bitch. But many fans and critics have not felt the same way. After all, is it really appropriate to call your girlfriend a bitch?
West divulged his thoughts on Twitter about the use of the word bitch, its connotations, and how who says it affects its meaning. He tweeted, “I usually never tweet questions but I struggle with this so here goes… Is the word BITCH acceptable? To be more specific, is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it’s endearing? Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word?” He went on to say how it’s usually unacceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger, but that from black to black it’s an endearment, and he wondered if bitch could be the same way: “Perhaps the words BITCH and NI**A are now neither positive or negative. They are just potent and it depends on how [they] are used and by whom? #FREETHOUGHT” [Huffington Post].
However, West then asked if people would consider it appropriate to call their mothers bitches or their fathers niggers. He said that when asked about the swearing in his songs, he was initially offended that someone would question his art, but the situation sparked him to think seriously about the topic. He revealed that he tries to “use profanity as a tool and not a crutch. I’m not tweeting to say what we need and what we don’t… I just wanted to think out loud with you guys today…” [Huffington Post].
Now I will admit I know nothing about Kanye West other than many of his songs seem vulgar and overly sexual. Case in point: he makes my blood boil when he ruins (yes, ruins) Katy Perry’s otherwise captivating and funky “E.T.” music video by floating around in a space ship while grabbing his crotch. I also know he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV VMAs in 2009 because he thought Beyoncé deserved to win instead, an act which may be causing him to be tied to his seat this year, literally. There may be positives to West, but since the media tends to prefer spreading scandalous news as opposed to beneficial, I haven’t heard much else about him.
However, the news of West’s monologue with himself over Twitter actually caused me to also stop and ponder not only his ability to think deeply beyond the typical lyrics of a hip-hop song, but the use of swear words in my own life. I would have to agree with West that hip-hop has indeed made many more vulgar words acceptable in everyday language, but I also believe he’s sniffing the right trail when he says that it entirely depends on the intention behind the person using the word.
For example, when I was in England, I became familiar and comfortable with hearing the f-bomb because its use is roughly equivalent to an American saying damn. Also, I heard the word shit a lot from my extended family and from farmers I knew — it wasn’t a heated, crass expletive, but merely a regular old word used every day to accurately describe the state of affairs. I’d also much rather hear a happily married couple say they want to screw each other than hear a philandering, non-committal man say the same about a random girl in a bar.
Unlike West, though, I feel we do need restrictions. We definitely don’t need lots of rules; we only need one, and that is to consider others’ feelings and preferences above your own. If you are in the room with your grandmother and she does not put up with even the smallest of swear words, just don’t swear. It’s simply not worth the risk of her berating you for hours, and it’s certainly not worth ruining a relationship over. On the contrary, if your friend likes when you call her a devious little bitch, and no one else around would be offended, go right ahead.
According to my rule, I think West should have saved the name-calling only for moments between himself and Kardashian. If they feel comfortable with him calling her a bitch, that’s their decision, but they can’t expect everyone in the world not to be upset. However, I appreciate his honesty in trying analyze the linguistic significance behind the word’s usage, or any cursing in music, for that matter. Not many popular artists tend to show such insight, so my hat’s tipped to West.