Kanye West has spent his Sunday afternoon tweeting about acceptability of the words "bitch" and "n***a" — not surprisingly coming out on the side of artists who want the use of those words to be destigmatized in their art. I suppose he's finally addressing, on some level, the controversy over his new song about Kim Kardashian, Perfect Bitch?
West, who appeared at last night's Budweiser Made In America festival in Philly with Jay-Z, 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? Even typing it in question form it's still feels harsh? Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word? Do we love this word as much as we love the word NIGGA in an endearing way? correction, Here's the age old question, would we refer to our mothers as bitches? Would' we call our fathers niggers or better yet NIGGAS? If nigga is such a positive word, why do we feel so uncomfortable for white people to say it, even with a hall pass? Is it ok to use bitch as long as we put BAD in front of it? Like you a BAD BITCH Perhaps the words BITCH and NIGGA are now neither positive or negative. They are just potent and it depends on how the are used and by whom? #FREETHOUGHT … What is there was no profanity... What if we decided to legalise profanity in a sense? In France they play songs with cursing on the radio. I was recently questioned about the use of the word BITCH in my music and initially was offended by anyone questioning anything in my music. Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bitch to get his point across. I will admit that I sometimes go back an omit cursing from my records. I like to use profanity as a tool and not a crutch.
These tweets are a rare, real-time look into Kanye West's artistic process and, at least to a feminist like me, a welcome sign that he's thinking about his use of language that can be derogatory towards women in other contexts.
To be sure, West still has an extremely problematic relationship with women: he has famously "made over" Kim Kardashian's clothes and restocked her closet; his ex-fiancé Alexis Pfeifer claims he was physically violent against her; his music video for Monster was filled with highly sexualized images of dead women. All that being said, though, I think it's great that Kanye West is asking these questions about profligate use of "bitch" and the N-word regarding his own music — and posing those questions to his 8.4 million followers as well. Ultimately he brings up a good point that the more profanity is stigmatized, the more potent it has the ability to become.