Azealia Banks, Intersectionality and How Her Word Reclaiming Isn't Possible

I don't follow Azealia Banks on Twitter. I un-followed her a long time ago, but every time I learn of something rambunctious that the 21-year-old tweets, I cringe. What makes it so heartbreaking is that I was rooting for her. I really wanted the young Harlemnite to win, but she lost me when she started Twitter beef with rap icon Lil' Kim. I get very perturbed anytime a young whippersnapper disrespects a veteran artist who has clearly paved the way for them. I also think it's lame when an artist has more controversial headlines in the media than tracks on her debut album. (Oh, wait, as far as original music goes, Azealia has only released an EP.)

But that's a whole other issue. I want to talk about her continual use of the word "faggot," her asinine attempts to liken it to the use of the "N" word and how her theory is also misogynistic and insulting to women and the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. According to the bisexual "212" rapper and singer, "faggot" means "coward, liar, backstabber," "[e]nergy stealer, blood sucker" and "any male who acts like a female." Before I go any further, I'd like to make it clear that I'm well aware of the misogyny and homophobia of hip-hop as a whole and the fact that Azealia's male counterparts say similar things on wax and outside the studio, but I'm specifically irritated and baffled by Azealia's ignorance, behavior and theories because she's a black bisexual woman. I feel that she definitely needs a long "sit-down" in regard to intersectionality.

What most people don't understand is that humanizing groups such as ability, class, gender, sexual orientation and other realms of identity on various and coexistent levels all contribute to systematic social inequality. No "ism" trumps or denotes another. They all embroil and create a system of oppression that reflects the interweaving of varied forms of discrimination.

In regard to reclaiming and redefining the word "faggot," Azealia can't reclaim it or redefine it, because she's not within the group that the slur has historically been used against. She's a bisexual woman, not a gay man. Yes, many blacks have reclaimed and redefined the "N" word, and they can do that because they're black, but it becomes instantly problematic when anyone outside an oppressed group uses a slur that was targeted at that group. If you are guilty of such, you simply perpetuate and reinforce the word's negative connotations.

What breaks my heart the most is the fact that Ms. Banks doesn't see an issue with defining a "faggot" not as a gay man but as "a male who acts like a female." That statement perpetuates and reinforces the notion that femininity is negative and that women are "bitches" or less worthy than men. Perhaps Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Sister Souljah or somebody can have a talk with her, or maybe someone can send her some Audre Lorde books. Either way, she needs to be educated.