Azealia Banks finally dropped her anticipated album, Broke With Expensive Taste, two years after she made her way into our hearts with her single "212." She managed to stay in the press in the meantime with her constant Twitter beefs with rival artists, former team members, a manager, groups she was going to collaborate with — generally anyone Banks felt she needed to put down. Her fans, myself included, tried to forget those public social media fights and instead enjoyed her album. But Banks has, again, publicly defended her use of homophobic slurs, eclipsing her album for many LGBT listeners.
In an interview last month with The Guardian, Banks said she doesn’t regret her use of slurs and explained that by her definition the word “faggot” specifically describes misogynists — because the word “misogynist” itself escapes Banks.
“A lot of gay men are way more misogynistic than straight men,” she said, adding, “You can be a straight faggot, you can be a gay faggot. A faggot is anybody that hates women.”
Both Banks and Rose McGowan have made comments about gay men being just as misogynistic as straight men. How queer men treat women (both cisgender and transgender women) is something that definitely needs further discussion. But both of their arguments are lost on readers due to McGowan’s use of gay stereotypes and by Banks defending her use of slurs.
Banks used the word “faggot” last year during a run-in with gossip blogger Perez Hilton. Hilton had taken sides with rapper Angel Haze in her feud with Banks. Banks decided to tweet “@PerezHilton lol what a messy faggot you are.” She eventually apologized to those who were offended by her foul language (but really, the “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology is a non-apology).
In clarification of why she called Hilton a faggot, Banks gave a slightly different definition, tweeting, "A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There’s a big difference.” She followed up that tweet by saying that as a bisexual person, she understood the weight of the word, clarifying she should have said “acts like a cunt” instead. Either Banks’s definition has evolved or she just can’t keep track of her definitions. That was a year ago, and she has since (perhaps recently) deleted those tweets. But she's still using homophobic slurs.
This past wednesday night, Banks went on yet another twitter rampage against Iggy Azeala as she accused the fellow rapper of cultural appropriation. During the twitter storm, her targets shifted on gossip blogger Perez Hilton tweeting,"You're still a faggot tho. LOLOLOLOL."Her defense, again, is that faggot is actually a term to define misognyst.
It seems that Banks doesn’t understand that no one can suddenly choose to self-define a word with decades of historical meaning. And while I in no way want to defend the likes of Perez Hilton, she is using a slur that has been used by and against queer men. It’s not a word she has any right to use. The word “faggot” shouldn’t be in her vocabulary.
As GLAAD noted when she first used the slurs, “Our society knows that 'fa**ot' is a derogatory word for gay men, and in this case it was used to attack someone in a very public altercation with hundreds of thousands of fans and young people following.”
So yes, this slur is primarily used on queer people who identify or present as male. It’s a derogatory term that has been used to attack our humanity and is associated with acts of violence against us.
The word “faggot” has been scratched in my car and used on me in verbal attacks. I’ve heard that word spit at me while walking down the street, and for many of our queer brothers, it was the last thing they heard before their lives were taken from them. The word already has meaning, and for a lot of us it is intrinsically tied to violence.
I’ve discussed my thoughts before on the use of “faggot” and why I don’t think it’s necessary to reclaim. Its origins are not completely clear, but the word is rumored to stem from the practice of burning homosexuals hundreds of years ago. Since then, the term has been used outside of the queer male community as a derogatory term. I don’t have any problems if there are people who want to use it and reclaim it. But if it’s going to be reclaimed, it has to be done by queer men who have a stake in its use.
It’s unfortunate that we are even having this discussion, since Azealia Banks is part of the LGBT community. But being LGBT doesn’t automatically make you educated on the damage words cause. With her considerable influence, Banks can unfortunately cause a lot of damage.
What I wish she knew was that definitions are both academic and social. New social definitions that add negative associations to minority groups hurt our communities. Banks is only doing us a disservice when adding more negative connotations to the word, essentially working against us, while naively asserting it doesn’t reflect the queer male community.
When people are dying on the streets because of words like “faggot” and the T-word, the argument isn’t about definitions but one about the humanity of those we have lost. Banks should celebrate her album and try to remain relevant through her art — not through her defamatory remarks. If she can’t find words besides slurs to use in beefs with other people, she’s really not that good of a lyricist after all.
ELIEL CRUZ is a contributor on issues related to bisexuality. In addition to The Advocate, Cruz frequently writes on the topics of sexuality, religion, pop culture, and media at Mic and Religion News Service. The head shot attached shows his facial expression when reading Banks's comments. You can follow Cruz on Twitter @ElielCruz.