Azealia Banks Wants You to Know She's Not Homophobic, but She'll Still Call You a "Faggot"

Azealia Banks Wants You to Know She's Not Homophobic, but She'll Still Call You a "Faggot"
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Is this a feminist truth or absolute crazy?

Azealia Banks spoke her mind, to say the least, in an interview with Sirius XM's Xorje Olivares on Monday. She addressed her recent comments against gay media blogger Perez Hilton and Vice's Mitchell Sunderland, which have been widely criticized as being homophobic. 

But Banks is giving no one an apology. 

The black bisexual rapper described Hilton as being a "faggot," and then justified her use of the word by claiming her use was rooted in feminist thought. Reiterating to Olivares that she is not homophobic, Banks explained that her definition of this commonplace homophobic slur applies to anyone, gay or straight, who is a male misogynist.

"To be homophobic would imply that I'm, like, 'I can't sit next to a gay man cuz Imma catch the gay,'" she told Olivares. "But I already caught the gay," she remarked, alluding to her own sexuality. "I feel like when I use the word 'faggot,' it comes from, like, a feminist point of view, not a homophobic point of view. It's really just kinda like you feel attacked as a woman."

The takeaway: Banks is spot-on in her comments about male misogyny, but "faggot" is just not synonymous with "misogynist." However, Banks professionally barters in language, and she can — and must — do better. 

Source: Soundcloud

The question: Does a personal definition of hate speech excuse its use? This is the question at the basis of Banks' explanation of why she believes it's appropriate to use the word "faggot." She contends that "the word faggot came to [her] from [her] mother." For Banks, the word is not a slur pertinent to one's sexual orientation, but descriptive of one's level of misogyny. "It was never a thing of, like, a guy being gay, you know what I mean, it was always just a man who hates women. ... You could be gay or straight. You could be a straight faggot," she told Olivares. "I feel like faggots are, like, men who want to bring women down. ... Faggots are men who don't want you to be independent."

The answer: No. Banks makes a solid point that white gay men dominate media and therefore perpetuate sexist representations of women. "With white gay media, especially with female artists ... in order for you to seem successful or seem feminine or whatever, you have to desire their approval, you know, like, white gay males' approval," she said. She also is on point about America's lopsided sense of discrimination when it comes to language. "If you're gonna stand up for the rights, you gotta stand up for all the rights," she said. "You gotta get mad when I say 'nigger.' You gotta get mad when I say 'bitch.' You gotta get mad when I say 'cunt.' America cannot pick and choose when it wants to be offended."

Banks is right to highlight misogyny, and the level of racism embedded in the media's misogyny. But her language is still not justified, particularly when it is vocalized in a public domain. Language exists as a tool for communication; it was not invented to satiate the ego. The issue, here, is not about being politically correct, even — it's about understanding the meaning of language, outside of what your mother told you. And Banks, who has invoked history as a point of critique for artists like Iggy Azalea, should know that language has history, which bears its weight of importance.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

MORE FROM

Minneapolis police chief resigns after fatal shooting of Australian woman

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced in a Facebook post that she is stepping aside.

Mentally ill prisoners in Louisiana forced to bark like dogs for food, lawsuit claims

Investigators came. Everyone was told not to speak to them.

Philando Castile’s mother supports Justine Damond’s family at march in Minneapolis

"We're just here to support the family," she said. "That's all."

Lawyer says Justine Damond is “most innocent” police shooting victim he’s ever seen

Observers were quick to point out that several black children have been killed by police.

A jail in Tennessee is offering reduced sentences for voluntary vasectomies

Eugenics lives on in 2017.

How the media covers “honor killings” in different ways for women of different religions

Experts say these deaths should be viewed as acts of domestic violence.

Minneapolis police chief resigns after fatal shooting of Australian woman

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced in a Facebook post that she is stepping aside.

Mentally ill prisoners in Louisiana forced to bark like dogs for food, lawsuit claims

Investigators came. Everyone was told not to speak to them.

Philando Castile’s mother supports Justine Damond’s family at march in Minneapolis

"We're just here to support the family," she said. "That's all."

Lawyer says Justine Damond is “most innocent” police shooting victim he’s ever seen

Observers were quick to point out that several black children have been killed by police.

A jail in Tennessee is offering reduced sentences for voluntary vasectomies

Eugenics lives on in 2017.

How the media covers “honor killings” in different ways for women of different religions

Experts say these deaths should be viewed as acts of domestic violence.