Benevolent Patriarchy: My take on Lupe Fiasco’s Bitch Bad

Aug 27, 2012 @ 9:59 am | By TheFeministGriote | 19 Comments

The other day my homie texted me and stated that I needed to check out Lupe Fiasco’s new video for his song “Bitch Bad.” I had no real want to watch the video. I heard the song awhile back, read an article about the song, and for the most part wasn’t impressed with what he was espousing. I had my opinions on the song, but I didn’t feel compelled to tweet or blog about it.

But fast forward to now Lupe is getting epic co-signs from a myriad of Black women and Black women publications that I generally respect, and I think the Black feminist voice is lacking (as usual) in the conversation.

Therefore here is my take on the song/video…

The lady trope: Lupe, who is supposed to be that dude that rises above the mediocrity and ratchetness of mainstream hip-hop, doesn’t really present anything different with this song and video “Bitch Bad.”

“Bitch bad/woman good/lady better”

Historically, lady is a word that has always been used to describe upper crust white women. Even the word woman, that we all can basically agree is a social construct rooted in societal expectations, wasn’t applied to Black women in the beginning. Black women who were bought to America in chains, whose bodies and the products of their bodies belonged to everyone except themselves, have always had to fight to affirm their personhood and woman-ness. Hence why Sojourner Truth had to ask the epic question, “Ain’t I a woman?” It’s 2012, I don’t want anything to do with being a “lady,” being a woman is hard enough thank you very much!  Lady means there are rules. Rules created by patriarchy. Rules that govern my body, how I dress, and how I engage sexually (this sexual engagement is always exclusively considered heterosexual). Lupe in my opinion comes dangerously close to telling me how to act like lady think like a man.”

The song is respectability politics aka benevolent patriarchy on crack:  At the end of the song and video Lupe starts to chastise women for wearing clothes that will not garner them respect from men.

Momma never dressed like that/come out the house like that/ ass/titties/ breasts like that/all out to impress like that

So here we go… this why I can’t stand the  “conscious brotha” types. In their eyes you are only a “queen” worthy of king (again assuming all women are straight) if you dress the part. Therefore this woman is automatically “lost” and should be stereotyped because she is dressing risque. The sentiment I am getting is that, “if you want my respect Black woman you have to earn it  by dressing modestly the way my momma did.” Negro please! If being a human being is not enough for me to be respected, then I don’t need your petty ass flimsy respect. It seems that for men, it is always the responsibility of the woman to stay in the good graces of males in society. What is the man’s responsibility in all of this? And news flash, not every woman dresses for male attention. I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true. DEAL!

Lastly the video and song suck: Lupe is not really dropping any knowledge both lyrically or visually. I am glad that Lupe and the director of the video watched Spike Lee’s joint Bambazooled, but I don’t see what exactly  Lupe added to the rap canon both lyrically and visually with this this project? The song is lackluster and in certain aspects of the song I feel like he is talking at the audience rather than to the audience.

Disclaimer: this rhymer Lupe is not using “bitch” as a lesson/But as a psychological weapon/To set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions

The best way that I can describe the song is by using the epic words of Jay-Z from his song “The Blueprint 2”:

Cause you don’t understand him/it don’t mean that he nice/it just means you don’t understand the bullshit that he writes

I am not saying that Lupe’s body of work is trash, but there is nothing epic about the song and the imagery that accompanied. Like I get it, you’re not Waka Flocka, you’re organic alternative in a world full of fast food. But you’re also the guy who thinks Lil B the based god’s music is powerful and meaningful! So now all of a sudden you’re the dude that we women need to take our queue from if we want to reach the pinnacle of ladyhood…I’m good thanks.



Categories: Pop-Culture Fodder

19 Responses to “ Benevolent Patriarchy: My take on Lupe Fiasco’s Bitch Bad ”

  1. Did Lupe say himself, that he thinks Lil B’s music is powerful?

  2. Definitely honest, mostly true, still negative. I thought about the history of the word lady as well and thought that was off in his overall message. Though he brought nothing new, he did however address and put to rhythm with rhyme the current state of young girls, black or otherwise, and how they are being affected and introduced to sexual content, sexual trends, and sexual perceptions of others much earlier due to social networks and mainly youtube. This determines how they see themselves and what they feel they should be w.o them even giving real thought to it bc it’s more of their actions from following trends. What he speaks on isn’t new but it’s always good to point out the obvious trends ppl see and witness but that no one addresses in songs. I also agree with you that he didn’t go overly deep on the lyrics but it still had power in what he address and his effort in addressing it. It’s not easy to make a song with a message and meaning using 3 16s. Artist have done and most fail but his effort and outcome are good even if not praiseworthy. You didn’t have one positive thing to say and maybe that’s what it means to be a feminist? I hope not.

  3. great response (and please forgive me if my own reply strays a little off-topic; i tend to do that)

    our organic cultural movements have shifted focus during this digital era – as a writer and visual artist i know my own work can sometimes be called into question by traditional feminists, and i accept that. even if my work was inspired to show support for women’s causes if it misses the mark then i expect criticism and feedback. patriarchy has thrown it’s support behind the women seeking control over their sexual identities more-so than those seeking actual equality and justice regarding financial and legal matters: ask a man to march for reproductive rights and he might offer lip service, but if women want freak-liberation then watch us reserve convention halls and call up sex-toy and bondage vendors in solidarity…. not that women’s rights cant be fought on multiple fronts, but let Lupe, Frank Ocean, myself or any other contemporary male artist directly sing/rap/paint about actual causes calling out misogyny and anti-womanism in our legislative systems – those acts might prove to be more progressive than a man’s attempts at endearing himself to women by simply chanting “i’m your boo and i got your back”. it’s extremely self-serving for us men to see women as sexual equals more than we see them as human equals – whether we admit it or not, this only means that we hope to increase our chances at having better physical relationships with the types of women we deem “better”, meaning those who are in our opinions more socially conscious – or “baby, you’re not a chicken-head, you’re a much better bird to me than that!”

    all of our movements have been reduced in the media to ‘niggas’ and ‘bitches’ – and those of us wanting more substantive material in our politics are now attacked by ‘the activists’ who mostly share the same position as those who have traditionally been against full-scale equality. dialogues on supremacy can not be allowed to just be generational because then we run the risk of losing historical context. patriarchy/supremacy will placate a generation that speaks for itself far quicker than it will the entire community from which that particular generation originates from, and the more individualistic voices a community has the easier it is to appease those few voices, forcing them to turn against the other voices within the group: divide and have them conquer themselves. the movements that matter and are lasting are of one continuous thread and not a bunch of loose strings clinging to a garment. those who do not share the same foundation as you can not speak on your behalf; even if they ‘understand you’ their passions still lay elsewhere.

    (and not just ‘the off-topic’ part of my reply, please forgive the rant itself if it interferes with any part of your original statement)

    – ron.

  4. He made a song so that the masses would still listen to it and he can get his point across. An ARTIST decided to CREATE is OWN art to share with the world about HIS OWN OPINION about how a woman should carry herself. Just like you don’t have a problem with women walking around in prostitute uniforms.

    If he went in too deep, it would fall on deaf ears. If Oprah conducted her show in booty shorts and a bikini top would you really take her seriously??

    Nicki Minaj is a perfect example….

    If your child’s teacher came into the classroom with a green wig and a tight bandage dress, 6 in high heels would that be acceptable because shes a woman who chooses to be risque??

    Who would feel comfortable seeing Michelle Obama with a purple wig, Reebok classics, a denim mini skirt and a baby tee that says spank me??

    Quite honestly i feel like your just picking something positive to bash.

  5. ‎@Vincent agree with your points. It seems like the point of the song/video may have been overlooked. It seems like Lupe is ATTEMPTING to deal with the idea of the media driven promotion of ONE type of female. One that usually wears barley there clothing and puts a certain level of attention on certain areas of her body that typically are associated with sex. Does this mean that she is actually a Whore? No, but the reality is that image is real. If I put on full hijab, niquab and all and greeted people saying ‘A sallaam Alaikum’ one would heavily lean towards the ASSUMPTION that I am a muslim and right fully so, as I am potraying myself as such….For me what I got from the vid is that we(mainly blacks) both MEN and WOMEN are being sold a particular type of image that is potentially limiting our personal development as a humans. If base images are constantly being blasted into young peoples minds, just like any other programming people will likely imitate that behavior. As a “progressive” woman and mother I see the slippery slope this creates. I don’t want my son thinking that life is about money, cars, clothes and hoes and if I had a daughter I wouldn’t want her thinking that having a big ass, red bottoms and a nicca w/ doe is what womanhood is about. This is whats being sold and this is the point that the brother was trying to make and I think thats fair.

  6. I like your writing in this piece but since u are a feminist u don’t get it, this whole review was negative and if u cant find anything positive about that great song, its the feminist in u.

    By the way these commenters above me are really smart especially @Hizlioness and @t o. But it does baffle me that he said that about Lil B but maybe he was just returning a favor, and I hope he makes a song about the N Word use.

  7. You sound extremely angry mam. Is it okay to address you as that or will you bite my head off too? What’s wrong? There’s critiquing a song by being objective but I can practically hear you screaming whilst typing out this extremely biased piece. What did the man do to you? You can argue that “Bitch Bad” isn’t perfect but saying “the video and song suck”? Now you know that’s a lie!!

    This does NOTHING to change the perception that feminists are a bunch of angry, dissatisfied women who feel the world owe them something. Cheers.

  8. Thank you, it is a very interesting point of view, I’m glad you wrote this because I wasn’t comfortable with the “lady” either but I couldn’t read anything but positive reviews of the song. Thank you for opening my eyes 🙂

  9. Lupe Fiasco is one of the very few that leads a true atmosphere that encourages intellectual growth. He reaches millions of people and yes, as a women’s studies major (the only male) I think there shod be constructive criticism we should definitely appreciate what he is trying to do! Lupe doesn’t have a phd but as academics we must work forwards growth but not by abuse.

  10. […] of the feminist-centered criticism I observed regarding “Bitch Bad” focuses on the fact that Fiasco feels obligated to […]

  11. I cant believe this, yall are never satisfied.
    Then you compare to him to Jayz…..Are you kidding me?

    Your a joke, not worth dealing with.

  12. […] gender politics and misogyny in hip-hop. Fiasco’s track, “Bitch Bad” was criticized by many feminists and hip-hop fans alike because, while he did attempt to critique that which few […]

  13. you are right on sis!!!
    not everyone who claims to be conscious is really conscioius!
    anybody can claim to be free of the isms, but if you cannot back it up you are just another boggot in a nice packaging
    and i dont care much for packaging!

    i love nicki minaj!
    and any man who says women are bitches because they dress two revealing two things

    aren’t we all born naked?
    so what is the big deal?
    why does lupe think he has the authority to decide what way to dress is apropriate under al circumstances at all times in alll regions of the world for women?

    fuck him

    i dont care about hom or anyone who is like him

    why does he critisze black peopel to begin with?
    that fucking uncle tom!
    if you want to critisize soemthing critisize the racist judges the racist jury the racist polcie only frisking blacks the racist congress

    critisizes that you fucking uncle tom

    why do youjoin in on the mob that kept critisizing black women for hudreds of years?


    because you make music for white america?

    fuck you lupe
    and anybody like you

    and as a man i think he is a sore petty loser who’s entitled little butt is throwing a hissy fit because women like nicki minaj are out of his league 😀

    if women get discriminated or jews or muslims or criples or gays we blacks cant be free either

    i am just saiyng as a black guy i hate sexism

    i am not saying i am not part of teh problem i am just saiyng if sexism is aceeptable homophobia racism and all the other crap is acceptable too

    we all need to unite

    (not of course with those uncle toms lol)

    if we fight together
    we can beat this hell!
    we all get the short side of the stick and that is a common denominator

    thinka about it if we not only figth for our own group but alos other discriminated groups then we all becom stronger

    “one stick breaks easy but togetehr they form an unbreakable bundle”

    the ancient romans used the bundle as a symbol of power!

    one love

  14. ilovemypeople | December 6, 2012 3:58 pm

    I don’t understand why you are being so hard on Lupe. He is actually doing a good thing by calling out how hip hop is destroying our outlook on black women. I think instead of critiquing him, you should actually reflect on the overall message and think about the media’s perspective on black women. In music videos all we see are women acting provocative and shaking their behinds in front of the TV screen. Sure as a black people we may know that this is not a good representation of our women, but to people of other races, what they see on TV is all they know. Also think about the pressures that black girls have today. All they see are women with unrealistic body proportions (extra small waist and a big butt) and that’s what they want. I have been a victim of this as a teenager and its real. Finally, I actually think that the way that we portray ourselves, clothes and all, mean something. It is true that no one should be judged by the way that they are dressed but if all you see on TV is girls dressed in small-fitting clothes that show a lot of skin acting provocative, then you will associate that type of clothing with a provocative person.
    Overall kudos to Lupe for exposing something that was long overdue–the portrayal of black women in hip hop and how this effects everyone.

  15. Some of this people need to open their mind and stop drinking that white sexist cool-aid. This was a wonderful article and on point about how sometimes people who claim to be conscious are actually not. Stop trying to force black women and girls into the gender roles created by white people. Stop implying that women who dress a certain way or do certain things are not deserving of respect. Cause right now you sound exactly like the racist people who claim that blacks are all stupid criminals until we prove we can assimilate into “white culture”. The label of lady was not created for the black woman, and it in fact was made to keep white women in line/submissive.

  16. Exceptional post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thanks!

  17. […] have no desire to do so for the same reasons I don’t want anyone calling me a “lady.” The freedom to fall from grace and from the pedestal of virtuosity  is a white woman’s […]

  18. Very good info. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance
    (stumbleupon). I’ve book-marked it for later!

  19. […] gender politics and misogyny in hip hop. Fiasco’s track, “Bitch Bad” was criticized by feminists and hip hop fans alike because, while he did attempt to critique that which few male […]

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