Azelia Banks, Zayne Malik, twitter, faggot, homophobia
Azelia Banks, Zayne Malik, twitter, faggot, homophobia

If A Bi Woman Screams “Faggot”, Is It Still A Slur?

Why we’re covering this: Though freedom of speech primarily refers to unconstitutional government infringement on public expression, it can also refer to the risks people take when speaking their minds. “Faggot” especially is a historically-charged slur, but it’s one still in use by many gay and non-gay people. We want to examine its recent use in a public celebrity feud and consider what, if anything, it meant outside of its intent to harm.

Earlier this month, Azealia Banks — the twenty-something New York-based singer and electronic hip hop artist known for her indie rap and rage — got banned from Twitter, kicked out of a music festival and widely scorned by gay media for her angry tweets towards former One Direction singer Zayn Malik calling him (among other racial epithets) a faggot and a dick rider. Though she later apologized, I’d like to sidestep her racial comments for now (they are really their own article) and concentrate on the offense over her use of faggot.

Let me say upfront, that I’ve been a fan since her critically acclaimed debut EP 1991. It was an eclectic sonic blaze of ’90s house music a la Paris Is Burning glazed with her airy soprano and brash millennial Lil’ Kim gangsta bitch rap delivery.

The feisty bisexual chanteuse is also notorious for her online feuds with celebrities from Erykah Badu to Sarah Palin. She unrepentantly hurled homophobic slurs at occasional celebrity stalker and gay blogger Perez Hilton and in an alleged assault against her by a Delta flight attendant. And in an unexpected twist, Azealia has issued her support for Republican presidential candidate and vitriolic fight-starter Donald Trump. Though I love her music, Banks keeps doing shit that is highly offensive and makes no fucking sense.

But I also think that Banks’ homophobic comments reveal her brilliantly defiant and demented brand of feminism. Though they were directed at Zayn, she’s also throwing punches at misogynoir (the hatred of Black women) in white gay male culture’s mockery and mimicry of Black womanhood with their claims of “being a Black woman on the inside” and gay men’s free use of historically woman-demeaning terms like ‘bitch’ and ‘çunt’.

She juxtaposes herself against the norms of PC culture and has questioned the seeming disparity of speech that allows for misogyny against her as a woman, specifically as a Black woman, by the gay community at-large. The same gay men who use misogynist slurs saying that they’re not about women then turn around and police her use of any language that upsets gay men.

If gay society allows for the use of ‘bitch’ to mean a difficult woman of any sexual orientation, is Banks not equally allowed to use the word ‘faggot’ to mean a weak man of any orientation? Two wrongs don’t make a right but they certainly make things fair.

Azealia Banks is no saint and the frequency with she finds herself in online shitfests with other celebrities could be avoided if she would learn when to shut the hell up. Banks is an adult woman who recently found herself in a Twitter beef with 14-year-old Disney star Skai Jackson. It is damn ridiculous and for an adult to verbally assault a child — a young Black celebrity girl for whom Banks would spend better time praising — with diatribes about their mother fellating producers to launch her child’s career.

There has been a previous disclosure of bipolar disorder from Banks and some have theorized that her reckless, abusive tweeting, against others and herself, might be the result of the mood disorder, which is characterized by fits of manic creativity, irritability, risk-taking, self-confidence and sometimes abusive rage when left untreated. The “High Priestess of Soul” and self-defined Black classical musician Nina Simone lived with bipolar disorder and the same notoriety that Banks evokes with her deep brown skin, fierce intelligence, seemingly endless talent and penchant for self-destruction.

This is a young woman who was previously a darling of social media with the powerful charge of transforming the landscape of Black indie culture. She was the princess of cool politically, conscious Black hipsterdom, but in post-Beyhive culture celebrities are supposed to be immaculate, calculated robots without displeasing opinions. The lies of fame are praised, but Azealia speaks her truth and in being as offensive as everyone else- in the illusion drunk world of the Kardashians and the “flawless” Beyoncé herself- is utterly unforgivable?

Azealia Banks is a force to be reckoned with as there are very few figures in pop culture whose inane bickering and exhausting moodiness makes people pay attention. To be able to make people listen in 2016- that is power, however, she has yet to realize when that power is being put to ineffective and vehemently offensive use. Banks isn’t just her causing problems- she is also here making purpose.

In short, I wish Banks would get her shit together. Me and a lot of other people (gay men and Zayne Malik fans included) are rooting for her. We’re listening, but we’d rather she use her power for good rather than bullshit.


Chaaz Quigley, Black, activist, writer, glasses, queer, LGBT, Dallas

Chaaz Quigley is an Oak Cliff-based activist in Dallas, Texas who loves Black people and hates Hillary Clinton. He enjoys hot bubble baths, Nina Simone and good weed — at the same time.