Is Taylor Right To Be Ticked About This Whole “That Bitch” Thing?

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Back in February, Kanye West attempted to set the record straight via Twitter about all that Taylor Swift drama about to boil over. "I did not diss Taylor Swift and I’ve never dissed her," he began, before making a list of points addressing the backlash over his song "Famous." "First thing is I’m an artist and as an artist I will express how I feel with no censorship," he wrote. "[Second] thing I asked my wife for her blessings and she was cool with it. [Third] thing I called Taylor and had a hour long convo with her about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings." For months, Swift's camp denied that this conversation ever happened. Of course, now we know that it did — and that Yeezy has been playing above board all along, even when he gave Swift credit for the idea behind "Famous" in the first place. But it's the fourth tweet in this series that has become of special interest today: "Bitch is an endearing term in hip hop like the word Nigga," he submitted to the internet this winter. As longtime music writer and Genius senior editor Insanul Ahmed pointed out to Refinery29 on the phone today, Kanye has had a complicated relationship with the term "bitch" in the past — but apparently seems to have made his peace with the word. "Is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it's endearing?" West mused back in 2012. "Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word? Do we love this word as much as we love the word NIGGA in an endearing way?" At the time, he also wondered if modifying "bitch" with "bad" made all the difference, as in "you a bad bitch."

Taking issue with "that bitch" is one way to reestablish her reputation and reassert that she's somehow been wronged in this situation.

"Perhaps the words BITCH and NIGGA are now neither positive or negative. They are just potent and it depends on how the are used and by whom?" he concluded. It's an interesting, and linguistically philosophical, line of thinking. Kanye gets credit for publicly dissecting the ways in which "bitch" is trotted out in pop culture — and for turning Twitter into a liberal arts 101 lecture you'd actually stay awake for. Clearly, the term itself has a loaded legacy — one that can't be entirely discharged by modern reclamations. But — when it's used with positive connotations — "bitch" can signify anything from a woman who doesn't let anyone stand in her way to a term of endearment. What's more: Even Swift conceded that Kanye referencing her in the song was complimentary. So why is she taking issue with the "that bitch" lyric now? Probably because she doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to this controversy now that the footage is out. Even though the public has only seen two minutes of the supposed hour-long conversation between the famous musicians, there's definitely a wide chasm between what Swift had copped to knowing about the song and what we found out Sunday night. Taking issue with "that bitch" is one way to reestablish her reputation and reassert that she's somehow been wronged in this situation. But the inherent problem with that is that Swift — who has been in the music industry for literally a decade — should know better than to nitpick over the way that rap lyrics employ rhetoric. "Bitch" might be a polarizing word. But it wasn't meant as an insult in "Famous" any more than it was when Kanye wrote "Perfect Bitch" about his then wife-to-be, Kim Kardashian. Bringing it up now just serves to stir up more bad blood.

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