Speak Your Mind

When a Word Is More Than Just a Word

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We continue this series with a submission from News & Notes contributor Jasmyne Cannick. She takes the popular entertainment Website TMZ.com to task for its description of Beyonce's performance at the recent BET Awards.

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Courtesy Jasmyne Cannick

We just can't seem to escape the word ho. It's everywhere we go. It's blaring from the speakers in the cars that pass us by on the street. It's coming out of the mouths of the kids that walk past our homes and offices. Occasionally some white shock jock uses it to refer to a group of women basketball players and then there's the Internet and infotainment media.

In its recap of the BET Music Awards held in Los Angeles, popular Internet site TMZ.com described recording artist Beyonce's choice of outfit as "roboho," and this was among other things.

The website posted the following comments in regards to Beyonce:

"From Beyonce's roboho performance getup to Eve's streetwalker chic, check out why it's time these artists hired new stylists and put the hip back into hip-hop!"

And while I tried to shake it and chalk it up to TMZ.com just being TMZ.com, I can't.

Not too long ago Black America raised its voices over the Don Imus "nappy headed hos" slip of the tongue which resulted in him ultimately being fired from CBS. Some would argue it had more to do with that fact the women he referred too didn't deserve to be called that and that they weren't public figures worthy of such a demeaning name. Others, like myself, believe that there's no justification for calling someone a ho, directly or indirectly, in the media, and that includes the online media.

So with that said, back to Beyonce and her being described by TMZ.com as having on "roboho performance getup." For real now. Is that what it's come down to? There are many colorful adjectives that one could use to describe Beyonce's outfit. So why then did ho have to come into the equation? And the last time I checked, Beyonce was an African-American woman, which to me makes the description worse because it seems that these days it's us Black women who are always being called hos. If the Don Imus' and TMZ.com's of the world aren't calling us hos, then its our brotha Snoop Dogg who believes that he's justified in doing so because he's "talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh—, that's trying to get a n—-a for his money."

But back to TMZ.com, obviously Beyonce doesn't need anyone to defend her and that's really not what I am doing. I am more interested in defending the way that Black women and in fact all women are depicted by the media when it's negative. Like I said earlier, there are a many colorful adjectives that TMZ.com could have used and I am curious to know why they went with ho. Was it subconscious? Was it on purpose? Do they not care how that word, thanks in part to websites like TMZ.com and rappers is becoming more and more synonyous with Black women.

And before you race off to your inbox to send me an email defending TMZ.com's use of the word, note this: I get what TMZ.com is all about. understand fully why they are as popular as they are. My point is that Black America has already made it clear that "ho" is not going to be tolerated in conjunction with describing Black women. Not from Black rappers, white shock jocks, and yes not even the writers at TMZ.com. Today is a new day, and just like when n—-, negro, and colored were acceptable descriptions of Blacks, we have now replaced those words with African-American, Black American, and my favorite, just Black.

I think at the very least TMZ.com owes Beyonce and America an apology for using such a derogatory slur in their description of her outfit. I don't care that they didn't like it but I do care when they use their platform that's read by millions to describe her as a "roboho." That's just wrong and inexcusable after the Imus controversy and sends a clear message of how Black women are viewed by the TMZ.com writers.

This is one Black woman who isn't down with the word ho.
— Jasmyne Cannick

Read Jasmyne's reaction to TMZ.com's response about this developing controversy.


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Seriously, did we REALLY think that the MSM and its offspring took the Don Imus debacle to heart? They used it for headlines, to get people to read their papers or watch their news shows. Afterwards, they completely forgot what the entire mess was about!

Sent by Trent W. | 1:19 PM | 7-11-2007

Diana Ross said it best during the BET awards show,telling up and coming artist that the use of the F-word was uncalled for and that being classy is the road to longevity in the music business. As a black mother, I'm not mad at TMZ.com for making that statement. Just as white mothers were getting fed up with the clothes that Britney Spears and Bratz dolls wore, I as a black mother of 2 girls am sick and tired of this mini dresses and over exposed chests! These are role-models to our young black women, and no matter how expensive that dress might have been, if it reveals too much, then yes it is ho-ish!

Sent by Gyamfua Gyamerah | 3:36 PM | 7-11-2007

Puleeze! This is another idiotic discourse on meaninglessness. Why should we care what a megamillionairess is called? The real dis is the lack of fair wages, unfair treatment, lack of access to healthcare, lack of capital, relentless rampant thinly disguised racism.

No one uses the H word in regards to the Divine World Mammy Oprah, nor the other self anointed Grande Dame of rootitude, Maya Angelou, nor that black female Chucky meets Darth Vader, Condoleeza
Rice ( ever proof that a whack name doesn't have
bode ill for making money).

This displays why the media continues to betray
Black Americans in particular and Americans in general.

and yeah, shame on me for piling on the waste, but
it was just hard to resist today

Sent by Regina Edwina Howe | 4:14 PM | 7-11-2007

The real question isn't why TMZ.com feels the need to call Beyonce a "roboho," but why she feels the need to dress like one. I'm so tired of our female celebrities prostituting their images in order to be successful.

Sure I feel distress at how easily the word ho is being tossed around these days. But I'm more distressed that acting and dressing like one has become mainstream entertainment.

Sent by Julie | 1:43 PM | 7-15-2007

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