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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A reminder about words

So I'm watching a debate on Hannity and Colmes on FNC between the Rev. Al Sharpton and Harvey Levin of

Sharpton is upset that, in poking fun of singer Beyonce Knowles' gold-colored, robotic-looking outfit from the recent BET Awards, referred to the outfit as a "robo-ho" outfit.

Sharpton says that all jokes aside, shouldn't have called Beyonce any sort of "ho."

There are plenty of real ho's out there who deserve the label. I'm not just talking females. I have buddies I call hos. They know it. Sure, I speak in jest. But I mean it when I call them that. Why? They're promiscuous.

Harvey Levin says Sharpton should lighten up. He says that it isn't a matter of thinking Beyonce is a "ho" or a "whore" or a "prostitute." It's just a joke.

I don't often agree with the Rev. on anything. But I think he might be right in this case.

On the one hand backpedaled on the site and suggested the use of the word "ho" is wrong in any case. On the other hand, Levin says it was OK to call Beyonce's outfit ho-ish because the site has also called Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan, among others, hos for their alleged promiscuous behavior. Sharpton agreed with the Web site on one thing: that "ho" shouldn't be used in any case.

So if the standard uses for doling out the label "ho," is one based on ladylike vs. promiscuous behavior, then Sharpton was right to object to the Web site's using it in reference to Beyonce. She does not have a promiscuous reputation as do the young women Levin referenced in defense of the word.

I have to confess I read/watch items on regularly. I don't recall them calling singer Kylie Minogue a ho or her outfit ho-ish, when she began a concert last year in a similar sexy, robotic get-up.

Where both and Sharpton are wrong is in saying that "ho" should never be used. Once again, such a declaration takes us dangerously close to censorship for the sake of sparing everyone's feelings.

They don't need to be concerned about sparing everyone's feelings. They need to be concerned about not lumping groups of people together with slang and labels. It's the same place Imus got himself in trouble.

If he'd watched a documentary film the night before he went on the air that fateful morning that featured interviews with prostitutes and then mentioned on the air that the film was full of hos I don't think he'd have gotten himself in so much hot water. Instead he called apparently decent young women hos and that pissed people off.

Language lesson of the day: don't be afraid to critique, criticize, or analyze. But when you do, if you want to avoid grief make sure the adjective you use to describe your subject is accurate, or be prepared to demonstrate that you were just joking.

Moral of the day: It is true we all need to lighten up again. When people become so afraid of offending that they steer clear of jokes, even racy jokes, then we widen the fissures between different cultural and social groups. And that's the last thing we need in this country right now.

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  • I totally agree with your moral of the day. Their is an extreme amount of political correctness going on in this country that makes it hard to speak your mind without sounding racist or sexist or anything else.

    In all honesty, if it weren't Beyonce, but just an ordinary girl walking into a night club or party (somewhere the dress code is more forgiving) she'd be viewed as being DRESSED like a whore/ho. She wouldn't necessarily be one, but she'd be dressed like one. So there is a difference.

    If Rev. Sharpton is so concerned with black women being seen in a negative light, then he needs to post up outside of VH1 headquarters and protest all of the Flavor of Love, I love New York and Charm School shows that paint a negative picture of black women on a regular basis. I find that display much more degrading than the word "ho".

    Ms. Mills

    By Blogger Ms. Nell Carter, at 10:33 PM  

  • I agree that there the use of the word "ho" is unfair to use when talking about Beyonce. And lumping her into the same category as Britt and Lindsay and Paris is pretty outrageous.

    By Blogger Jay, at 11:22 PM  

  • This post is dead on right.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 12:03 AM  

  • after her concert she went to see the young people that got burned by the pyrotech failure from her stage (they were taken to the hospital--and she did it in secret no press.

    No.. she if of a higher caliber than those other misguided young stars.

    but, sharpton.... well.... I think he just likes hearing himself talk.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:05 AM  

  • With the War in Iraq dragging along, with freedoms at home being eroded by an administration that works by a different constitution than the rest of us...with health care, social security, the growing disparity between the rich and the rest of us....this is the sort of pap that continues to keep our attention. Bread and circuses.

    I can't wait for Paris Hilton to do something stupid so we can waste more time.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 9:29 AM  

  • I too have to go with Rev. Al on this one.

    By Anonymous DJ Black Adam, at 10:42 AM  

  • I almost never agree with Sharpton. BUT!!! i halfway see what he's sayin. you dont call someone a ho who isnt a ho. simple as that. thats just plain rude.

    but... at the same time..

    ROBO HO made me laugh hysterically.

    and this They need to be concerned about not lumping groups of people together with slang and labels.
    awesome advice.


    By Blogger What A Crock, at 10:49 AM  

  • In my opinion, TMZ referred to the outfit as a "robo-ho" outfit. I didn't get the impression that Beyonce was being called a ho.

    If Beyonce came out wearing a pirate costume and TMZ referred to the outfit as a pirate wench outfit, would anyone have gotten the impression that TMZ was calling Beyonce a wench? I don't think so.

    Now, I know that Beyonce wasn't intentionally "dressing up" as a futuristic, promiscuous, cybernetic woman. But at the same time, it was a costume. Because, c'mon, that's not everyday wear.

    She did look like a robo-ho. If Hilary Duff wore that outfit, she'd look like a robo-ho. If Connie Chung wore that outfit she'd look like a robo-ho. If Dr. Ruth Westheimer wore that outfit, she'd look like a robo-ho.

    It doesn't mean that they are.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 3:29 PM  

  • JB,

    You gave Al some credit. I know that must have been hard. Drink a few cold ones to wash the bad taste from your palate.

    However, much of the blame for the continued misuse of the word 'ho' must be placed on the males in African American community. We have been using the slang words ho, freek, skeezer, or chickenhead to refer to any woman, regardless of her known level of promiscuity in the community. When we throw the word ho around so easily, people perceive that we males believe that Black are women sluts, skanks, or tramps and, in turn, give our blessing to calling a Black woman a ho, as if that's what a cool guy (which many white people think all Black people are supposed to be) calls his woman. Some white people have a desperate need to be cool like they perceive all Blacks to be automatically upon birth. Therefore, using Black slang is part of that jalopy ride into hipness--they want to be the daddy-o's or bosses that are hep, fresh, dope, down, def, jiggy, blinging, smoove, killer, chill, or money. It's part of what I call Wigger Madness.

    Well, Skeezix, you're just chilly and chilly ain't never been cool (props out to George Carlin for feeding me that tidbit of stolen street slang).

    My solution is for this problem? Have African American men only use the slightly less offensive slang terms for women like chickie, cutie, dame, broad, skirt, twist, missy, or hottie, because those terms, while dismissive, do not denote a negative opinion of promiscuity. Once those words leave the lips of a Black man, they will sound as stupid as they are and no slef respecting person, Black or white, would be caught dead using any of those terms afterwards.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:03 PM  

  • i like your moral of the day! i sometimes wonder if we all began speaking regular/plain/simple english again and stopped used slang as a substitute would things be a bit easier? or am i just a throwback to another time?

    By Blogger savannah, at 4:17 PM  

  • There are several words I'd like to see banished from our vernacular altogether (I am too respectful to list them here, but they start with: B, C, H, and N).

    By Blogger Balou, at 4:19 PM  

  • I don't often (i.e. seldom to never) agree with Sharpton, either. But in this case... he has a point (I can't believe I just said that).

    Or perhaps, in TMZ's defense, they meant "robo-HOE"?

    Maybe she looked prepared to do some gardening?

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 11:07 AM  

  • Forget trying to demonstrate you were joking. You'll never convince enough people unless you're already generally known to be funny. There are too many ways misunderstood jokes can be a butt biter these days.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 6:28 PM  

  • Even a blind nut finds a squirrel now and then.(sic) And Al is no exception.

    There's a lot of rap that isn't full of abusive derisive attitude toward women, and I have to give those artists credit where credit is due. And anyone who wants to stand up and say "no woman should be treated this way"? I got his back. Because Unlike the left, when someone on the right sees someone on the left doing something right, they can commend him/her for it. Bravo, James.

    By Anonymous og, at 8:18 AM  

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