Tupac saw the same ones everywhere he went, Ludacris had them in every area code, and Snoop never loved them. Yes, people. I’m talking about hoes – the word often used to describe women and girls from every walk of life. According to urban conversational and social norms, a woman can be a rotten, stank, dirty, useless, or crappy one. But take heart, because a woman can apparently also be a good, down ass, and loyal ho as well. I mean, balance is important, right?
When I was a whole lot less informed and self-reflective, I subscribed to the existence of hoes. I didn’t see the word as a compliment and was of course careful to only apply it to the women who fit the description – women who gave up “the goods” to too many men, women who screwed too soon, women who were too liberal with blow jobs, women whose dresses and skirts were too tight and/or too short, women who wore too much makeup, women who couldn’t stay away from the club spotlight, etc… See, it was ok for me to think of those women as hoes because they weren’t anything like me – the well-behaved woman. I was close-legged, quiet in public, well-read, and had on clothes that showed just the right amount of skin. In retrospect, I am a little ashamed I bought into the man-dated tomfoolery of what a “real” woman versus a ho should do and be, but I’m glad I learned before it was too late.
The entire intention behind the word, “ho” and all its synonyms is to separate girls and women from one another, stifle their sexuality, and destroy their confidence in who they are and the power they hold. The older I get and the more in tune I become with myself as a multi-faceted woman, the easier it is for me to see the flaw in my young thinking and the disservice society, mostly at the hands of male and religious dominated thought processes, has done to folks as a result. I know now there are no hoes. Hoes and ho-dom are nothing more than constructs created to keep women in check and within the bounds set for them by men and reinforced by society as a whole. I know what some folks might be thinking while reading this – “What do you mean there are no hoes? Of course there are. I mean, what else are we supposed to call ‘those’ women?” My answer for that is they should simply be called women. Since I can remember, I was programmed to separate myself from other girls and women. I couldn’t hang with so and so because she was “fast,” I couldn’t go to certain places because that was where the “loose” girls hung, and I wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes lest anyone mistake me for a tramp. The divide started early and I was convinced it must have been warranted. I didn’t want to be seen in a negative light and heaven forbid anyone should see me as any kind of ho. With introspection, information, and maturity, things changed.
One of the main problems with calling women hoes is the way it suggests a woman should downplay her sexuality and even apologize for it. A woman isn’t allowed to have sex when she wants with the partners she chooses without feeling guilty because it apparently gives her entirely too much control over her body and seemingly – a certain amount of control over her partners. If that autonomy is stripped from her, she is left to define herself by someone else’s standards and must spend her time trying to reach for an unrealistic and unfair ideal to maintain her decent reputation. If a woman is completely true to herself and does as she sees fit, her full power is in her possession and no one else can convince her she is wrong.
When having this conversation with a friend, he asked how I categorize women who don’t have sex out of a sense of personal sexual liberation, but instead do it to somehow help/heal themselves because of low self-esteem. I told him those women aren’t hoes to me – they’re just hurt. Though most folks are likely having sex out of a sense of enjoyment, many are having sex trying to replace something they lost or compensate for what they may have never had. Those folks are simply damaged. They’ve been banged up by life and think their sexuality is the playing field where they can recoup. To me, women like this are victims who are hurting and misunderstood, not hoes. These are the women and girls who need someone to reach out instead of ridicule.
I realize it’s difficult for some women to look down from their good woman level and go against everything they’ve been taught about what it is to be respectable, but it’s necessary if they are to ever understand the position of women who seem to have broken all the “good girl” rules. If more women subscribed to the belief that we aren’t all nearly as separated as we are think, the divide would start to close. This undertaking is probably even more difficult for men. They would have to throw out almost everything they’ve been indoctrinated with to make room for the idea that a woman who goes against the good girl grain is still a woman worthy of respect.
Ultimately, I think it simply comes down to girls and women defining themselves and being unapologetic about it. We are not hoes, tricks, and tramps. We are individuals who tank and triumph and who wear sexy dresses and business suits. Women sleep with whom they like, live a committed life of abstinence and everything in between and not a bit of it makes us hoes. Instead, we are human and for that, we should not have to ever feel ashamed.