Confession: I’ve been called a ‘ho’ before by a man that did not have any prior knowledge of my sexual tendencies. It was a typical nightclub scene that involved a 20 something Me chilling with my friends. The whole ordeal was common, so common that many of my friends and I knew how to deal with it, specifically. Therefore, I spat some obscenities at him as he walked away. Of course, his use of the slur was a way of exacting verbal retaliation against me because I turned down his advances. My experience is shared with countless women; being called and/or labeled as a ‘ho’ without any fairness, leaving us with the task of defending ourselves against such an allegation. A woman can be called a ‘ho’ at any given moment for whatever reason; her clothing is too skimpy or she discusses sex too freely. The list goes on. But then, that’s the problem with ‘hoes’. Unless it’s being clearly defined, we really don’t know who the ‘hoes’ are, do we?
As I watched the clip of Pastor Jamal Bryant’s sermon, quoting Chris Brown when he ecstatically proclaimed ‘these hoes ain’t loyal’ and then recalled Pastor Andy Thompson’s tweet advising wives to not ‘let these hoes outshine you’, I kept asking the question, ‘Why are pastors talking about ‘hoes’?’ I have an inkling of the women that these men are classifying as ‘hoes’ but that does not validate their usage of the derogatory term in the pulpit. Now, before you start on this ‘it’s just a word’ business, let me point out that this is more than just the mere use of a word. It’s about the sociocultural implications of that word as both of these pastors saw fit to use it while ministering from their positions.
But hey, let’s define the word ‘ho’, shall we? Of course, ‘ho’ is a derivation of the term ‘whore’ which is a woman (and man, as far as I’m concerned) who engages in sexual activity for the exchange of money. In the Bible, women who prostituted themselves were referred to as harlots. Over the years, in the Black community, the term has expanded to describe women who use their sexuality for material gain as well as exhibit malicious and untrustworthy behavior. But it is also used to define promiscuous women, even though most of those women are typically using sex as a way to fill a void in their lives, usually love. Because of societal structuring when it comes to women, their underlying issues are not diagnosed so readily as being snubbed as ‘hoes’ for bedding any man who expresses an interest. We also know that this term can be applied at the discretion of some men and their perception of the women they are dealing with, despite how much this reflects their personal choices. Regardless of whether these women are prostituting, too charitable with their vajayjays, or whatever, are these women worthy of receiving ministerial help? According to Bryant and Thompson, apparently not, as they made a point to condemn these women in order to exhort the female members of their local ministries, and I suppose, the Church at large. But why was this necessary? Furthermore, are they fully aware of every woman’s path that led them to their ministries? I’m certain that some of the women in their congregations may have a few stories from their pasts that could be deemed as ‘ho’-like behavior (since it really doesn’t take much). What can be said about those women who are, now, on a spiritual journey to become better?
For the most part, especially as it pertains to Hip Hop culture, money and status are the motivators for women who are considered disloyal as Chris Brown’s wack song points out. The song, just like much of current Hip Hop, does not reference any women who do not want to ‘smoke weed, get drunk, see a nigga trapped or fuck all the rappers’. Brown’s song doesn’t have any redeeming qualities to it, instead it’s just another entry in the sad state of Black music and its’ participation in fueling so much dysfunction in our community; dysfunction that the Black Church is supposed to assist in remedying. However, if there’s pastors alienating people by calling them out and judging them as deviants, how can that happen? According to Bryant, he was attempting to point out how men are supposed to recognize the good women in their lives and, as for Thompson, he was supposedly advising wives to maintain their ‘shine’ so the ‘hoes’ won’t outdo them and take their husbands. Whew! As skewed as these so-called messages are, these two pastors should have been much more sophisticated at articulating these points without the need to use shock language or, try so hard to keep it real.
The Black Church tends to have a discriminatory, judgmental eye when it comes to Hip Hop culture, in the first place, but when there’s two young Black male pastors incorporating Hip Hop tropes into their sermons and ministerial points, it comes off rather hypocritical. I mean, you can’t stop the rappers from talking about ‘hoes’ when the pastors are talking about ‘hoes’. Mind you, I know, personally, pastors and theologians who are astute at fusing Hip Hop culture into theological commentaries, but that’s not what Bryant and Thompson are skilled at doing, obviously. Since these two verbal flips occurred, the messages these pastors intended to convey have been lost, which begs more questions for both of them. Did they get their point across? Who did they help? If anything, the both of them maintained that good ol’ patriarchal status quo that dominates both Hip Hop culture and the Black Church.
Within both areas, somehow the rise and fall of men depend on the actions of women and leave very little accountability on the heads of men themselves. In Bryant’s sermon, he was attempting to advise men to listen to the anointed woman of God in order to overcome the enemy. While his female congregants shouted and amen’d his point, I wonder did any of them realize that he was essentially saying that a man’s spiritual growth is largely dependent upon women and not on his own volition to get a-close to God? For Thompson, he missed the fact that a man’s character is what determines his fidelity and trustworthiness, not how much or how well his wife ‘shines’ it up. As with Hip Hop, men wouldn’t have to ‘treat a ho like a ho’ if the woman didn’t act like a ‘ho’. But they miss the fact that perhaps these women are signing up to be ‘hoes’ because the men are paying and/or kicking it with them while they’re on that level. Using Brown’s song as an example, he didn’t seem to have any problem with accommodating these disloyal women while dissing them in the same vein. Since Brown can kick it with ‘hoes’ without any conviction and Bryant has had a moment of disloyalty in his marriage, this can be regarded as the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think? Lastly, I am not sure if Thompson is aware of how he underhandedly implicated himself with his tweet. Has he been watching ‘hoes’ shine or something?
So, how do we fix this, exactly? Well, Hip Hop is still a struggle on this front but, as for the Black Church, I say that it needs to be apart of the solution, rather than aiding the problem. Bryant and Thompson should chill with the ‘ho’ references for the sake of ensuring they do not mislead their congregants and their intended messages get lost in their flimsy attempts to be relevant. Considering that women comprise the bulk of the Black Church, it’s not wise, at all, to further discord by being so blatantly sexist. Furthermore, bear in mind that their local ministries are supposed to be open to every one, regardless of lifestyle and background, so be very careful not to alienate anyone (remember, it’s neither male nor female — Galatians 3:28). The youth should not be charged with the task of sorting through such a thing, either. How can they discern intelligently if the pastors are talking about ‘hoes’ just like their favorite artists? There has to be some kind of balance here. If anything, can we, at least, depend on the Black Church for that? While the Black Church struggles with addressing so many contemporary issues in the community, I believe it has to be done from an empathetic, compassionate, intelligent perspective without the judgmental gaze. After all, the Church is filled with imperfect people desiring to correct the wrongs in their lives. Right?