Down Ass Chick: a woman who is a lady but she can hang with thugs. She will lie for you but still love you. She will die for you but cry for you. Most importantly she will kill for you like she’ll comfort you. She is a ride or die bitch who will do whatever it takes to be by your side. She’ll be your Bonnie if you are her Clyde. Thugs love these bitches and they show this by showering them with stacks of cash, flashy jewels and rides. (Urban Dictionary)
I taught a class on black masculinity during the pre-summer session and the course covered everything from black man stereotypes, and the patriarchal requirements of black masculinity to big black penis myths, homophobia, and hip hop. One of our most recent classes on romantic relationships between heterosexual black men and women inspired an interesting conversation that stayed for days. Forgive me for a quick (perhaps academic) summary.
Several black women scholars, including Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks, tell us that black love is an act of rebellion. In a culture that claims black women are unlovable and undesirable, and black men are violent and irredeemable, it is considered “rebellious” when black men and women love each other. In an article called “Can a Thug (get some) Love? Sex, Romance, and the Definition of a Hip Hop ‘Thug'” Michael Jeffries discusses the ways in which a thug (or hip hop) masculinity makes room for romantic love. Further compelling (per Michael Eric Dyson) is the fact that patriarchy (and hip hop) forwards a binary way of seeing women as either good or bad; a virgin or a whore; a “good sister” or a “ho,”; a down-ass bitch/chick or, yep, you guessed it…a ho. Black women are situated as either a ride or die chick and wifey (but not a wife) or a disposable chick used for sex and good times. I wasn’t feeling those options.
As a self-proclaimed “good girl” I find it problematic that “good girls” are punished for being good. While we may be the ones men claim to “want” (in the long run, when they are finally ready to settle down and do right) most of the good sisters I know are situationally single. The good girl is put in the pocket while the other woman gets the attention, affection, love, sex, children, etc. What is wrong with that picture? And the catch is, if good girls grow tired of waiting and become ambivalent about this wait-and-see kind of love, and if they transform themselves to the version of themselves that men will pay attention to, they will no longer be “good” and therefore no longer be desired (in the long run). Ain’t that some ish? Patriarchy at its finest…
When I was 17 years old, I aspired to be a down ass chick. I was into pseudo-thugs and pretty boys, or any combination of the two, and (would have) gladly compromised my goals to be “down.” Here is what a down-ass chick was: loyal, sexual, willing to lie, die, kill (read: fight), or steal for her ni**a. She kept her mouth shut and legs slightly open, but only for her dude. She was supportive and submissive, and essentially self-sacrificing. She was glamorized in the music and films of the late 90s, early 2000s (and even currently) and she always got the dude—whether he was worthy of being had or not (keep in mind that having the dude included being his “main girl” if he had other girls, or being his faithful chick on the streets if he was locked up).
The promises of the down-ass chick were intoxicating, seemingly liberating, but what did I know?…I couldn’t even vote yet! It is only now that I can carefully critique a love scenario that makes it nearly impossible for a black woman to measure up. For example, while hip hop thug masculinity acknowledges that “thugs need love too”—it is a particular kind of love that cannot be accomplished by one woman. Women have to be conflicted and oxymoronic to be “enuf.” For example, you need to be good, but willing to participate in criminal activity; you need to have your own, but let him take care of you; you need to be virginal but sexually talented enough to keep him satisfied; you need to be faithful to him, but willing to tolerate his infidelity; you need to be masculine enough to kick it with the fellas, but feminine enough to be sexually desirable; you need to be quick witted, but not more so than him, etc. etc. etc…
When we went around the classroom, quizzing each other on our “downasschickness” (or desire to have a DAC) I willfully and happily opted out. “Hell nah,” was my reply when it was my turn. My interpretation of a down ass chick (the ride or die chick who is willing to sacrifice herself, lie to the feds, take a case for a dude, sit idly by why being disrespected and dismissed, tolerant of emotional and physical abuse and infidelity, etc.) is not desirable to my grown woman sensibilities. The 17 year old in me was saying yes, but the grown-ass, 30+ feminist woman with things to lose said “hell nah.” When I said I was NOT a down ass chick the black men in the room were visibly disappointed. I don’t think they saw down-ass-chickness as something linked to maturity, education, or knowing better therefore doing different. For them, the fact that I was cool and cute, and had been unapologietically vocal about my love and advocacy for black men, should have made me automatically down for being down (DAC). And then I wondered why something I had once embraced was suddenly something I felt I had outgrown.
When I discussed this conversation with a beautiful man friend in NYC, he explained that what a down ass chick is for a 20 year old black man and a 30+ year old black man are utterly different. At <25, (given the limited prospects and opportunities black men have to prove their manhood outside of macho norms, and the misogynistic and womanizing expectations of his peers and culture about owning his masculinity) it makes sense that a dude may be looking for a woman who is all about him, who will meet him at the precinct and courtroom to plead his case, and be willing to wait on him if he is ever incarcerated…but for a 30+ year old man, who has his ish together, a down ass chick is someone who is down for you in other ways, who is not a liability, who brings something (other than just herself) to the table, and can help you build. Both versions are loyal and have your back, but when you are older you shouldn’t need your girl to lie to the feds or bail you out of jail or take you back when you cheat. Further, the 30+ DAC is not willing (nor required) to sacrifice herself or her goals for her man. They are building together!
After that conversation I realized that maybe I am a down-ass chick after all. I mean, I’m with the grown ass woman version of a down ass chick. I am down to be a lover, a partner, a friend/homegirl. I am down to be a woman who calls out all of your beauty but also calls you out on your shit. A woman who loves, supports, defends, holds, co-creates and motivates. Yeah, I can be that chick. I am that chick. But she is somehow missing from the (mainstream) music… (or is she some desirous version of the independent woman that, though perpetually single, was heralded and serenated through song five years ago?).
What do you think? Is there an evolution to the down-ass-chick?