“Oh, my, God. Becky, look at her butt.
It is so big.
She looks like one of those rap guys’ girlfriends.
But, you know, who understands those rap guys?
They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean— gross. Look!
She’s just so… black!”
–Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”
In 1992, Sir-Mix-A-Lot came to the scene with hit “Baby Got Back”, instantaneously paying homage to the beautiful round booties on my sistahs with his tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) type of humorous lyrics accented with rump-shaking beats. But before we were introduced to these lyrics, the rippling bass hypnotized as if to summon a tribe of ebony thickness to a twerkfest at Freaknik, we hear a stereotypical voice of a White girl, speaking to her other White friend, ‘Becky’ in disgust of how the voluptuous booties were probably a symbol of the Black girl being a whore. Though quite blatant with its approach, this stereotype of Black and White women, alike, was not necessarily the first moment a ‘Becky’ was introduced to us. However, little did we know that this fictitious ‘Becky’ would become famous.
One of the first introductions of a ‘Becky’ appeared in 1847 with William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair novel. Beautifully written novel, we discover character Becky Sharp who becomes the typical rags to riches success by using her, what may be perceived to be, temptress ways to work her way up the social status ranks. As a former orphan, this White woman truly created the phrase “hustle and flow” before it was even a thing simply as a survival mechanism. After the release of this novel, many individuals in the corporate world (mainly white affluent men) used the character Becky Sharp as a go-to term when referring to White women who they felt “slept their way to the top” instead of earning a salary and job position simply due to qualifications.
Years after the Sir Mix-A-Lot’s track was released, the term ‘Becky’ was brought back to surface, but mainly in Black communities (supposedly with the help of Rapper Plies) as an inside joke that no one outside of the community would even understand unless you explained it to them. It was our secret. Our joke. Our, somewhat sexist way of portraying women (Black and White). I suggest it was sexist simply because during this time when a Black male referred to receiving oral sex, he would say he received a ‘Becky’. The reason the term ‘Becky’ was used instead of ‘head’ or ‘blowjob’ is because of the old racial stereotype that Black women do not like to give oral sex. As such, when a man would say he received a ‘Becky’, this not only suggested that he received oral sex, but also that it was from an eager and willing White woman. Thus a subtle way of saying the white woman was on her knees to work her way to the top to gain a status, like Becky Sharp.
Becky became the white version of the Laquisha and the Tyrone. Becky became the stereotypical, generic name for a White girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and not the brightest lightbulb around, who would do anything to get ahead. And many individuals never thought any of this would be damaging.
In her blog post, “An Apology to Every (White) Girl Named Becky” (Oct 23, 2013), Dara Tafakari states that, ‘Using “Becky” really gets sticky once you venture into rap. Rapper Plies performs a popular song called “Becky.” One guess on who he’s talking about. Plies is single-handedly responsible for coining the phrase “Give me that Becky,” and turning a name into slang for fellatio. Nothing is formed in a vacuum. His euphemism is built on the false line of thought among black men that white women readily give fellatio.’
The problem here lies in the fact that music is catchy and most often, if it’s the right musician, words and phrases will catch on; and catch on for all of the wrong reasons.
With the release of Beyonce’s “Lemonade”, fans and the media attempt to discover the validity of the words behind the lyrics in each of the songs. We are left questioning if the lyrics, supposedly written by Bey herself , are a reflection of the ups and downs of her marriage or if its simply a powerful message to women, in general. As the short film continues and takes the viewers/listeners on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and we see Serena Williams as twerking for Jesus while we douse ourselves with holy water to cool us down, Beyonce repeats, “Better call Becky with the good hair. . . ” The reason this is a groundbreaking moment is not because of the term ‘Becky’ itself. It’s merely because Beyonce is so mainstream and crosses into various groups of people, unlike the Vanity Fair novel, and the Plies or Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s rap songs. In short, more people are listening and watching than ever before.
On April 27, 2016 Dylan Dreyer Weather Anchor for Today Show stated on air that she thought ‘Becky’ was really the girl’s name Beyonce was referring to. She didn’t realize it was a code for someone else (perhaps even White); she didn’t realize that if push came to shove, she too would be called ‘Becky’. It’s always been code. Black Americans have always spoke in code. What I find interesting is that the media is focusing on the name ‘Becky’ and not the term ‘good hair’. As such we must focus on both terms here to indicate that Black Americans are told that if our hair is worn in a natural style (without straighteners or extensions) we are told that the style is low quality or a distraction and simply not good. While Beyonce mentions ‘Becky with the good hair’, she’s referring to another female (probably White), but definitely someone who does not have a coarse Afro-centric hairstyle as portrayed by the many Black women in the video. She’s referring to a woman who because of something as simple and symbolic as hair, comes across as if she’s better than those around her. When considering the term ‘Becky’ though, perhaps Beyonce was referring to a specific woman who may have slept with her husband. Or, perhaps she’s speaking generically. Perhaps again, the representation of ‘Becky’ in this song is a way of telling her husband ‘if you are not satisfied with me, call some random White girl like Becky Sharp willing to do anything to get ahead.’
I’m very short of calling the term ‘Becky’ a racist term, but rather a term that is gender insensitive derived from a common, generic name. It could have been any name or a made up anagram like The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). In the attempts of people to speak in code, attempt to have humor, or simply be cruel–these terms will continue and all of us will eventually (if we haven’t already) fall victim of one whether we truly know it or not.