Yes, we S T A N a problematic queen
Not a day has gone by during the past two years where I have not listened to a minimum of five Azealia Banks songs throughout my day. Her timeless house beats pull me through even the dullest of days. However, there is more to Ms. Banks than her legendary rhymes — the rapper has been a part of countless controversies. These range from allegations of racism and homophobia to practicing witchcraft to beefing with numerous public figures like Elon Musk and Lizzo to offending the entire countries of Sweden and Ireland. That being said, I still am left no choice but to stan the problematic queen because Banks is a gay icon through and through.
Before we get started, I am defining the term “gay icon” as someone who is a symbol stannable by the gay community for allyship to the community, the type of content they produce, and what sort of cultural entertainment they provide. Banks offers something for each of the aforementioned categories of “stannable-ness,” the most important having to do with her allyship to the gay community.
This point is probably the most controversial one to make in arguing for why Banks is a gay icon — she has been accused of homophobia and transphobia on numerous occassions, with her lightest offense being the use of the word “f—–.” While the experiences of those on the receiving end of her twitter rants are 100 percent valid, Banks’s relationship to the LGBT community is much more complicated than what’s seen at first glance. In a now deleted instagram story, Banks spoke on how she has donated to help young trans people to obtain gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. Likewise, Banks produces and sells the infamous soap Bussyboy, a sanitary product created for the sole purpose of helping gay men to have the healthiest bottoms possible. One would be hard pressed to find a bigot doing these sorts of activities. For that, I have to stan.
Even though Banks has a messy history of interacting with the world, most gays do as well. When we choose to label Banks as solely a “bigot,” a “racist,” or as being “anti-gay,” we are claiming that we ourselves are superior people, which is a bold claim to make. Everyone’s life journeys are filled with ups and downs — it just so happens that Banks’s journey is public. You can argue that she chose this or that with this position of power comes great responsibility; however, I counter by saying that if any of us had our lives so publicly viewable, we may not be considered “stannable” to the same standard that we hold Banks.
Now, I could not in good conscious say that Banks is perfect. But at the end of the day, are any of us? Having problematic aspects is an integral part of being human; some people are just more quiet about these aspects than Banks. With that in mind, because of her unique allyship, timeless bops, and entertaining feuds, Banks is truly deserving of the label “gay icon.”
No, Her Music S L A P S , but we can not stan someone who refuses to stan others
The debate at hand, whether or not the gays ought to officially stan the epitome of pettiness Azealia Banks, is not around quality. Her album “Broke with Expensive Taste” straight up slaps, and the UCSD Guardian will hear no argument that says otherwise. Much in the same vein as Nicki Minaj, Banks’s vocals offer diverse and, dare I say, kitschy tracks to a genre that is so often loaded with overly-serious pretense. She is a strong woman who in so many ways counters a homogenous zeitgeist. But followers of the messy icon can not equivocate being a fan and being a stan. To become a fan, one must only find entertainment value in Banks, but to become a stan, one must factor in her history of relentless assault on other female artists and gays. With all that in mind, the gays have no choice: We can not stan.
Her history of online harassment is well-documented. Her Wikipedia page lists feuds with no fewer than 49 notable figures in the entertainment industry, not to mention confrontations with strangers on planes and the Irish. Supposed Banks stans hail her as honest and direct, but she is hardly speaking truth to power. Rather, she has lashed out in ad hominem attacks against other female rappers, many of whom just so happen to receive more acclaim and attention for their music than Banks. She referred to Cardi B as an “illiterate rat” and a “caricature of a black woman,” an offense taken so seriously by Cardi B that she deleted her instagram shortly after the feud. Perhaps even worse, she encouraged a similarly problematic rapper, Iggy Azalea, to contemplate suicide. While we definitely do not stan Azalea either, such a flagrant nonchalance for another woman’s struggle with mental illness uncovers a deep character flaw that prevents us from stanning, namely prioritizing self-interest over concern for others.
Many people within and without the LGBT community know that the gays really do love a messy queen. The entertainment value of Banks’s drama alone, music aside, has filled many a gay’s afternoons. Beyond the question of whether to be a fan, though, is the question of whether to stan; to be a stan means to enjoy both the artist’s work and their role in the cultural milieu. Her history of anti-gay behavior gives us our answer. We can cut her some slack for her twitter tirades against white twinks because we are almost always annoying and messy ourselves. However, her use of slurs against gay people and her support for Trump, who throughout his term has rolled back protections for trans people put into place in the Obama era, can not be forgiven. Her product, Bussyboy, also presents some concerns. While marketed as a bottom’s best friend, the product is essentially a skin lightening soap that advances the image of a dark-skinned anus as dirty or unattractive.
A thoughtful critic can not deny the immense potential Banks has as a source of entertainment, but our consideration for stanning can not end there. We need context. Banks is no longer just a musician; she has turned herself into a commodity for public consumption despite the mental damage she may cause to others online. Choosing to extricate her entertainment value from its harmful production is to fetishize the commodity at the expense of women, people of color, and gay and trans people. She herself only stans a chosen few, lashing out against anyone who espouses differing opinions or dares to levy even the smallest complaint against her. So, even though “212” and “Big Big Beat” are straight up f——bops, we can not stan someone who refuses to stan successful women, gays, or the Irish.
Photo courtesy of Jacob Sutherland.