The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick

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?

rboylorn

48 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick

  1. Wow. Great post. But, I don’t know if there can be or if there even is an evolution of the DAC, as you put it. While your NY friend may see the DAC as being different for people in their 20s versus people in their 30s, a lot of others may not. I think adding the label of the DAC makes it more difficult to see the woman beyond the tag. Our concept of what constitutes black woman’s femininity, sexuality and essential womaness is way too informed by socially constructed notions deeply housed in our music, our music videos, our film, etc.

    I personally see the DAC as being young and/or immature, chiefly a construct that young immature boys/men can point to and say “this is what you as a black female need to measure up to.” The simple fact is, when you’re a woman, you’re proud enough to call yourself a woman. A DAC is a fiction, whereas a woman is real – flawed, unable to do be every single thing to every single person but still happy and proud of herself nonetheless.

  2. I know I’m generalizing here, but I think the issue is that many of us are waiting for the music (at least what’s popular and readily available) to catch up to the mature/maturing audience. Sure, there’s a lot of mature, intelligent, and thoughtful hip hop outside the mainstream, but I have to wonder at the extent to which that is having an appreciable impact on popular conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Certainly, the internet and social media is bringing it more to the fore, but when mainstream artists get a boost from big media outlets, the impact is skewed.

    • I have no faith that mainstream music will catch up to mature populations. It seems to me that a good rap song is hard to find now a days. It’s all so unintelligible – like I can’t understand anything. Some of it sounds like they’re drunk while cutting the track. The only thing you can make out clearly is something vulgar. It seems the talent is in the beat making not the lyrics.

  3. I just have a small side note. When did grown women start referring to themselves as “females”, “chicks” and all the other colloquialisms that don’t necessarily refer to female humans?

    I find that kind of slang a shade misogynistic. There are words in the english lexicon that refer to female humans, why the slang that eliminates the “human” part of our existence? It’s one things for rappers to dehumanize women with these titles, but when women – feminists, no less – follow suit, it’s a tad disorienting, and disappointing. Try referring to yourself as a woman and see how that feels. I find it empowering. After all, a woman is amazing, powerful, strong, adult, controlled, sophisticated, beautiful. A chick is…..not even human, let alone woman. #justsayin’

  4. I remember growing up, and in the 90s the “down ass chick” was that very exact definition you provided. Why? Because we as young Black men identified our image as rebellious and in many ways “criminal” with the rise of popular gangsta rap. We called it the next phase in hip-hop that was laced with an immature construct of the next big Black movement since the Civil Rights era. Little did we know, that was nothing more but mainstream dollars talking. A warped image was sold to us by these “characters” and “studio gangsters”. Black Love was warped into what we coined as that “down ass chick”. It sold and appealed to the rest of us who were disconnected because it meant loyalty to your oppressed Black men. It was me and you versus the world. It was U-N-I until the day we die. It was *clears throat* “You are allll I neeeeedddd to get byyyyyy!” We knew we were oppressed and bucking a system, but a love story sold it all. I guess it’s because being a lonely thug doesn’t sell as well. I bought into it as well. I idolized Tupac and his conflicting self. I wanted the type of woman he wanted. I tried to stay hard because MC Lyte (who I thought was so fine) said that she needs a ruffneck. lol. Thank God that I’ve grown up and was able to develop a critical eye to dissect such images to determine whether to buy in or leave it be.

    • is there a “like” button?

      thanks for the insight brandon!

      btw, tupac was my secret boyfriend…so while you were wanting the type of woman he wanted, i wanted to *be* the (type of) woman he wanted. :/ indeed…thank god for grown up perspectives.

  5. I think the Independent Woman is celebrated for “wanting but not needing” her man financially. From what I can tell, she is supposed to be a good cook, might be on food stamps, and is at the top of her sex game. She is not a ho because, although she is perpetually single, she is single because her standards are so high. “She might holla she tooken.” She seemed to emerge as part of the gold-digging discourse really became prevalent. I think she is distinguished from the DAC in that she might demand more respect. My references: Jamie Foxx, Ne-Yo, Lil Webbie,

  6. This reminds me of Beth Richie’s analysis of Battered Minority Women from the mid-80s. Is DAC the new BMW?

  7. so had jay-z changed his lifestyle completely by the time he and beyonce began to date? if not, is she considered a dac? i think abt some of her lyrics re putting a ring on it & finally the man put their love on top, possibly pointing toward some struggle – or at least process – with jay-z committing fully to a long-term relationship.

    i want to hear/learn more about how a thug needs love. what needs to happen for him to get the love that he needs? what does this love look like? who’s the best woman to give it to him? does he know he needs it? what changes, if any, need to occur in his life for him to receive it?

    thanks for this post! ;-)

    • Ah… Jay-Z & Be… remember 03 Bonnie & Clyde? (another version of DAC)

    • oh don’t get me started on bey’s glamorized DAC-ness. In my view Beyonce’s music is the very rulebook of what it means to be a DAC without realizing that’s what you are.
      Except Halo, all her songs reek of bougie DAC.

  8. i find it interesting that we look at this discussion from maturity, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with age. It seems that we can measure our maturation as a people by the type of woman we choose and elevate, and to some extent, I would agree with that. I submit, though, that it is neither the DAC, the ho, nor the good girl, which are all born of some kind of rebellion, and all, again, looking for one type of man, the thug or pseudo thug. It just shows that we still haven’t progressed past our view of young black men as trouble. The focus is there so we ignore the fact that there is more than one kind of black man. My friend Cleo calls it the ghettoization of the planet. More and more I see it as well, when I’m travelling the globe and people find out that I’m a Black American they ask me the obvious questions like, “have i ever been to Compton” and “have i ever shot anybody??” Imagine their disappointment to find I grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky.

  9. I think we should never strive to fit someone else’s idea of who we should be, especially when a label is put on it. The entire concept of even wanting to be considered a “down-ass-chick” is still horribly rooted in misogyny. Just because I have female genitalia doesn’t mean I am not a human being. When it comes to relationships, the criteria for your partner should be based on interpersonal compatibility, not labels. I am looking for a partner with similar life goals, who can accept me with my flaws and loves me for my quirks, who wants to invest in the future together. Sense of humor, personality dynamics, etc. determine if I feel like someone is compatible.. not a label. And if we ARE compatible, then that partner would be looking for the same – not someone who fits the x, y, and z criteria for being x or y or z.

    So I guess I disagree with the notion that fitting the definition of “down ass chick” is even something that should be worthy of consideration at all, regardless of hot the definition is defined.

  10. Amazing post!

    I absolutely think there is a grown up version of the ‘down ass chick’, or as I like to call it, a mature and grown ass woman ready for a relationship. That said, I’m tired of hearing the bonnie and clyde rhetoric continue within the black community. it glorifies crime, and suggests, yet again, that women need to do certain things to be desirable to men or to be considered “wifey material”. the ratio of hip hop songs that talk about the type of man a woman needs in comparison to the type of woman a man is ridiculous – but perhaps thats just because of the lack of female mc’s in the game.

    in any event, i would love to listen to mainstream music that glorifies a mature adult relationship over this adolescent crime driven bonnie and clyde, down ass chick movement.

  11. No, I am not a DAC and will never be. If it is wrong, then I am not doing it or will lie for a man. I guess that is why I am divorce because I was not ex-husband DAC, and his current wife is, which just had him thrown in prison. I like this article because it help me to understand the behavior of a DAC. I am currently studying behavior science in school, and this article can be a good topic to discuss.

  12. I totally agree with you until you get to the end (pretty much the last paragraph). There is no way in hell that I would call myself a DOWN AZZ Chick…because I ain’t down with everything in my thirties. I refuse to be in the company of men and women who believe that it is okay to support the habits of others…and I refuse to be demeaned, because I choose to have principles and stand by them.

    I know a lot of women in their 20s these days who believe that it is okay to take care of a man…and half of them have never had the experience of living by themselves (which I think is horrible). What really trips me out is they choose the drug dealers, rappers, and men with 3 and for kids.

    How can you say that you grown when you have not even lived with U yet –let alone trying to shack up with someone. I remember the phrase in my early and late twenties. Today, I am 35 years young and I wish a sister would ask me if I was a DAC. No, I am a WOMAN. Been on a mission for a long time…waiting patiently for what GOD wants for me…all the while handling my business.

    A lot of sisters need to start recognizing the power that they have and stop giving it away. Turn off Beyonce and listen to some Carmen McRae! Learn the lessons from the likes of Tina Turner, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, and women they have witnessed in their families with these types of behaviors.

    I am praying for this current generation! I am.

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  15. This article is so on point! I am one of the so-called good girls who is approaching 40 and has never married. In my 20s I was constantly told by boyfriends that I was “marriage material”. At first I thought that it was a compliment, then it dawned on me that it was actually the kiss of death. As you pointed out, Black men are expected to maintain a stable of bad girls with one main or “bottom bitch” for as long as they can. The popularity of pimp culture in the 90s didn’t do us any favors! Only AFTER the appeal of that lifestyle has passed does he settle for the good girl/wifey. In the meantime, my biological clock is ticking louder and louder with every passing year. So, we’ve identified the problem, now what’s the solution?

  16. I really hated this. I found myself grating my teeth until the end and then was relieved when it was finally over. Not because I disagree. On the contrary it’s true, and I agree, but you managed to stretch out a truism into over 1300 words. What about this isn’t obvious?

    “What was important to me when I was younger no longer is. My tastes have changed, and so too have the people whom I’ve chosen to associate with.”

    That’s basically what this is saying sprinkled in with some cliche’d nuance here and there.

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  19. Frankly, I cannot believe what I’m reading. Is this the hip hop life style that young black America is all about? Thugs, and DAC’s? Thinking that being a Down Chick is somehow equated with sticking by your man as he makes his way through the criminal justice system or out on whatever hustle he’s into because that’s all thats available to him as a back man. Is this 2012 or 1971? Why are so many people looking to rappers, their chicks and the streets that many of them rap about, as examples of how to live? Are you kidding me? Since when has music, reality TV shows and the like, provided a pattern that is somehow supposed to guide you through life? I mean lets get serious! If this is what young black folks deem the important things in their life and truly are being guided by such nonsense, then a large segment of black America is destined for failure.

    • Dear Carioca, i think your indignation is legitimate but misplaced. The last line: “if this is what young black folks deem the important things…then a large segment of black America is destined for failure.” That’s the point. America is still structurally and institutionally racist, which means those avenues which are used to control our population must serve the racist–sexist, heteronormative, ablist, classist, etc–agenda of the dominant culture. So the media industry has constructed a blueprint for young black men and women that will lead to failure, because it is important to feed little brown and black boys and girls the message that they have limited options for “success” in our culture. That hip hop artists and pseudo thugs are at the top of the list of role models is not a failing of those who choose them as role models, but a violent success of those who package and sell identities in a world that needs to maintain its oppressive balance.

    • Pardon me, but domestic violence against women is well documented in Brasil where men kill their wives for their honor. So be very careful while being condesending to other women of color of the diaspora. The very racism that defines the Black experience in north America is central to the identity of las carioca negras throughout Brasil. Maybe you should ask somebody.

    • This is an important topic that is (unfortunately) missing from mainstream feminist scholarship. Thanks, CFC!

  20. I think the evolution of the DAC in our Black pop culture imagination has been women like Jill Scott or Erykah Badu, who both professionally and personally have committed to brothers who represent that “evolved thug” such as Common, Andre 3000, etc. But I still hear the DAC invoked in such songs as Common and Nas’ recent “Ghetto Dreams” where the DAC is “butt-naked flipping pancakes” in the kitchen while picking unnecessary fights with her man as some articulation of ‘realness.’
    The strange thing for me though, as someone who also teaches Black masculinity at the college level (and I have a blog where my students post their articulations of examples of new Black Masculinities at http://www.THasanJohnson.org), was that I was just talking to my friend about the thug’s feminine counterpart, the ‘Bad Bitch’ (the grown version) as Patricia Hill Collins describes. This woman, now, is in her 30-40s, no job, hasn’t worked in 20 years despite a college degree, and a penchant for seeking out male sponsors to maintain her lived aesthetic at the cost of a genuine connection with someone. Now this is clearly inspired by patriarchy, but has almost developed a life of its own, as its roots lie in an imagined lifestyle that wealthy white women have (my friend was eating lunch with one at a 5 star restaurant who had a Benz outside her husband bought for her, new hair and nails her other boyfriend bought for her, but 5 cents in her pocket and hadn’t worked a job in the last 20 years (lamenting how younger girls are making it harder to find a ‘nigga to pay her bills’).
    The scary part is when you talked about reconciling your relationship with the DAC, I was doing the same (now in my late 30s) with the popular de-evolution of the thug, the Godfather-esque figure (think Big Pun, Ron Isley, Rick Ross, etc.) who is not only the embodiment of patriarchy, but the only one ‘Bad Bitches’ seek out. He’s a benefactor who dominates and controls those around him, and can never express emotion or he’d be perceived as weak. Unfortunately, back in the real world, Black men’s masculinities are being measured by how well they can pay their women’s bills (esp in the worst economy since the Great Depression). I thought this stuff was over after I left my early 20s, but I find two types of women in my late 30s: the ‘Bad Bitches’ looking for a new sponsor, and the women who completely side-step getting to know you and simply push to make things work with you because you have no jail record, no diseases, and a job (I call her the “Insert_Man_Here” chick…meaning that she doesn’t need to get to know you, you just need to fit into her pre-conceived fantasy of a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and 401K and shut the hell up. Don’t be yourself, be what she wants you to be.).
    We truly need to dismantle these demonic images, because when educated, grown folk emulate them, what hope is left for real people?

    In struggle,
    One who is looking for a “Good Woman,” not a music video chick…

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  22. DAC is a misnomer for a woman who willingly allows herself to be subsumed by an over reaching need to prove to her man her loyalty to him at all costs. Grown women don’t compromise their lives by risking jail time, HIV caused by reckless infidelity, abusive or disrespectful entanglements.

    Even in their 20′s, young women that are working on their own self-actualization actively avoid thug types that have an expectation of a woman being a DAC to serve their emotional needs. These women know that rising to the top of the heap from side piece status is fraught with heart break and disrespect.

    Look at the glut of Black women on reality TV, specifically on Love & Hip Hop and you recognize them as having bought into the DAC ethos that has made them embittered, coarse & angry.

    No apology, but no co-sign from me either.

    • Hip-hop has shown that it devalues and thinks Black women are nothing, and these reality shows reflect that.

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  24. Those who are given power and learn that abusing it carries little or no penalty will expect those whom they abuse to not only tolerate it but agree to being abused as their rightful lot in life

      • Yeah…cuz that’s just a one way street, huh? Were I to engage you tit-for-tat, I can say from personal experience that black women can hold their own when it comes to giving a good man grief. But this is the problem with speaking in such over-arching, stereotypical generalizations. It oversimplifies an extemely complex series of interrelated issues and experiences.

      • YES IT IS a one way street, because whatever problems Black women have, one thing they have NOT failed at is loving/supporting Black men, so save it. And save that “good man” jazz too, because some socially awkward/inept, whiny man who has NO idea/clue how to charm a woman needs to get it through his thick skull that he is NOT entitled to a woman, nor does that give him a reason to insult Black women either. You want a woman? WORK for her, PERIOD.

      • No. It is not a one way street. Relationships are mutual and interactional, and require that both give/receive. Also, you’re characterizing Black women and men in overarching terms. Not all Black women are supportive and loving of Black men, just as not all brothers have abandoned/denigrated Black women. The ones that don’t just don’t seem to make it into the discussion.

        Lol! And how you’ve determined that a good man is whiny, inept, can’t charm a woman, somehow feels “entitled” to a woman (whatever that means), insults women, and isn’t willing to “work” for a woman is a strange mixture of assumptions. You seem to have identified “good men” with some approximation of “weak,” and women as beyond critique.

        My only suggestion to your original statement, “That is no excuse for the bs Black men put Black women through. Period.”, is that you’re over-generalizing, which I think is a disrespect to many of the fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, uncles, sons, etc. who stand by Black women and do not support their derogatory treatment. And as much as we Black men can have “barbershop talk” about how vile some women can act, I think it also necessary to remind folks that that’s not (by any means) all Black women–something some Black men have come to truly believe.

      • You just do not get it (big surprise, not). I KNOW what a relationship is supposed to be, it is too many of your brothas who do not. The one-way street I was talking about is that of support. Save the “it’s not ALL
        iBlack men who do not support Black women” strawman, because it is
        enough of them that do not which makes some invisible monority who
        may not about as real/relevant as Harvey the Giant Rabbit.

        No, I have not detemined that, I just know that whenever I hear these so-called “good men” start their anti-Black female whining, 99.9% of the time they fit the description I mentioned. “Entitlement” is pretty self-explanatory, but I will spell it out anywway. Those clowns I speak of thin that just because they are Black, have a pulse, and have never been to jail that that means they are “entitled” to a Black woman
        who looks like Beyonce just dropping in their lap and being handed to them

        on a silver platter. They do nt have the first clue of how to woo a woman, and instead of working on that, they choose to call all Black women “bitches” and whine and cry about how nobody wants them inspite of how “good” they are. Black women ARE beyond critique when it comes to the messed-yup gender crap in the Black race, because it is NOT Black women who have decided to hate the opposite gender in their race because they are not White/non-Black

      • (continued) Like I said, the number of Black men who do not abuse Black women in that way is nearly non-existant, whereas the ones who DO are all over the place and are very damn local, so I don’t give a tinker’s damn about “generalizing”. Anti-Black female abuse needs to be called out, period.

      • Ok so if I understand you: Black men that support Black women don’t really exist, undeserving Black men who don’t know how to woo a woman expect “Beyonce,” (because idolizing people for their physical beauty, money, and status is limited to Black men, right?), Black men hate sistas because they’re not White, Black women are above making mistakes worthy of critique, and all Black men abuse Black women. That about right?

        Hmmm… Well, if that’s so, I guess a Black cross-gender dialogue just isn’t worth the time is it? Good luck with that. As for me, I love too many Black women to not engage issues of patriarchy amongst men, and I love my son too much not to challenge Black women that suggest that all Black males are the problem, and that Black women don’t have something to bring to bear in reconciling relationships with Black men…

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