By Martha Ugwu
Art Hoe. At first glance, the term may seem very paradoxical. Art is usually associated with high culture, something to be admired and cherished by many. The word hoe, on the other hand, is a derogatory term that has a long history of being used as a way to degrade women, especially ones who are sexually independent. These two words seem to exist at opposite ends of the spectrum. One has a very prestigious reputation for being the highest form of creative expression while the other has the reputation of being one of the foulest words in the English language. So, how is it possible that these words can coexist next to each other?
The answer to this question comes in the form of the Art Hoe Movement. In order to understand the driving force behind this modern day artistic revolution, it is crucial to understand what it means to be an “art hoe.” The term was first coined by rapper Babeo Baggins and describes “a hoe who is mysterious and chill and like hippyish and good at art,” according to Urban Dictionary. However, in the context of the internet and today’s social media, the phrase “art hoe” takes on a whole new meaning. It refers to a new type of artistic identity that is shattering stereotypes and allowing young women of color to be more empowered. That is, in essence, what the Art Hoe movement is all about.
The movement’s main goal is to create a space where marginalized groups, such as people of color, members of the LGBT community, and disabled people can freely display their art and not face any discrimination or exclusion. The movement was cofounded by Mars, a 15-year-old artist/blogger and Jam, a fellow blogger. In describing the purpose of the movement, Mars has said that “(Art Ho) gives POC a platform to express their internalized struggles, which is a problem we face every day. We don’t have a voice in this society. It’s usually subdued by our white counterparts, and our anger is taken for granted – having this movement gives people an insight into who we really are.” The movement utilizes social media platforms to help showcase the talent of the usually silenced voices in the art community. Websites like Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter are now harboring a growing phenomenon of revolutionary art made by POC for POC, which includes an influx of stylized selfies, self-portraits superimposed onto famous works of art, and social justice messages layered on top of eye-popping imagery. It has recently become a place for inspiration, exploration, and expression for young artists who are constantly marginalized and otherwise afraid to show off their art in a normal context.
“Art Hoe” has garnered quite a following on the internet since it first started, gaining the support of high-profile people like Amandla Stenberg (pictured left) and Willow Smith, who have helped bring more attention to the cause through their participation. However, the movement has been met with some obstacles, such as the problem of whitewashing and backlash over the choice of name for the movement. There has been some outcry over the “claiming” of the “art hoe” aesthetic by white artists, which has taken the attention away from the people who need it more, such as non-white artists. Considering that it is a movement started by POC for POC, many have thought it wrong for more privileged artists to occupy a space that is clearly meant for underrepresented artists and ultimately using it as their own.
Also causing a lot a debate is the decision to use the word “hoe” in the name of the movement, a word which many see as offensive and counteractive to the ethos of the cause. The founders of the movement believe that by using the name, they are reclaiming it and trivializing its power to degrade women. In an article from The Guardian, Mars detailed the justification behind the name. “‘Art hoe’ or ‘art ho’ is a term used by me and my co-founder Jam to empower and uplift participants of color in this movement,” Mars said. “‘Hoe’ is AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and is normally a derogatory way to refer to women – especially black women – as being promiscuous, within the male gaze. Using the term in an arbitrary way diminishes its harmful origin in light of something better.” In conclusion, the Art Hoe Movement has all the makings to be, as the publication Dazed Digital phrased it, “a social media driven Harlem Renaissance” for marginalized artists and is changing the landscape of art to make it more inclusive and to give more representation to those who don’t fit the conventional ideal of beauty.