In general, the word is an insult, but in much the same was as "nigger" and "bitch" have been adopted by the very people they were originally meant to denigrate, ho and its variations have
become less insulting and more part of
common language. This is an ironic change, since the origin of the word is
from a root meaning "dear" or "beloved"
The word has its origin in dialectal pronunciation of "whore" and has nothing whatever to do with the gardening implement which is used to loosen soil and remove weeds from gardens.
"That ho will bang anyone"
Woman #1: Yes, I'm a Navajo.
Woman #2: I'm an Arapahoe.
Anne Couter: What a coincidence! I'm a right-wing ho!