Five little letters strung together and yet the word itself ignites heated debates on its usage. It is a word whose meaning is so easily changed by the context in which it is used and by the person who is using it.
From the lips of a man, it causes a woman’s hackles to raise. It is a word tossed out when men feel a woman being belligerent, unreasonable, or aggressive. Most use it as an attempt to bring women down a notch or to degrade. Or they use it to refer to another male as subordinate or womanish. Sometimes you will come across a man who uses ‘bitch’ towards a woman as an affirmation, but somehow it lacks the same impact.
Among women, you have two distinct groups. The first are those women for whom ‘bitch’ is still considered a profanity and hearing it in any light brings about a sense of discomfort. They feel that the word should be retired, made extinct. They often take issue with the fact that there is no male equivalent to the word, and by referring to ourselves as bitches we are only aiding the patriarchy. Instead of calling ourselves a name that likens us to dogs we should utilize our vocabulary and find another word as a synonym for ‘strong woman.’
On the other hand, you have those like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on SNL declaring, “Bitches get shit done!” and Nicki Minaj referring to herself as a ‘bad bitch.’ Clearly the word has been re-branded by them to describe women that are uncompromising and strong. Women that are not interested in pleasing men, women who do not fall to the pressure to be ‘nice’ or who smile on command at strangers in the street. This is a group of women who feel the word ‘bitch’ should be reclaimed as a power-word, something that we have made our own, and changing not only the rules of the game but making it a whole new game entirely.
Those women who have reclaimed the word and proudly call themselves a bitch are just as diverse as any other group of women.
There is the loudmouth bitch who is outspoken with brazen confidence. She will shut down your sexist comment before that thought has even had a chance to fester your mind. She will rebuff your sexism and remind you that she is your equal and demand to be treated as such.
Then there is the silent bitch who has a quiet demeanor but do not underestimate her for it. In a world that will not stop talking she works under the radar, patiently waiting until the right moment presents itself to call out your male privilege. Headstrong and driven she will save her words until the right moment presents itself.
Finally, there is the head bitch. Confrontation is not enough for her. She is driven to action and is determined to see change made. She’s organizing local marches for women. She is campaigning for the female leaders. She is writing your congressman to bring to light local injustices against women. She is getting petitions started and making appearances everywhere from local news to NPR.
What I feel is important is that the word ‘bitch’ does not divide us. That we respect the women who reject it and their right to do so as well as respect those that embrace it under it’s new meaning, and their decision to continue to use it. Where these two opposing groups can agree is that we not use the word against each other as a negative weapon in an attempt to be malicious and tear each other down. Simply put, don’t call a woman a bitch as if it is a bad thing.
Image is my own, taken from my Instagram.