Am I a bitch?

I’ve already explored whether or not I’m a hater and concluded that I must be an asshole if people perceive me as such. So I’m certainly a bitch in the sense that people have called me a bitch, and many people think of me as a cold-hearted Wednesday Addams type.

But is it fair to refer to me as a bitch? What have I done that is so bitchy? What does bitch even mean? Literally it means a female dog, and apparently, back in the 14th century, it meant a woman with high sexual desire, as in a “bitch in heat”. Today it tends to be used as an all purpose insult for women. Any woman who is bossy, or uppity, or assertive, or daring to behave in ways that are traditionally considered masculine, is called a bitch. And those sexist connotations are why I take such issue with the word. Calling a woman a bitch means she’s acting like a man in a way that is unacceptable in mainstream society, and calling a man a bitch is calling him a woman, which is, of course, the gravest of insults.

So I do bristle when I’m called a bitch, even if it’s usually meant jokingly, perhaps because it is meant jokingly. Why is it funny to call a woman a bitch? But there’s also a part of me that embraces the label, as many feminists do, in a “taking it back” kind of way, because a bitch is a woman in control of her life, and bitches get stuff done.

But there’s also the concern that people are calling me a bitch because they think I’m mean. As I’ve discussed, I often come across more negatively than I intend. But once again, I’m forced to wonder if a man behaving in similar ways would be judged so harshly for such behaviour. When a man acts dismissively, it’s the other person’s fault for wasting his time, but when I do it I’m not being open to other people’s opinions. When a man looks at his phone instead of chatting with people, he’s considered busy, but when I do it I’m unfriendly. Could I stand to be more empathetic to others? Sure. But so could most men who have swallowed our society’s programming on how to be successfully male. Why don’t we have a nasty word for men who are bossy, assertive, aggressive, dismissive, and unfriendly? I guess there’s the word “dick”, which is often used as an insult towards men. And that word is indeed problematic because it implies that penises are inherently bad. I take similar issue with the word “cunt” being used as an insult. And I’m especially offended by the word “pussy” being used to mean weak, while “balls” denote courage. How does that make sense? When men are kicked in the testicles they act as though the world has ended, while vaginas regularly excrete one’s uterine lining in a rather painful process, and women just get on with it. And yet women are the weak ones? Ridiculous.

Now allow me to return to the word “bitch”, and its casual overuse. I especially hate the insult “son of a bitch” because it doesn’t insult the person it’s meant to be insulting. Instead it insults his mother. I still, for reasons we won’t go into here, watch Supernatural, even though it is deeply problematic in its treatment of both women and men (I think largely due to poor writing resulting from ignorant sexism, rather than malevolent misogyny), but they throw around the term “son of a bitch” like it’s a meaningless adjective. But it’s a very loaded term. It implies that the person at fault is the mother of the villain, rather than the villain himself. It lets men off the hook entirely and places all blame on women. If you think I’m overeating to a simple word, then you’ve probably used that word before, without fully considering how hurtful it can be. Or you knew exactly how hurtful it would be and your intention was to hurt, in which case you’re the bitch big ol’ meany pants.

 

*I rarely get political but I’m just going to add on this footnote: This post seems especially relevant in the wake of Hitler’s Trump’s win of the US presidential election. Is a demagogue really more acceptable to Americans than an authoritative woman? I agree with Danielle Moodie-Mills that this election is proof of white supremacy’s last stand, but I think she underestimates how much misogyny also played a part in America’s choice.


4 thoughts on “Am I a bitch?

  1. Kalerae Reply

    I really relate to this post because I often feel viewed as “bitchy” because (I fully admit) I have a quick retort and tend to use sarcasm more than I probably should. I mean, who doesn’t like and appreciate good sarcasm? However, I also believe that if I were a man, I’d be seen as someone who tries to cut tension with a joke, a guy who doesn’t thrive on bullshit and appreciates being spoken to directly and not have a conversation that should take 5 minutes somehow take 30. So I cut conversations short (at work) to get to the point and get to the task at hand and I dislike long drawn out meetings that are unproductive. But instead of being seen as efficient and motivated, I’m seen as too direct, aggressive and (even though no one says it directly), too “man like”. But why are those qualities only attributed to a man? Why am I seen as a bitch because I have qualities that are assumed to be more masculine than feminine? If a man is deemed “softer” in the workplace, he is seen as understanding and is embracing his inner female and connecting well with his predominately female staff….and isn’t it great to have someone who really “gets us?” but if I’m less “feminine” in my work ethic or professional relationships, I’m not seem as embracing my masculinity and getting shit done, I’m seen as needing to “tone it down”. Anyway, I am rambling….all that to say is I totally understand and that it truly sucks that women still have to fight these stigmas.

    1. Nique Reply

      Just today, a male coworker went off in a meeting, using a lot of “fucks” to justify his position when I questioned him on it. It found he came across as excessively aggressive but didn’t call him out because I wondered if that’s how I come across. I always feel like when I swear it’s clear that I’m joking, but maybe not.
      I’m undecided as to how much I/we should “tone it down” and how much we should just accept being disliked.

  2. Susan Andre Reply

    Interesting examination of the term “bitch.” From my contact with you which, admittedly, is limited to the family variety, I would have be more inclined to call you aloof than bitchy. And even that assessment has been tempered by the fact that I believe I know you better as an adult that I ever did when you were a child and a teenager. Of course I haven’t seen you in a work environment, but I’d guess that because you don’t appear to be paying attention to people as closely as they’d like, they may be put off by you.

    I’ve also been called a bitch and not without good reason. Now that I’m older and (presumably) wiser, I understand that I was a caustic person inclined to bully those who allowed it. It that isn’t a bitch I don’t know what is. I lost a very good friend to my own bad behaviour. I cringe when I think of how I treated some of my friends, colleagues and/or clients. After some time in the workplace I learned that to get along with co-workers you have at least try to give the impression you value their input (and presence) even if you don’t. Happily I work at home now, but by the time I left my full-time job I took great pride in the fact that while I liked some of my coworkers but didn’t respect them (or vice versa), none of them knew where they stood in my esteem and I believe everyone “liked” me. (“Please like me… please, please!”)

    I like to believe I’ve mellowed over time and credit much of this newly acquired serenity to the positive influence of Dale in my life. My ex and I had a tumultuous, distrustful and often antagonistic relationship. I thought he’d leave me for someone younger and prettier and he thought I’d leave him for someone richer and smarter. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I only mention this because I believe one’s personal life definitely affect their behaviour in all facets of life.

    Further to your analysis, the fact that you essentially apologise for watching Supernatural while critiquing its language and sexism could be seen as bitchy. It’s a dumb piece of fluff, not heavy drama. Call it a guilty pleasure (I do) but over-analyzing it seems elitist somehow. I fall back on my brother Brian’s philosophy: anyone can watch a good show, it takes guts to watch a bad one.

    1. Nique Reply

      If it’s worth watching, it’s worth over-analyzing!

      I agree with you about the importance of giving the impression of valuing your coworkers, even if you don’t. It’s something I work on everyday, which is maybe why I’m so exhausted all the time? 😉

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