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.