Sunday, November 11, 2007

bitching, or why the word is being reclaimed

Some people take issue with the feminist reclaiming of the word "bitch." Let's define the word first, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

1: the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2 a: a lewd or immoral woman b: a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3: something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant
4: complaint

Definition #1 can usually only be found in kennel-speak. #3 is a colloquial usage that I often utilize myself, as is #4. #2a just smacks of antiquated sex-negativism towards women, often Christian (as Judaism is pretty sex-positive in general) in its roots. Why is a sexual woman always a bad one? God says so. Oh, okay.

But sex-negativity is a whole other issue. The definition with which I take issue is #2b. Because femininity is often defined via traits such as passivity, bashfulness, quietness, sweetness, nurturing, caring, motherliness, and sacrifice, what makes a female "malicious, spiteful, or overbearing" is often different than what would deign a man so. The exhibition of the opposite of what is considered "feminine" (often many of the traits that are designated as within male territory) is what causes a woman to be called a bitch.

Want to call out the leering coworker on his lecherous comments?
Ungrateful bitch, only men were allowed to work before, shut your pie hole (or else).

Want to have sex?
Horny bitch, only sluts want to do the nasty, and guys fuck the slut and love the virgin.

Want to call the cops on the abusive boyfriend?
Loud bitch, what did you expect after dinner was cold?

Want to refuse a commitment foisted upon you at the last minute?
Selfish bitch, why don't you want to help other people?

Want to eat that scrumptious dessert?
Hungry bitch, you're going to end up fat and lonely.

Want to go in for therapy?
Psycho bitch, why don't you get yourself some friends; women are supposed to talk shit out.

Want to report a case of marital rape?
Frigid bitch, why else do you think he married you other than for constant sex?

Want to wear a cute top to work so that you'll get some attention for once?
Evil bitch, how dare you use your cleavage to overcome that glass ceiling and pay gap?

Want to put a family on hold for your career?
Cold bitch, don't you want to make cute babies; do you hate babies or something?

Want to put your career on hold and have a family?
Lazy bitch, who wants to bet your ass won't be able to work again after doing nothing as a mother?

Want to divide up housework because both you and your husband work?
Stupid bitch, don't you know you're lucky he lets you work at all?

Want to take back the word "bitch?"
Feminist bitch, you'll never be able to keep a man.

I've been called or considered a bitch for wanting sex, for not putting up with verbal abuse, for not keeping quiet when wrong was being done, for valuing my thoughts over my feelings, for sticking to principles instead of to blind loyalty, and most of all for being honest. In the majority of those cases, I wasn't confrontational or mean or hostile, just clear and straightforward. Oh, right, women aren't supposed to be forward, lest they be called bitches.

Bitch on, I say!

BS Factor:
10+ Years of Bitch Magazine


Liz Losh said...

This is a great word to look at to understand the lexicon of Web 2.0. You can also see the number of blogs that use "bitch" in the title, including one that was discussed at the faculty blogging panel: Bitch Ph.D.

Mat Wilson said...

The male equivalent of this would probably be "Faggot". It is interesting\disturbing that the primary method of verbally degrading males is through terms that evoke a sense of effeminacy. Good post.