Feminism | Posted by Beth T on 12/22/2009

Bitch

It’s the word that everyones heard before.
If you’re a female you’ve probably been called it at least once in your lifetime.
A bitch is sometimes that girl who speaks out.
She’s labeled a bitch so she’ll just SHUT UP already.
[And because I'm a girl and I refuse to shut up I'll proudly claim this name. Yes, I'm a bitch.]
Girls have repeatedly reclaimed offensive terms such as cunt, bitch, slut in order to bring power to the word, and consequently, bring power to ourselves.

It hurts me most when I hear other girls using the word Bitch to describe another female they dislike. In fact, girls hating girls just makes me sad in general. Hating each other to prove something to ourselves and to boys is the opposite of feminism and revolution. There’s no unity and there’s no progress. There’s just hate.

When I hear guys snickering about some “DUMB SLUT” that they “HOPE DIES” my heart starts pounding. I am angry but I am also mortified; embarrassed for their hatred and even more embarrassed that I’m not doing anything about it. [It would be so easy to land my fist in their face, right? But I am not violent I am not violent...]

Some of us are so scared of being talked about like this; being called that nasty B word, that we do ANYTHING to seem otherwise. So we act like the nice girls that we’re encouraged to be, with our hair combed straight, trapped in stony silence. Sometimes we are forced into nice girl costumes, contained within silence instead of speaking our minds. But that doesnt mean that we’re not letting the Bitch live on inside our heads. Girls who may seem shy and quiet at first can be resisting too. Quiet/loud, white/black, gay/straight…girls everywhere are participating in a sort of revolution where we take off our polite smiles occasionally and say, “Hey were not scared of being called bitches anymore.”

Bitch. Both detestable and potent. It makes my skin crawl when boys say it but I also use it to describe my own self-assuredness. It has duality and versatility.

Bitch. What does it mean to me; to you; to girls? It can sound like rebellion, like not giving in, like taking something messed up and negative and making it ALL YOURS.

[I guess we are just a bunch of beautiful and cool bitches ready to change stuff for real.]

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  • -Z- @ at 11:51 am, December 22nd, 2009

    I find that more often than not, I’m called a bitch when I do something that is confident, self-assured, and in my own interests.

    It’s laughable when men use that term, because generally it’s an impotent gesture on their part responding to a powerful thing I’ve done. “Bitch” always comes out when I don’t want to date them, fuck them, or give them the attention they’re looking for.

    Most of the time, the word “bitch” surfaces when I’m most proud of myself. How’s that for reclaiming negativity? :)

  • Taylor S @ at 12:04 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    Wonderful article; very emotionally powerful. :)

    I was actually just thinking about this the other day. Talking about using the word “bitch” or “cunt” and a whole slew of other insults.

    In trying to reclaim these insults for ourselves, what kind of actions should be taken?

    In using it personally we risk condemnation or even punishment from our superiors. So what is the path to be taken?

  • Zoe @ at 12:21 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    I’m making a New Year’s Resolution where I stop using gay-bashing or slut-shaming words in my repertoire of insults. For so many years of my life, I never gave a thought to why I used these words, especially when they didn’t reflect my true feelings.

    Maybe it would be good to reclaim a few of those words, like bitch or cunt. It would be hard, though. When I say them now, they only ring as insults.

  • ACW @ at 2:35 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    Interesting view. I respectfully disagree. Women using ‘bitch’ is similar to how some groups will use racial epithets when referring to themselves as a means by which to ‘own’ the word. Using slurs when referring to each other within a group ends up giving others outside the group permission to do the same. Why is it okay for my best friend to laughingly refer to me as ‘bitch’ but it’s not okay for my boyfriend/ husband/ coworkers to do the same? Rather than participate in that double standard, I encourage those I know to just remove it from their vocabularies. I am not a dog. I am a human. I am difficult at times, outspoken, unyielding, and assertive. Show me a canine that is capable of the higher thought processes that humans are and that can stand up for itself, and then -maybe- I’ll allow someone to call me a bitch.

  • May @ at 3:13 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    I HATE the word “bitch” more than any other word that can be use derogatorily to a female. HATE HATE HATE IT!

    I find “cunt” empowering, on the other hand and I own it.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 5:46 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    Joreen beat you to it…by about 41 years :p

    The BITCH Manifesto

  • Margaret @ at 5:53 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    This makes me think of the person who is trying to take back “i’m not being racist but…”
    There’s a video on it and people’s reactions to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrgygfwnCJ0

    I definitely usually only hear words like ‘bitch’ as insults, and the other times are thinly masked insults that the speaker then tries to convince me of.
    But the word ‘cunt’? I hate that word more than any other. It’s horrible and nasty sounding, and it feels wrong when I say it.

  • Milan @ at 7:41 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    Great post! There are other words to reclaim, as well. Once, when a guy yelled at me –

    “You bitch!”

    I replied:

    “What, you stupid whore?”

    He was absolutely stunned to silence.

    Calling a man a whore, why, it just isn’t done!

  • Steph @ at 8:39 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    ‘Bitch’, I like. To me, it means a strong, independent woman who doesn’t take anyone’s shit.
    Reclamation is definitely a good thing, but I think it’ll still be a little while before mainstream society gets over it – ‘bitch’ is still a put-down, ‘fag’ is a way to cut men down to size, and so on – but it’s still a valuable effort.

    Also, as a side-note, while I’m totally behind people who own the word ‘cunt’, I’ve never quite been able to do so myself – maybe a new year’s resolution?

  • Maia M @ at 11:27 pm, December 22nd, 2009

    Hmm… Really, I tend to hear the word “bitch” used to refer to someone who is mean or cruel or nasty, not someone who is outspoken. At my school and all of my other social spheres, there’s no association of the word with being loud and outspoken–or rather, if someone does call someone a “bitch” for being vocal about their opinion, then they’re saying, “god, this girl is so nasty for holding this opinion about such-and-such,” and I think that’s a profound and terrible problem with the insulter, but not with the word.

    That said, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that there’s something vaguely derogatory about the word “bitch,” but I don’t really feel that it’s what you articulated… Hmm. This is something I need to think about…

  • K8 AH @ at 2:08 am, December 23rd, 2009

    Words only have the meaning that speaker and listener allow them to. I used to have a very hard time with all of these derogatory words… And then I kind of just grew out of it so to speak. I guess what I am saying is that if someone calls me a bitch, I am not going to get mad about the use of the word…it is just a fucking word… It is the context, the situation, the reason behind the use of the word and the intentions of the person saying the word that are important. I would prefer someone call me a bitch in a friendly way than someone call me a doormat in a malicious way. So what do you all think about the word cock?

  • Steph @ at 3:50 am, December 23rd, 2009

    @K8 AH: I have no issues at all with the word ‘cock’, and think that if that’s what someone wants to call what they’ve got(be it either flesh or silicone), that’s totally their right. I personally tend to use the word in a general sense as opposed to a specific one, i.e. I’m a dyke, so I’m not wild for cock rather than to refer to what I or someone else happen to have under hir pants.

  • Toongrrl @ at 11:03 am, December 23rd, 2009

    Oy, this a huge condundrum. It really does depend on who said it. A good song to listen to is the song “I’m a Bitch”

  • Taylor S @ at 3:36 pm, December 23rd, 2009

    Well, K8 that also depends on the use. ;)
    It can be a verb, farm animal, motion of the head, or a part of the anatomy!

    As for BITCH, I think I can handle being called that. I kinda feel a spunky connotation surrounding it; the only ones that call me a bitch besides my girlfriends are people that don’t wanna hear what I/we have to say. So rock on bitches of the world! :P

  • drewsiedrewsie @ at 8:45 pm, December 23rd, 2009

    if someone calls me a bitch, i like to believe they are secretly envious that i am free, out speaking my mind, being compleatly bitch-tastic. why would i comform to societys standards of sweet, kind, pure, quiet, when i can be loud, speak my mind, do what i want, and be a huge bitch.

  • Taylor S @ at 9:34 pm, December 23rd, 2009

    Bravo to that drewsie!

  • Ruth @ at 5:18 am, December 24th, 2009

    I’m currently trying to reclaim the word bitch, but the problem is that I end up using the word in my head for both awesome women and nasty ones, but I’ll work on that.

  • Holly @ at 1:48 am, December 25th, 2009

    As far as bitch being reowned and being used in a positive light, my friends and I have always said of some women, “That’s a bitch I wanna be!” Meaning that we admire that particular woman’s direct nature and aggressive attitude. Those qualities that someone might use to degrade that woman as a bitch we instead see as admirable. What do you guys think of that?

  • K8 AH @ at 6:11 pm, December 26th, 2009

    I guess what I was asking about is the word cock in reference to a guy that is a Jerk… as in “that guy is such a cock!” A cock is an animal like a bitch is an animal and both are used as derogatory words to describe a person whose behavior is in some way unacceptable in the eyes of the person using the term. How do you feel about the word Cock being used in that way?

  • Jordi @ at 2:16 am, January 4th, 2010

    Within my group of friends, bitch is still considered to be an insult, even though I think it’s lost its harshness: None of my friends really take it offensively. It’s more of a joke.
    However, the thing that I find interesting is that ‘bitch’ has become an unisex insult and people at my school are just as likely to call a boy a bitch as a female. Even guys say it to each other. Is that just at my school or do other people do that as well?
    Personally, I don’t get particularly more upset if someone calls me a bitch rather than a dickhead or a barstard, it’s just another insult. I don’t call my girlfriends a ‘bitch’ on a regular basis and wouldn’t allow anyone to make it a habit of calling me that either. I agree with AWC; using words that may have a negative connotation within a social group gives persmission for others to do the same and there shouldn’t be a double standard.
    However, I compltely understand how women may have a positive connotation attached to the word and I respect that.

  • AcaciaSkye @ at 9:20 am, January 27th, 2010

    I’ve been called a bitch so many times in my life that it’s almost a title. :) Usually it’s been by my boyfriend’s friends, my male friend’s girlfriends, or some other girl I managed to piss off.
    I’m not going to say I’ve never been mad and called a woman a bitch as an insult. But most of the time, if I call someone a bitch it’s practically a compliment. My friends joke it’s a term of endearment with me, if I say “Hey bitch, come here” you know I like you.
    My best friend (who is a boy) will always laugh and tell me that I’m “sure to like her: she’s a bitch” when talking about his friends or potential roommates.
    I do understand that when I call a woman a bitch in a derogatory way I’m sort of buying into the cycle, but like I said: to me it’s my way of saying “Hey, you are on my level, and I think I could be friends with you. Because I am a bitch, and so are you.”

  • rockergrrrl @ at 10:04 am, January 29th, 2010

    Once during a class I had this little carton of juice on my desk that I planned on drinking later and this (really douchey) guy comes up to me and says “hey give me your juice.” Of course I tell him “no”, and he says “you’re such a bitch!” and walks away.

    I laughed.

  • A @ at 5:35 pm, August 9th, 2010

    @ Maia : same situation. At my school it’s for mean people, not outspoken people (though sometimes someone can be both).

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