In 2009 I wrote the following for another blog, and I have reposted it several times as it remains relevant to this day. A kerfluffle erupted this week about the word bitch, thanks to the New York Times. There are those who clutch their pearls when this word is uttered, but many of us now consider it a badge of honor. I have obviously been on that bandwagon for some time.
Now for my bit of history:
Once upon a time, there was a woman who felt that her gender should not be an issue in her career. She wanted to be treated as an equal, she acted like she was equal, and the men called her a bitch.
a female dog.
a female of canines generally.
a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, esp. a woman
a lewd woman.
anything difficult or unpleasant: The test was a bitch.
anything memorable, esp. something exceptionally good: That last big party he threw was a real bitch
Why does this 5 letter word have such power over women? We are raised to be “nice.” Malicious, unpleasant, and selfish are the opposite of this goal; however, this means that demanding equality may appear bitchy! At so many gatherings I have heard women ask how they can get their needs met without being called a bitch (generally these women spell the word rather than say it). The short answer? You cannot! Anytime you assert your needs and put yourself ahead of someone else, others may call you a “female dog.”
When my daughter was starting middle school, I explained the world to her in my own warped way. I give my students the same advice. If you have a voice that gets heard in the world, someone will call you a bitch. If you perform acts of kindness and charity, someone will say that the bitch is showing off! If you show more spine than a jelly fish, someone eventually will brand you a bitch. Accept it. If someone calls you a bitch, you are probably doing something right.
About a year later a classmate turned to her and called her a bitch. She thanked him for noticing, and then related how she had not reached her mother’s level of “bitchdom” yet. He said nothing more, and did not try to insult her the rest of the year. She came home from school empowered rather than insulted.
Now, this advice does not mean you should be a bitch. Do not be mean or evil, and never treat those lower than you on the ladder of life with contempt. Always have a sounding board of friends who can help you determine the line between reasonable and bitchy. Sometimes you will cross the line, but, with their help, you will recognize this behavior and apologize for it. If you find yourself crossing the line too often, you may need to reexamine your attitudes and behavior. Do not be afraid to do this and make necessary adjustments. It is called “growth.”
Someday I hope we get beyond the name-calling, but until then take pride in some bitchiness. It may just mean you are acting like a human being instead of an invertebrate. It may just mean you are living your life.
Of course, I am not alone in claiming bitch as a term of honor. May I present Amy and Tina: