I want to write about the word “bitch.” I’m aware of the many arguments made for and against the use of the word (through a feminist lens, of course) and I’ve moved up, down, back, forward and side to side in my own relationship to the word since the dawn of my political consciousness.
Full disclosure: I don’t say *bitch* anymore. It used to pop out of my mouth with every other word when I was younger, but I read a piece that encouraged me to stop “in good faith,” if you will. This bit argued that yeah, maybe it hurts no one, but how would we ever know? And if it is even MAYBE hurting people – shouldn’t we at least try and figure that shit out? Or is our right to speak unfiltered bull shit too precious to us to even consider it? (I’m paraphrasing…..) So I did stop. But then I saw it everywhere. And it started to hurt. It wasn’t like “across-the-board-I-hear-bitch-I-hurt” but more like….”when-someone-means-to-hurt-I-really-feel-it-now-ouch.”
Straight up – this was typically a man v. womyn sort of occurrence. Womyn v. womyn didn’t pack the same sting, but womyn tend, in my experiences and observations, to use BITCH in all its variety and are more likely to go the “bitch = powerful badass womyn” route whereas men stick to the “bitches = all womyn” and “bitch = womyn who made me mad just now for whatever reason – probably because she challenged my authority or did something I think she shouldn’t do.” This is just my perspective and I speak only for myself and what I have seen.
It’s not like I was desensitized by chance or because *sticks and stones* and shit, either. It was so perfectly normal in my life – to be called a bitch, to call someone a bitch, to hear it as a code word for the seemingly neutral all the way to downright nefarious sorts of women all around me – OH – and the men who weren’t acting ***mannnnllyyy enougggghhh***
It became normal and therefore invisible. And at this time in my life I haven’t excavated a single thing from my insides that once brought to light kept its apolitical, no-big-deal character. I tend to view my relationship to the word as mainly one of internalized sexism and men reinforcing sexist practices and structures. I know that’s not so for everyone and that is valid and fine and totes to be determined by many intersections of identity and experience. I only ask that folks question shit and never stop.
I have to wonder how the people in their respective stances relate to the word in their personal lives – if we leave the scholarly discourse or theoretical realm and look at our lives as they’ve played out, if we could CTRL + F: bitch – what sort of patterns would emerge?
I am writing this after months of writing absolutely nothing. I am writing this without analysis, really, and without giving due time to the nuances of the aforementioned stances. I am writing this because I started thinking about all the *bitch times* in my life and how it felt each time. It’s not so clear cut, you see, but I thought it might be worth writing down and talking about.
***Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, emotional abuse, excessive use of the word bitch***
Strongest memories that I could conjure up today that are somehow associated w/ the word bitch:
When a friend raped me and I found the strength to tell others (mutual friends) I was a bitch.
When I called the police when my ex choked me, slapped me, pulled me by my hair off of the bed, dragged me topless through the apartment and threw me outside at 4am and he was subsequently kicked out of school — I was a bitch. They couldn’t believe that bitch would do something like that to him. Some of my own friends were in this camp.
Anytime my mom or stepmom did something I didn’t like. Or did something that was legitimately fucked up. Or made me mad. They were bitches.
When I was manipulated and lied to by same ex into continuing the relationship so that I could lie to the district attorney and get the case thrown out – I was a bitch then, too.
When I call anyone out for sexist/racist/classist/ableist/heterosexist anything — BIITTCCHHH
When my dad had anything to say about my mom it was usually – in the end – to do with her being just a total, irrevocable BITCH NUGGET
I was a bitch last month when my host got wasted, tried to force himself on me, grabbed my ass and as a result I punched him in the nose. Such a bitch.
When my sisters or womyn friends before I was 21 did anything silly or anything I didn’t like. Fuck you, bitches. You’re such a stupid bitch.
I was a bitch when I showed any legitimate anger towards my father growing up.
When I found out that my sister’s bff slept with her boyfriend…. We both screamed “BITCH”
When I, like so many others, though I knew it all and fought hard about it without apology — they were assertive and know how to speak their minds. But me? Totes a bitch.
When I stood up for an acquaintance from high school in an online bullyfest – Super bitch.
When I graduated from college after years of thinking I would never make it and magically wound up with a GPA that will let me get into a grad program someday, maybe —- Boss. Ass. Bitch.
Being horny and engaging in casual sex as a consenting adult somehow translates to acting like a bitch in heat at least once in my life
When a young man in high school showed any sort of fear or wouldn’t do something risky – come on! Don’t be a bitch. Man up!
When I complain about something legitimately terrible or not so terrible but it bugs me, so Imma complain – Stop bitchin’ all the time
Womyn knitting and venting about true frustrations in life – Stitch and Bitch
I suppose I like to think that beyond the feminist debate about the impact of this particular word lays another discussion about being more compassionate with our word choice overall. Fewer insults generally, more engagement…I mean I get that not every use of the word is an insult necessarily – but is its use compassionate? What’s the aim? Are we conscious of our impact?
Is this just some seriously white feminist shit to say? Yes. Absolutely. And let’s keep in mind that I’m writing this because I have tons of free time and no obligations for the moment so I can indulge in some “self-improvement” (totes important, but let’s keep some perspective) while WOC and other POC and QPOC and all poor folks generally are busy with just surviving. The working poor and the impoverished are fighting a centuries-long, losing battle just to keep chins above water.
SO. Today’s post was brought on by some casual thoughts and then when examining my privilege I see how ironic it is that the first post on our site in almost 4 months will be this. But ok – this started it and now let’s talk about North Carolina and the white supremacist, heterosexist, classist, ableist, cis-centric patriarchy……and all the shit that has been happening since July……
….to be continued…..