by Tess Adair
I think I’ve been saying “bitch” way too much lately. I’m not even sure I can pinpoint when I started saying it again at all.
At some point in college, I decided it wasn’t a word I wanted in my vocabulary any longer. I’d never liked it very much; I used it on occasion, but I always felt...a little dirty if I did. Not in a good way.
There’s an argument that “bitch” isn’t inherently sexist because there are male equivalents out there. I don’t really buy that. Yeah, there are words that pertain more to men, not women. Like “dick.” You can call a female-lady-person a dick if you want to, but the word wasn’t originally meant for her. Still, I don’t think it’s equivalent to “bitch.” “Dick” isn’t belittling. “Dick” pretty much just means asshole. Male asshole. It’s just not as versatile as “bitch.”
I have also heard the somewhat bizarre argument that “asshole” is only meant for guys. But an ass hole is a body part that every person has, regardless of gender, so...nope. “Asshole” is genderless. In fact, when I swore off “bitch,” “asshole” is the gender-neutral term I adopted instead.
Some people have also argued that “bitch” can be used for guys, so that means it’s not sexist. Well...no. When “bitch” is used for guys, it’s specifically meant to imply that they are feminine or woman-like. “Little bitch,” etc. In fact, I think this usage of the term actually proves its sexism more clearly. The reason “bitch” is an insult for men is that it means they are like women. Being like a woman is insulting. That’s...pretty fucking sexist.
So I stopped using it. I trained myself to call everyone who pissed me off an “asshole.” (For a while, I was watching a lot of Supernatural, so I started saying “dick” a lot too, but that had way more to do with the show than a political statement.) I was prepared to explain my stance to anyone who questioned it, but very few people did.
I think I probably went more than 3 years without “bitch.” The only time it ever passed my lips was in the context of, “well, the term bitch….”
But something happened. Or several things happened. The first was the rise of the Vindictive Twitter SJW.
I would now like to take a moment to clarify something--I don’t like using the term “SJW,” or “Social Justice Warrior.” I had a number of friends in college who were committed activists as well as kind and wonderful human beings, and I feel like the use of “Social Justice Warrior” as an insult does them a disservice.
That being said...there is a breed of person out there who labors under the “Social Justice Warrior” banner that bears little resemblance to my friends. This person is vindictive, petty, spiteful, immature, and self-centered to an astonishing degree. This person almost always has a Twitter account. Some of them care far more about expressing their own oppression than doing any real work to ending others’. Some are more concerned with tearing down anyone who breaks the unwritten rules of extreme political correctness than reaching out and educating, changing minds. To understand a little bit more about what I’m talking about, you can check out So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, or this article.
When that subsection of humanity started growing louder, I felt a subconscious need to distance myself from it. I wanted to be more forgiving of people than that. The whole point was to unite and to teach, wasn’t it? What’s the point of trying to teach people if you decide you’ll never forgive them for past mistakes? That’s one of the reasons I calmed down about Trevor Noah, even though I did find some of his tweets offensive. He apologized, and he’s even referenced the incident on The Daily Show, joking about holding someone’s youthful mistakes against them, and a reference to the toll Twitter can take on comedians, who feel pressured to keep making jokes to a room they can’t read.
Everybody makes mistakes. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be called out for saying stupid, shitty stuff. I’m saying it shouldn’t automatically ruin their life. They should be able to apologize.
So I relaxed a little. I started trying to listen to people I otherwise wouldn’t. I tried not to stiffen and turn away as soon as I heard the word “bitch.”
And, you know, a few women started using it in kind of a cool way. “Bad bitch” is pretty sweet. I’m down with that. Of course, for every “bad bitch” use, there’s a “basic bitch,” isn’t there? Way too many people were happy to start throwing “basic bitch” around. “Basic bitch” is sexist as hell, and we all need to stop.
But then Rihanna came out with “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and look, that song is fun. In a pop culture where we revere gangsters and violent criminals, it is, in fact, empowering to see a woman take over that role. To see a woman be powerful. To see a woman be, in Walter White terms, “the one who knocks.”
And then...Ronda Rousey. The most terrifying woman in the world. My hero. In an interview, she said, “I think it's hilarious if people say that my body looks masculine, or something like that. I'm just like, 'Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn't mean it's masculine.' I think it's femininely badass as fuck because there's not a single muscle on my body that isn't for a purpose. Because I'm not a do-nothing bitch.”
So, somewhere in between semi-sarcastically repeating “BBHMM,” and googling for DNB t-shirts…“bitch” slipped back into my vocabulary.
Sometimes, I think it’s okay. If someone’s a “bad bitch” or an “HBIC,” then...it’s kinda cool. But that’s not usually the way I use it.
Most of the time, I still feel dirty when I say it. When I say it...it’s often as a kind of outpouring of frustration, and it carries the kind of relish you can only feel when you know you’ve injected genuine contempt into your words.
I’m using it because it’s belittling. And that feels more satisfying than other insults. But I don’t think it’s good for me. And I don’t think it’s a good thing to do.
I can’t really speak to anyone else’s use of the word. Just mine. And mine is problematic. So I think I should stop.
Ah well. I still got “Queen.” Yissss queen. (And maybe I can say "DNB?" It's just letters, right? Please?)
(If you’re interested, here’s Laci Green’s take.)
But hey, here’s a real bitch for you! (Actually I don’t know what gender it is.)