Re-define, Refuse, Neither, or like, sometimes? Discussing bitch.

I began to really identify as a feminist, freshman year of college. It’s a complicated identity, whereas I don’t feel that my core morals changed, I definitely feel more support and connection from women, I pay more attention to sexism and my eyes are a little more open. Learning about Feminism through school, through my friends, through growing up has allowed me to process a lot, and I’ve gotten lucky enough to talk about it, which I am really thankful for. But it isn’t that easy! There are moments when I feel that I am being a bad feminist, when I feel like I am doing behaviors that are only a result of my socialization, and they make me question my beliefs. I shave my legs and wonder who I’m doing that for, and if it’s possible to really say I’m ever really doing it for myself -__-. There are moments when I feel helpless against patriarchy, because I can’t defeat it myself.
I can’t save the world, and I know that. So sometimes I have to do what’s best for myself, and that’s saying. Fuck it. I don’t care, this time. If I cared all the time, I will be too sensitive, I will be too saddened, and I will feel too helpless. I can’t use all my energy for critical thinking and feminism — I need time to nap, lose things and drink.. kidding! (Not kidding.) But, you get what I mean. There are things that I let go, things that I don’t bother to investigate and/or resist – it’s too hard not to. And honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to expect that from me.
That’s where I get to the reclaiming words discussion. There are activists all around me, that are trying to redefine the derogatory words used against them, in hopes to empower themselves. Three that have gotten a lot of attention within Feminism are slut, cunt and bitch. Reclaiming Slut and Cunt, aims to take the shame out of these words and own your own sexuality and parts. I think of the ‘I love my cunt!’ shirts that people wear to make a statement. With bitch, the idea is to use bitch to describe powerful women, who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
This sounds great right? And for all the women, and men that aim to do so I wish them the best of luck. However for me, it’s not where I’ll be putting my energy anytime soon. I change the way I speak when around different groups of people, for example, I don’t swear in front of my parents and it’s never been difficult despite swearing frequently around my friends. It’s the same with jokes, there are crowds where I’m not afraid to say things that are offensive, that are cruel because I know they’ll know that it’s just a joke. We don’t always know the sentiment behind people’s words and that makes things really tricky.
Personally, the word bitch is too good for me to give up. I know that there is no word that can hurt men the way bitch can hurt women, and I don’t think there should be, and I know that I have different reactions when I hear different people using it. There are college guys that throw it around to describe ex-girlfriends and all girls and that’s gross and hurtful to me. I also know that there is no word that better describes the girl that started that hurtful rumor about my friend only to feel better about herself, or the woman that was just plain rude at the DMV. I’m going to continue to use this word, and I’m using it in the derogatory sense. I’m also using it in jokes, I’m using it endearingly ‘those are my bitches forever’, and I’m using ‘bad bitch’ to describe a hot woman who has attitude and confidence that a frumpy girl like me can only daydream about. Finally, I’ll use it to describe myself, if I was being a bitch, I’ll use it as a verb that prefaces a whiney rant, ‘let me just bitch to you..’
There are times that I just want to listen to that song, and ignore that it’s dropping ‘bitch’ every other line, because it just sounds so good bumping in your friends car #passengerseatforever. That’s a whole other conversation though. -_-.
And when used for men, it’s completely different; your male friend that is being a bitch is, well we really mean acting like a little girl. He’s being weak, or scared of something. And this is hugely problematic. Feminine and weak should not be interchangeable. But I’m not going to deny that I also think it’s really funny to me sometimes to call a guy that, so that’s where I am right now, riding a fine line between completely immature and sometimes appropriate. I also, recognize that this could be hurtful to a guy who’s fighting his way through the hyper-masculine world and it shouldn’t be a masculine crime to feel emotional, because I believe that really hurts a lot of men.
Finally, here’s where I get really hypocritical. I don’t use the word slut or cunt. In jokes amongst small groups of friends I may use them occasionally but I know that I would be a lot more hurt if I had someone call me either of those words. Shame in sexuality is a very real thing, something I have experienced, and witnessed and I know that it affects girls all the time, and it happens largely because of the way that heterosexual males and females talk about their interactions. When it doesn’t work out, she’s a slut, if she didn’t put out she’s a prude. If you had something great, and it ended, she becomes just a girl you fucked, a slut etc. There are girls that are agreeing and saying the same things about other girls all the time. (Sorry for the graphic language, but we’ve all heard it.) I’m outraged and exhausted with girls feeling sorry for their sexuality, I’m tired of girls being given a reputation for choices they made, whether they are proud or them or feel regret. I’m saddened by so many girls that feel more shame with regard to their sexuality than joy. Sex is one of the most beautiful human experiences we can have with each other and for us to put each other down, as women, as men having sex with women or whatever, THAT’S THE SHIT I DON’T LIKE. Call her a glutton if you want to, (jk) but I refuse the word slut. And to women who want to identify as either, go for it – I think language is here for us to play with anyway.
In conclusion, there is no manual for feminism and I’m thankful that there aren’t any rules for me to follow #commitmentproblems. But in all seriousness, seriously.. I just hope that people will think before they speak. It’s not up to anyone to outlaw words, but it’s natural and perfectly fine for people to have personal reactions with words they find offensive because of their social standing. What’s important is that we’re allowing conversation; we’re allowing ourselves to listen to each other and maybe change the way we speak, maybe not. I know that there are Feminists that will be angry that I seem more pro-bitch than not, what I’m also aware of is that I know, is that any feminist that I’ve met is aware that I deserve the right for my opinion to be heard and listened to. It’s not my fault that I’m often desensitized to the word bitch, (shout out to Patriarchy for making me feel okay about using a word that objectifies and demeans women lol, kinda not really), but I also won’t and don’t have to feel guilty for being angry if a man calls me a bitch, because he has no right, and I’m not a bitch for getting mad about it. I also have the right to not be offended by my male friends that throw it around because I know how they feel about women. The word can be funny, cruel and anywhere in between. What I’m asking is that we try to be better with our words, try to treat each other well, recognize that the girl I once called a bitch may have much deeper reasons for having an attitude with me, and recognize the power of an apology because people do have the ability to change. Let’s create more words that celebrate women for all that we do – outside of the bedroom and the kitchen…. fuck it let’s celebrate it all! Let’s aim to use words that describe where women are going instead of trying to keep them down. And let’s not punish ourselves too harshly when we realize that there are moments when we are going to be women who are contributing to sexist culture and we’re going to dance to that Tyga song, sing along to lyrics that demean us (knowing and hoping everyone knows how messed up this is and it’s really just because the beat goes that everyone sings along..??!? #steadywishing) I want women to be respected, I want consent, I want conversation and change…. for all my bitches! (Too soon?) But really, what do you guys think?

Here’s what KanYe thinks – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/kanye-west-introspective-word-bitch_n_1853966.html

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10 thoughts on “Re-define, Refuse, Neither, or like, sometimes? Discussing bitch.

  1. Thanks for your post Kinga! I think language is really powerful and is more impacting than we often think so I have taken the word bitch out of my vocabulary. I feel that I cannot expect men to not say the word bitch if I myself continue to use it. I also am not on a journey to reclaim the word because I don’t see that as feasible in the near future. Women are over half of the population yet we continue to be a marginalized and oppressed group. This indicates to me that we do not have the power to reclaim when our population is so large and spread out throughout the world. I think where you use language is very important and obviously speak differently when I am in certain settings. I try to be my authentic self though in the majority of situations though and therefore try to live by my highest standard of feminism in all settings. Try is the key word here as I obviously give into patriarchy in various points of my life. Thanks for starting this dialogue.

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  2. Thank you Sarah! I admire your ablilty to with hold from the word, I hope to get to a point where i grow out of it, as I don’t want to be a mother using it, or even an adult using it, but i think it’s too much a part of my youth and experience right now to disregard it. It was difficult writing this because as I wrote I thought, how can i feel so strongly about some words and not all? But I do, so I guess that’s all I can say! I really liked the part that they pointed out in the attached article where it said the words are very potent and we must be aware of that when using them.

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  3. epsiegel says:

    I’m with you Sarah, I try to eradicate bitch from my vocabulary.

    But Kinga, I understand the point about feminism being tiring, and because of that I end up engaging in a necessary evil of picking my battles. At this point in my life, I will absolutely discuss with my close male friends why using the word bitch is problematic (at minimum) and hurtful and misogynistic. I don’t think I would be able to be close with any man that is able to use demeaning, gendered terms, particularly after they have heard my thoughts on it. I know its difficult, and no one is perfect, but I have found that the people close to me are actively trying to be more careful with their language and I do appreciate that.

    I do think its different when men and women use the word bitch, and I think that if women want to use that, it should be their prerogative. And thats the coolest part about feminism — we can all disagree and all be right. Being educated, opinionated, and empowered to talk about it are all things that stem from the feminist movement and enable this type of conversation. I think that the lack of consensus on some issues is actually one element of feminism’s strengths; the ability to challenge specific elements (like the use of the word bitch!) lets us actually engage together and be challenged to think about why we do what we do.

    Thanks for the post, Kinga.

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  4. Jenna says:

    Hey yall–sorry for the late response, but I think this is such an important discussion! I agree that it is up to every woman to chose if they want to use it or not. I also think it can be reversed to an endearing term at any point. I know we are still very far behind with women’s empowerment, but I don’t think that should hinder us from reclaiming a word that could actually work to empower us, slash maybe deplete the derogatory meaning. I even believe that this can be done in conjunction with educating others about our perspective of these words, and perhaps even open up dialogue with those who disagree with each of our views. My greatest belief surrounding the subject is that it’s important to talk about it! Debate, dialogue, meet people where they are at, whatever! We all gain insight in the end.

    Thanks for the insight Kinga!

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  5. lexismanzara says:

    Kinga – thanks for being the one to put an opinion out there that’s clearly a controversial topic WITHIN feminist groups.

    I loved your article because I think it takes a lot to encourage discussion on the usage of the word ‘bitch’ when you are more pro-bitch than not. Personally, I am very against general use of the word, but am not as bothered when someone applies it to a specific situation. For example, it drives me insane when people causally use it as a synonym for any girls or women “how many bitches did they invite?” vs “I can’t believe she did that, what a bitch.” To me there is a huge difference and the former all women are degraded. In the latter, it is geared towards one specific person and her* actions.

    I have a lot more to say, especially about shame and sexuality, but it will have to wait because as you know I have a small typing limit.

    Just curious do you all feel equally bothered when women and men use it?

    I’d be happy to hear any opinions!

    Lexis

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  6. For me it’s entirely situational. If someone seriously called me a bitch — I would be mad. And it leaves me confused because I know that for much of my life I have focused on being friendly and nice, rather than opinionated, and for that reason I’ve probably avoided being called a bitch a lot. So it’s easy for me to dismiss a word that I personally haven’t had a lot of experience with. So yes, I’m going to be more upset if a man seriously uses it versus a woman because I believe she has more of a right to use it than that man, and where I would ignore a woman calling another woman a bitch, I would probably make judgements or argue with a man who called another woman a bitch because that seems a lot more oppressive.

    And for better or worse I think bitch has been so desensitized many shows can say it, and it’s become more of a word to describe both genders. It’s sad that a word so potent is still around, but also comforting in a weird way that the power is taken out. I mean, I’d be upset but it wouldn’t ruin me if someone called me a bitch. Ya knoww?

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    • lexismanzara says:

      I like that it loses power when it is desensitized, but I think a huge problem with that is that people use it casually without realizing that it still carries a lot of meaning. The casual aspect of it bothers me because it just shows how normalized sexism is. It is reinforced each time we hear it because the word is still associated with women. For example ‘being somebody’s bitch’ can refer to a guy, but the connotation is that he does whatever he is asked like a woman.

      I think that there’s not much chance for it becoming gender neutral because of it’s history. At first I thought it was moving in this direction, now I think the opposite. It’s really only used with men when it’s highlighting their negative feminine qualities.

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  7. Julian Manzara says:

    Firstly, congrats on taking a step toward a more conscious world.
    Actually, consciousness is, in my opinion, the most integral part of using a word carefully. If you feel the word bitch is appropriate, than use it. If not, than don’t. Most importantly, be aware of context, your own beliefs, and other peoples interpretations. I would not personally seek to eliminate this word, not because I think thats impossible, but because it has a few valid applications (ha). For example, Sarah, If you are someone who thinks the word has no place in the language, good for you. Remove it from your vocabulary, and encourage others to do the same. I know that if you stated why it should never under any circumstance be used, and i agreed with you, I would make my best effort not say it.
    Also, in regard to reclaiming the word, I think “because its not feasible in the near future” is a pretty bad reason not to do attempt a goal.
    Going back to consciousness, I know that a lot of guys say bitch (in the hurtful way) because they don’t feel they repercussions, because they want to be in with their other guy friends, or just generally without thinking (notice that none of there are based on hatred of women). So it is discussions like this that will hopefully inform those people of the effects of their speech. I feel that many would stop if they knew how women feel about it.

    So again, congrats for generally promoting your beliefs, and informing people.

    Also, where are all the men? I feel like this would be way more productive if more guys weighed in. Since it is kinda directed at us.

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  8. I agree with you Julian, I think that the word has a place still however there are many places where it can go wrong. ALSO WE NEED TO GET MORE GUYS COMMENTING ON THIS. thanks for the words Ju!

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