“Hey bitch!” Did you feel that? I did. When a friend tried to address me like this one day, let’s just say I was caught off guard. In her mind it was endearing; in my mind it was insulting. Recently, I received a series of texts and broadcast BBMs describing the difference between a “Real Bitch vs. Simple Bitch.” Apparently I received them because I’m considered a “Real Bitch.” How simple. It’s one of those social phenomenons I can’t quite put my finger on (like groupies and mistresses writing marital self-help books). But, somewhere in the last decade or so, the word “bitch” went from degrading term to badge of honor. Women all over now aspire or proudly claim to be HBICs, Bad Bitches, That Bitch, Ride or Die Bitches, etc.
Well, some do at least. Call us a dying breed, but there are some women out here who still find the word (gasp!) offensive.
I tried. Not wanting to seem square, there was a brief period where I attempted to let it roll off my back. “She was just playing,” or “She didn’t mean it that way,” I reasoned. But let a male say the same thing and I’d be pulling off my best rendition of Queen Latifah’s infamous line: “Who you calling a bitch?!”
I quickly realized that the same way I thought it was silly for us as black people to constantly throw the N-word at each other and then raise hell when someone of another race says it, it was just as silly to let another woman get away with hitting me with the B-word. I never understood or became comfortable with the warped reasoning that somehow when we say it, it’s not bitch meaning bitch, but bitch meaning …? Wait, is there even a positive way to spin it? And if a man says it today, does he still get a slap in the face, or is it OK as long as the word “bad” (meaning good of course) is placed in front? By us embracing this word, has it really taken on a new meaning? If so, fill me in. Looks, sounds, and feels the same to me; no matter who utters it.
There’s a classic scene in the movie “Baby Boy” where the male character Sweet Pea is angry at his girlfriend and her mother but does not want to drop the B-bomb, so he yells, “I’ll just call y’all unstable creatures!” As comical as this scene was, and although he was only using it as an alternative, in my mind this is a perfect title for women who think of the word bitch as empowering or a term of endearment. For example, if your middle-name on Facebook is “HottestBitchWalkingTheStreets” – unstable creature. If you list your job title or lifetime aspiration as HBIC – unstable creature. And in general, if you proudly use the term bitch in reference to yourself or other women — unstable creature. Because, in my humble opinion, we may in fact be slightly unstable (mentally) if we constantly call ourselves a word that literally means “female dog” and has been used to degrade us throughout history. You could say it’s just a word. However, if many women claim to feel empowered by using this word, it implies the term has power. So by embracing the term bitch, could we as women actually be doing ourselves a disservice? Just being a woman is already something great to live up to, so why sell ourselves short?
I’d know the world was coming to an end if I ever heard my mother say, “I’m that bitch.” And if I’m blessed to have a daughter one day, I’d honestly feel like a failure if she told me she wanted to grow up and be “That Bitch.” We don’t always have to turn lemons into lemonade; we can simply stop taking the lemons. As women, we have the power to set our own standards and demand respect from others as well as amongst ourselves. If being a bitch is a goal for you, fine. But for others, just because society says something is acceptable, it’s OK to feel otherwise and let it be known. As they say, you are what you answer to.
Personally, I don’t refer to myself as a bitch, nor do I wish to be called one, jokingly or not. With all we endure as women — women of color especially — I always felt like we should be trying to build each other up. Therefore, I strive never to refer to another woman in a degrading way. It’s not always easy considering how catty, cutthroat, and petty we can be or how much the shoe may fit in some cases. But I believe if we tried to stop tearing each other down through our words and actions, it could help relieve some of the insecurities that give way to this behavior. And, it may even cause men to follow suit with the manner in which they treat us as well. So to all my beautiful sisters out there, no matter how tempting it may be to call some of you out your name at times, if push comes to shove, “I’ll just call y’all unstable creatures.”
Disclaimer: The term “bitchassness” is an exception. Though used sparingly, it’s gender neutral.