Raise your hand if you’re a woman who has ever felt personally attacked by the word ” bitch”. Yeah, that’s about all of us. What does the word even mean? “Female dog”, appropriated and used as a derogatory term toward women. There’s no certain characteristic or checklist of qualities that have to be met to be called a bitch, but it’s often associated with being independent, passionate, confident, strong, fearless, and I-see-right-through-your-crap-and-am-not-gonna-take-it. If that’s being a bitch, I’m in. Because when we own the word, it will stop owning us. Bitch, take it back!
Divided we fall
If where we put our energy is the direction we tend to go, why go backwards? We’re familiar with “nerd” and “geek” being used by bullies to keep their prey cowering and small. What has happened now that the glasses-wearing, long-word using, high IQ having people of the world have united in owning the attributes of nerd and geek-dom? Companies like NerdyGirl and GeekSquad wear it loud and proud. Shows like “The Big Bang Theory” have cult followings. Girls everywhere are throwing on their Zooey Deschanel “New Girl” specs and unabashedly being the gaming, inventing, robot warring, and cancer curing women they want to be. Why? Because knowledge is power. And what we know is that the basis of bullying and act of keeping others down stems from insecurity and fear. What are they afraid of? In the case of nerds and geeks, it’s how smart they are. In the case of women, it’s how powerful we are.
With a divide and conquer mentality and mission, anyone wanting to keep women down has a wealth of distracting derogatory terms to hurl at us and veer us from the path and the direction we want to go. Forward. It’s time to ignore the bully and keep our eye on the prize.
Take it back
Instead of standing against the word, let’s stand for it. In her article, To “Bitch” or Not to “Bitch”, Rosalie Maggio says, “if being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment… if we choose to reappropriate the word, it loses its power to hurt us. And if we can get people thinking about what they’re saying when they use the word, that’s even better.”
And it’s not just the word “bitch”. Amy Poehler reapproriated “bossy” when she simply, but directly, said, “I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” Her colleague, Tina Fey did it by simply, but specifically, titling her book Bossy Pants, and then filling it with her strong, smart, witty, and wonderful wisdom.
What’s in a word
Pantene tackled the gender stereo types of boss v. bossy, persuasive v. pushy, dedicated v. selfish, neat v. vain, and smooth v. show-off in a popular advertisement ending with the message “don’t let labels define you.” One of my favorite (forever and) Always ads is giving girls everywhere the permission and perspective to turn “like a girl” into the power statement it should be. As Rihanna knows, you can (and should) “be a girl with a mind, a bitch with an attitude, and a lady with class.” We have more power over perception than we give ourselves credit for, and collectively we can change anything.
So, let’s bring it full circle, shall we? What is used as an all purpose insult and attempt to keep us down and distracted from the trails we are blazing is, in reality, affirming that we’re heading in the right direction. So, next time I’m called a bitch (bossy, pushy, sassy, feisty), I’ll say thank you and go about my business, because I’m clearly doing something right.
Join me, won’t you?
Have you had a shocking or empowering experience with the word “bitch” or other terms that are meant to shut you down? Tell us about it in the comments below.