When I was growing up, the word bitch was not a nice word. It was something said on the playground that would get a resounding “Oooooooooooooooooo” from the crowd. It was a word girls used when they were being catty and jealous.
When I went to college and raised my feminist fist, bitch became something men used to degrade women with power. If a woman was tough and ambitious she was a bitch. In rap music, every chick was a bitch you wanted to sleep with.
I definitely did not want to be a bitch.
But somewhere between the third wave of feminism and the second season of “Girls,” bitch became the thing to be. Trina is the baddest bitch and according to Nicki Minaj, “Bitches ain’t shit, if they ain’t saying nothing.”
In our increasingly semantic world, what we say is of equal importance to how we say it. We know this all too well from the Lisa Lampanelli/Lena Dunham debacle. She exercised her freedom of speech (and freedom to bad comedy) by using a term of endearment that was well… not really endearing.
While everyone was up in arms about her use of the N-word, no one (not even me) batted a false eyelash at the fact that she also called Dunham her “beyotch!”
Let’s get things straight. I love my girlfriends. They are my lifelines, my champions, my mirrors and when I need it most my shoulders to cry on. But they are also my bitches, beyotches, hoes and ride or die chicks.
When we’re together, dishing dirt and listening to music, the word “bitch” rolls so easily off my tongue. You might hear a “Bitcccccccch, no she didn’t” or a sincere “I love you bitch!” And we’ve even coined a phrase for a bratty birthday girl who we tolerate because it’s her big day. She is affectionately called a “birthday bitch.”
Part of me loves the idea of a badass woman taking the reins of a patriarchal term and flipping that shit.
“Oh I’m a bitch? Well I’m going to show you just how bad a bitch I am!”
One of my idols did just that. Kelly Cutrone, who is often called a bitch because of her ballsy, no holds barred attitude, made an empowering acronym B.I.T.C.H: Babe In Total Control of Herself. How genius is that?
But there are occasions when the word hasn’t quite settled so easily in my vernacular.
Listening to my daily get hype playlist, I turn on Big Sean’s “ASS, ASS, ASS” song. Jamming and dancing, halfway through, the word bitch seems to form a cloud around my head. One line in particular “You the best you deserve a crown bitch,” always gets to me. Wait, she’s a queen and a bitch?! .
Or when I hear that Kanye West wrote a song for Kim K entitled “Perfect Bitch” and I’m like, “How the hell is she going to let her boyfriend call her a bitch?”
Or most of all, the times when teenagers, male and female, on the my commute home are calling each other “bitches” and my knee-jerk, womanist reaction is to shake my head in shame.
When I call my lady loves the b-word, I mean it in the most loving way. And when I read about a strong, powerful woman doing her thing and not apologizing for it, my first instinct is that she’s a “bad bitch.” Much like how we (black people) have reclaimed the problematic N-word or how gay people are reclaiming queer, women and feminists have claimed bitch.
But this claiming doesn’t strip the word of its meaning and it doesn’t strip me of the conflict I feel. And while being a bitch may be an empowering, positive affirmation, it can easily be a demeaning and degrading one as well.
The part of me that calls bullshit on my use is the same part of me that relishes in my power to take a word that’s meant to degrade me and use it to empower myself and other women.
Another thing is clear too: My practice of feminism isn’t perfect and neither is the world. Now ain’t that a bitch.
Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • Allie

    I don’t think you’re bad, people try to reclaim words all the time. I think those on their high horse will say otherwise like they think those who use the term for themselves are beneath them. Discussions on language always end up being about the regulation of language.

    • Ms Write

      Exactlly! I can’t believe some of the comments on here. High horses, indeed!

  • Gurrrrrl, Bye.

    “Much like how we (black people) have reclaimed the problematic N-word…”

    *blank stare*

    Who is “we”?!?!? You DO realize that MANY Black folk loudly and diligently contest the use of the n-word by ANYONE (including other Black people), don’t you?!?! And how can one “REclaim” something that never was theirs? Black people didn’t invent the word, nor were Black people the first to start using it to designate them. Ditto with the b-word as it concerns women. Why must you inherit/adopt the pathologies of people who refuse to recognize your humanity by adopting their bestializing, opprobrious, and dehumanizing language?!?!

    Please miss me with that “logic” of reclamation…MISS ME.

    • Gurrrrrl, Bye.

      I wanted to add, off all the terms of endearment in the world you could call your “girlfriends” and “loved ones” (???), why select such a reproachful appellation and attempt to pass it off as endearing?!?! This just vexes me so! Goodness me!

      And is the attached photo of the writer? That pose does not look very “endearing.” A picture speaks a thousand words. Why the scowl face and disenchanting posture? Is it indicative of how you REALLY feel about the b-word (i.e. you subconsciously know it is repulsive and it seeps through your body language regardless of what you say)?

  • lexie

    listen XOJANE…… i understand the gist of what you are saying but………you lost me. COMPLETELY. this article makes as much sense as a cock flavored ice cream, you get what im saying right lol.
    enough jokes aside though. i dont consider you a bad feminist or a womanist, though i dont know your stance on the movement and i dont know you personally so i cannot and will not make a judgemental comment regarding your article but…… i think you are bias. but as you pointed out yourself you call bull s*** on your part .
    just like kanye regarding kim as his perfect b**** and big sean’s little line, that is a term of endearment just as you regard your close female companions as wh**** and b******. enough of my rambling

  • Ms Write

    God forbid someone should have an independent thought without someone policing it. Some of you take yourselves way too seriously…

  • Q

    “One line in particular “You the best, you deserve a crown bitch,” always gets to me. Wait, she’s a queen and a bitch?!”
    This!! Smh I’ve been thinking the same thing every time I hear it, since it’s come out. Really Sean? But he’s too short in reality for me to put the B.I.G in his name..