How would you define a “bitch:” a female dog, an irritating girl, a powerful woman? Although evasive, “bitch” is most commonly used as a derogatory reference to women. However, women and girls alike must realize that we aren’t small, pestering people; we’re strong and confident, we’re smart and we are powerful, and that’s precisely why we’re bitches. We’re bitches in the new sense of the word: independent, badass, unafraid women asserting ourselves, getting what we’ve worked for and what we deserve. While once a term for prostitutes, “bitch” has a new, essential meaning for modern women (Justin). Today, bitches are confident, successful, individualistic women. We can no longer allow stereotypes of women as subordinate to penetrate our daily language. The word “bitch” has been used as violent language in the past to discourage women from asserting themselves as strong, commanding, and independent people, but now we’re taking it back.
Bitch can take on a variety of meanings based on context, some positive and some negative. Greek origins of the word explain “bitch” as having a long history of demeaning women and connoting weakness with femininity (Bayley). Now, in its insulting contexts, the term is used to describe women as irritating or unpleasant. Further, “bitch” is used violently in hip-hop and rap culture to depict women as sexual objects. The word “bitch” dominates rap language and derogatively categorizes women as prostitutes, and generalizing all women as promiscuous (Justin). In one popular song from 2001, rap artist Ludacris yells, “Move bitch, get out the way, get out the way bitch, get out the way” (Bayley). We cannot interpret these lyrics as anything but derogatory toward women. These lyrics exemplify how “bitch” can be used as violent and destructive language in certain cultural arenas. Although “bitch” is still used violently by some, women have made huge progress in redefining what it means to be a bitch.
“Bitch” has become a transient swear word, devoid of meaning – indicated only by context. Today, bitches are strong women. While some continue to use “bitch” as a violent insult, others reclaim the word by using it interchangeably with positive descriptions of women. One example of this is a popular dieting book-turned-movement, “Skinny Bitch”. A New York Times Bestseller, the Skinny Bitch diet is not the only cultural phenomena making “bitch” popular, or positive. Women also read self-help books called “The Bitch Switch,” drink varieties of Sassy Bitch Wine, and knit at Stitch ‘n Bitch clubs (Bayley, Williams). Furthermore, these “bitch” titles specifically target and appeal to women. We’re self-identifying as bitches and redefining women as un-intimidated and unstoppable.
Bitches are no longer women outcast by society. As many agree, it is nearly impossible for a woman to not be a bitch. One author eloquently challenges society to define a woman who is not considered a bitch:
What is a non-bitch? She is like the Unicorn, a myth, a dream that men have dreamed, the ultimate in compliant beauty, who never gives a fella any trouble. She is always nice and understanding, never angry, doesn’t argue, doesn’t protect herself, her property or her children. She is always complimentary, remembers every detail about everything, never hurts feelings intentionally or unintentionally, always serves others first, always smiles and does what everyone asks of her, all the time, with no complaint. I’m sure I’ve left something out but since I’m a bitch, I’m allowed to make mistakes. (Snortland)
A bitch is not one specific thing, and is defined by idealized versions of women and their behaviors.
Nowadays, attempting to use bitch violently is ineffective because the word has lost its derogatory meaning, largely thanks to its colloquial use in society. “Bitch” is used to describe women so often that it has lost any substantial meaning. As aforementioned, the word once represented women who were considered overly sexual. However, in today’s culture, using “bitch” as an insult for women is opting for the default, lacking a better, more descriptive insult that could actually offend us. Women are labeled “bitches” when they don’t do what other people want. Consider the example of a man calling Ellen Snortland a “bitch” when she “very politely declined to let him cut” in line at the grocery store (Snortland). You can decide for yourself, but I don’t consider this rude or unreasonable, and know many men who would have done the same thing as Snortland. Yet, because she is a woman, the default insult is to call her a bitch. In today’s day, “bitch” can mean anything, which is ironically why it is becoming less and less insulting with each use. Now that we’ve all been called bitches, likely in multiple different scenarios, we’re no longer trying so hard to disassociate from this stereotypical term. Modern women care less about being bitches; it’s so common and casual to be one, or to be called one, that we are not phased and can’t be bothered to dwell on such petty insults.
Some may wonder if we should be eliminating the use of the word to combat negativity towards women and assert our non-bitchiness, our non-marginalization as a gender. But women are not simply accepting their roles as bitches; rather, we are changing what it means to be one. With female presidential candidates and celebrity role models like Beyoncé, women are more confident, powerful, and inspiring now than ever before. In the Bitch Manifesto, written in the 1960s during second-wave feminism, author Joreen sets the precedent for the freedom we bitches enjoy today:
As Bitches begin to take jobs, or participate in organizations, they are rarely content to sit quietly and do what they are told. A Bitch has a mind of her own and wants to use it. She wants to rise high, be creative, assume responsibility. She knows she is capable and wants to use her capabilities. (Joreen)
Bitches are women increasingly motivated to be successful, intelligent, independent, and, oh yea, look great while doing it. We are no longer held back by fears of being “bitches” in the eyes of our counterparts or society.
Let’s keep being bitches; let’s say “bitch” whenever we want. Doing so, we won’t degrade ourselves or other women; we’re redefining a word that once hurt us. Today, we use bitch in a new way, as “a rallying cry, a signal to women that these things that have hurt us can be changed for the better” (Bayley).We are no longer that “bitch” who’s being told to “get out the way”. Now we are “bad bitches,” who run cities, head companies, and oversee men. We are women unafraid to redefine who and what society has historically perceived us to be.
So, I invite you to call me a bitch. You can call me a bitch for cutting you off in traffic, but I wont be phased by your lack of insulting vocabulary. I’m a modern day bitch: a smart, hard-working, opinionated woman, and I’m not afraid to be who I am for you or the entire world to see. I welcome you to call me a bitch because of my high-profile job, my standout resume, or let’s not forget- my wardrobe. So call me a bitch, because it’s all about how you interpret it, and I’m damn proud to be one.
Bayley, Clare. “Bitch: A History.” Clare Bayley. N.p., 2 June 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.
Joreen. “The Bitch Manifesto – Documents from the Women’s Liberation Movement.”
The Bitch Manifesto. Pittsburg: Know, Inc., Apr. 1997. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
Justin. “B*TCH, PLEASE! How to Use the Word “Bitch” Correctly.” Real Life English
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Rhiannon, Payne. “On Kanye West, Feminism, And The Word ‘Bitch’.” Feminspire.
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Snortland, Ellen. “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch.” On The Issues 4.2 (1995): 60. ProQuest. Web. 9
Williams, Marcus A. “There’s a Time and Place to be a ‘Bitch’.” Afro – American Red Star: 2. Nov 2008. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2014 .