“You’re a bitch.” The statement insinuates a negative connotation that has been deeply conditioned into the social interaction between genders. Those who rationalize the term as only associated with a female dog miss the point entirely. Women offended by the word are seen as overly sensitive and labeled as “uptight.” The remainder who fight back are branded as “bitch.”
I recall several instances when a guy asked me out, I turned him down, and was presented with my new title: Bitch. This identity followed me whenever I expressed autonomy and confidence in any opinion I held. I eventually understood the word to be an oppressive tool insecure men used to reestablish their problematic masculinity. Reclaiming Critical Analysis: The Social Harms of “Bitch” by James Madison University says “[bitch] has been used to dehumanize women for a long time.” Even though the insecure intentions behind it are obvious, “bitch cannot be understood apart from its place in society in which girls and women of all ages are members of a sex class that is subordinate to men.”
Words can deflate us. The power of “bitch” to deflate a woman’s self-esteem should be a concern within college culture. This is the time when a young woman finds her identity, builds confidence, and uses her education to turn aspirations into realities. In an informal survey of female students at Syracuse University, 83% had been called “bitch” for expressing an unpopular opinion, standing up for themselves, or simply saying “no.” When asked if they would be okay with a man calling them “bitch,” 89% responded no. One woman felt that the word is oppressive towards women and “has underlying symbolic violence and is inherently sexist.” Another believed that ‘bitch’ “is more offensive than oppressive.” The ultimate consensus: ain’t nobody got time for sexist putdowns.
It was clear from this survey that “bitch” is a word so familiar in the male vocabulary that its offensive nature has been hidden behind a facade of normalcy. Women need to reclaim the word from male culture. The term may initially seem oppressive, but underlying meanings insinuate otherwise. Normally, when a woman is called “bitch” it is because she is outspokenly advocating for herself. Women first need to recognize that receiving the title “bitch” equates to having confidence, autonomy, and self-respect. It’s also important to combat the word by embracing it as a compliment, disarming degrading intentions. Lastly, women need to support one another in this process and not use “bitch” to put down their own lady neighbors. In doing so, the word can be transformed from one of oppression to one of empowerment.
by Abby Welles