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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Stop trying to make ‘bitch’ happen

    Last week, I found myself in the eye of the storm of an epic girl fight. I felt like Principal Duvall in “Mean Girls,” watching girls scream “you bitch” at each other and not being able to do anything about it. This conflict occurred at Bagel Talk at the Park Student Union, and I couldn’t help but ask the antagonist why she felt the need to call another girl an “ugly bitch” in front of a ton of people just jonesing for bagel sandwiches. She said it was an act of empowerment, that she was reclaiming a word. I didn’t leave high school for this.

    I do not think that the so-called reclamation of the word “bitch” is helpful for anyone.

    There’s an institutionalized double standard between women and men regarding assertiveness. When little boys offer their opinions and speak out in class or other settings, they are characterized as showing leadership qualities and being assertive. When little girls do it, they are bossy. When these little girls grow up, they’re not labeled as bossy. They’re now bitches.

    These attitudes, and the words that support them, demean women and encourage people to belittle women who stand up for themselves and make their own way, further increasing gaps in our schools and workplaces.

    In 2008, when tensions were high and we were struggling as a nation to decide between our first black president or our first female president, it was easy to call Hillary Clinton a bitch for being assertive.

    Tina Fey, the then-Weekend Update correspondent for Saturday Night Live, agreed.

    “Let me say something about that,” Fey said. “She is [a bitch.] And so am I. Bitches get stuff done. That’s why Catholic schools use nuns instead of priests. … At the end of the year, you hated those bitches, but you knew the capital of Vermont.”

    Bitches do get stuff done, but that’s because these “bitches” are competent and capable women first and foremost. Celebration of the “bitch” has recently run rampant, popularized with the introduction of terminology like “boss ass bitch” and “bad bitch.” Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé are frequently referred to by these phrases, but even though the pejorative may now be glamorized, there is still an irrevocably negative connotation for these words and others.

    Carmen Love, a senior studying history and Spanish, thinks that using the word “bitch … normalizes” it.

    “It’s easier for [bitch] to slip out when it’s a part of your vocabulary,” Love said. “Yes, it’s just a word, but it’s not something that I want to be called, especially in an emotional or heated situation. … There’s an ugly emotion associated with [bitch] that, if experienced previously, cannot be totally removed.”

    As Carmen said, the emotional connotation to a word can never be fully removed from its usage. This is especially true when someone uses potentially offensive words that characterize a group they don’t belong to.

    When Janis Ian responds to Damian reading about himself in The Plastics’ Burn Book: “Too gay to function?” by saying “That’s only OK when I say it,” she produces a textbook example of appropriation of pejorative words.

    Just because you have one gay friend, or one black friend, or one female-identified friend doesn’t mean you can use triggering words in everyday conversation; they aren’t yours.

    But any usage, regardless of intent or who the user is, normalizes and makes words like bitch acceptable. I don’t want my sister, or my mother, or any of my female friends to feel like they need to be refer to themselves as bitches to be successful. I want them to feel like they need only be their kick-ass selves.

    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter @NiHavey

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