Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Bitch by Any Other Name

is still a woman.

Folks, today I'm going to bitch about 'bitch' and its usage.

First things first: bitch (bich) >n. 1. A female canine animal 2. Offensive Slang A spiteful or overbearing woman. 3. Slang A complaint. 4. Slang Something very unpleasant or difficult. >v. Slang To complain [ OE biece] --bitch'y adj.

Alright. That's how The American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition) defines the word that has become the default insult spat at women while one is thinking of all the different ways to say 'whore' and 'slut'. Bitch. Stupid bitch. Crazy bitch. You bitch. Beeotch. What a bitch. Shut up bitch.

In recent years, under the Grrrl Power charter, women have claimed this aspersion as a badge of honor. "Yeah, that's right. I'm a bitch and proud of it. You heard me. I am a bitch!" Apparently under the impression that bitch is a label connotating importance, a titular distinction on par with knighthood, women of all ages now relish this particular derision. Puhlease.

I'll give you a minute to glance again at the definition of the word.


OK. What do you call a spiteful and overbearing man? Spiteful and overbearing.

I can't find an older dictionary around the house, but I am almost positive that the definintion of bitch was at one time--and I'm paraphrasing here, a complaining woman. The association between bitch and complaining isn't news to any of you. Discontented women have been thorns in the sides of men for ages. Religious texts, from the Bible to the Vedas to Confucian philosophy, exhort women to refrain from complaining, and in various passages of these liturgical propaganda, the authors and redactors find many opportunities to complain about complaining women.

Men who like their women compliant and mute have construed the slightest utterance as insubordination. They hear it as an affront to their authority. A backhand across the face is universal sign language for "shut up bitch!" and in fact, is called bitchslapping.

Ladies, are you still feeling high and mighty?

Historically, women, as political non-persons, were forced to rely upon fathers, husbands, lords, pimps--any male to whom they belonged--for everything from food and shelter to jurisprudence. We couldn't just improve our circumstances by setting to task. A woman had to petition, persuade, or bribe a man into accomodating her request. And when he ignored or forgot or refused to attend the matter, a woman couldn't just say, "well I'll do it myself." That wasn't an option. So she did the only thing she was entitled to do. She reminded him. A lot.

She had to bitch, because she was powerless to remedy the situation herself. A bitch, two-hundred years ago, fifty years ago, or even today, wields no power. A woman who believes that whining is a means to an end, exacts no real influence. And today's empowered gals have no excuse for bellyaching about a problem when they can tackle the issue with their own little hands.

But, if you are a woman who asserts herself and walks her abundant talk, you dear, are not a bitch. You are self-possessed yet not self-serving, dynamic but not domineering. OK, maybe a little domineering. But you understand that bitching isn't moving something; it's chafing at it. And you move things--because you can, and because it pleases you.

Now will you shut the hell up?



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