Except in reference to female dogs – and even then self-control is advisable – it’s time to stop using the word “bitch.” A good place to start is this campus, which is supposedly progressive but where the word is said often. It’s said in Angell Hall, dorms and this paper’s newsroom without a single turned head. A few examples: “She’s just being a bitch,” “Stop acting like a bitch” and “He’s a bitch.”
A better place to start this word’s demise is this generation, which is sufficiently colorblind to put a black candidate over the top but too resentful toward women who challenge traditional gender roles to stop casually calling his opponent a bitch. For example: “I can’t believe that bitch won Ohio,” or “Did you hear what that bitch just said about NAFTA?”
I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal, a cloistered academic or a radical feminist. I’ve never taken a women’s studies class, and I don’t own a single Hillary Clinton bumper sticker. I’m just a regular person who’s asking other regular people to join him on the right side of history.
It wasn’t that long ago that words like “nigger” and “faggot” became unacceptable. On this campus at least, using either in the same way we use bitch is universally unimaginable. The word “faggot,” while still popular in junior high school, was enough to get Isaiah Washington dropped from the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” after he used it on the set. If he had substituted “bitch” for “faggot,” would he still be on the show? Probably.
It’s foolish to compare the horridness of certain words, but few reasonable people would argue against treating “bitch” with the same disdain as the handful of other upper-echelon hateful words. But, it’s a mystery why the word doesn’t taste as bad when it rolls off of our tongues.
I can already imagine the arguments on this column’s online comment thread, so I’ll respond to some of them in advance:
It’s just a word.
Language has power; it affects us consciously and subconsciously. The word bitch isn’t a problem because it’s offensive or because it may make some women feel bad when they hear it. It’s a problem because it perpetuates dangerous gender stereotypes, the same notions that result in tangible discrimination like male-female wage disparity. Its common usage makes it seem like it’s a bad thing for a woman to be assertive or strong. For instance, it makes it seem like it’s OK not to vote for Hillary Clinton because she doesn’t fit old-fashioned views of a woman’s role in society.
Isn’t this just overzealous political correctness?
No. I’m not proposing that we pretend the word doesn’t exist. As you may have noticed, it appears often throughout this column. It’s just not OK to refer to anyone derogatorily as a bitch.
Even if the person you’re referring to is a guy?
Even then, because the word is still rooted in prejudice and misogyny. When you’re calling a guy a bitch, you’re basically calling him a woman. That shouldn’t be an insult – just like calling someone gay or black or Jewish shouldn’t be an insult.
Haven’t you used it regularly in private conversation just like everyone else, you hypocrite?
Yes, but I stopped when I realized how unacceptable it is. I’m no different from you, and your life will be no worse when you stop using it.
Shouldn’t women try to reclaim ownership of the word and change its meaning?
Maybe, but I doubt it will work. A better strategy is to trumpet how unacceptable it is, noting its obvious ties to misogyny. No matter what feminists decide it should mean, it will still connote ill-tempered women, portraying their lack of submissiveness as a negative.
Why go after “bitch”? Aren’t “cunt,” “whore” and a few other words just as bad?
Yes, but “bitch” is more ubiquitous. It’s also seen as more acceptable. Watch network television for an hour and count the number of times it’s used. I don’t think any words should be prohibited from network TV, but I do think a healthy society should balk at the usage of “bitch” if it also protests the usage of racist words.
You’re a prude.
Fine, but in this case a little prudence is necessary.