Does this use of the word bitch offend you?:
What about this one?:
The top image is a quote I have in my bedroom. Kate Nash said it. It’s not the real quote. The real quote asks you to call yourself “a badass bitch from hell,” but the scared ex-Catholic girl force in me is strong sometimes. I’m just a badass bitch made from the golden nectar of goddess mother earth, Kate…
The second use of the word bitch is an advertisement that was in Outlook magazine, Columbus’ fantastic pub that reports on issues affecting the LGBT community and its allies. The ad is to promote HighBall Halloween, a Columbus Halloween party that’s way fun by Halloween party standards.
There has been some ado about this ad being offensive and sexist. I don’t get it.
Bitch has many meanings. Here are uses of the word Bitch a HighBall ad that would have been likely to offend me because their intent would be to demean and rooted in the violence of the word:
“Come to HighBall. Don’t be a little bitch.”
“HighBall Halloween: There will be so many drunk bitches here to fuck!”
I understand where the angry perspective comes from. The use of bitch in that ad is an appropriation of gay men’s use of it. But even when saying bitch is used as a means to assume power over it, the word is indeed loaded with dehumanizing intent because of its history of being used to put down women (and gay men or any man who reveals a feminine trait).
Eliminating a word from our lexicon is unrealistic, though. Despite many insightful arguments against this point, I really believe there *is* power to be found in dismantling a word, repurposing it for power, creating a new use of it to be entered into Urban Dictionary for generations to come. It’s like we’re guerrilla marketing the word. We use the tools of the master’s house because it’s what we were given and we found a way to fuck with the master by using his tools—he’ll listen a lot more that way… or feel just as powerless with it as he makes us feel when he uses it against us. I think that’s awesome. I think it levels the playing field. And I think that’s a very resourceful way of fixing a problem.
Saying we should never use the word bitch even when it’s a means of empowerment is one-sided at best, classist at worst. It’s like telling poor people to not eat fatty foods even when it’s all they can afford or find available near them. In the gritty day-to-day life of most people, this word is everywhere and trying to shame people into never using it is too academic for something so personal. Regulating language is a move of the elite.
The other day my friend asked me if a woman we grew up with who just got married “was slutty” in high school. I nearly laughed out loud. Not at her, but at how I now felt about that term that once felt incredibly powerful. “Slutty” was a tramp stamp of a word to be avoided in my small town high school. I thought, after she asked me this, “if by slutty you mean having sex outside of wedlock and exploring her sexuality before she was of legal drinking age, then yes, she was slutty. And so was I.”
Slut was a term of endearment for my friends and I during that time. Having been called it enough or become so tired of living in such fear of its label, “hey slut” became powerful because we were mocking how ridiculous and one-sided that word was—we dressed it up to make it less scary, like imagining a crowd is wearing nothing but their underwear. Problematic, sure, but that’s the way social struggles go; calling it sexist would be completely missing the complexity of a young female’s struggle against it and instead just impose even more guilt for having used it in the first place. We refused to use the term as a means of debasing another woman though, and if a guy called a girl slutty we would call the dude she hooked up with slutty right back, even though that felt futile. Never would I call a woman a slut in a derogatory way. It was all about intent.
The intent of this ad was not to demean women. The HighBall ad is an empowered use of the word bitch. To me it says, “You may have been called a bitch before and we fucking love you for it.”
Because I have seen and heard the word bitch used so powerfully and positively (bad bitch, bossy bitch, fierce bitch, you my girl bitch, Bitch magazine), it means less to me when it is used to impose a sense of violence. So even if I were to get called a bitch tomorrow by someone trying to make me feel bad about myself and “put me in my place,” it wouldn’t hurt as bad. I can counteract songs about bitches and hoes with songs about owning and loving everything about myself that makes me a bitch or a hoe. More of that, please!
Realigning our perspective of and thoughtfully using a word to make it work for us and rendering powerless the people who use it negatively is not blanket sexism in my book. I think it’s smart. And taking a powerful or fun use of it and deeming it sexist because it is simply using a word that is often used to subjugate sets up a side that is unattainable and alienates a whole facet of the feminist and ally community. You’re just giving it even more power to be violent.