Bitches Unite!

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THE PLANK AUGUST 13, 2009

Bitches Unite!

In a NYT op-ed bemoaning the trivialization and sexism still plaguing our Secretary of State, Judith Warner references the ill-conceived joke from the WaPo's now-defunct "Mouthpiece Theater" that, basically, called Hillary a bitch. (Full disclosure: I'm close friends with the often inflammatory Mr. Milbank.)

Obviously, the gag was offensive, and it should have come as no shock to anyone at the WaPo when a bunch of women went ballistic over it. But the entire episode got me wondering if, more generally, it's time for women to reclaim the "bitch" label--perhaps even start taking pride in it.

Seriously.  As often as not, when men in particular call a woman a bitch, it simply
means she's a tough broad who isn't giving them their way, the poor
little dears. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace,
where the strong-male-leader vs. bitchy-female-leader double-standard
still holds sway. But it also plays a recurring role in relationship squabbles, when a guy thinks his woman is getting too uppity for his comfort. Regardless of which gender deploys it, the word tends to say more about the user's irritation with the existing power dynamic than anything else. (Think: I can't believe that bitch stole my boyfriend.)

I've never really minded being called a bitch. (Unlike, say, a cunt, which aims to reduce an entire person to a sexual organ--although, to be fair, I find "dickhead" pretty hysterical, so maybe I'm working my own double standard here.) Why? Because Tina Fey is dead-on with that whole bitches-get-stuff-done riff. The word may (as yet) be a slur, but it is a slur that implies strength or power or, yes, a willingness to be mean. I can think of countless worse characterizations of "the weaker sex."

Rise up, ladies: The next time someone calls you a bitch, just flash 'em your biggest, most sincere smile and say, "Thanks, Dickhead."

 

--Michelle Cottle

 

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