Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Bitch" Is Never a Compliment

Let's see, how does the t-shirt/bumper sticker/profile picture usually read?
"Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Hot/Hell of a Woman/etc." I think I have seen this
phrase for at least the last two decades, though I'm sure it's quite a bit older than
that. Pretty long-lasting defense mechanism.

So why am I writing this? Simple. Every time I see this, I have to smile and shake my
head. While yes, there are those rare occasions when being an outright hag becomes
necessity, wearing the term like a badge of honour is probably one of the most
limiting things any female can do to herself. Is it a sign of her strength? Not at
all. As the quote from Lady Margaret Thatcher states, "Being powerful is like being a
lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't." If you have to announce your
bitch-hood, you're telling the world "I am bitter/scared/a follower/attempting to
build up my self-image in two steps or less."
Do the t-shirts offend me? No. Does the degree of self-delusion offend me? No,
because we each have our own choices to make and a right to make those choices
without the judgement of others. Does that mean those choices are always made with
forethought and all the facts? Not in the least. None of us has ALL the answers, but
it is all too common to make choices based on the general consensus. Does profanity
offend me? Certainly not. Truth be told, I am fairly gifted in the vernacular of
sailors/longshoremen/truckers, but find very few moments in life that truly call for
I decided to write this piece after an experience not too long ago. Actually, it is
not the only time I have had this particular experience, so I find the theme worth
mentioning. In short, I was at lunch with a friend and passed a girl in the
aforementioned t-shirt. Apparently the size x-small pink cotton and rhinestone
billboard she wore with her low-rider jeans was also her suit of armour as she
stomped past us with a very out-of-place "Don't mess with me" look. We thought little
of it until she stopped to shoot us both a dirty look for noticing the t-shirt and to
challenge us about it. I could not help but smile after she threw her chest out to
make her point and demanded "What?"  So I asked "So are you?" I found it both amusing in its predictability and sad in its hipocrisy that she immediately became offended, hurled an expletive or two and stomped out of the shop. The girl behind the counter was amused beyond recovery. So I had to ask myself, and my friend, "If one proclaims to be something, why would they get angry when someone acknowledges it?"
The general consensus was that the shirt and the projected attitude had not done
their job. They failed to intimidate us and give her control of a situation that
really needed no controlling party. Perhaps with time and maturity, the need to wear
the shield will fade and the young woman (note I did not say "young lady"..that is
earned) will find her own approach to the world that does not include challenging
every stranger that passes. Perhaps she'll learn that a smile is not an agreement to
be a doormat and a polite word is never a sign of weakness.
Now I do understand the philosophy of removing the power of a word by simply seeing
it as a word. This conversation has been brought to me many times. The simple fact is
this: The word "bitch" is no less powerful by branding it all over one's body, web
site, car or other aspects of one's self that represents them to the world. It is an
act of defiance, focusing far more energy than is due on that one term, telling
everyone "I OWN this word/term/name, and you cannot hurt me." So this person has
branded themselves with a term they are still proving to be derrogatory. And you know the best part? No matter how much or how often a woman or girl calls herself a
"bitch" to prove she is ok with it, when a stranger, and often a friend, refers to
them by that term, they are not giving a compliment. But they have been handed an
open door to sling the insult. Seems rather counterproductive, no? Want to remove the
power of a word? Don't use it. It will soon become quite obvious that the word is not
even necessary, or even relevant.

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