Posted by: kathleenjustis12 | February 5, 2015

Bad Bitches or Bitch as Bad?

https://www.ucbcomedy.com/media/1406

***Warning some graphic and controversial content***

In the reading for today, February 5, 2015, Unsettled Moments in Settled Discourse: Women Superintendents’ Experiences of Inequality, Brunner states, “It was when the women talked about using or defining power in the masculine way-as over others-that they talked about the danger of being viewed negatively, as bitches, as unsuccessful” (Brunner, 2000, p.89).  According to Brunner, fifteen years ago women were still visibly insulted at the prospect of being referred to as bitches, and believed that the term was synonymous with being unsuccessful.  The perception of the word bitch has begun to change, especially over the past decade.  This is not to say that the term bitch is always a positive term, in fact, it remains very insulting to be called a bitch by others, especially by men.  Further, the term is still used to disenfranchise women and to perpetuate male superiority within society. Rather, I am arguing that the term bitch has been transformed, and instead than being associated with a lack of success or failure, women who are assertive, dynamic, and confident tend to be labeled as bitches.  In fact, it is commonplace for women to refer to themselves, and close friends, as “bad bitches” and to use the acronym HBIC (Head Bitch In Charge).  Additionally, the frequency with which the term ‘bitch’ is used has also increased significantly.

One of the most famous Saturday Night Live sketches (visible in the link posted above; most relevant part part begins at 1:25), depicts Tina  min and Fey and Amy Poehler reflecting on Hilary Clinton.  Clinton is a political leader, known for her direct nature, ability maneuver in the uppermost tier of American politics, and for helping to promote the idea that women are able to excel, even in the most male dominated professions. She has held positions as the Secretary of State and as a United States Senator.  Despite her accomplishments (or perhaps because of them) Clinton is often referred to a bitch.  In the SNL skit, Tina Fey says, “…[Clinton] is [a bitch].  And so am I. And so is this one [referring to Amy Poehler].  And ya know what, bitches get stuff done.”    As the perception of the word bitch has changed, so has its prominence and use in American pop culture.  Women in movies, television shows, songs, magazine articles, and blogs often use the term without giving thought to its possible negative consequences.  I often use the term (if that wasn’t evident by the number of times that I have used it in this blog post).  On my cell phone, Siri even refers to me as “The self-appointed/uncontested baddest bitch since ever Katie J.”

Do you feel that the word ‘bitch’ has changed in its meaning and perception from the connotation described in Brunner’s article?  If you do believe that it has changed, how do you think that the new meaning has and will continue to effect women, specifically with regards to feminism?  Additionally, do you think that the increase in the use of the term bitch will have positive or negative consequences for the feminist movement?  Why?


Responses

  1. I think the word “bitch” has developed different meanings throughout the years. I’ve heard “bitch” being used to describe a women who is arrogant and mean, yet on the other side of the spectrum I have also heard people refer to their best girl friends as their “bitches”. The drastic differences in the connotations this word has creates difficulties when it comes to communicating with one other. For example, if a man in a higher level job position called me a bitch I would be very offended because I would interpret the use of the word as a way in which he relays his dominance over me. If a girl friend calls me a bitch I would not be offended because I would view it in a more joking manner. Finally, if another women, I am not close with, calls me a bitch, I would view it in a negative manner because it sends the message that she thinks I am worth nothing and am mean.

    These very different connotations essentially make the use of the word “bitch” acceptable in any circumstance. Additionally, the wide use of the word sends mixed messages to feminist movements because if other women are calling each other bitches, why would it be unacceptable to for men to call women bitches?

  2. I agree with Hannah. I think the word “bitch” has expanded into different meanings throughout the years. I think the difference is extremely prominent in our generation, and the generation under us. On multiple occasions my friends have referred to me as a “bitch” as a term of “endearment” or to make a joke. But when a man, or a woman who I do not know calls me a bitch I take extreme offense to it. There are many connotations with the term.

    In fact, I recall a specific time when I was called a “bitch” by another woman and had a verbal fight against her. It was during a soccer game, and I was playing very well, and beating a girl down the sideline with every pass I received. She was mad that I was coming out on top and doing better, that she physically pushed me and told me to “quit being a little bitch, and play the game”. I recall telling her she needed to settle down and check herself and her language before she spoke to me. The parents on the sidelines as well as the referee got involved. It was ridiculous.

    Why do women call each other bitches? Out of jealously? That’s the only reason I can think of for why that girl called me one.

    I feel that women who excel at what they do should not be referred to as bitches, I think a different term should be used because of the history of negative connotations that follow it.

  3. When reading this article another Tina Fey quote comes to mind. In the famous movie, Mean Girls, in one of the only serious scene to directly provide a moral, Tina Fey tells the young women gathered in the gymnasium, “they have to stop calling each other bitches and sluts because all it’s doing is making it okay for the guys to call them bitches and sluts”. To this point, although the terms has recently taken on a positive connotation among the female close friend community, the negative connotation of the word is still very prevail today.

    I think it is important to note that Tine Fey is acting on the “defensive” side when addressing the slander against Hilary Clinton. Bitch with a negative connection was used against a fellow woman and Tina Fey is turning it into a positive. This is much different then women using bitch negatively to other women or positively to themselves. For women to be alright with using the word to describe other women and then to get upset when men use to describe women is very hypocritical. I believe that no matter the connotation that if you use the word to describe someone else then it is only making it okay for them to use that words to describe you and other women.

  4. As a man I wasn’t aware of the positive connotation that was possible behind the word bitch. I had never heard it used in that manner before, only as a form of insult. As such I know I don’t about other men, but i believe that they aren’t extremely aware of this fact and when using it use it as an insult.
    The reasons behind this are first, my guess is that women do not communicate this to men. The second reason is that men don’t either watch the same content as women or don’t get the same take aways.

  5. This concept is so interesting. I am one of Tina Fey’s biggest supporters and think she is an incredible woman making a name for women everywhere, especially in the entertainment industry. The fact that she used the word “bitch” though is really interesting – she made a great point, but I hate to see that she is giving into society’s use of the term. In a perfect world, that word wouldn’t be used for good or bad things, despite the fact it really is just a word. I do think “bitch” carries many different meanings with it, but I think the root of the word has never changed. But the change in the positive direction can only be a good thing because it’s taking a negative word and putting a positive spin on it. While I don’t think it’s necessarily helping the feminist movement, I don’t think it’s hurting it either. I think it’s a good thing that women have been able to take this derogatory word and take it on as their own and basically say, “if this is the worst you can call me, and it’s not a horrible thing and it’s the truth, do that and I don’t care”. So, it is definitely an empowering stance, which is ultimately a good thing.

  6. It’s quite odd if you sit back and realize how profound one word can actually be. Usually I’m pretty sure about which side of the spectrum I fall to when it comes to my own opinions, but in this case I’m just not sure. On one hand, I find the tactic that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey smart and witty, of course. They used the negativity of the term ‘bitch’ and used it to their advantage with sarcasm and humor. I appreciate how they’re trying to change the stigma of the word, while combating the complete negativity that the word entails. I’m just unsure if the negativity from the word will ever go away, and instead, just create a more blurred definition of the word than we currently have. On the other hand, I do understand where women feel it’s just flat out inappropriate as well since the original meaning for the slang term (not a female dog) is meant disrespectfully and as an insult. Instead of bitch, maybe the word boss? I’m just not sure where our diction will go in the future, especially in leadership. Will bitches be the new bosses? I just can’t imagine ever calling Hillary Clinton a bitch in a term of endearment, when I see her as just a strong, independent leader, regardless of sex.


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