By Madeline Kirsch
Throughout a winter term that was especially dramatic for me, I often heard reiterations of the same word over and over.
“He apologized for bitching me out,” my friend said about a roommate’s hookup.
Several weeks ago, two people I know were fighting, and one looked to me and another friend for assurance that she was in the right. “I don’t think you were being bitchy at all,” I said, instantly regretting it.
Whenever a group of people and I are discussing who on campus we dislike, the word “bitch” comes up a lot. I hear it used by males and females alike, both with disturbing frequency.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to stop saying it. I’ve been called one more than enough times, and I see no real validity in the insult. But it’s so ingrained in our culture that it feels uncomfortable to ask people around me to stop using it.
At Union, and most places I’ve heard it, the word’s meaning isn’t the same for men and women. Our society is androcentric, so a football player telling his teammate not to “bitch out” while drinking or at practice or whatever—the activity does’t matter—he’s using it to mean the equivalent of “pussy.” He’s telling that person to stop being weak, to “man up,” because the worst thing you can call a man is a woman.
And the worst thing (according to consensus by my Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies class) you can call a woman is a slut. Of course, you can also tell her that she’s being too masculine, she’s voicing her opinion in a way that you don’t see fit. Whether she’s simply being assertive, complaining or legitimately yelling at someone, there’s a good chance she’ll be called a bitch.
All of this boils down to one thing: this country, even its smart young women, are afraid of women who aren’t afraid to say what they mean.
Why don’t we say that it was rude of our friend to blow us off? Insensitive, callous, insulting? I’d love to hear that frat bro behind me in line for brunch say that a pledge simply had too much to drink and passed out, not that he “bitched out.”
I know I’m not the first person to ever talk about this word, and I know I won’t be the last. But we have to stop saying it. Subjugating people through language won’t ever get us to a place where we stop comparing people to another, less desirable group of people.
Habits aren’t easy to break, but the next time you find yourself about to say “bitch,” think of me and try to reconsider your word choices.