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What’s Wrong With Being Nice?

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When I used to surf on Blog Explosion and other similar sites I noticed an interesting trend. There were a good number of blogs that had the word bitch in the title. Furthermore, I also noticed in several blogs that the writer would often refer to herself as a bitch.

This phenomenon is of course not exclusive to the blog world. Just as I've seen numerous T-shirts with the word "Princess", "Cutie", or "Brat" emblazoned across the front, I've also seen a lot of "Bitch" T-shirts over the years. And a search of books on Amazon turned up titles such as Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch, and You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing.

I'm a little confused. Did I miss something? Since when has referring to oneself as a bitch become so commonplace, positive, acceptable, and cool?

Merriam-Webster Online defines 'bitch' as:

1 : the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2 a : a lewd or immoral woman, b : a malicious, spiteful, or domineering woman — sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3 : something that is highly objectionable or unpleasant
4 : COMPLAINT

Similarly, Dictionary.com defines 'bitch' as:

n.
1. A female canine animal, especially a dog.
2. Offensive.
1. A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing.
2. A lewd woman.
3. A man considered to be weak or contemptible.
3. Slang. A complaint.
4. Slang. Something very unpleasant or difficult.

v. Slang bitched, bitch·ing, bitch·es

v. intr.
To complain; grumble.

v. tr.
To botch; bungle. Often used with up.

n.
1: an unpleasant difficulty; "this problem is a real bitch"
2: a woman who is thoroughly disliked; "she said her son thought Hilary was a bitch" [syn: cunt]
3: informal terms for objecting; "I have a gripe about the service here" [syn: gripe, kick, beef, squawk]
4: female of any member of the dog family v : say mean things [syn: backbite]

Finally, Urban Dictionary defines 'bitch' as:

1. n. Female dog
2. n. (vulgar) Woman who for one reason or another deserves a good bitch-slap
3. v. To talk or act as such a woman
4. n. (coarse) Woman who sleeps around

(1) Word used to describe the act of whining excessively.
(2) Person who rides specifically in the middle of a front-seatting only car meant for 2 passengers or less.
(3) Modern-day servant; A person who performs tasks for another, usually degrading in status.
(4) Term used to exclaim hardship.

I repeat my question: With this word as the carrier of so many negative meanings, why do some women insist on referring to themselves in this manner?

It appears that there is a common misunderstanding among some women. They think the word 'bitch' refers to someone strong, independent, aggressive, sexy, and sassy. They think that a bitch is a woman with attitude and style, a woman unafraid to speak her mind and who can hold her own with the big boys. But as you can see, none of the three dictionaries I referenced mention these more positive attributes.

The word 'bitch' was originally (and is still) used to describe a female DOG. I fail to understand why some women would want to refer to themselves as animals. It's a derogatory term, for a man or woman. It's not as bad as 'cunt', but it's bad enough, and nowadays it gets lightly tossed around as if it was a neutral word.

I'm aware that language and word meanings are constantly evolving. For example, the word 'gay' used to be only a synonym for 'happy'. I also understand the concept of taking a perjorative word and using it to refer to oneself in a feeble attempt to minimize its negative connotation. Consider how some black people (especially in rap music) constantly refer to themselves by the "N" word.

At the same time, however, calling yourself a bitch does not necessarily erase the meaning of the word. Others who hear it will still think of the original, negative definitions of the word and thus will tend to apply it to the person who refers to herself (or himself) as such. For example, if I hear a woman refer to herself as a "bitch from hell", I would immediately think that she's unfriendly and hard to get along with, and I'm sure that I wouldn't be the only one.

Then again, perhaps that is what some women want others to think of them. Perhaps some women call themselves bitches to let people know that they aren't very nice, they have an attitude, and don't get along with everybody. But since when is being nice a bad thing? I'm no Pollyanna and I don't care for Pollyanna types either, but what is wrong with people thinking that a woman is nice? Does it mean that she's weak, helpless, or naive? Hardly. There are millions of strong, confident, and highly intelligent women who are also kind, friendly, and cheerful. The two types aren't mutually exclusive.

Thoughts?

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About Toni Schwartz

  • http://elsaelsa.com Elsa

    I agree with you. I have no idea why someone would want to take this kind of label and slap it on themselves. I guess people just feel they have to identify themselves as *something, even if it’s negative. Great post.

    A WOMAN can hold her own with a man.

  • Melita Teale

    Yes, it is interesting.

    I think lots of women call themselves bitches because they’re trying to beat the rest of the world to the punch. Feeling that as soon as they’re visibly strong enough, people will start calling them that, so it’s best to use it first to take away its sting as an insult.

    Which I reckon is a bit of putting the cart before the horse – doesn’t make any putative insulting parties responsible or accountable for their insults.

    Sort of like a stupid kid in the playground saying “I know I am, but what are you?” when he meant to say “I know you are, but what am I?”

  • Mohjho

    Could a woman be a nice bitch?

  • Zedd

    I think its used for shock value. The question to me is who are the parents of these adolescents (I’m assuming these people are young).

  • http://www.noface4film.com/ Kaonashi

    Thanks for all the comments everyone. To answer Zedd’s question, if you’re referring to the bloggers who refer to themselves as bitches and even use the word as a title in their blog, actually these are full-grown, adult women- not teenagers. They sometimes talk about their jobs, husbands and their children, so it’s a safe assumption that they’re adults. Strange, isn’t it?

  • Zedd

    I suppose what I meant is that they are young adults, most of them.

    While we tout independence at 18, the truth is you are what you were raised to be.

    I think this is the real crux.

  • Nancy

    I suppose it’s the same kind of negative/aggressive thinking that moves some black people to term themselves ‘niggas’. Both words are offensive & should be deep-sixed.

  • http://www.noface4film.com/ Kaonashi

    Zedd- You have a point.

    Nancy- I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Martin Lav

    “A WOMAN can hold her own with a man.”

    This comment here is part of the problem or at least a symptom. When women constantly try to measure up to men, then invariably take the low road right along with us. I mean the recent beatings on YouTube posted by the 3 females thugs is a good example.
    Women have lost their own identity by trying to become like men.
    Not pretty is it?
    Men in turn have become confused about their own identities and more and more don’t know what their roles are either.

  • Amanda S.

    Martin,

    When women try to measure up to men they invariably take the low road with men? I think the comment made by the original poster had more to do with equality than confusion about the “gender roles”.

    Times they are a changing: I am the mother of two with a six figure income, and my college educated husband is a stay at home father to our two little girls.

    While we’ve “come along way” I can still acknowledge that there are likely to be men employed within my company doing the exact same job, with the exact same performance ratings who will earn more than me annually, simply because they have a penis instead of a vagina.
    Pretty isn’t it?