The B-Word Isn’t a Term of Endearment for Girls or Anyone Else

Bitch

Maybe we have feminists to thank. Maybe Lil’ Kim deserves the kudos. All I know is I remember a time when, if you called a woman a bitch, you needed to be able to duck as fast as you talked because she was gonna come for your tail, no questions asked. That one little five-letter word had the power to turn even mild-mannered, even-tempered ladies into, well, bitches. Raving mad ones at that.

Now it’s a 50/50 crap shoot whether you’ll even get a rise out of the target in question, especially when it’s directed at our girls. They’ve grown up all but desensitized to it. For them, the B may have has lost its sting.

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I remember when my gay guy bestie tried to greet me with “there’s my bitch” and got a swift and piercing side eye. If looks could kill, he might not have been dead, but he certainly would’ve been laid up in intensive care. That was the first and last time he referred to me that way. Maybe it was cool with the other chicks in his harem of straight homegirls, but not me. Then again, I guess I’m old school.

Around here, it’s in heavy rotation in gay teen culture along with that other word I just can’t bring myself to say that starts with a “c” and rhymes with “punt.” In fact, that’s what the girls’ wigs — those big, curly, Afro-esque monstrosities — are being nicknamed. Surely, if that nasty word has managed to get absorbed into daily reference the B-word, to them, is nothing to break a sweat over. 

Contrary to what Joy Behar, and oh so many other women contend, bitch isn’t a term of endearment. Amiga is. Dollface is. Pumpkin seed is. Bitch? Not so much. Just like I wish folks would retire the dreaded N-word once and for all, I can think of 1,000 other things I’d want to call my friends, starting with — oh, I don’t know — “friend.” Maybe not as spicy as they B bomb, but it gets the job done.  

I get how young women have developed a different perception of the word. Heck, even I’m not as deeply wounded by it as I used to be. Even though it’s still under my list of slurs and fightin’ words, sometimes I catch myself not being as flabbergasted by it as I was even 10 years ago.

I was sitting at a four-way stop in my neighborhood, everybody hesitating, looking at each other like doofuses, no one observing the right of way I’m sure we had to know at some point in order to get our learner’s permits. But I’m not one to let the grass grow under my tires, so I put my foot on the gas and started to pull off just as the car to my left did the same. She stopped short, glared at me and, through her open window, screamed out the window: “Bitch!”

I didn’t even flinch. I was probably five or six minutes down the street before I noticed that I hadn’t had a reaction at all.

You know, we blame society for devaluing women, but turning bitch into the go-to pet name doesn’t say much for what we think of ourselves. As much as it gets tossed around, there’s no wonder our girls are able to shake it off whenever they hear it. What the next big slander will be remains to be seen.

Bitch will, of course, always be a standard, a time-honored classic that transcends even language and cultural barriers. I’ve seen Mexican immigrants barely able to piece together two English sentences manage to call a lady in a Lowe’s parking lot the B word. And she, like so many of the rest of us, just turned her nose in the air, pushed her cart into motion and kept on rollin’.

Do you still find the B word offensive? Do you think its meaning has changed for young girls?

Image via JeraSue/Flickr

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