Ladies of the Round Table

June 13, 2008

BITCH – A Strong Woman Displaying Stereotypically Male Qualities, Like Leadership and a Voice

Filed under: Uncategorized — goodhappenings @ 5:13 am

I’m not quite sure how to approach this topic, so I started by thinking about all the images the word “bitch” conjures up in my head, the adjectives that usually accompany it, and the other nouns with which I associate it.  I also considered the words’ meanings and many uses.  According to Wikepedia:

Bitch is a term for the female of a canine species in general. It is also frequently used as an offensive term for a malicious, spiteful, domineering, intrusive, or unpleasant person, especially a woman. This second meaning has been in use since around 1400.[1] When used to describe a male, it may also confer the meaning of “subordinate”, especially to another male, as in prison.[citation needed] Generally, this term is used to indicate that the person is acting outside the confines of their gender roles, such as when women are assertive or aggressive, or when men are passive or servile.

The first site that comes up when you google “bitch” is a feminist media organization’s website.  In describing why they chose “the B word” as their title, they state:

The writer Rebecca West, back in the day, said, “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” We’d argue that the word “bitch” is usually deployed for the same purpose. When it’s being used as an insult, “bitch” is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and don’t shy away from expressing them, and who don’t sit by and smile uncomfortably if they’re bothered or offended. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment, thanks.

We know that not everyone’s down with the term. Believe us, we’ve heard all about it. But we stand firm in our belief that if we choose to take the word as a compliment, it loses its power to hurt us. And if we can get people thinking about what they’re saying and why when they use the word, that’s even better.

And last, but certainly not least, “bitch” describes all at once who we are when we speak up, what it is we’re too worked up over to be quiet about, and the act of making ourselves heard.

So, to break it down, the word “bitch” is used for women who are displaying qualities that are stereotypically male, or men who are acting like stereotypical women.  Just as the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community has re-claimed the term “queer,” this new feminist movement seeks self-empowerment by embracing the term “bitch,” in attempt to take its power and spin it into a complimentary term indicating a “strong woman.”  Personally, I really like what this organization is trying to accomplish. 

There’s one woman who has worn the title of “Bitch,” which was slapped on her like a scarlet letter (ok, so her husband wore the “A”, but she wears the “B”) once she became more powerful than threatened men and women were comfortable with allowing.  Hillary Clinton comes to mind.  I don’t want to turn this into a political debate, just a discussion about gender inequality and the semantics of the B word.  But my point here is that I have heard so many people mindlessly say things like “I don’t know why I hate her.  It’s just visceral.  She’s just a BITCH.”  Totally uninformed, totally unsubstantiated, totally incapable of qualifying their reasons for their dislike.  It’s not that I think people should like her!  It’s that there are many people that cannot pinpoint WHY they don’t, except to reiterate that she is a “bitch,” and THAT is when people need to think about what they’re saying and why.  Is it because she’s strong, because subconciously that makes people uncomfortable, because she’s opinionated and vocal, because she’s insanely bright and doesn’t let anyone push her around, because she fights back and campaigns like a man, because she doesn’t bow down, or because her intellegence challenges people?  Because when men have those characteristics, it makes them leaders.

The “Beat the Bitch” campaign really infuriated me because regardless of your political views, I don’t think Hillary’s intelligence is debatable.  And that level of disrespect – reducing her to “the bitch” – is something we, as a society, could only get away with doing to a woman.  So yeah, I think if we could successfully turn the word “bitch” into something to be proud of, something synonymous with “strong woman,” we could agree that Hillary is one kick ass bitch.  But to thoughtlessly peg her as “just a bitch” discredits everything she has worked to become.  Regardless of whether or not you believe she is a good role model for females in today’s society, there is no disputing that this woman’s intellect is something to be respected.  Because if she had been born a man, no one would talk about what an “a$$hole” that domineering man is with all his brains, ambition, and initiatives.  Instead, he’d be revered as one hell of a leader.

Sorry, I just read this and realize how angry it is.  I suppose there’s some underlying anger in me when we discuss gender inequality.  And with the recent Hillary news, I just watched my shot at having health insurance walk out the door with her (yes, I’m ironically uninsured).  Not to turn this too political, but I’m proud that “the Bitch” made it as far as she did – she’d have been one hell of a president!  But hey, my new attitude is YES WE CAN!  How was that for a-political?  Best I could do guys, sorry;)



  1. I was wondering where this topic was going to go and you totally did it justice (which isn’t surprising to me since you are an incredible writer, thinker, person, etc.) Although I never had any intention of voting for Hillary, she is one hell of a lady and never backed down…for that I am very proud and equally amazed she made it as far as she did but because of her “bitch” mentality she did make it further than anyone expected.

    Comment by Michelle — June 14, 2008 @ 11:43 am | Reply

  2. I have always had a huge problem with anyone (including women) calling anyone a bitch. I think it is mostly because I have never bought into the idea that we can turn the meaning around. I will always think of it as derogatory.

    You do have an interesting point in that we don’t have an equivalent term for a male. There’s a-hole or something similar but that’s a general term. Bitch and c-nt are very specific, and very offensive. If you think about it, the only think that remotely touches it, and not, I believe, to the same extent, would be derogatory terms for a homosexual lifestyle – in other words, seeing a man as womanly. I want to write a post for this month’s topic and you’ve given me a lot to think about.

    Thanks Laurie!

    Comment by craftymommy — June 18, 2008 @ 2:04 am | Reply

  3. Laurie – I love this post. I love how you put it and I could not have written it better myself! Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Carissa — June 22, 2008 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

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