Jul 21, 2010

Bitchin' Post

Bitchin. This term is used as either positive adjective or negative verb, generally speaking. The noun bitch used to be a negative word too but I’ve noticed lately that it’s gaining a more positive context. Which makes me wonder, when did it become cool to be a bitch? I’m all for strong, positive female role models but the lines between “strong” and “bitch” are at times becoming blurred. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It comes up when I’m writing fiction for teens and I want to develop characters that are positive, believable role-models. Also, when I think about my own life and how much unexpected satisfaction I’ve found in becoming a stay-at-home mother and wife, it makes me reconsider my previous notions of success and who positive female role-models are.

We often admire the women who have the most power, but why? Especially if that power has been gained through manipulation, deception and undermining the abilities of others – what’s admirable about that? Don’t praise someone for being rude and nice-it-up by saying they are just “honest” or “straight-forward” or “they tell it how it is”. Here’s straight-forward for you: Bitches are mean. Speak your mind and express how you feel but don’t do it at the expense of others’ feelings. There’s nothing wrong with being considerate of others. Can’t women who are passive, non-confrontational, considerate or kind be considered ‘strong’ role-models too?

I think positive female role-models are the ones who carefully choose their battles. I think they are the intelligent, self-aware, caring women who will bite their tongues when necessary and “rip you a new one” when appropriate. I think they are the teachers, the scientists, the artists, the business women, the laborers AND the wives and mothers of our world.

Try to imagine a movie that tells the story of a young woman who is intelligent, kind and though not overly popular, she is well-liked (now ask yourself why this character sounds so mediocre?). She decides that though she is perfectly capable of becoming a Doctor or Laywer or scientist, she’d rather spend her time focusing on her relationships with her family and friends, and so she bypasses University to become a young stay-at-home wife and mother. GASP. Are you horrified??? Why does it sound so scandalous? I even feel a little… wrong suggesting that this might be a positive female role-model for our youth. But why? Why can’t we admire the women who are confident enough to make the right choice for themselves, even if it’s not the choice that modern society suggests they should make?

Why does someone need a list of achievements and possessions to be admired? Who wrote this checklist that we work from? Why aren’t the accomplishments of wife, mother and friend enough? Why should I care how much education you have? Or where you work? Or how much you get paid? Or what kind of car you drive?

And why should I admire you when your honesty is hurtful? Or when you’re so concerned with proving you don’t need anyone else’s approval that you lose the respect and admiration of those closest to you? Why should I admire your strength when you’re overly aggressive and unnecessarily confrontational?

Call me a bitch, but I won’t.


Suzi

4 comments:

  1. I said it already but I'll say it again. This post hit close to home and I totally appreciated it. Thanks for saying what a lot of us think!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aislinn CraycroftJuly 22, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    I always enjoy reading your posts! Especially loved this one! You truly are a brilliant writer!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great piece Suzy and thank you for standing up and saying what a lot of us feel. You are the strong woman!

    ReplyDelete
  4. All good points, Suzy. The whole notion and usage of "bitch" is really quite striking, and I can't help but ponder the absence of a male equivalent (derogatory characterizations of men never seem to have quite the same force or implication). But then that's hardly coincidental. "Bitch" is a label made by men, is advantageous to men, and reminds us that we are still living in a man's world. Even women who bandy the term about are using it in a power structure that caters to the male definitions of what a woman should be—her role in society, her role in the family, her role in the economy, etc. I feel like “bitch” is a specifically-defined social space, into which a woman is unwillingly deposited, and once there she finds herself acting out lines in a play that she herself did not author. Too often women seem to be stripped of their agency, where their “choices” aren’t really choices at all, as if no one ever thought to ask her: “what do you want out of your life?” Being inconsiderate, brash and non-empathetic is considered beneficial in the business world; this is where the double standard comes in, because a man won’t be disparagingly labelled for such behaviour (he’ll get a corner office.) The woman in this scenario may still get the corner office, but it comes at a price (…“what a bitch”…). The truth is that this sort of behaviour should be condemned if perpetrated by EITHER sex. Human beings shouldn’t be malicious toward other human beings. Full stop. If your only choice as a woman is to be “docile and servile” or “powerful and bitchy” (once again conforming to narratives that have been written by others), then this is really no choice at all. Being caring, not looking to hurt other people, perhaps being more of a quiet soul—there’s nothing wrong with that, be you man or woman. Being aggressive, independent, perhaps the ‘take charge’ kind of person—there’s nothing wrong with that, be you man or woman. I’m just sick of the double standard, that’s all.

    ReplyDelete