Ya Gotta Be A Bitch To Do Stuff

“All women are b*tches — or need to be in order to succeed at, well, pretty much anything, judging from the publishing industry,” to paraphrase the Huffington Post.

Here are a few examples HP presents (for more, go here):

Get Married

via Amazon

Be Thin

via Amazon

Run (And Be Fat)

via Amazon

Be Happy

via Amazon

So this has got me thinking. Why must women be bitches in order to do stuff?

Maybe it depends on what you mean by “bitch.”

If a guy says, “She’s a bitch” it means she’s difficult — or she sleeps with everyone but him!

If “She’s my bitch,” she’s submissive. If “He’s my bitch,” he is, too.

But if she says, “Yeah, I’m a bitch!” then she’s assertive, she has self-respect and she looks out for herself.

I know, it’s confusing. So let’s go with that last one.

Maybe to get married, be slim, run — and be fat, stay on a budget, do yoga, date men, have great sex and be happy, it helps to be assertive and stop worrying about giving yourself completely over to others… and stop worrying about how everyone else sees us?

Or, to date, marry and have sex with any man that you’d want to date, marry and have sex with, it’s best to be a bitch?

Hmmmmm, maybe the books have a point.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 12, 2013, in feminism, women and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. zaineb alkhaleef

    There is a social differences between strong, intelligent, opinionated men and woman. I personally am very opinionated in my family which isn’t common in Middle Eastern Culture for women. People around me never refer to me as a “bitch” because I am careful about having an attitude that’ll give the wrong impression. I do notice however, that when you have a man who is opinionated he is strong, well educated, and a goal oriented guy. For woman it’s opposite and they are seen as gold diggers, bitches, and “know it alls.”

  2. sandra ruelas

    I think we often refer to ourselves as bitches because we want to show empowerment to others and ourselves. One thing that is common right now is calling ourselves Boss Bitch! I think its different when we call ourselves names rather when someone else does.

  3. I really feel as though women are placed in these boxes and no matter which one they end up in, they just can’t win. I once dated a guy who told me that I was “too nice” and it was “annoying”. However, if I ever stood up for myself when he was being a jerk to me, I was then “a bitch”. This is a pretty good example of gaslighting, and needless to say I left the relationship. But sometimes it feels like our culture gaslights women altogether.. how do you leave an unhealthy culture?

  4. F. Naghiniarami

    that is an interesting post. In my experience I learned that if a woman is a bitch or selfish, assertive, and self centered guys would be attracted to her more and most likely do their best to satisfy the girl. I am confused too. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people that whenever they meet a nice, respectful and caring girl, they f..k the girl as much as they can and make life miserable for her. maybe, there is some underlying aspect behind that but whatever it is guys prefer to spend their time with a bitch, I’m agree with you, so let’s to be a bitch and be happy, why not!

  5. Sarah Lau Y. G

    Yeah I agree with this. I don’t think the ideology implies women need to be a bitch to succeed. It is because women who succeed are often called a bitch. Women who don’t rely on men or stand up for themselves are regarded as a bitch. Being a bitch is very different from being a strong person to me. Being a strong person means you need to have self-confidence and express your own views. Bitches are those people who don’t care about what others think.

  6. It seems hard for women that to find a “perfect position” —-they either choose to be “the girl next door”, sweet and nice, or bitches, strong and fearless, and most importantly, able to achieve everything. The post reminds me of a film from few years ago: The Devils Wear Prada. In the movie, the icy editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, marked by her super assertive managing style, is considered as a competent “devil”. The film magnifies her emotionless characteristic, implying that only women like this are able to achieve great success in a career.

    On the other hand, women call themselves or are being called bitches, but it actually indicates we lack confidence and support to prove we can achieve the same as men in a positive way.

  7. when you don’t give a guy any time you are a bitch to him. when a woman takes charge and don’t let just any person talk to her sideways she is a bitch. i guess i am a bitch!!!

  8. It is interesting to know the word “bitch” is used depends on situations, in various ways. I thought the word is basically used for degrading or disrespect women. But sometimes it also used for jokes, or women who say it herself is more likely shows self-respect and self-confidence, but not in negative ways. Moreover, becoming “bitch” may sometimes be needed to be succeed in society in particular situations. So I think becoming “bitch” is sometimes smart and better for some women, in sense. It maybe sounds dirty to some people, but maybe it is necessary to survive well in this society.

  9. Some of those titles made me laugh. I do think it’s quite sad though. It’s definitely a cultural thing and I see it in people all the time — not just in women, obvs, in fact it stems from men: the idea that to be successful and get ahead and be respected you have to be aggressive, ruthless and have little regard for others. It’s the mode of functioning in our aggressively capitalistic culture and it really isn’t getting us anywhere…quite the contrary.

  10. Angela Hughes

    I understand that there are different ways to use it. These examples are very helpful in understanding it, but in terms of the last one in which you use the word bitch to essentially take back what was used to harm you, I still don’t find that it really changes much. Kind of like using the N word, nowadays you mainly see people of color specifically hispanics and blacks using it in a friend way but the moment a white person uses it in the same way, they get a whole bunch of crap for it. I feel like it should be omitted completely from our vocabulary. I am part Black and I just feel it’s really stupid to use the N word at all. No matter how many times a rapper uses it or friends use it amongst themselves, the history and hostility people feel for it when someone outside their circle says it, never goes away. Same goes for women calling each other and themselves bitches. The fact remains that these words were never meant to be ones of encouragement or self-worth, they were meant to degrade and are under the category of bad language, so why use them. I say instead of utilizing this failed technique of “taking back the word”, we should choose a higher road and say we will not tolerate it at all.

  11. I’d still feel personally offended to be referred to as a “bitch”. I’m old enough and out of the circulation of modernity enough to have missed it turning into a positive word. For me, it hasn’t. It doesn’t mean “self-respect” or “assertive”, no matter who tosses the word around at who. “Self-respect” and “assertive” work pretty good for those concepts.

    All these book titles do is make me cringe. Reading one of these would be like reading the “For Idiots” guides. Why would I buy/read/patronize anyone that was calling me an offensive name (or insisting I call myself an offensive name) to market their product?

    I also don’t feel good around African-Americans calling themselves “nigger”. Or people with emotional struggles calling themselves “crazy”. Or developmentally delayed people calling themselves “retards”. Or Italian-Americans calling themselves “wops”. Add your own examples here.

    Using the derogatory language of the power class against oneself is identifying with the aggressors ie I’ll call myself this derogatory comment before you do and side with you so I can join your club and be powerful like you. (This don’t go nowhere pretty).

    I stand firm against the notion that calling oneself derogatory names can ever imply or gain strength.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article. You do this so well.

    • Not a fan, either. Just wondering why the word is bandied about so much in these books, like it’s positive. So… might this be a positive?

      That said, I’ll have to admit that in this context I found the word pretty humorous.

      • Seems unlikely (personal opinion of a cultural eccentric) that it’s a positive. It sounds more like an abusive man expecting his victim to agree with his assessment of her.

        Think of the women in violent porn (rape) videos you wrote about a while back and what the women were encouraged to say about themselves.

        This sounds like the phenomenon of woman-hate injected into mainstream publishing.

        Creepy to me. Frightening. But not humorous. Seeds planted and watered grow into strong trees.

      • Yeah, the same debate is going on in the Black community on the n-word.

        Some see it as taking back a word that’s been used to harm you, so that it won’t anymore. Others see it as internalizing inferiority.

        The debate rages.

      • You’ve summed this up very well. Thanks for the engaging conversation. 🙂

      • You’re welcome.

        Thanks for engaging.

  12. I’ll be honest; I use to think that in order to prove that I am an assertive person I used to refer to myself as a bitch even though I never liked the word. I felt like if I didn’t see myself as a bitch then others would see themselves as being able to take advantage of me. As I have grown I have realized that just because you are a strong woman doesn’t mean you are a bitch. You can still be a boss and not recognize yourself as a bitch. I think if more people realized this, they would stop referring to themselves as a bitch.

  13. Seems to me that women are forced to be bitches just to survive in a Patriarchal society. Sad state of affairs. I’m all for reclaiming words used against us in the past, but this seems a bit like giving in to the ideology. I have to agree with Rohan, but that might be because we are seeing things from the outside in penisville. Would love to hear what others think.

  14. Rohan 7 Things

    Yeah I get the feeling that the term is used like nigger or queer. As in a word that was originally used as a derogatory term by an oppressor, is flipped and used by the oppressed as a term of empowerment. Unfortunately the trend seems to be that both men and women are required to conform to this sociopathic bitch/asshole mold in order to get “somewhere” (aren’t we already somewhere?) in life.

    It’s a sad day for open and honest communication, cooperation and compassion, which ultimately I believe are much better tool for getting what we need and want.

    Ah well, maybe I’m just a big softie lol 🙂


    • You make a lot of sense. That’s why the only way it makes any sense to me is to substitute this definition:

      You need to be assertive and stop worrying about giving yourself completely over to others… and stop worrying about how everyone else sees us to date, marry and have sex with any man that you’d want to date, marry and have sex with.

      Of course, the communication, cooperation and compassion thing seems important, too.

      Might we have both?

      • Rohan 7 Things

        Oh for sure, I think assertiveness and strong boundaries go hand in hand with compassionate communication.

        It’s just the game theory, dog eat dog stuff I’m not a big fan of. But definitely, if women can use a term to empower themselves and not have to fit into archaic social roles I say go for it 🙂

        It’s all about balance.


      • I’m using that last definition in the way that some of my friends use the term. They’re definately using the term to take a word thats been used to hurt women to empower themselves, but not to be hurtful and disempower others.

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