That’s Bitchin But Life’s A Bitch

That's bitchin!

That’s bitchin!

If you say, “That’s bitchin!” it’s good.

But if she’s bitchin, she’s annoying.

If “Life’s a bitch,” things are difficult.

If “She’s a bitch!” she’s difficult! (He thinks that’s bad.)

If “I’m a bitch!” I stand my ground. (I think that’s baaad – but in a good way!)

But if “She’s my bitch” or “He’s my bitch,” that bitch is submissive.

So which is it? Does a bitch stand her ground? Or does she submit? I guess the words “a” vs “my” make all the difference. Taking someone who stands her ground and making her succumb is, apparently, a huge triumph.

Women reclaim this word that has been used to debase and dominate them. But others still use it to insult and control – and then say, “Well, you women use the word yourselves.” (Blacks use the n-word themselves, yet few non-blacks think that grants them the same permission.)

This shape shifter may reflect our society’s contradictory views of women. On the one hand women are strong and amazing; on the other, women are belittled and demeaned.

This is a rerun. I’m on vacation.

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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 July 15, 2015, in feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I think most of the time when a woman is called a bitch she is being strong and assertive and people don’t like to see that in a woman.
    I did have a boss once who was a dead-set fucking bitch, there is no other word for it.
    Most of the time it’s used unfairly but there are nasty people in this world and some (few) can only be described as bitches….. like some men are awful and get called pricks.

    • When a man acts some way which people would call “a bitch” if a woman did it, I try to think what word would be equivalent, and I generally can’t think of anything. I think it’s partly because in some ways of bitches acting powerful, and we are uncomfortable than women do that in a way that doesn’t seem so uncomfortable when men do it.

      • Guy’s get called jerks, d bags, pricks when they act in such manner. I don’t know about people being fine when men are assertive and acting powerful, I and others see them as dickheads. I’m surprised where this assertion comes from, since you’d have to not have an ego and pride to just go “well he’s a man, it’s fine that he’s being a powerful acting prick”. As a man. when another man throws his weight around, I see it as even more confrontational than a woman. Because it’s like “this dude doesn’t respect me, and thinks he’s better, alpha dude”.

        Well let me inform him and there goes my competitive ego toward that man and more likely to dislike him than the bossy “bitchy” female boss. I would dislike the bossy woman, but it’s in a different way. The woman would be in a simple “you’re mean and a bitch” but the dude, there’s an alpha male showdown for guys, and they are ready to outdo and really want to show that guy who the top man is and that disrespectful bossy man has no idea that other men are sizing him up now and ready to show him up. So if anything there’s more anger as in spite toward the man who is a “prick” than the bitchy female boss. It’s not because the woman means less, but you’re more likely to have a “competing view” with the same sex. Like as a man I can’t relate to wanting to outdo a female boss or show her whose boss, well I can but not like toward a male boss, as the male boss is more likely carrying this “I’m an alpha male schtick, and well yeah, that doesn’t work when you disrespect a man and he’s well aware of his skills and that he is in fact “better” than the egotistical male boss. I see it with women too though, and the same reason why women will compete with each other instead of men, but for different reasons. Just like there’s alpha male thing, I think there’s a queen bee thing, I call it.

        Drama and dislike breed out of jealousy it seems. I’ve seen it at work and it’s weird because from what I can tell both girls are pretty nice and others or most like them, But they do not like each other at all. And it’s one thing if these girls were mean, bitchy girls, but for the most part they are nice to other people, but they can’t stand each other. I think it’s more of the other girls fault because she was never nice to the other one in the first place, which I think is envy routed. The first one is a pretty girl and I thin it’s something to do with that. I usually see her talking with guys and such and for whatever reason for a store with 100+ employees there are only a few attractive girls at the company. I’m pointing it out, because it’s, i guess easier for a woman maybe proud of her attractivness and attention to like to be the top woman amonst others and it’s another thing if this was at a place like the previous one I worked at whichh had only 40 employees but like 75-80% of the girls there were attractive.. So she’s the top girl but the other one at other department is pretty too and gets attention , though she has a boyfriend and steals the other’s thunder? That my only guess, because they are both otherwise nice and get along with every other girls and guy there.

      • I have to agree that everyone gets annoyed by people who think they are superior to them, for feel like others are more valued than them, whether they’re being bossy or are especially attractive or whatever. But people do tend to get more annoyed when women are bossy than when men are.

        But I’m also struck by the contradictory meanings of the word “bitch” and how it might reflect our culture’s contradictory feelings about women in some way. Our culture both worships beautiful women, loves mothers and motherhood, But has this streak of misogyny and a certain fear of powerful women.

      • Absolutley, sometimes women are being strong, assertive, good at their job and thy get called bitches. I use it as a word, very occasionally, for a woman who is a nasty person. Some people are mean! But I hate when people call women ‘bitches’ just for being what a man would be described as a ‘strong leader’.

  2. Seems that the moral of the story is don’t call a woman a bitch but if she calls herself one, it’s a reclamation. 🙂 I’m personally not a fan of the word even when self-directed. But I’m only human and I’ve definitely been known to direct the word at another in a heated moment, even if these days I only do that in my head.

  3. But people do tend to get more annoyed when women are bossy than when men are.”

    It’s weird, I don’t. If a man is bossy, I dislike him just as much as the bossy woman. It doesn’t matter to me who you are, your sex, color or orientation, etc, if you’re bossy or an ass, I’m not going to like you. I’m not going to bow down and accept it just because it’s a man being bossy. The only difference for people is that maybe more people “show” their displeasure or suck it up more if it’s a man, because of more fear of being fired or demoted or something from the male boss, than the female boss, so more likely to show annoyance of the “bitch” female boss?

    To me though a lot of it is context. And I wonder if the reason some people get more annoyed by women being ” bossy” compared to men is because of the context? I wonder if it’s a compensation thing for some women, because of the power structure and why women can be seen as a “bitch” when being bossy or assertive is because they feel they have to be “more assertive and aggressive” to get their point across? Therefore, coming across as more “sassy” to go with their bossiness? I don’t know, but sometimes women who say people think I’m a bitch because I’m “strong and assertive” some don’t realize and think because they feel they are being empowering, that it’s due to sexism and not because of the attitude they show that they don’t realize or see themselves? Some women that think or say that, I’ve seen the “attitude” and sassyness as in, throwing “shade” at you or snapping back or attitude because you don’t like what they want or say and like this chip on their shoulder they might have and don’t realize it.

    • I’m glad you don’t. But a lot of people don’t realize when they treat people differently, gender-wise. not saying that’s true you but, it’s hard to know. When they send resumes that are identical people feeling differently if a woman’s name is at the top versus if a man’s is, for example. I’ve seen other studies that show that women are perceived as more annoying when they are leaders even if they act the same way as men do.

  4. Usually smart women with self-respect, who are strong enough to call a spade a spade, are termed as bitch…

  5. That’s Bitchin But Life’s a Bitch

    This is one of those words I learned earlier on while in school. When I first learned about the word “bitch” in middle school, someone was referring to someone who had a bad attitude, someone who thought they were all that, and mostly, thought they were above everyone else”.

    Ever since then I didn’t like the word.

    Later on, I hear people say “She’s my bitch”, to refer to someone who is always doing something for the other person like a chore. The word has certainly evolved, but again, it is still very demeaning.

    After a while the word “bitchin” was construed as a positive word to say something is really cool. Even then, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon and start using it.

    At the same token, this “b” word is like the “n” word where only select people can use the word, but if it’s used by someone who is not supposed to, that is not a good thing.

    Again, I’d like to thank my parents for teaching me to refrain from using profanity. I must admit, I have not been perfect, and have used the word “bitch” when duly appropriate; but still feel bad after that.

    I always think there’s a better to say things, but at the heat of the moment, even when referring to a villain character at the cinema, I thought it was duly appropriate. 
    In closing, I’m proud to say that in my lifetime,

    I have not been called a “bitch”, and I’d like to keep it that way.

  6. “Bitch” is a very loaded word and can be used in many different contexts as explained above. When used by female friends or women to women the word can be meant both negatively and positively. Maybe less positive and more negative but still a word used in many context jokingly and seriously. Now if a man uses the word when referring to a woman, it can be seen as only a sexist and negative comment. Why is there such a variation between meanings when saying the same word? I think with constant use of the word and multiple contexts involved, the word has lost its meaning and it becomes difficult to pin point whether it refers to “standing her ground” or “submitting”. Without a clear understanding of the word and the proper way to use it, like many swear words, the word takes on an illusive persona that can be interpreted differently by anyone who uses it.

  7. Sophia De Guia

    The gender and tone of the speaker as well as the context really affect what the word can signify. A girl can playfully say that her female friend is a bitch, and they would laugh it off, but if the speaker was a male, the girl would be offended even if it were said in the same way.I don’t think that women claiming themselves as a bitch is an empowering statement all the time as it could also simply be the acknowledgement of one’s meanness. I know many girls who use it in this way and still have the negative connotation attached to the word. I think using the words “my” and “a” can both be used to make the word negative. However, using “my” does bring the phrase to a new level of degradation because the image it produces is of an animal or fiend under a person’s possession. The word is an expression used to replace many various proper descriptions of people and events just as other foul words are so there are always times it can be easily misinterpreted, too.

  8. Reading this article surprisingly made me feel empowered. Bitch is a term that is thrown around by everyone. It doesn’t mean it’s okay to use but there are many different contexts as to how you can use this word. When a man calls a woman a bitch, it’s most likely because she is being assertive and controlling. When a woman calls another woman a bitch, it can be because she is being manipulating or rude. Many of my friends refer to each other as their “main bitches” meaning that they will stick together no matter what. It’s kind of odd how the word bitch can be used in so many different ways. Overall, I wouldn’t say being called a bitch is a positive thing. There are many other words to describe a woman who is being assertive, controlling, etc. Since it primarily has a negative connotation, I’m almost positive most women wouldn’t want to be referred to as one.

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