• VUL-GIRL-ITY

    A conversation between Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris on the B Word.

    Hollye’s Perspective:

 Bitch:  “a malicious, spiteful, or domineering woman — sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

    Someone called me this ugly word a couple weeks ago, and it is still churning in my gut. Why have I let it affect me so? Why not just let it go, laugh it off? Like Bitch magazine says in their mission statement: “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 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.”

    
So I should be flattered, right? Except that I’m not. Maya Angelou says that words are things. Like a foul odor, ugly words linger in your clothes, in your hair, in your carpet. They have real power. The word BITCH, similar to the N-word, holds a tremendous negative charge from generations of harmful use. Men have used it to belittle us for being strong and outspoken. But in my opinion, nothing is as damaging as one woman using it against another. I have never hurled that word at another woman, but I’ve certainly had it hurled at me. Never by a man, however. Always by a woman, and always with intent to harm.

    And harm it did.

    
Debbie Ford, author of “The Dark side of the Light Chasers,” runs empowerment workshops for women, teaching them to embrace their shadow selves. One of the exercises involves shouting “BITCH” at one another until they become desensitized to the word. Her point is, we all have a bitch inside of us.

    Embrace it, accept it, and it no longer has power over you. But keep that bitch card in your back pocket and know when to use it. I prefer to call it a “warrior” card. I’ve learned to pull out my “warrior” card when my family or my livelihood is threatened, and I’m grateful to have it. But very seldom do I need to use it. I surround myself with strong, smart, beautiful women. In doing so, I become a better woman. They inspire, advise, and enlighten me. Never do we feel a need to cut one another down. Quite the contrary; we uplift and encourage the best in each other. When one is weak, the others gather to form the safety net that holds her. In doing so, all are lifted, and that is where true strength comes from.

    
Still, women use the word “bitch” to denigrate one another, and I have a hard time understanding why. If I were to play armchair anthropologist, my theory would be this: perhaps cave women didn’t have the physical strength of cavemen, so we had to hone other skills. We learned to wage intellectual warfare to win a mate, food, security for our offspring. Even as recent as Victorian times, a woman couldn’t vote, own property or have a place in society without being married to a man. We were dis-empowered chattel. Women weren’t allowed to appear strong or independent, but had to hide their true selves in quiet oppressed embroidery circles. So yeah… back then it was understandable how a woman could become adept at underhanded passive-aggressive stabs for power. But guess what ladies? Times have changed. We are no longer in cut-throat competition with one another for a mate, or security, or a place in society. It’s a big wide world full of opportunity and choice enough for everyone, so let us evolve.

    It’s time. Time for us to nurture the very best of what it means to be a woman, and to model that for the next generation. Time for us to stand tall and own our inner strength. Time for us to stand together as uplifting strong women. And most definitely time for us to give the word “Bitch” a rest, as in, lay it to rest. For good.



    
Amy’s perspective
    :

 Speaking of laying to rest…

    

There are certain words – when spoken with an edge, with a curl of the tongue, with a nasty blow to the head – that leave me completely and utterly speechless.



    Full disclosure: I’ve been called a bitch. Both to my face and behind my back. And I have absolutely said (under my breath or VERY QUIETLY) on more than one occasion, “Oh my God, that woman is such a bitch.” I have. I have said it, and I have thought it. And I gotta be honest, I am pretty sure that I thought it much more than I said it. And to be even more specific, given the Webster definition, I can say with a straight face that on those few occasions when I thought it, the woman was definitely malicious, spiteful, and/or very domineering and yes, ABUSIVE.



    There are women out there who are nasty. Plain and simple. They are nasty, competitive, pushy, mistrusting, unfaithful, disloyal and do not wish you well. Or better yet, they wish you well… but not too well. In other words, they will wish you well if you’re terminally ill.



    Yes there are women out there who are abusive. Mean spirited. They are not Goddesses. They are god-awful.

And a word that goes through me like a sword when I hear another woman say it about another woman is, tada: cunt.



    CUNT.



    It’s not even a word I like to write, let alone say.



    I was at a dinner party a few years ago and it was so magical and lovely. A gorgeous home, amazing food, smart, vibrant people. To the left of me at the dinner table was a woman dressed to the nines, dripping in diamonds and perfectly coiffed. A stunning woman. A stunning woman with just enough work done on her face that she had a few lines: crows feet, and a hint of feathered lip-line, but clearly was older than her face. For a brief few moments I was filled with jealousy. I was dripping in sterling and in dire need of a hair cut. But Ken kept winking at me from across the table, and so, I felt sexy. Ish. Sexy-ish.



    And then the moment. A few folks were talking about a couple they knew, a couple that were not there because they were in Paris, or Rome, or the Catskills… they were somewhere, and this woman, this perfectly put together woman who was sitting next to me curled her lip, shook her head, and blurted out, “She is such a fucking cunt.

    “

Whoa.

I think, but I’m not sure, my mouth opened to the point of double highway. And all I could think as I turned to her to make sure I was not imagining this vulgarity was, “Wow, this woman, this woman who five minutes earlier I was jealous of…. is no longer, not one bit, attractive. Not one bit.

    “

A split second.

It’s amazing, truly deeply profoundly amazing, how a word – one four letter word – can alter and change everything.



    Just like the word LOVE.


      • David Lacy

      • March 16, 2011 at 12:23 am
      • Reply

      So thrilled to have you two on staff. You bring an energy and spirit to the syndicate that is remarkable.



    • Hollye and Amy,
      This falls right in line with my “Womanization Theory” from my col. “Women are Taking Over the world”. What is occuring here is exactly as I predicted would happen. While in the process of taking over, there will naturally be a few power struggles, which of course, men will naturally keep their distance from and agree with everything that women say, without question. The women within my family group have put the fear of God right between my ears, and I can tell you that I know what it’s like to be called names. People have often refered to me as “Nerd”, “Panzy”, and sometimes even “Asshole”. One person went so far as to call me the “B” word. (Bastard}
      You say that women weren’t allowed to appear strong? Na Na Na I was taught at an early age not to call a woman a “Bitch” It just slipped out one day. It was not my fault. To make a long story short, she dragged me to the beating room by my hair, made me strip, beat me within an inch of my life (until one ear is twice the size of the other-and it still is), shoved something up my butt and proceeded to wash the evil out of my 10 year old body. Then she would lovingly give me a bath. After that, I called her a Bitch every time I saw her. Sometimes I really miss her, all dressed in a black ankle length dress witch she called a “Habit”, I think. Anyway, thanks for reinforcing my theory. It is a fact that women will do whatever they want, whenever they want to.
      That’s OK with me. I enjoyed your story even though it scared me.



    • Hollye and Amy, loved this dialogue. I have used the word Bitch only under my breath. I have not called someone a bitch to their face and I have never used the C word out loud. It just doesn’t set well with me. My best girlfriend always tried, before she died, to teach me to be a bitch. She thought it would be good for me. I still laugh when I think of our practice lessons. I still think there is a chase for the mate, the life, the fortune, the outfit for the younger aged women but as you age I can tell you it works so well to settle in and just go with what you are and relish it with gusto, joy and laughter. Love you two.


      • Christy

      • March 16, 2011 at 10:13 am
      • Reply

      Loved this!! I see both points. I would hate to be referred to as a Bitch, because I believe strength and compassion go hand and hand. Though I do think some women can be a Bitch when they abuse their strength, or they tip the scales from outspoken to aggressive and hostile.
      The great and challenging thing about being a woman is that our words and actions come from an emotional place. The goal is to express ourselves with integrity, strength, and grace without letting the emotions cause us to be harmful/hurtful/nasty. Generally…as you both pointed out, this can not be done with such nastiness like calling someone a Bitch or a Cunt. Unless of course one cuts you off on the freeway.



    • One of my favorite quotes of all time: “I am tough, ambitious, and I know what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay. I can throw a fit. I am a master at it.” ~ Madonna

      Being called a bitch no longer has much more impact on me than if someone calls me a brunette. There is a hot, wide streak in my that no longer has any patience for bullshit or disingenuousness and, in particular, manipulation. I have learned to embrace my inner bitch. She is as compelling as my inner child, and just as dear. My inner bitch inspires me to speak my mind, and if someone doesn’t like what I have to say – bring it.

      You get called “bitch” by people who are unable to challenge your opinions or viewpoints. It is a gutless comment, along the lines of “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.” If someone calls me a bitch, my reaction is, “Yeah? Your point?” My bitchiness is my fuel. It is my fire. I don’t fear it and often fan it. And those who don’t like it or can’t handle it? I don’t really have time or room for those people in my life.

      People who can’t handle me as I am are a waste of my time. My inner bitch protects me from wasting my time and, therefore, my life.

      (Damn… I think you’ve inspired a column here. I may have to cut and paste this!)


      • Judy

      • March 16, 2011 at 11:53 am
      • Reply

      Loved this column!



    • Hollye and Amy, Such amazingly spirited, honest, lovely, brave, formidable women. If my world was run by people like this, I would be one happy citizen. I love how you both describe this word-slinging from both sides now. And then come back to the utter essence of its vulgarity. Brilliant!



    • Remember the saying “sticks and stone will break my bones but names will never hurt me?” truth is, names….words….can not only hurt, they have a power that goes far beyond their utterance. Certain words themselves are made up of vibrations. In fact, research has proven that ancient “sacred” languages like Sanskrit and Hebrew have the power to influence and transform physical reality, and to heal. That’s part of the intention behind chanting. Interestingly, our current language does not contain the same “qualities.” However they are still symbolic of where we are at spiritually. They have acquired a hidden language of their own. Using destructive words destroys crucial character traits like empathy and compassion, and hurts the people saying them, the people they’re said to, and the collective spirit of our culture. Luckily, people like both of you have the sensitivity to notice, and the vision to speak the truth about calling people names. Bravo. You’re the kind of women I want to be surrounded with.



    • I’m with you Hollye and Amy as both points taken. This blog inspired me to take a moment and gather my thoughts to leave a worthy comment. Hollye, I love how you weave back to Victorian times & women being disempowered and how we’ve evolved. I’ve been surrounding myself with intelligent, strong, beautiful women for as long as I can remember. We cheer each other on, lean on one another and encourage each other’s gifts. Sometimes we feel bitchy, or act bitchy but it’s just a word and not taking it in requires almost a second skin. I know I’ve been called pushy one too many times and the next step beyond pushy could be or would be that I’m perceived as a bitch. That’s okay. Being able to make it in a competitive field requires pushiness. Women who are threatened with another women’s strength are competitive. I have never had a place for those women in my life. Part of my karma is building up the women in my life to be the best they can be. I am supportive and loyal to the women in my inner circle as they are with me. I love hearing both of your perspectives on this word.It’s an honor to know you both. So well written by both of you and I am particularly moved with how Amy brought it all back to love. Because ultimately that’s all that matters after all. Love you both. lovelovelove



    • I’m so freakin’ proud to know you two broads – I mean gorgeous, fabulous babes, ladies, sweethearts…my mom’s favorite curse to hucksters or people who were unfair in some way – “those sons of bitches” Could never be just one……..mmmmmwha!



    • Sounds like the two of you have been partnering forever. There is balance in your style and tone…there is humor and reality, Truth and DARE. I am so proud of you and what you are doing to open so many important dialogues.
      I was called a son-of-a-bitch once…by my mother…all I could do was laugh.



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