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.
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.