So many of our profanities are tailored towards women: 'bitch,' 'cunt,' 'witch,' 'pussy,' and recently, 'nasty woman.' Only two are male-specific: 'dick' and 'fuckboy.'
Such terms are contentious and pejorative but why?
A woman is labeled any of the aforementioned for a plethora of reasons - whether it is for reclaiming her agency, for standing up for herself, for being driven and determined, for speaking her mind, for saying "no" - none of which she should be sorry for. We don't condone name-calling, and in fact, discourage using such terms to describe anyone, but being on the receiving end, the best response to being hailed any of the above labels is 'thank you.' Wear that label like a badge of honor because so often, the women we call bitches are the ones who believe in nonconformity and live in defiance; they live contrary to societal convention yet, we still label them with that word so wrought with the sexism that they live to defy.
When Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton's comments about social security during the third - and fortunately final - presidential debate to call her a "nasty woman," women around the world instantly knew it was a euphemism for 'bitch.' After all, his supporters have been helming "Trump that Bitch" as a slogan the entire campaign.
After calling former national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, a bitch in a speech in 2006, it seems that Trump somewhat learnt self-restraint.
As Andi Ziesler noted in The New York Times, Clinton has been a "bitch" for years. She is a bitch for taking a man's last name, for saying that she would prefer to work than bake cookies, for challenging and posing new well-thought policies, for simply being who she is and working towards what she wants.
"'Bitch' has long been an effective way to silence women because so many of us have been brought up to believe that remaining likable to others - even those we ourselves don't like - is paramount," writes Ziesler. "All that's required to reframe the word is to point out that the things bitches are often guilty of can be both unexceptional and necessary: flexing influence, standing up for their beliefs, not acting according to feminine norms and expectations."
Emily Peck of The Huffington Post explains why the word is so contemptible. "Bitch is a gendered slur, meant to shame and silence women who dare speak up for themselves [...] Every woman who's yelled back at a catcaller or turned down a man's sexual advances - only to be called a bitch - knew what Trump meant. So did every woman who's ever dared to be or do something."
Personally, the fact that Clinton has been dubbed 'unlikable' is a positive thing because Clinton isn't tequila; it isn't her job, just like it isn't any woman's job, to please everyone. The world is unfair and unkind, particularly towards women, so is Clinton wrong for defying it? If her desire to lead, to be respected, and to carve out a place for herself in history makes her a bitch, then so be it. The rancorous underlying gender code society imposes that dictates how we behave, the space we can inhabit, the roles we are permitted to undertake makes us bitches. When a woman does not fit the cookie-cutter mold of femininity that women are expected to fit, she has to be a bitch to survive. It is necessary to the pursuit of happiness.
Britt Hayes, in her feminist analysis of Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne, writes:
"We’re shoved around and shuffled off into corners, backed up against walls in a space that’s already limited. And when we dare to defy life and what we’ve been given, we’re called bitches. When we dare to take agency for ourselves and reclaim it, to declare that no, we do not exist because of or for men, we’re called bitches. When we stand up and say, “enough,” we’re called bitches. And then we have hell to pay for it: the guilt that consumes us, the ghosts of regret that haunt us, the fear that our pain and misery was everything we had coming to us and we deserved live in it. We feel the ache of nostalgia for suffering we think we should have endured. We were bitches because we had to be, and if we have to endure someone else’s misery, then we deserve it for our defiance and all the years of suffering we had the gall to elude."
Women are constantly being told to possess self-esteem and to be confident but are chastised for it. But, as Hayes poignantly points out, think about the kind of people who use these 'derogatory' terms to bring us down. They are usually the type who feel threatened by women and feel the need to undermine women (hint: think Donald Trump), so they resort to calling you a 'bitch' in hopes of 'putting you in your place.' In doing so, however, they have done you the favor of letting you know that they feel intimidated by you, by your confidence and your self-regard.
A 'bitch', contrary to popular belief, is a coveted title. It means a woman knows what she wants and how to get it. For a bitch, failure is only a stepping stone and excellence is the standard. So the next time you're called a 'bitch', a 'nasty woman' or anything of that sort, you work it.