We are all familiar with the most popular words such as “bitch, slut or whore” which has common meaning. The history of the B- word dates back to 15th century which refers to a female dog. Merriam Webster dictionary defines the B-word as “a lewd or immoral woman, a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman.” This word demoralizes a woman because she’s perceived as filthy for having sexual relationships with other men. Historian Geoffrey Hughes stated, this is why the slang “son of a b….” is found to be very insulting and disrespectful. Basically, the mother is being called a woman who have had sex with lots of people.
Between 1915 and 1930, the B-word rose as the universal female insult because there were great changes taking place for women. When women got the right to vote, men were not happy so they started using the B-word as an offensive term to describe women. During the second wave of feminist movement, the word “bitch” was re-branded by women. The word has been used for so long to put women in their place, a place of submission, that the women finally decided to just own it.
In 1968, a feminist attorney, Jo Freeman wrote “The BITCH Manifesto” (click the link to read) which basically defines the B-word in a different approach and talks about the characteristics that “bitches should have.” Since then, feminist has been fighting to give this word a positive meaning rather than what it originally meant. Also, celebrities in pop culture, fashion and music world have used the B-word in a positive way to describe fearless, aggressive, independent, dominating women. There’s a very popular phrase that is all over the internet, “you say I’m a bitch like it’s a bad thing” which is a feminist response to men who likes to use the B-word as if it’s nothing.
The big question is that is it okay for a woman to use the word bitch to refer to another woman? Is it okay for a man to use the word bitch to refer to a woman?
An extensive research has shown that women refer to their best friends or girls as “bitches.” It’s like a code word for a girl boss who knows how to get things done. There’s a close understanding between women that’s calling each other “bitch” is way to show affection. However, a woman cannot call another woman the B-word if she doesn’t know her well because that would be considered hateful and derogatory.
To answer the second question, I think all of you would agree that it will NEVER be okay for a man to call a woman “bitch” regardless of how he means it for the same reasons why whites cannot use the N-word when referring to black men since it acts as a reflection of the existing power dynamics in society, not to mention that it carries a history of institutionalized and racial discrimination against Black people. Huffington Posts says, “Luckily, there are about five billion other words that men can use to criticize women without sounding like a misogynist.”
In my opinion, I like to stay away from complicated words like the b-word simply because the word “bitch” has been used to tear women down much more often than it’s been used to build us up. Despite the feminist work to change its derogatory meaning to a positive one, it’s negative past is still always lurking in the shadows. I’d never do it to a woman I didn’t know well because it can easily turn into a disrespectful and cruel insult. Lastly, if it was up to me I would just stop name-calling altogether.