Life Politics and Feminism Society

What I Hear When You Call Me a Bitch.

When I get called a bitch, it makes me squirm in a way no other insult does.

It’s a word that offends me in a way other insults do not, because it’s almost exclusively used to invalidate female power or trivialise female emotion. It is specifically designed to denigrate women, to bring them down a peg, and to label them as “lesser than.”

Emily Heist Moss verbalised for me why I always flinch when someone uses this word near me. A simple “fuck you” is an insult I can handle; throw an “asshole” on the end and I won’t give it a second thought. “Fuck you, Bitch” is a very specific attack on me as a female, and as a result it’s far more personal.

It’s the difference between “Fuck you!” and “Fuck you, and you’re a woman too!” Epithets that have that identity-bashing twist reinforce the underlying assumption that to be eligible for a particular label makes you extra worthy of humiliation.

Emily Heist Moss

Towards the end of my previous relationship I heard it more and more often. Never “you’re a bitch” to be fair; just “you’re being a bitch”, or “why are you acting like such a bitch?” As if keeping the qualifier in there that I’m not actually a bitch, I’m just showing bitch-like qualities, makes it better.

This kind of language, especially within this context, is designed to control my behaviour. By throwing this phrase at me mid-argument, what you’re asking isn’t “why are you acting like such a bitch?”, it’s “why aren’t you acting how I want you to act?” Asking it mid-argument is reducing the conversation about something potentially very real, and telling me it doesn’t matter. It’s invalidating my feelings and it’s reducing me to a whinging, irrational female.

In a relationship, it’s unhealthy and problematic because it’s discouraging honesty. In general, it’s aggressive and degrading.

What I hear when you call me a bitch is a lack of respect for me as a female. When you use it against women you don’t even know, you’ve exposed your prejudice against women. You’ve exposed your disdain for my gender in a way that is aggressive; you’ve forced me to ask where that aggression ends. I see a red flag go up over your head, marking you as someone who thinks my very existence is invalid or less important because I have a vagina.

Voicing your disdain for my gender has exposed you as a threat to me.

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No insult gets my back up quite as much as being called a bitch


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