We are not bitches

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When you&rsquo;re hanging out with your female friend and she seems particularly irritable, how many times have you thought to yourself, &ldquo;She must be on her period&rdquo;? What about the women who seem to be perpetually irritable? Are they perpetually on their periods? The traits of being stubborn, opinionated, strong-minded, and outspoken are celebrated in men and reprimanded in women. A strong-minded and stubborn man is thought of as dominant and ambitious. Women, on the other hand, are called bitches for behaving in the exact same way.</p>

It’s time to stop calling women bitches. 

Being opinionated and strong-minded is a wonderful trait because it helps bring about change. There’s a famous quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in 1976 that says, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Ulrich received her PhD in history from the University of New Hampshire. This quote was authored by Ulrich in an academic paper in the American Quarterly journal and has since been attributed to other influential female historical figures like Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Anne Boleyn. When women speak up, they tend to have very powerful things to say.

The stereotype that opinionated women are just bitchy is harmful because it discourages women from speaking their mind. When girls are young, a powerful attitude is called bossy or sassy. They are then trained over time to be agreeable and polite so that when they are older the spark that once made them curious and challenging of norms has dimmed. We are deterred from telling people what we really think. Thankfully, many women were able to overcome society’s expectations that they should be quiet and respectful. Consider young Rosa Parks asking questions about her rights but being told she should be polite and talk about something else. Being unwilling to stand idly by while her beliefs and values were being violated was the reason Rosa Parks did not go to the back of the bus,  and her actions were instrumental in bringing about profound societal change (in the specific case of civil rights). 

But the double standard also goes the other way: men who are more introverted and less willing to speak their mind are labeled as “cowards.” Yes, a man who is constantly spewing negativity is most likely a jerk. But being a man and a jerk is thought of as a hilarious and attractive quality as can be seen in the societal archetype called the “mook.” The mook is the male best friend character in movies and TV shows; he is goofy and always causes trouble, yet is an extremely popular and successful womanizer. The same role cast as a woman isn’t a “mook,” she’s a bitch. Just as more women should be encouraged to be outspoken, both men and women should be accepted for remaining silent if that’s a more natural way for them to be.

I wonder how many young girls were successfully deterred from being outspoken on other matters of great importance. We need to take steps to ensure that girls feel free to speak their mind, and calling women “bitches” sets that movement backwards. The word “bitch” is gendered: it literally means “female dog.”  When I say “What a bitch!” do you think I’m talking about a man? Most likely not. Every time you use the word, you are perpetuating the stereotype that women aren’t supposed to be outspoken and challenging. Allow a woman the freedom to say what she is really thinking and you will probably be amazed at the insights she offers. Be more mindful of how you label someone who seems irritable. Your friend probably isn’t on her period; you’re probably just annoying.

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