Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bitch March 23

Being called a bitch has never worried me. Which must be really frustrating for the person hurling the insult. Ramping it up one level to the “c” word might be overdoing it, so instead they laterally think all the way over to “mentally ill.” I don’t mind being called mentally ill either, some of my favourite people are certifiable.
When my book Bitch and Famous was published the first question journalists asked was: “Why would you willingly refer to yourself as a bitch?”And the answer is simple. Because I am one and I’m proud of it. I was quite shocked to hear that people in 2008 still regard bitch as a bad word. Surely we have reached a point in our emancipation where we can claim it and own the power of it without feeling it brands us as an undesirable.
Over in the States there’s a magazine for people like me. BITCH magazine says:
“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 shy away from expressing them, and who 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.”
My favourite T shirt at the moment is one bought for me by a friend in a vintage shop which is bright purple and says: “WARNING: I go from zero to bitch in 4.3 seconds.”
Most women who own the bitch inside them found her one day while they were trying to get noticed. In my case it was the shoulder padded, briefcase clad 80s and 90s where women learned very quickly that if you acted like a man, strutted like a man and swore like one, people took you seriously. Whole careers were carved by women f-ing and blinding, yelling and barking, strutting and posturing. But as Bette Davis said: "When a man gives his opinion, he's a man; when a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch."
Today my bitch has been tamed somewhat, and is only let out on special occasions for protection or simply to impress someone. She’s a great one trick pony my bitch. But she has left me with the social handicap that men will never hit on me. I must be the only 45-year-old pick-up line virgin. Not for me the “Quick call heaven, I heard they’d lost an angel and I’ve just found her” or even the more simplistic “Wanna root?” Instead men tend to hang around me for so long that in the end I simply say: “Did you want something?” And it turns out they did.
Men also regard you with all the warmth and enthusiasm of a postie with a wild dog gnashing at him over the fence. They stand poised and ready for you to bite their heads off at any moment. They’re nearly right, I tend to bite further down.
Men will also react in horror when you use the word “no” frequently. They don’t like women saying “no” that’s why we have rape crisis centres and women’s refuges.
The true bitch comes from a place of strength and often humour. But lately I’ve had to clarify what kind of bitch I’m being called because there’s another kind emerging who I’ll have nothing to do with. That snarling insecure woman whose self esteem is so low she can only look at other women with envy. This is the schoolyard bitch, the bully, the threatened one. There’s one in every workplace, in every social grouping.
Where was she when we were knocking our bitch into shape climbing the ladder, smashing a glass ceiling or two and storming in and out of meetings? Making the tea and draining the clothing boutiques of anything floral and the cosmetic stores of pink lipstick. Sticking around long enough for the dust to settle then offering herself at a reduced rate and an eighth of the attitude after all the hard work had been done. I don’t think this bitch has earned her stripes, or ever will. She’s a faux bitch and if you call me one of those bitches I’ll bite really hard.
The amazing thing about this bitch is that she is so subtle you sometimes miss her. And when you find one you can’t quite believe that the woman with no style, who wouldn’t send a ripple of interest across the pond of life and has a seeming inability to do anything of note, could find the wherewithal to be that hurtful. What a bitch.

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