I’ve been waiting until some of the smoke cleared before I discussed this topic.And even in me discussing it, it will be removed from the context that sparked the discussion.
When I was younger, there was a pattern of behavior that I gleaned from various brothers that I looked up to in high school. It was a certain way with young ladies that worked to establish an hierarchy within the relationship. What occurred was I would use the term, “bitch” in a loose and joking manner when referring to them. When the sister that I was talking to reacted or responded in a manner that seemed like she was offended, I’d simply say,”Damn, bitch, you get mad about stuff like that…women really are sensitive.” Depending on how the young woman took it, after awhile, in private settings, “bitch” was her name. Now, many reading this have been subjected to this similar treatment, and possibly worse.
Would anyone venture to say that what I was doing was anything short of being verbally abusive? I seriously doubt it. Would anyone question that I have some how left a psychological scar on the women, even in adulthood? Not anyone who has actually suffered it or been with someone who has. Would anyone be willing to dismiss those scars just because the women I abused in that manner started calling themselves “bitch” in play, or as an affectionate term? Is it always verbal abuse when a man calls a woman a “bitch”?
What I’ve learned about words is that words are still reflective of the actual power relation. You can’t necessarily usurp the power from a word. You can only defend yourself from the psychological damage of the verbal abuse. Some might say that one shouldn’t be so sensitive, Franz Fanon said that violence is therapeutic. I’ve noticed that most people that profess the “don’t be too sensitive” frame of thinking, either don’t allow themselves to be called “bitch”, or are being verbally abused regularly, and don’t have the strength to stop it. I suppose running from it works too.
I’ve heard the argument often enough. A young boy says “bitch” in a popular song. Young ladies recite the lyrics, and say that they don’t take offense because they aren’t a bitch. It is one of those times when I wish the theory of cognitive dissonance hadn’t become so tainted by the popular. What a young woman in that mindset is really doing is justifying the use of the term. It implies that some women are “bitches”. When in fact, the use of the term with regard to a woman, has always been demeaning. It is a term used to cripple, to embolden the user; to remind women of the place in society men have established for them.
There is no way to remove the sting of the word. As long as the original users of the word in such context still remain in power, the word continues to hold on to its significance. Now, with so many issues that abound in the world of women, such as breast cancer, rape, being stoned for being raped in some places, being discriminated at the work place..should we still be so concerned that men are calling women “bitches”? Would you be concerned if someone called your mother a bitch? Do you like it when someone calls you a bitch…?
Does it matter that teenage pregnancy is back on the rise…? Sure, of course it does. Just because tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being murdered in Afghanistan doesn’t take away the travesty of Aiyana Jones’ murder, or the murder of Oscar Grant. An evil is an evil. That is a reason why jails and the courts of what we refer to as the justice system have dockets that stay full. Proper punishment for the crime, but don’t forget it is still a crime.
One last question for complete comprehension: How would you feel if white people used the word “nigger” in mainstream media as much as men use the term “bitch” in the same forums of mass communication?