Not just for Mean Girls: redefining a “bad word”

You know her the moment you see her. She strides down Boylston Street, never breaking her gait. She displays a sense of self-assurance as she plows through the groups of students and pedestrians clogging the sidewalks, walking with undeniable purpose.

This student does not rely on others for her own success and has no problem standing alone. She is articulate and candid. She opts for reason at the expense of feelings and declares her opinion with factual conviction.

But while some may admire her for these qualities, others will just call her ‘a bitch.’

It happens to many women. I have been called a bitch. Yet, after each initial blow, I realize — counter-intuitive as it is — I must be doing something right.

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Being called a bitch usually means I’m not fitting into the cookie cutter gender role women are supposed to emulate. A true head-bitch-in-charge (HBIC) is rare and, I think, deserves admiration. She harnessed and subdued qualities culturally reserved to men for her own benefit.

Alas, there is a negative connotation associated with the bitch. Women call one another bitches out of habit — it is the first unoriginal insult that spills from their mouths. It seems to be thrown at women whose behavior makes people uncomfortable or feel threatened.

When a woman asserts masculine qualities, she begins to enter bitch territory. These qualities primarily aren’t about her appearance — bitches come in all shapes and sizes — but her behavior.

Women are deemed bitches the moment they candidly speak their mind or get aggressive in accomplishing their goals. While those qualities are said to create an assertive, well-balanced individual, they are only considered acceptable for men.

The bitch is disdained. Her accomplishments are trivialized. It is the go-to attack when either gender feels uncomfortable due to ‘unlady-like’ behavior. This feeling is common when a woman criticizes or takes control of a situation.

When I talk about bitches, I am not referring to the Plastics from Mean Girls. Those are characters who go out of their way to be actively nasty, and perhaps rightly deserve to be put in their place.

But when the term bitch is tossed around as liberally as it is today, we assume respectable women are doing something wrong — either being a bad person or being unnecessarily rude.

A clear example of this is within the political sphere. A female candidate receives more criticism on her persona than a male candidate. Hillary Clinton and other female politicians have been picked apart: called too soft and unstable or too cold and unmoving when acting against stereotyped gender role behavior.

We need to reassess the roles of women and accept that many of the characteristics for which women are called bitches are not bad. Furthermore, women need to rethink their own use of the word. Let’s be honest — it’s not creative. It is vague and meaningless when women use it against their own gender.

Reducing the use of this word will set an example and be a first step toward breaking down the stereotypical gender roles perpetuated by this stupid term. It is time for women to stop uttering cheap shots and start subduing this harmful stereotype.