A Nice Clear Explosion
I can’t help but notice that lately you’ve been trying on a repugnant word. Maybe it looked cool on others; maybe it gave them some powerful façade. Maybe they could own it. Perhaps it made them seem funny; perhaps it was a punchline to a cheap joke rooted in violence. Maybe you drop it casually. Or maybe you’re trying to call me out, but just can’t quite figure out how.
Bitch please, you’re probably thinking. I can say what I want.
Well, that’s just the problem, “bitch.” You sure as hell can say what you want, but that word does not look good on you.
That word has a nice clear explosion: bih-tCH. Sounds like the end of a bad joke: ba-da-CHH. It’s a concise, one syllable word, a name, a tiny five-letter cuss. A female dog? A pain? A flawed woman? A subordinate man? No matter how you think you can use it, that word shrinks the value of everyone it touches, especially the accuser, as many slurs do.
What you say is who you are, my friend. I look at you and see a young man who can out-argue a debate and work through the night with blistering hands and a furrowed brow. I see a young man with goals, someone who wants to defend his country, go on adventures, and give back to the world more than he has gained from it. I see a big heart in you, not the sappy kind necessarily, but the kind who will do everything in his power to take care of the people he loves. You’re a person whom I adore, but you degrade that person when you use the word “bitch.”
That word puts you in a historically misogynistic box. That word questions your concern for me. That word takes a big person like you and stuffs him in tiny wooden clothes. That word is many sizes too small; it’s too small when you toss it around for fun and it’s too small when you hurl it.
What are you trying to tell me when you call me a bitch? Be more specific. Maybe I’m unnecessarily domineering. Maybe I’m badgering you. Maybe I’m looking out for you but not communicating it well. For whatever reason I set you off, be specific on what I’ve done. Don’t call me a “bitch” and feel like you’ve won.
Maybe detrimental masculine rules have dictated that you’re powerful and manly for using such a word, but don’t be fooled by the patriarchy. Sexist slurs hurt everyone. Even you.
And do not be confused by the people who have reclaimed the word. Many of us have been branded with that bomb by smaller people than you, people who think they can power over us. So we take their tiny word. We can be the Boss-Ass-Bitches. We can be the Head Bitches in Charge. And we claim that word so that it hurts less when they do.
You’re a person I admire, a person I believe in, and a person who encourages me to be my best. I challenge you to use words that will strengthen your wit. I might understand a fuck-bomb here or an “Oh shit!” there. But know that those words are small, emotions don’t always enlarge their impact, and there are times and places where those words fit for a moment, feeling big before they vanish. No matter what, no matter where, the word bitch is always a small word, one that’s way too small for a person like you.
E. Hammett is a student at Sarah Lawrence College who studies creative writing and literature. She is originally from the Midwest and appreciates New York’s public transportation systems. Her favorite SLC alum is Alice Walker.