Why I Stopped Saying “Bitch”
When I was in ~8th grade, I started to become very upset about how often I heard white people say the word “nigger.” I spent all my time playing video games and talking to people who played video games. Because they couldn’t see me and assumed I was white because of my voice, they didn’t realize that I would be offended. I soon found myself on Twitter nearly every day telling white people they couldn’t say the n word. Despite my obsession with offensive language, I still called people “faggots”, as is common in the video game world. A person who was being annoying was a faggot in my mind.
Soon enough, I realized how much of a hypocrite I was being. In my mind, I tried to justify my continued use of the word, but then I applied all of my typical arguments for why people shouldn’t say the n word and realized how wrong I was. I decided that I would remove faggot from my vocabulary. In retrospect, I’m ashamed that I called people faggots, but I’m glad that I was able to see that there was something wrong with it.
In the past year or two — and probably for the rest of my life — I’ve been thinking about how my unconscious sexism manifests itself. Do I talk over women? Do I say things to guys I wouldn’t say to women? Do I defend women when they’re not in the room? One of the easy ways to detect sexism is by listening for words that people use for men and women. Women are bossy, while men are good leaders; women faint, while men pass out. Those are just two examples, but we’ve decided that certain words apply more to certain genders — and this is often detrimental to women. Because of this, I recently removed another word from my vocabulary: bitch.
Although I initially understood bitch as an equitable swear because I described men and women as bitches, I realized that I only use it to describe “feminine” characteristics. I noticed that the only time I described a woman as a bitch, it was when I was calling her mean, rude, or annoying, but I would only describe a man as a bitch if he were displaying a lack of courage (and that implicitly meant feminine). I decided that continually linking a lack of courage and femininity would only help my unconscious bias thrive, and it would be a good idea for me to stop. I also noticed that calling a woman a bitch for being rude felt like it had more to do with their gender than their actual behavior. It also furthered the criticism of women for doing things that are deemed acceptable when men do them.
Words can often have deeper meaning and drive behavior, and although obviating a word from my vocabulary hasn’t cured me of sexism, I figure that this is a good, although tiny, step in the right direction.