I Am A Bitch, An Essay.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I played on the junior varsity basketball team. Quite honestly, I was not a very strong offensive player. I was, however, aggressive and effective at defense.
After one game, my mom said to me, “That girl [on the other team] called you a bitch.” This was, obviously, both a surprise and unacceptable sportsmanship to my mother.
I looked up from my pizza, and said flatly, “If they’re not calling me a bitch, I’m not doing my job,” because, unbeknownst to my mom, girls on the basketball court and the field hockey field called me a bitch all the time.
It was kind of a source of pride. I was effective enough to frustrate them. I had also, I think, desensitized myself to the epithet.
It was empty to me. Something said when someone thought I was taking something to which they were entitled — often a ball on an athletic field, but also space or airtime or authority.
By the time I was in high school, there was little I’d done — projects I’d created, clothing or haircuts I’d worn, achievements I’d earned — that had not been criticized by a peer at some point in some way. And it was hurtful. It was hurtful — and it felt inescapable — for a long time.
But being called a bitch, that was like armor. I was formidable, and that was OK with me.
I’ve been called many things, but none with which I have had as bemused, satisfying and detached relationship as “bitch.”
Model Congress? Sure, I’ll be a bitch. Law School? Most definitely.
As a young woman, my reaction to “bitch” was “Bring It.”
I don’t remember being called a bitch much past the age of 27, which makes sense: I started my law career then, and young attorneys in big firms don’t wield enough authority to be deemed a bitch. If I’d had the stomach to stay at a big firm or in litigation, perhaps I would have seen how this played out.
But I am still a bitch, really. I can, if I choose, verbally eviscerate. I can — and sometimes do on behalf of clients — convey contempt entirely politely and professionally. Hell, I’m a bitch for writing this essay.
Here’s what those who pitch “bitch” don’t know about bitches: We own it.
It’s been hurled at us every single time we’ve brought the full force of our intelligence, skill, confidence, and yes, entitlement to compete or opine, to bear. It’s been spewed at us since a young age, by girls at least as often as boys. It does not undermine our confidence, our competence or our resolve. It only means we’ve struck a nerve.
But it does erode our humanity — and that is its intent.
It reinforces that women’s competition, women’s ambition, women’s acumen is abnormal. It pushes women outside the clan by socially and culturally vilifying us, and simultaneously, it polices the behavior of the women who are witnesses.
Personally, it is a hardening and isolating experience.
One in which we, bit by bit, refrain from vulnerability, we retreat inside our armor, diminishing our basis for connection until we can reclaim it — over years or decades — for ourselves.
If this is the season of the bitch, I welcome it. Because it is time.
It is time to integrate the bitch, culturally and personally, so we can finally embrace women’s ambition and acumen without sacrificing our humanity.
Are you a bitch? Tell me your story.
#bitch #nastywoman #thepersonalispolitical #thepoliticalispersonal