By Jocelyn Bosse
This article will feature in Wom*news #8: Flashback, out late January.
I have long been a fan of rock music, and it is always a joy to discover a band fronted by a strong female. My current favourite is Halestorm, the band fronted by Lzzy Hale, whose latest album features the song ‘You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing’
“You call me a bitch like it’s a bad thing.
You call me a freak, like that means something.
You can’t get your way so you insult me.”
I have lost count of the number of times someone – of any gender – has called me a bitch. And it is always meant as a bad thing.
Welcome to the 21st century, where formal equality is everywhere, but substantively lacking. We have laws against discrimination. Women can vote. Many people seem to believe that the battle of feminism is won, and women just need to calm down and enjoy it.
I would like to focus on an issue that is close to home: the way that those women who choose to focus on work and study, and not on being a stereotypical stay at home mum, are too often negatively labelled as bitches. I am only eighteen, so I feel that my experience in this regard is slightly more shocking. Allow me to explain.
I was lucky enough to be raised by a mother who was feminist. From a young age, I was encouraged to focus on studying and using my talents. There was no talking of being ‘girly’ or trying to impress boys. My mother wanted me to know from the start that I could be whoever I wanted, independent of any male. My future was mine to work for and create, and there was nothing bitchy about it.
In my other home, with my father and stepmother, the same ideals were reinforced. My father never led me to believe that I was less competent than males, but similarly encouraged me down the path of academia. My stepmother has always been open about her experiences with sexism and the need for social change.
Needless to say, my family background makes it all the more disgusting to me when I go out into the world and have to face sexism, fully alive and flourishing. More alarmingly, the fact that this huge monster is causing destruction and problems for women like me, and yet so many people have closed their eyes to it and refuse to believe it is there.
My great-aunt messaged me on Facebook a few weeks ago to see how I was going. One of her first questions was whether I had a boyfriend. I informed her that I was much too busy with my studies, and consequently did not have the time for boys. Her reaction was one of concern – how could I not be looking for Mr Right!? Maybe I’m delusional, but I feel rather certain that at the tender age of 18 – barely a legal adult – the last thing on my mind should be finding a man to spend the rest of my life with. Let’s face it: I have too much of my life left.
Apparently, this makes me a bitch. I have had men call me a bitch for turning them down on the basis of having classes to attend, work to go to or study to do. This is ridiculous, since these reasons are always genuine. I would never call in sick to be with a guy, but that makes me a cold hearted bitch. If I asked a boy to do that, I would be a needy, overly attached girlfriend. The difference should not be there.
Even worse are the occasions when girls call me a bitch. They say I’m a workaholic because I have career dreams. I’m emotionally distant because sometimes I study rather than be with a guy. Since I am not looking for love now, I will ‘probably lose my chance and will regret the lost time.’ Yes, according to some, if you don’t find ‘the one’ at 18, then you will be an old hag and have no hope. I am fairly certain this would be bad news for almost all readers. How unlucky we bitches are!
As you can see, there is an unfortunate trend in the advice I am receiving outside the home. Apparently everything my parents taught me was wrong. I should not be worried about getting a degree in my field of passion. I should not plan on an exciting career that will take me overseas. I should not put so much time and effort into the areas where my talents lie.
No, apparently the answer is for me to leave all my hopes and dream behind, and throw myself blindly into the arms of the next available guy. Apparently happiness for a woman is not with reaching her full potential: it is in a house, where a man provides the money for me and all I need to worry about is cooking and cleaning. Apparently we have not moved on from the 50s. Apparently my parents had it all wrong.
It would appear that I am not alone here. Calling me a bitch is just a way for people to express horror at the idea that I have moved beyond their archaic ideas of women’s roles. Furthermore, it is their way of excusing their ignorance of the need to continue the fight for women’s rights. Instead of acknowledging the monster, they ignore my arguments by brushing me off as a ‘crazy feminist bitch.’ All of a sudden, that one ‘b’ word makes everything I say redundant. I am a ‘freak’ who sees problems that ‘aren’t really there.’
The only solution I can see for now is to turn it around by not seeing my bitchiness as a bad thing. I can’t change the views of others; at least, not until they are willing to open their eyes.
“I don’t give a shit.
I love it when you call me a bitch,
Like it’s a bad thing.”
For now, I refuse to give a shit. Although the existence of this article demonstrates that people’s attitudes and labelling of a ‘bitch’ does concern me, I refuse to let a name bring me down.
“I’m just being who I want to be
But you can’t deal with that”
I am not the one with the problem. It is others who cannot deal with the reality of our world. I hope that one day they receive the wake-up call and realise why we ‘bitches’ are still working to combat sexism and sexual inequality. Until then, if being a strong feminist woman, who finds success through study, makes big career goals and refuses to sway under social pressure, also makes me a bitch, then I do not see that as a bad thing.
Halestorm. (2012). ‘You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing’. ‘The Strange Case of…’
~ Jocelyn Bosse