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You’ve heard about the Big Bitch Brouhaha on Capitol Hill.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out the congressman who’d insulted her in vivid terms. And she actually repeated those vivid terms on the House floor.
Barrels of ink and pounds of pixels later, we know how every pundit, politician and protester feels about the original exchange and about the congresswoman’s on-the-record response.
You have your own opinion, I’m sure.
“He was an insufferable jerk.”
“She had it coming, she’s so mouthy.”
“He’s a hypocrite, yapping about his wife and daughters.”
“She shouldn’t have put that language into the Congressional Record.”
“A pox on both their houses!”
What struck me was how little has changed since I wrote about the way that language has been used forever to demean, insult, and bully women. In February of 2015!
Check this out …
Are You Staying Behind the Line?
The question comes up nearly every time I talk with women about a more powerful personal Presence.
A young woman asked it at my Highland event the other day. “How do I avoid being a bitch? It’s a fine line.”
It always tickles me that the people most worried about this issue are the ones who are farthest from that line. And this woman was no exception. So sweet and so soft and so timorous; she could move a long way in the direction of a more powerful Presence and still be nowhere close to bitch territory.
That’s typical – I hear this concern most often from people who have the least to be concerned about.
And that makes me feel bitchy! Concern about being labeled a bitch keeps so many women from stepping into their power, from playing full out, from accomplishing all they could if they weren’t so damn worried about stepping on someone’s toes.
Dictionaries define “bitch” with words like malicious, spiteful, overbearing, and selfish. Well, no wonder we don’t want to be described like that. Who would?
But maybe “malicious” means I speak up for myself.
And “spiteful” means I’m direct; I get to the heart of things.
“Overbearing” could suggest I’m not a doormat.
And am I really “selfish” … or am I just putting on my own oxygen mask first?
If we live in fear of the label, we sacrifice a lot. Who knows what that young woman from my book signing could accomplish if she weren’t going through life terrified that people will think she’s a bitch?
The answer may just be to embrace your Inner Bitch.
Not that we need to go out of our way to actually BE malicious, spiteful, overbearing and selfish. But we ought not to shy away from saying and doing things that might make somebody somewhere uncomfortable. And I’m afraid that’s exactly what happens when “what if they call me a bitch” is running our lives.
Years ago, at my first radio station, one of my male colleagues (and they were all male colleagues) taped a sign to my studio door: “Chief Bitch.”
I remember not liking it much. I also remember deciding to leave the sign on the door. Let it be a warning to anyone walking through that door instead of an insult to me.
I wouldn’t have said it this way at the time, but I was indeed embracing my inner bitch. And declining to be intimidated by the name-calling.
You won’t be surprised to hear that it wasn’t the last time somebody called me a bitch. I was in talk radio for years … the hate mail can be vicious! And, I’m a woman with opinions. And, I’m not shy about sharing them.
I wouldn’t want to be any other way. I encourage you to share your opinions too.
It would be lovely if we’d reached a point, all these years later, that women could speak their minds and be assertive and be in charge without running the risk of being called a bitch. We haven’t.
The truth is “Bitch” is still used all day long to keep women in line. Or try to anyway.
I say let’s step out of line.
Watch for that moment when you find yourself holding back. When it’s on the tip of your tongue to say something, but you swallow your words because you don’t want to be a bitch. And let me know what happens when you decide to let go of that fear.
So here we are in 2020, and “Bitch” is still an effort to keep women in line. Well, it failed spectacularly this time, didn’t it?
I was glad to see the representative from New York clap back at the “gentleman” from Florida. And especially happy that she dismissed the Daughters-Defense against allegations of blatant misogyny.
It was no surprise that other women in the House stood to describe similar experiences. We’ve all had similar experiences, haven’t we?
My inclination has been to ignore them, for the most part. Something along the lines of “don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they got to you.”
Now, I’m rethinking that let-it-roll-off-your-shoulders response to insults and bullying.
And of course, I’m still eager to hear what you have to say about the whole issue.
Share your thoughts in a comment below.
Yes, let us all release our inner bitch and step out of line! Great advice, Catherine.
I am one of nine children, and I have six sisters. I was blessed to grow up in warm and loving home even if we didn’t have a lot of material things.
What I did have was parents who believed in our ability to achieve the things we truly wanted through hard work, dedication, education and wise choices. I was a teenager in the 70’s and my father in particular prepared us girls for what to expect out in the working world dominated by men, and to be ready to support ourselves at any moment so that we could chose to be with a partner because we wanted to, not because we had to.
A sheet of paper, the text of which I have typed below, was tacked to a wall in his makeshift “office” in the basement to remind us of the bias and discrimination that awaited us and, I believe, to ensure he checked himself from time to time as well. He reinforced the belief that we could rise above these things if we were aware and faced it head on. When he died 15 years ago, I spirited it away. It has hung in my office ever since, and I am both encouraged by the progress we have made yet despondent at times at how far we still have to go. Please feel free to borrow, paraphrase or otherwise use it for the greater good.
I am still described by some people – men and women – as intimidating and aggressive. These are virtually all people with whom I have had differences of opinion, or called out for shenanigans where my path forward has been chosen over theirs. So be it. Most people describe me as passionate, assertive, articulate, focused, ambitious and cooperative. These are the people I chose to surround myself with.
Thank you for your emails. The topics are timely, helpful, interesting and engaging. I have forwarded many of them on to my colleagues, family and friends. This will be another one.
FROM MY FATHER’S DESK
How to tell a Businessman From a Businesswoman
A businessman is dynamic; a businesswoman is aggressive.
A businessman is good on details; she is picky.
He loses his temper; she is bitchy.
He’s a go-getter; she is pushy.
When he’s depressed, eveyone tiptoes past his office;
When she’s moody, it must be her time of the month.
He follows through; she doesn’t know when to quit.
He’s confident; she’s stuck up.
He stands firm; she’s hard as nails.
He has the courage of his convictions; she’s stubborn.
He is a man of the world; she’s been around.
He can handle his liquor; she’s a lush.
He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks; she’s mouthy.
He’s human; she’s emotional.
He excercises authority diligently; she’s power-mad.
He is close-mouthed; she is secretive.
He can make quick decisions; she’s impulsive.
He’s a stern taskmaster; she’s hard to work for.
He climbed the ladder of success; she slept her way to the top.
Your dad was quite a guy, Marcie. To acknowledge the double standard women have faced, and encourage his daughters to succeed in spite of it! Well, he was special, wasn’t he?
I was struck by your comment that you’re “encouraged by the progress we have made yet despondent at times at how far we still have to go.” Right there with you, Sister. Sometimes it seems like a very different world from my early working life. And sometimes, it’s depressingly the same. This whole AOC/Yoho episode was in the latter category.
And yet, it is encouraging that she spoke out on the House floor, and that other representatives stood to share similar experiences. Bringing it out in the open is one way to facilitate change.
Thanks for sharing your Businessman/Businesswoman piece with us.
Such a powerful post – and these comments! Thank you for using your voice!