Listen to the audio version of this post here.
“Harry is whipped… I won’t use the full expression, but Harry is whipped like no person I think I’ve ever seen.”
– Donald J. Trump.
That’s what our former president had to say about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, in his big interview with Piers Morgan on Britain’s new TalkTV.
It jumped out at me because, well, it’s true Trump and I don’t travel in the same circles, but I have to say it’s been a looooong time since I heard anyone use that seemingly dated expression.
I would have thought we were past all that agita about strong, independent women expressing their opinions freely. And about the men who love them. And about the partnerships they develop.
Maybe I’m too optimistic about sex roles and stereotypes and the way couples communicate?
Certainly, I still get that old question from women now and again, when I’m speaking about professional presence and business communication.
They take my point, they assure me, about speaking more definitely, putting a period on their sentences, and avoiding that hedging, minimizing, apologizing language that makes them seem so uncertain about themselves and their opinions.
And yet, they worry, “What if people think I’m a bitch?”
It always tickles me that the people most likely to express their concern about this issue are the ones who are least likely to be perceived that way. In general, they’re so soft and sweet they could move a long way in the direction of a more powerful Presence and still be nowhere close to bitch territory.
And that makes me feel bitchy!
The fear of being labeled a bitch keeps so many women from playing full out, from stepping fully into their power, from accomplishing all they could if they didn’t worry so much 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 what if “malicious” means I speak up for myself?
What if “spiteful” is just a code word for direct, for getting to the heart of things? “Overbearing” could suggest I’m not a doormat.
And am I really “selfish” … or am I just making sure my own needs are met before I turn my attention to others?
We sacrifice a lot if we live in fear of the label.
Who knows what any young woman could accomplish if she weren’t going through life nervous that people will think she’s a bitch, or that her partner is “whipped?”
Could the answer be to embrace your inner bitch?
I’m not saying we should go out of our way to actually BE malicious, spiteful, overbearing, and selfish.
I am saying (in the nicest possible way 😉 ) we shouldn’t shy away from saying and doing things that might make somebody somewhere uncomfortable. And that kind of holding back is 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 I only had male colleagues) taped a sign to the door of the studio where I did the news. It said, “Chief Bitch.”
I remember not liking it. Really not liking it. Okay, it hurt my feelings. I also remember deciding to leave the sign on the door. Let it be a warning to whoever walked through that door instead of an insult to me.
I wouldn’t have said it this way at the time, but looking back, it’s clear I was embracing my inner bitch. And refusing to be intimidated by the name.
You likely won’t be surprised to hear that wasn’t the last time somebody called me a bitch. I was in talk radio for years … the hate mail can be vicious! Also, I’m a woman with opinions. And I’m not that shy about sharing them.
I wouldn’t want to be any other way. I encourage you to have opinions too. And share them.
It would be wonderful 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.
It doesn’t seem that we have. 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 you have an opinion and decide not to share it.
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.
I guess I am a bitch. No apologies. 🙂 I learned from the Chief Bitch! (And I am so happy I did)
And you learned well, Donna! Here’s to refusing to toe the line …
Great article. Always enjoyed hearing you on your talk show.
Thanks, Karen! This one was fun to write. Kind of like doing that talk show…
Have you noticed – Bitch = winner!
If a woman is in a race with a man, she is never called a bitch if she loses.
But she sure is if she wins the race!
I wear that label as a badge of honor!
It’s a good point, Karen. They trot out names like that to bring a person down a peg. Or two.