This weekend, I had a get together with the other grad students in the department to talk job search and enjoy some drinks and dinner. One of the things we did was cut up over 100 common interview questions, put them in a bowl, and draw them at random. With 5 of us searching professionally and the others searching for internships, it was a good medium and practice time for all parties involved. In one part of the conversation, I talked about the student staff I supervise and how, in recent one-on-ones, the women and I have been discussing the idea of being a bitch. In this setting with me peers, I said that each of these women was a bitch in a different kind of way, and I wish y’all could’ve seen some of the looks around the room. I’m not really one to justify my decision when I don’t see an issue with them (and I don’t see anything wrong with the title bitch), but I think it warrants further conversation.
I don’t have some sob story about feeling dejected the first time someone called me a bitch or anything like that. In fact, I think the first time there was a word associated with women that was considered a “no-no” word for me was when I was like 15 and my grandpa called someone a twat. As a kind old man, it was out of character, so my context clues told me that you had to be a special kind of bad for that to come out of his mouth.
Maybe it’s the women in my family that have taught me that being a bitch isn’t something bad. My Grandma Kiernan served in World War II, had 4 kids, 8 grandkids, and worked until I was at least 12 or 13 (she died when I was 18). My Grandma Maggie was a high school administrator, had 5 kids, 11 grandkids, and after retiring from life as an administrator, went back to school to get her nursing degree so that my grandpa could live out his life comfortably. She still teaches, drives a Cadillac, smokes Winstons, drinks Manhattans, and is just an all around bad ass. Aside from these two matriarchs, my mother got her MBA while raising the 3 of us in high school and rides a motorcycle (among other awesome stuff), and I have a slew of aunts (by blood and marriage) and cousins who are just all around badasses. Wanna know what else they all have in common? They’re all bitches.
Yes, I’m telling you that my first-grade God daughter and cousin is a bitch, and there’s nothing wrong with that (though her parents might beg to differ). I can’t go and quote “sticks and stones” because I know that words can hurt, but THIS word has never been one to hurt my feelings. I mean, damn…when I was little, I had the book “Little Miss Bossy” in three different languages! I was always allowed to ask questions and voice my little opinions, which I suppose made me headstrong from a young age, but why is that problem?
One of my favorite people on the planet, Tina Fey, was quoted once saying, “You know what? Bitches get stuff done.” I love this. Do I think you have to be a bitch to be successful? No, I guess not, but in my case it has certainly helped. Students and peers alike realized very quickly that calling me a bitch only fueled my fire rather than hurt my feelings. Am I telling you that you need to go fuel your own bitch fire and embody the word the way I have? Nope. But I am not going to someday decide that it bothers me. You can be a bitch without being heartless or cruel (though sometimes the former helps), and I hope that when I interact with people, they can see that.
I’m not going to ask that you take the word and make it part of your identity; that isn’t the purpose of this at all. This is so that the people around me can understand why I talk the way I do about something that others have turned into a dirty word. I will NEVER let one word determine how I feel about someone or something, so I would certainly not let one word change how I feel about myself. I also understand that I’ve used bitch synonymously with badass, and that’s because I think there’s something to be said for being that type of bitch. Like I alluded to at the beginning of this post, there are different kinds of bitches, and as with everything that comes in different forms, they aren’t all awesome. My point here is that you can take that word and make it want you want: good, bad, or ugly. I’ve chosen to let my bitch flag fly (and I’m sure my family would tell you it’s been flying high since I was in the womb) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll leave you with some wise words from my Grandma Maggie: “When people call me a bitch, I think it means I’m doing something right.”