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I'm Not A Boss Bitch: How The Language We Use To Describe Womxn Comes From Internalized Misogyny

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

It isn’t empowering to be called a boss “bitch” or a bad “bitch”, it isn’t funny to be called a basic “bitch”. I don’t want my friends to call me a bitch, I don’t want the media to refer to women as bitches. In fact, I wish we as a society would recognize that adopting language that is meant to oppress us and trying to reclaim it is a futile fight.

Like many other common phrases we say on a regular basis and without awareness, calling ourselves or others bitches demonstrates internalized misogyny.

Internalized misogyny references the implicit negative attitudes and associations we make through continual negative representation of the marginalized gender. We learn these associations as soon as we start existing in the world. From parents, teachers, friends, and the media, we learn that womxn are inferior. This issue is perpetuated in so many realms of our everyday life and affects every single on of us.

And using this word casually among friends and online only opens the door for men to call us bitches and then say it was just a joke, or simply a phrase of speech.

Same as

“you fight like a girl”

“don’t be such a pussy.”

Unbelievably, women are saying these things to men. And men are saying them about women and it creates a rhetoric around the female gender that is toxic and negative in meaning.

The language we use to describe ourselves and others has an impact on our mental health, self-esteem and creates a negative implicit gender bias.

The concern on the other side of this conversation is that telling women not to use this language is a form of victim-blaming. Or that it implies that womxn using these phrases is the root of the problem and that others are only learning from us, but the opposite is true. Womxn are using this language to manage an implicit bias against themselves. Believing that we choose to call ourselves bitches is simply a misdirect as to why we are using this language in the first place.

Sometimes womxn use this term to differentiate themselves from traditional forms of femininity. To imply that their success, perseverance, and strength is a factor indicating why they are “better” than other womxn. Or we call someone who doesn’t meet our expectations of how womxn should behave (read “accommodating, pleasant, flexible and bending to the will of others) then they are “bitches”. This automatically starts putting expectations and judgements on other womxn for how they should behave and relate to the world around them.

Imagine if we stopped using negative words about ourselves and other womxn. If instead of adopting the language of our oppressors, we invented something new.

Something that goes beyond saying “fight like a girl” is a good thing.

What if we learn to internalize the inherent value of all womxn regardless of how they represent themselves and relate to others. In fact, maybe we don’t need qualifiers at all.

I’m not a boss bitch,

I’m a boss

I’m not a basic bitch,

I’m not basic at all

I’m not a bad bitch

It isn’t bad to be fierce and do what I want with my life. It’s amazing.

When your co-worker spoke up in that meeting,

She isn’t a bitch for it. Most of the time we don’t even know the full story, good for her for standing up for herself.

Womxn aren’t “catty” or “bitchy”, so let’s stop letting our conditioning tell us that we are.

Let’s stop making it normal to denigrate and demean womxn on the regular with our word choices.

Let’s stop making womxn gendered terms a bad thing.

The womxn I know are empowered, empowering and inspirational. They are valuable, intelligent and strong even when we don’t see eye to eye. On that note, I’d love to hear what you think about the use of the word. Agree? Disagree? Somewhere in-between? Let me know in the comments!

Wanna learn more about internalized misogyny?

I recently saw an amazing video by feminism in India with Manashi Pant and the accompanying article internalized misogyny 101 by Harshita Narasimhan that gives lots of insight into the ways in which we practice or demonstrate internalized misogyny. Check it out here.

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