Bitch. What a beautiful word. I’ve been called a bitch a lot. And by a lot, I mean pretty consistently. People make the assumption that I’m a bitch because I’ve always challenged them to think a little harder than they want to. I used to teach history to undergraduates. They would absent-mindedly state their opinions in their essays and without hesitation, I would always write, “Why?” I told my students to ask themselves why they thought a particular way, until they couldn’t answer the question anymore.
My hometown of Cullman, Alabama, recently underwent a series of laughable anti-gay protests. One anti-gay rally member angrily remarked in her thick southern accent, “I wonder if the people who are for same-sex marriage have read the Homosexual Manifesto, which basically states that we aren’t going to be happy until we have all of your sons homosexualists.” I haven’t read the Homosexual Manifesto, but I totally want to now. I imagine it to be like the Communist Manifesto, except a lot gayer. I would hate to be this woman’s son, whom I’m willing to bet is 900% gay. I only say that because she continuously seems threatened and fearful of her teenage son’s sexuality. I can imagine this woman finding gay porn on his computer and him being like, “Mom, I promise it isn’t what it looks like! One day this mysterious book showed up at our house called the Homosexual Manifesto. I couldn’t resist reading it because it had these magical gay powers, so I read it and now I’m gay. I’m so sorry. I’ll never be gay again!” Imagine being liberal-minded in an environment like this. Automatic Bitch 2.0 for even believing that the heterosexual normative should be challenged. I’m such a bitch for leaving that place and moving to Nashville. I sometimes think of myself as the character from The Magic School Bus, who would always say, “At my old school,” except I replaced it with my “old town.” At my old town, people weren’t openly allowed to be themselves.
Beyond being a liberal bitch, I can also be very quiet and I have an extremely dry/morbid sense of humor. I’m aggressive and I have a lot of drive. Everything I’ve ever wanted to happen, I’ve made it happen. That’s just the kind of person that I am. I have a very “get shit done” attitude. I don’t let people walk all over me and when they do, my tone of voice gets sharp. My demeanor is serious when I’m working. I naturally look harsh; with long dark brown hair and eyes that are so dark they look black. I like wearing red lipstick and I dress edgy. Let’s face it – being a bitch was inevitable for me.
When I tried to be the sweetie-pie, girl-next door, it felt/looked all wrong. That’s because I can’t play that role. It makes me cringe. I don’t identify with it. If that’s the woman that you are, then that is just who you are, but I’m tired of being expected to be that woman. Because I’m not that woman. I’m a bitch. People project an identity upon you, whether you like it or not. I’m fine with being a bitch because I know what it means to me. Call me a bitch and I’ll probably smile and take it as a compliment, just like you’d expect a bitch to do.
When I was in graduate school, I listened in on a conversation that a guest speaker (one of the history professors) had with a class of undergraduates. This professor was known for lighting a fire under people’s asses, often leaving comments on papers that read “What the f*ck is this? Rewrite.” He was straightforward, a little arrogant, and a phenomenal writer. No one ever questioned what was on his mind, because he let you know. He was what I like to call… well, he was a bitch. He was a straight man and he was the biggest bitch I’ve ever met.
Most of the people sitting in on that class were completely uninterested in what the professor had to say. I was zoned into my bitch. Bitch-to-bitch, I know I was listening harder than anyone else in that room. He was talking about being yourself and knowing what you are good at. He advised the students to, “Find a job that makes you happy. F*ck what your parents think. This is about you. Do something you are good at and that you like. I’m a good writer, so I picked a job where I could write the books I wanted to and if people didn’t like it then, whatever.” As a man, he understood what it was like to be a bitch, but he would never understand what it was like to be a woman and be a bitch. When you are considered a bitch as a woman, it is a negative thing. When a man is a bitch, he is assertive and playing into his masculine role. He might get called a dick if he is lucky, but he’s never a bitch… well, unless he is gay.
To all my bitches: just be you. It took a long time for me to realize that this was who I am and that playing another role isn’t going to work for me. It took two years of graduate school for me to realize that I wasn’t a “bitch,” but that my personality consisted of dominant characteristics that men are supposed to have. Know your inner bitch, if that’s what you want to embrace. Know what being a bitch means to you. My point isn’t to be mean to people. If you are that type of bitch, then shame on you. What I’m trying to say is: never feel bad about who you are. Never feel like you should have to be something that you aren’t. If you aren’t Miss America, fan of babies and weddings, baker of home goods, and submissive lover, so what? Don’t ever let people talk down to you and always take up for yourself. Understand that just like being a housewife is a role, being a bitch is one too and if you are still kind-hearted, you can be a total bitch and people will still like you. Go read some Judith Butler and feel better about yourself. It’ll make you realize that this whole gender thing is sort of a scam any way. You can pick your gender role and you can have multiple ones simultaneously. I encourage women who feel out of place to do this, because you aren’t crazy and you aren’t alone. There’s bitches everywhere and they aren’t just women.