Friday, February 1, 2008

on being a bitch. a love letter of sorts

Yep. I use all kinds of interesting words here. Today's post will be laden with the word I hear about myself the most and my ponderings on the subject.

To each bitch there is a manner of becoming. Some bitches are born. Some bitches are made by a happy coincidence of outside influences and her reaction to them. And finally, some bitches make themselves in response to the desire to be bad or in response to a life that seems determined to make a bitch of her. If you're reading this and no one has ever called you a bitch, please, join us. Come to the dark side. It's important.

I am bitch D, all of the above. If you have read this far through the archives, you know that I was my mother's bitch, and by bitch I mean the girl shaped vessel into which she put the darkest of her feelings about being trapped at home to raise the kids despite her ambition to earn a BA in music theory. There are a lot of women in the family whose ambition was sidelined by marriage and children, as if the purchase price for love and relationships was the death of their selves. To some degree, I was also born a bitch, because whatever made me (biology or something deified) made me almost incapable of STFU for extended periods, and bitch is what they call uppity girls who don't STFU. Also girls who can be cruel. (Yo!) It will all come barreling out, whether I like it or not. Sometimes to my humiliation, sometimes to my benefit and always to my alienation, because no matter how far along we might have gotten in terms of rights, no one quite knows what to do with a dyed-in-the-wool bitch, including herself sometimes. Overt modesty, chastity and humility are not my forte. I have been extensively punished for this, as most bitches are, in a variety of ways. I will go into this momentarily.

I have also made myself. Bitches, when they achieve bitch-hood, have thrust upon them a stereotype of sorts, which they have to decide how to process. This I will also go into momentarily, but for now, just remember that as far out of the mouse you go, there is always someone who intends to mold you so that they know what you are and can safely ignore you. Which is absurd. Bitches are not safe, at least in that way.

On the subject of safety, I wish to introduce bitch ethics and bitch safety. If you are a bitch, and I am going to suppose that you are, if you're interested in reading this. If you're doing bitch research, I hope you find this edifying.

Bitch ethics are a bit complicated and tied into bitch stereotypes. I'm not so much talking the femme fatale bit here, which tends to come up, as I am all the assorted bad girl stereotypes which may be lumped into or poured over our bitch selves. Let's name them, shall we? Sing along! There's the bad girl with a heart of gold; the femme fatale; the gold-digger; the significant other stealer; the power-hungry bitch; the disobedient bitch; many, many permutations of horny bitch and the disloyal, manipulative bitch.

Let's talk honestly, bitches. How many of these bitches have you been? There is a certain reward to compliance, ain't there? With the stereotypes, you know what you're supposed to do next, right? Pivot on hip here, sneer there, grind out cigarette with foot, etc. What kind of bitch are you?

For the sake of bitches out there everywhere, Be. Your. Own. Bitch. The problem with conforming constantly to stereotypes is that they limit your behavior to the kinds of things that stereotypical bitch would do, something I know I ran away from. I was being choked to death in the other lives laid out for me. I got kids. I like kids. But no matter what happens, I am not going to give up going to school for them (and I have been explicitly punished for being a bad mother because I went to school and needed a babysitter. We're cruel to one another, bitches.) Bing nothing but a stereotypical bitch is just as bad as always being the nice girl. In both stereotypes, in order to be successful, you end up being dead. Watch any horror movie, read classic literature, look at the life of Marilyn Monroe. Good girls, bad girls, all girls who transcend to stereotype die. And then they die again, because they are not remembered as people, but as an inhuman uber woman who is foisted into other women as a model for their behavior and to make them despair.

This is not a new point, bitches. Any good close look at the lives of women held up to our emulation will quickly illuminate the rotten core of depression, self-denial, abuse and/or sacrifice; most of these qualities or actions will not be based on choice, but rather on the expectations and strictures placed on these women by the people around them, well-meaning or no, conscious or unconscious. The more popular or well-known you are, the tighter and deeper those things bite.

I am not saying to never act like a particular kind of bitch. There's no sense in being paranoid. I am saying know those bitches and slip them like a pair of itchy panties when they do not suit. (Had to work a lingere reference in there somewhere.) Same rule goes for nice girls. Wanna be one? Fine. Just know how and slip it when you don't need it. You own you, bitch. And don't you ever forget it.

Bitch ethics are deeply dependent on a bitch's knowledge of bitch stereotypes, partially because one of the components of ethics has to do not only with how we treat others, but also with how they perceive the way we treat them. Stay with me, here. I am going to leave the subject of what specifically to do, in terms of bitch ethics, open. You get to chose what kind of bitch you wanna be. I could really give a shit, as long as you are consciously choosing to be that kind of bitch. I've done a little bit of everything, in terms of bitches, while trying myself out. There are a list of things I try not to do, because I may be a bitch, but I try to be a dignified one. (And by dignified, I mean I gotta look myself in the eye, in the morning.) Bitch ethics, to my mind, are the struggle to remain acceptable to myself in the face of some rather specific, stereotype-oriented pressure to do otherwise.

In terms of how other people see your bitch ethics and actions, I exhort you to remember that the people around you (in the same basic society as you) are fully stocked with all the bitch stereotypes, or at least you may assume so for the sake of a working definition. They think they know what you're supposed to do next and will interpret your actions to fit. (I once had a teacher who kept repeating 'you know I have a wife, don't you' when I asked him if I could talk to him about our Aristotle reading. I finally told him I tend to prefer pussy [yes, in those words], so I thought he was safe. To my reading, this was less something I was doing [standing six feet from him] or wearing [sweats] and more the kind of bitch he thought I was. Sometimes being a bitch can have unintended and really annoying side-effects, because people tend to interpret aggressive as wanton; thank you, slutty bitch stereotype. Trust me, I am a horny bitch frequently, but I am also a very, very picky bitch.)

It is completely possible to be doing something ethical, through even a religious understanding of ethics, and have it interpreted as something highly unethical because of that stereotype. I have walked women to their cars after a late night class, not because I wanted to fuck them (it's a theme for me), but because I wanted to insure our collective safety, and had them treat me as if I were trying to get in their panties or, if I stumbled over something in the dark, as if I were completely otherwise inept, because I was not 'suave' enough to fit the stereotype they though they had identified in me. For that reason, a bitch has to be aware, but capable of ignoring the implications. Or I'd have crawled under a rock and given up, already. Take heart, bitches. I know what you mean. And so will other bitches, if they're self-aware of the peril of being one.

Being a bitch is very, very perilous. Some of you know that. For those of you that don't, being a bitch has resulted in the following, for me: I've been punched; locked in a freezer by my manager because I have an attitude problem; treated like a spectacularly bad-behaving dog that just shit on the carpet; ignored or treated as if being a bitch meant I was stupid or otherwise mentally inadequate; challenged by men who want to know why I think I'm macho (CONSTANTLY); had men compete with me as if I were another man (they tend to think it's a compliment of sorts); had people read my bitch bumper stickers and kick out my glass, call the cops or try to peel them off; had that old 'but you look like such a nice girl' canard used on me; asked why I'm so 'unnatural' (some of this is correlated with queerness, but there is more than one kind of queer girl); had guys threaten to fuck some sense/straight into me; threaten me for looking at the same girl (don't you dare turn her to your team); treated by other women as if I were trying to make them less or as if I am sleazy (that happens to bitches a lot); had other women call me names, ignore me, refuse to talk to me, treat me as if I was incompetent or stupid or male because they could not figure out what to do with me or my demeanor annoyed them; been told to be more charming, nicer, sweeter, I'd be so much cuter if I'd just act like more of a girl and, most stingingly, told I wasn't much of a feminist because I only made the real feminists look bad by being so tacky/loud/horny/disagreeing/questioning policy (to which my response is usually 'when was the last time you jumped into a domestic/hid someone at your house from her partner/bought someone groceries for a woman and her child/drove a stranger to a shelter/refused to back down no matter how much it scared you because you were debating a man?' I'm not saying I didn't almost piss my pants every single time. I'm not saying I wasn't shaking. I've actually had my knees knock. I'm not saying I haven't mellowed as I aged and had kids. I owe them sticking around. I am saying don't beat your fucking girlfriend or kids in front of me. I will call the cops, make a stink or otherwise try to stop you. Not on my fucking watch, fuckers.)

Let's quickly talk about rape, ladies (which isn't easy.) The paragraph above covers physical violence (of which there has been much for me, over the years) and the discouragements tossed to bitches by the people in their environments. (There are male bitches, but let's face it: the modern 'bitch' is a word from a class of words specifically designed to make women feel shitty for being nonconformists.) I have had to deal with a unfortunately large amount of that, beginning before I quite knew what sex was and continuing on to this day in threats. I will rip a motherfucker's balls off with my teeth before that happens again, like many of the women I've talked to. Rape is a specific sort of threat aimed at all women, whether they are so comfortable conforming with the lives given them that they do not notice or not. It is also aimed at men who do not conform. Yes, it's horrible. Yes, it's catastrophic. You need to know, as bitches, that you are under a special sort of threat for it. Because I am a bitch, I can almost guarantee that I will hear something about it almost half the time I talk to men, especially men who are angry and not, for various reasons, good at being subtle. I also see threats in commercials, on TV, I've lost count of rape scenes in mainstream movies and in newspaper articles. Being raped will make you sensitive to that kind of thing.

Bitches, know that the threats you will get for noncompliance are going to be heavily based on the idea that something may be raped from you. Don't let them have the satisfaction. Be safe, but do not back down. No matter how strong, how powerful, how fucked your situation is, you can still hurt them. Do not let them have your fear and resist as strongly as you can. You don't owe them shit, most especially not compliance based of fear.

And don't feel bad when you do comply. You especially do not owe anyone guilt. The act of surviving is, in and of itself, a bravery. Bitches are brave as all fuck. We are the bravest people I know, as are all non-conformists.

In any case, being a bitch, a real bitch, is dangerous. You should know that for every time you've been a bitch, every time you've refused to comply and been uppity without backing down, for every time you've stood up, it issues a challenge to the people around you and they frequently will not take it well. This can result in anything. In white collar, intellectual settings, this will result in gossip and general nastiness, including being passed over for endorsements and positions. In other settings, it can result in anything from being passed over to being assaulted. I have been grateful, since I was a little girl, in a quick mouth and mind. In one of the high schools I went to (the religious one, if you know me personally), I talked a bunch of stupid little boys out of assaulting me by pointing out that they were liable to get caught. I probably should have just hit one of them and got it over with. They made a lot of trouble for me over the two years I was there. I talked a guy out of shooting me at a party after I broke up a fight with the same argument, talking to him about the horrors of jail for a white boy as he held the gun to my head. It's a good one.

So bitch safety is important. Remember, bitches, at least at this point in our societal development, you cannot always count on the people around you for support. So be very, very careful being a bitch. Find people you can count on to hang out with. Be careful where you are, where you go and who you talk to. A broken heart, hurt feelings or being passed over for a position are a whole lot less painful than having your ass kicked by some guy twice your size (unless you have to support a family; then it's terrifying. College is expensive.) So (jokingly), I suggest you hang out with the white collar crowd some. It annoys the piss out of them, anyway. (I'm a blue-collar bitch, in case you haven't guessed by now.) Just be careful getting close to them. They aren't always bitch-friendly, though they will sometimes pretend to be. If you are comfortable, chances are quite good you are conforming somehow and most people will defend their comfort. Viciously.

More seriously, though, ask yourself why you're a bitch. What does it mean to you? What will you give up to be a bitch and how can you make being a bitch work for making your world a better place?

For me, the answers are as follows: I'm a bitch because there's nothing else I can ethically or naturally be. Seriously, I am a default bitch a great deal of the time, but not angrily. Being a bitch, for me, means that I am actively involved in creating a world for my daughters in which they are less constricted by stereotypes that ask them to kill themselves or their dreams and selves in order to be acceptable. As a net result, I am making a better world for other women. I'll give just about everything up for being a bitch, not because I believe that I should have to sacrifice, but because being a bitch is fairly natural to me and because I want to be actively involved in making the world a better place. Not by giving up my life, though I will risk it, unless the lives of my loved ones are at stake. It don't happen often, though, and hasn't happened, yet. Every single time I stand up and refuse to back down, not because I am wrong and afraid, but because if I'm right, motherfuckers are not going to shake me, I make rhetorical space for other women to also stand up, in the lives of the women around me and the lives of the men who encounter me. It also gives me a clear picture of when I am wrong, which I reserve the right to be (and hopefully to change my mind.)

I love you, bitches. Every single scarred, scared, non-conforming, angry, steel-toe or stiletto wearing, lonely and full of friends, uppity one of you. I believe we're making the world a better place. Even when I don't agree with you.

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