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The History of the Word “Bitch” and Its Inherent Subordinating Nature

By: Cecilia Nguyen

I’ve been called a “bitch” multiple times. At times, I would even embrace it– I mean, why should I feel belittled for taking lead in a group project or for standing my ground? However, after listening to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech on the House floor in response to Rep. Ted Yoho calling her a “f****** b****,” all I felt was anger. “Bitch” is an incredibly derogatory slur, but like many other women, AOC was not phased or surprised by the insult. That is not okay. 

Where does the word “bitch” come from? It originally referred to a female dog, but as early as the 15th century, it became a term to degrade and insult women. Back then, it carried a promiscuous connotation, similar to phrases like “slut” and “whore” today. The insult also was used to associate divine and powerful women (Artemis and Diana) with sexually depraved beasts, in which their followers were described by the phrase “son of a bitch.” 

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that “bitch” was used as a word for men to describe bothersome and annoying women. In the 70s, its usage rose in popularity again, specifically in the music industry. Resulting from the second-wave feminism movement, for the first time, women started to embrace the word as a term of empowerment (check out the “The Bitch Manifesto” by Jo Freeman).

Nonetheless, “bitch” still embodied misogyny and hate throughout the 80s and mid 90s, and not many women were eager to take pride in being one. It wasn’t until the late 90s and early 2000s that women started to reclaim “bitch” to describe a powerful, independent and ambitious woman that voiced her opinions and made decisions for herself, in part due to public figures like Madonna and Britney Spears.

Today, “bitch” comes in many forms and variations; it’s everywhere. In pop culture, the word is used in song lyrics, TikTok trends, and TV shows. In politics, it’s used to belittle women in positions of power. For some women, it’s a term to greet their closest friends. For others, it’s a harmless and recurrent slang term. Despite what people may think, however, its subordinate nature has not changed.

In many, if not all, instances, “bitch” creates an imbalanced power dynamic and enforces society’s preference of what is deemed as “masculine.” For example, by calling an inanimate object or intangible idea a “bitch,” such as “That exam was a bitch” or “Life’s a bitch,” “bitch” is seen as something that needs to be controlled or dominated. Another example is when “bitch” is used with a possessive adjective, such as “my bitch,” “his bitch” or “her bitch.” In this case, “bitch” is used as a way to describe someone who might be submissive or vulnerable, making “feminine” traits inferior. Most notably, “bitch” is often used to degrade men of their masculinity and to insult women who are seen as emasculating which again, enforces the patriarchy.

Let’s talk about the reclamation of “bitch.” Many women, including myself, have now used “bitch” among each other in a friendly and positive way, under the intent and belief that it empowers us. But, just as much as we use it to uplift the women around us, we (and men) also use it to demean women.

“Bitch” holds no genuine power, and its misogynistic origin is still present in its usage today. When used by women and sometimes men, it usually refers to another woman that is manipulative, back-stabbing or stuck-up. In other instances, men use the word to describe a woman who is misbehaving and subject to violence. Men aren’t afraid to use “bitch,” and rarely are they ever called out for using it. The frequent usage normalizes “bitch” and in turn, normalizes patriarchal and sexist language.

If “bitch” doesn’t challenge the patriarchy and sexism in our society, how can we say we are reclaiming the word? If we want to reclaim “bitch,” we need to stop using it to insult other women and hold men accountable for using it. Otherwise, this false sense of empowerment only sets us up to continue living in a society where it is okay to degrade women. 

Now, I’m not saying you have to completely stop using “bitch;” for me, it’s been a part of my everyday language. I’ve used it to greet people, uplift women, express my anger, and describe my frustration, but maybe its normalization and common usage, in addition to its multiple meanings, is why this isn’t spoken about enough. Words hold immense power, and it’s important to acknowledge and reflect on the language we use.

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The “B” Word: Why You Shouldn’t Bark Bitch

By: Natalie Lopez

Bitch. The word that began from the reference to a female dog has evolved. Now, it serves as a high and vulgar insult directed towards women. The use of the word held the intention that comparing one to a dog would create a ridicule of a person. A female dog made that matter more de-masculating and thus humiliating in its original connotation.

In modern conversations, bitch has steered from comparison to a dog and has created its own negative connotation. This determined identity of a “bitch” is what others refer to when attempting to demean the power and ability of a woman through intimidation. The improper use of the word has created identity traits that misogynists use to emasculate women’s accomplishments. For example, in the occurrence that a woman reaches a position of leadership and acts on it, they label them a bitch to demean and belittle their success. While society would look up to a man in the same position, they refer to a woman as a bitch.

The most recent victim called a bitch for doing the same exact job a man is doing is the Democrat Representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When Republican Representative from Florida, Ted Yoho, accosted Representative Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the capitol, it was not a new experience for her. She recalls in her address to Yoho’s actions that she had experienced men harass her in previous positions in restaurants, bars and in general life as a woman in a busy city. Men who treat women to this language are too often forgiven and exonerated from any repercussions for far too long. 

In her speech, Representative Ocasio-Cortez recognizes this and blames the commonality of it on the current culture that permits this behavior . “It is cultural,” she stated, “It is a culture of a lack of impunity, of acceptance of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.” As long as other men do not hold accountability within their social groups, and as long as women stay silent and remiss about these verbal accostings, we are tackling another barrier that exists to divide gender equality. 

Yoho, in his response to Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s speech, accounted his respect towards women stemming from the fact that he was a father and husband who needed to be aware of the language choices he made. Yoho never acknowledged how degrading his remark had been or how sexist he had acted towards a young, talented Latinx politician in a very sexist arena. Instead Yoho chose to announce that he would, “conduct [him]self from a place of passion,” a passion that he could not apologize for. Upon listening to Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned speech, Yoho must have decided that he did hold respect for women because he lived with them, and that’s another issue.

Men like Yoho, who choose to hide behind the women they love, claim they are not sexist because they respect the women in their lives. This didn’t translate very well for Yoho. It’s possible that he is not using the same language he used towards Representative Ocasio-Cortez at home, but so long as he calls someone a bitch, he is not supporting the women in his life from men, like him, who negate women’s fair treatment. 

What we shouldn’t misunderstand is that not all use of the word is wrong. Women have been reclaiming the word in an attempt to take back a harassing term and use it to empower themselves. Where women choose to call themselves a bitch, it’s not exactly how Yoho chose to address Representative Ocasio-Cortez. Women have been reclaiming the word through a new assigned definition that calls a strong woman, one who is owning her power and ability, a boss bitch. Women and people who choose to should hold the ability to reform the misuse of the word bitch, but not continue to use it as a form of bullying and belittling. The men who bark bitch are the reason women are reclaiming this negative derogation in the first place, bitch is a word that should never have been transformed to fight women.

All cuss words stem from derogatory terms directed to minority groups. Bitch in particular holds a special place among these words because it is so commonly overused without much insight to the abasement it pushes. Because it’s not just being called a Bitch that should anger you, it’s the fact that women are being degraded and disrespected so publicly and commonly while society has chosen to ignore it.

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COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Affecting Women and People of Color

By: Claire Armstrong

We all know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers are shouldering more than their share of the burden to protect our people and keep our country running. What we often neglect to discuss, however, is that women, immigrants, and minorities make up the majority of workers on the frontlines. According to the New York Times, “one in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential,” and women of color are even more likely to be essential workers. Under the umbrella of “essential workers” are social workers, healthcare workers, critical retail workers, medical supplies distributors, food processing workers, delivery and warehousing workers, and more. A study by the New York Times states that over 75% of social workers and healthcare workers performing essential work are women, and over 50% of critical retail essential workers are women. Overall, the study found that 52% of essential workers are women. AP News reported that “in New York City, more than 76% of healthcare workers are people of color.” And healthcare is not the only essential work sector made up of a majority of people of color. AP News also noted that “More than 60% of warehouse and delivery workers in most cities are people of color,” nearly 60% of grocery store workers in most cities are nonwhite, and 74% of janitors in most cities are people of color. This is only a small sampling of essential work industries in which people of color are taking on the majority of the work.

An article in The Guardian found that female healthcare professionals on the frontlines are in greater danger than male healthcare professionals because personal protective equipment, or PPE, is designed for men, meaning that it is too large for many female healthcare professionals. The article quotes Dr Helen Fidler, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) UK consultants committee, as saying, “Women’s lives are absolutely being put at risk because of ill-fitting PPE. We know that properly fitted PPE works, but masks are designed for a male template, with the irony being that 75% of workers in the NHS [United Kingdom National Healthcare Service] are female.” As a result, many female healthcare professionals are forced to interact with the virus on a daily basis without proper PPE. This is likely the reason that, according to the CDC (as reported by Kaiser Health News), 73% of healthcare workers infected with coronavirus are women.

In an article for The Atlantic, Helen Lewis discusses another burden that women are disproportionately shouldering during the pandemic: childcare. Lewis writes that the pressure to become a new and improved version of yourself while stuck at home during the pandemic is unrealistic for the people caring for children. And, overwhelmingly, those people are women. Lewis also points out that as an economic recession seems more and more inevitable, childcare professionals become less and less likely to find paid work. “school closures and household isolation,” she writes, “are moving the work of caring for children from the paid economy—nurseries, schools, babysitters—to the unpaid one.” 

Not surprisingly, in families where both partners work remotely, unequal patterns around childcare and managing the household have become more pronounced. In April of 2020 scientists decided to study these conditions. They found that just as women had carried the majority of the childcare burden before the onset of the pandemic, it has become even more unequal since. Adding homeschooling to the already long list of tasks necessary to care for children and maintain a home exacerbates this burden. In addition, the “mental load” is carried by the female parent almost exclusively and includes providing emotional support, distractions and stimulation for children, as well as meal planning, organizing social connections, and all of the myriad mental tasks that are part of parenting. Women have always been the default go-to parents, and although more male parents may be working from home, that default status has only become more pronounced.

The world has always been a place where those with less political and financial capital have been forced, out of economic necessity, to take on jobs others do not want, whether because they are dangerous, distasteful, low-paying, or all of these. During the current pandemic, many women and minorities are working outside of the home and at jobs that are, while “essential,” not highly paid or rich in benefits and in which they cannot obtain adequate personal protection to keep them from getting sick. Meanwhile, women who are working from their homes are finding themselves juggling their professional obligations with the mental load of organizing, planning and caring for the family, and even providing home schooling. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate gender and racial inequalities, despite the fact that women and people of color are doing the majority of the work to serve communities on the frontlines of the pandemic.

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The Societal Pressure to Look Young and Negate Age

By: Ritobrita Mishra

For so long there has been a societal pressure on women to aspire to have a more youthful appearance, claiming beauty to be one-dimensional and superficial. This message is enforced by so many platforms such as magazines and skin care lines with anti-aging products, both profiting off of having women trying to retain a younger, youthful appearance. It’s become a taboo for women to even hint at the fact that they are aging, and if it shows then it needs to be covered up as society will otherwise deem you unattractive. This has inspired a fear of getting older and thus has created a harmful mindset in women that looking youthful gives us worth and meaning and aging essentially diminishes our significance. 

When seeing how often women are congratulated on retaining a youthful look, one starts to question where this mindset came from and why is it that for women, looking young is more celebrated than age itself? Why are these pressures only enforced upon women? And why do men get a pass to look and celebrate their age when the same right is not given to women? Who essentially perpetuates this narrative of looking youthful being the ultimate end goal? 

One huge influence that is responsible for this narrative are fashion magazines. The way Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and so many others all display and enforce a certain youthful appearance with the celebrities, especially the older ones that grace their covers. With the use of photoshop and filters there has been this harmful repetitive narrative being constantly recycled that looking young equates to being beautiful. This awareness starts to seep in for girls at a very young age and follows them throughout the rest of their lives with the media constantly displaying this kind of imagery. The message this sends is that despite all they have achieved and the journeys they have all taken, they still have to maintain this appearance of looking young as that is something that ultimately determines their external significance and their age needs to be hidden from society.   

Social Media is another huge preparator that prioritizes the youthful look through filters, and as mentioned before, photoshop that has helped establish this mindset to the youth that looking young should be the ultimate goal. Girls from their highschool years feel pressured to use certain anti-aging products (when they clearly don’t need it) to aspire to look more youthful then they already are as they are following what has been communicated to them which is that they will achieve true beauty by looking young forever. This harmful mindset is taken further with plastic surgery such as botox, and certain beauty rituals, that help girls conform to this feminine beauty ideal which has become so heavily ingrained in our society. 

Men, though have their own pressures enforced upon them by society, do not need to care as much about their appearances as women do, as they are more recognized for their success than anything else and thus them looking their age does not hinder them in the long run. Whereas women from a very young age need to maintain an appearance that is almost impossible to manage. We have been programmed to believe that looking our own age is ugly and unacceptable to society. Thus we continue to reach the goal of looking ever youthful despite the harmful mindset and consequences that might come with it.

Age should be celebrated and not something that we should be fearful of. Women should be able to embrace the years they have spent on Earth and not have it be something they hide due to external pressures. Our bodies are constantly changing and accepting the years that our bodies have gone through should not be frowned upon but welcomed. Looking healthy does not need to be exclusive from embracing age yet for the most part it is. There isn’t anything wrong with taking care of yourself but the mindset and goal of trying to look healthy and trying to look young often blurs together and looking healthy becomes lost in the fray and the common factor in all of this is the fear of growing older. 

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Why are People Talking About Repealing the 19th Amendment?

By: Hayley Morris

If you’ve been on Twitter, Instagram, or Tiktok in the past few weeks, you may have seen some posts regarding people discovering there is a movement to repeal the 19th amendment, which historically granted women the right to vote in 1920. When I first saw these posts, I was shocked, immediately googling the hashtag “repealthe19th.” Turns out, this has been a movement going on for a while, mainly by avid Trump supporters since he took office in 2016. But why?

Analysis from the 2016 election showed that if only women had voted, democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would have won by a landslide. On the flip side, this same statistic was drawn with only men voting, and republican candidate Donald Trump would have won by a far greater margin than before. This appeared to spark a gender debate in which loyal trump supporters began to suggest repealing the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Since this initial hashtag, it has cropped up every now and again, often to “mock” feminists and stir an already boiling political cauldron. Now the trend is back again, but it seems to be more serious for some. Why is this happening?

The most obvious reason points to the upcoming 2020 election between democratic candidate Joe Biden and the incumbent Donald Trump. Many early statistics portray Biden winning by a slim margin, a fact that has some loyal Trump supporters nervous. Taking the statistics from the 2016 election, these supporters appear to feel threatened by this survey and are once again calling for the 19th amendment to be repealed. 

The issue with this mindset is that it completely undermines democratic and fair elections. By noting that a greater majority of women tend to vote liberal and thus attempting to shove them out of the voting pool to ensure one’s preferred candidate wins, these voters are essentially claiming that they are OK with rigged elections and an undemocratic governmental and political system. Doesn’t that seem to contradict the American standards these voters go on boasting about every day?

In addition, female POC tend to lean even further to the left than just white women alone. Repealing the 19th amendment would disproportionately affect these groups, resulting in a much more skewed data pool. Ultimately, the suggestion of repealing a woman’s right to vote reflects the deep-rooted misogyny present within much of the American political system, arguing that a woman’s political views are “uneducated” simply because they contradict the belief of someone else. Silencing others reflects a failed and broken political state of mind. It is up to American voters to accept political differences on both sides of the fence to prevent further alienation.