Does Our Language Discourage Women? - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

Womens Issues

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

How do the words we’ve all been called affect us?

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The first time someone called me a bitch was at a middle school ballet camp, a hotbed for divas and drama. I asked a girl if she could move down a bit to make room at the barre, and voila! I went from unassuming middle schooler to bitch extraordinaire.

I hear the word bitch every day. It’s ingrained in our language, and we toss it at women all the time. We use it to describe women who don’t respond to catcalling, bosses who assign their employees to a hard task, or girls who turn down a date. What do these so-called “bitches” have in common? They all dared to assert themselves and stand up for their basic rights.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

We use bitch to put down strong, assertive women. It’s the word we use when a woman steps out of the traditional feminine sphere. Men use it when women threaten the professional and social power they’ve monopolized for so long. Women use it against each other as well. It’s time to stop.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?Like too many other insults, we direct bitch pretty much exclusively towards women. This presents a problem with the way our language makes us think about girls. It goes way back, too: bitch was first used in the 1400s. If there’s one thing I don’t want to have in common with Europe in the Middle Ages, it’s their views on women. And it’s not just the word bitch that we use to put women down. Slut shames women for their ability to say yes. Friendzone guilts women for their right to “no.” Bitch comes in when a woman tries to defend herself against these sexist standards and assert herself as an individual.

The word gives female assertiveness negative connotations. It perpetuates the myth that women always have to be nice, which prevents a lot of women from asserting themselves. Men who assert themselves in the workplace get promoted. Women who try to do the same get called a bitch behind their backs. Our language makes many women feel like they need to put everyone’s needs before their own to avoid the unholy title of Bitch. But bending over backwards to please everyone before yourself comes at the cost of your personal goals.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

Some feminists have tried to re-appropriate the term. The founders of Bitch Magazine, for example, believe that the word should have positive meaning. It’s a step in the right direction, but society as a whole still views assertive women as bitchy in a bad way. To achieve any real progress, we need to start viewing assertive women as empowered, instead calling them unkind and bitchy.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

The movement to reevaluate our view of assertive women has to start with us. Women are taught to be competitive with each other, starting with Disney. So, sadly, we don’t often help each other out in the workplace; but it’s time that changed.  That means encouraging other women to be assertive and working to be more assertive yourself. Instead of tossing out the b-word when one of your coworkers asserts herself, respect her ability to go after her goals. Better yet–learn to do the same. Combining both these factors is the only way we’ll ever be able to affect any real change in women’s workplace experiences.

In a world where men continue to dominate most fields (especially the influential ones, like media, entertainment and advertising), our language works against successful women. Girls grow up associating assertiveness with bitchiness, and try to act nicer. And while everyone should strive to be nice to others, we need to remind girls that it’s possible to be kind and assertive at once. It’s possible to be nice to others and still stand up for yourself, or go after your goals. Anyone who tries to call you a bitch for that is just wrong.

How do you respond to negative language against women? Sound off in the comments!

Born in France but raised all over the place, Auriane has wanted to write ever since she was old enough to spell her name. In her spare time she loves reading, hanging out with her best friends (even when they're not in the same time zone), and spontaneous singing with her Broadway-bound roommate.

Reader Discussion: 12 Comments

  1. Grace Stirling

    who the hell wants to get called bitch? it is good being assertive SOMETIMES but don’t always act like one. I’m always believing in the saying that if you call a person by their name it means that you respect them. i hate guys who are calling girls bitches and think that it make them cool. No! it is not cool and it just meant that they don’t respect you. if they respect you and if your name is not BITCH then they should call you by your given name.

  2. Hazel Collins

    i’m not a fan of using these kinds of words and not raised to be assertive. i also noticed that some just use these kinds of words to feel and look cool. i think that most of the people use these words especially when they are angry just to release it.i value and respect other people’s opinion for me to receive the same treatment. i actually admire people who are like that and i find them brave and strong.

  3. Agree completely. There can be a balance between kindness and assertiveness. You definitely should stand up for yourself and also treat others with respect.

  4. Melani Kalev

    Being assertive is cool, but depending the situation, it isn’t always so easy. And then there are people who try to be assertive but, out of fear, end up being nice, and those who try to be assertive and end up being mean, and well, “bitches.” It’s important point to make that you can be kind and decent human being and assertive at the same time. Communication isn’t so much as WHAT you say, it is HOW you say it.

  5. Francis Woods

    Hello, world! I think everyone is getting annoyed because we women are beginning to rule!!!

  6. Hannah Mayers

    Kindness and assertion – totally me!

    • Francis Woods

      How do you even try to be those two things at the same time???

  7. I love women who speak their minds and thoughts, wouldn’t label them as bitches.

    • Francis Woods

      Kudos, Mick!!! This is why I LIKE YOU!!!

  8. There is no problem with being assertive. I tell everyone what I want and how I want it. I don’t understand why this is a problem.

  9. Courtney Watson

    It’s really how you, as a person takes negative language. I personally try very hard to redefine these words (bitch, slut, friendzone among others) to deflect their power to offend or hurt.

  10. Sandra Brown

    Yeah, I “need to be a bitch to get things done” 🙂 I know myself, I’m aware of who I am and I don’t allow “negative language” put me down or lose my confidence.

    I think the ultimate goal should be moving along to a point where these “labels” aren’t considered offensive (like how “heathen” which used to be a very offensive word) has been accepted and no longer taken negatively.

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