Women’s News: You Say ‘Bitch’ Like It’s A Bad Thing: Examining the Implications of the Notorious Word

Women’s News: You Say ‘Bitch’ Like It’s A Bad Thing: Examining the Implications of the Notorious Word

Women’s News: Depression Taught Me To Stop Trying To Fix Myself

Women’s News: Depression Taught Me To Stop Trying To Fix Myself

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

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Women’s News: Depression Taught Me To Stop Trying To Fix Myself

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Jill Di Donato

Writer, Adjunct Professor of English, The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York

I have a confession: I suffer from chronic depression. This is hardly newsworthy. In fact, I’d say if I were a totally happy, well-adjusted, cosmopolitan writer –THAT would be newsworthy. So it was with shock that I found myself laughing this morning when I busted the seams of my jeans. I don’t mean a little tear — I mean a full-on denim fissure. And it was the greatest moment I’ve had in a while. Let me explain.

It all started around the time I was 10. I very concretely remember being a 10-year-old girl, sitting up at night crying to myself with my night light on, afraid someone would hear me/afraid no one would. It was a nighttime ritual that went on for quite a while; I’d tip-toe to the bathroom down the hall and stand with my father’s shaving blade in my hand and take it to my wrist. I didn’t do anything. I just stood there with the razor and felt its sharpness against my skin. Maybe I was too afraid of blood; maybe I wasn’t messed up enough to hurt myself in that way. This is a painful memory to have and to write about years later. It’s painful because I cry for that little girl who had no idea of how to process all that pain inside of her.

I tried to tell my parents I was depressed, but I didn’t have the words. And I felt guilty about being depressed, like there was something wrong with me for feeling that way. Here I was, a privileged kid in a prestigious private school. I wasn’t neglected or abused. I wasn’t starving like the children in Ethiopia whose gaunt faces and bloated bellies haunted me while some starlet’s voice asked for us to please spare what would amount to a dollar a day to save a child’s life. I asked my parents if we could donate. I asked them if we could save a child in Ethiopia. They told me not to take the weight of the world on my shoulders.

A couple years later, my depression manifested in an eating disorder, or as a friend once put it, “the privileged girl’s rite of passage.” This disorder lasted on and off for about ten years with varying degrees of severity. In my teens and 20’s, I went through a host of privileged girl problems: vacillating between promiscuity and anti-social tendencies, co-dependent relationships, substance “experimentation,” perfection-striving and shoplifting for no reason. Not blind to my issues, my parents sent me to a variety of therapists and doctors. But I was certainly not invested in getting better. One of my favorite “games” to play was to manipulate these professionals, which sadly worked a lot of the time. Then there would be periods when I’d be happy and outgoing, successful and accomplished.

In my early 20’s, I made a ton of money at an Internet start-up — my first job out of college — and when the web bubble burst and I was left unemployed, I ran through about twenty thousand dollars in a couple months, all in a self-destructive attempt to run away from myself. Being an observer by nature, one of my choice subjects was myself. I’d do this literally — standing in front of the bathroom mirror squeezing every pore in my face — or I’d do this figuratively, writing really atrocious self-referential stories. There were many times I was lucky not to have been hurt as I indulged in some serious stupidity, waking up in puke-stained clothing god-knows-where and telling myself, Jill, remember how this feels. Remember just how low and dirty and rotten this feeling is so you don’t do whatever stupid thing again… that is, until I did it again.

During this time, there were two things that saved me. The first was writing. This was my way of cataloging experiences, as if to give them meaning beyond myself, and in return, giving myself hope that in all this abject self-destruction there was the possibility of creation. The second was teaching writing to preteen and teenage girls. When I was with my students, I was forced to be someone worthy and respectable; someone whose words were valued. When I didn’t care enough to be accountable to myself, I had these girls to be accountable to because they looked up to me. I remember one time, after a fight with an ex-boyfriend that left me with a black eye, I was horrified. Not at the mess that was my face, but that I couldn’t let my students see me like this.

There were more therapists. Pills, even. Pills to modulate my moods. Pills to make me less anxious. Pills to make me sleep. Sometimes, I’d be OK. Other times, I’d scream at my shrink, “Why aren’t you fixing me? What am I paying you for?” Then I’d stop taking my pills when I didn’t feel like it — a dangerous thing that doctors warned me against. “But the pills aren’t working,” I’d complain. So I switched pills. Switched doctors. Things would be OK for a while again. I’d start being productive. I stopped partying. I became more invested in my writing, more invested in my students. More invested in being happy. But I don’t think I understood what being happy was. I mean, our culture sells you this version of happiness that’s unattainable and kind of stupid. Not to sound like Holden Caulfield, but, the American notion of happiness is completely superficial. A take-away from one of my shrinks is that the closest I can get to joy is when I stop trying to swim against the tide. I guess it’s the old 12-step program adage of acceptance. We’re humans, and part of being human is not being happy all the time. But back to the busted jeans.

In any event, just as things in my life were beginning to settle down, I suffered a traumatic loss. This sent me into a depression that lasted about two years. During this time, all of my previous unhealthy habits manifested, but tenfold. I lost about fifteen pounds. I went into massive credit card debt. I slept around. I locked myself in my apartment for weeks on end. I listened to a whole lot of Morrissey, Portishead and R.E.M. But, being an adult, I had to be accountable for myself. I had to work. I had to maintain friendships. I had to continue therapy. I had to write. I had to help my students. Slowly, and I mean slowly, things started shifting. Friends started noticing that I seemed lighter, happier. I started enjoying myself more. I allowed myself momentary feelings of pride. I realized, whatever the cause of my depression, it’s not something that’s going to be cured; I’m not going to be fixed. Like a chronic disease, my depression is something I can, at very best, manage. I must accept the fact that sometimes I’ll have a bad day for no particular reason at all. But there’s always tomorrow. And one thing that’s really helped me is taking ownership of that. I won’t let experiences happen to me any more. No. I decided I was going to be in charge, because, guess what? That 10-year-old girl, she’s not running the show anymore. This 30-something woman is. So this morning, when I struggled into my smallest jeans and the seams holding these designer duds ripped apart, I laughed. I mean, pants ripping — that’s slapstick friggin’ funny. Oh, and the fact that I’m no longer that size is pretty friggin’ rad.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jill-di-donato/depression-in-women-i-stopped-trying-to-fix-myself_b_2501151.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

Women’s News: You Say ‘Bitch’ Like It’s A Bad Thing: Examining the Implications of the Notorious Word

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Zoe Triska

Associate Books Editor, The Huffington Post

Last Friday night, I was walking across an intersection in Manhattan. A cab driver was aggressively (99 percent of Manhattan cab drivers do everything aggressively) trying to turn right, and almost hit me. I gave him my death stare, as I usually do when cab drivers are out of line. He rolled down the window and said, “Bitch, don’t get yourself killed.”

I usually like to think of myself as a reasonable person. I am pretty thick-skinned and can handle being insulted (after all, I’m a Huffington Post writer and have to deal with loads of critical, insulting comments). But being called a “bitch” for no reason by a complete stranger practically brought me to tears.

If he thought I was such a “bitch,” then I was definitely going to play that part. My anger was so overwhelming that I started yelling back at him about how he had some nerve to criticize me when he was the one who was clearly in the wrong.

This interaction got me thinking about the word “bitch.” After all its garbled history, and many different meanings and connotations, what are we even left with anymore? What is the actual meaning? And is it okay to ever use this word when referencing a woman? As a woman, I find the whole matter to be fairly complicated.

Merriam-Webster defines “Bitch” in the following ways (aside from the original meaning, “a female dog”): “a lewd or immoral woman,” “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman,” and/or “something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant.”

An 1811 dictionary refers to the word as “the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”

The history of the word “bitch” is kind of all over the place (we will stick with the noun, though the verb, meaning “to complain or whine” is also a definite snub to women, too. There is also the adjective “bitchin,'” which is, oddly enough, used to describe something that is “cool”). But let’s begin at the beginning. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “bitch” has been used to refer to female dogs since around 1000 A.D. The term was first used as a derogatory slur against women sometime around the 15th century.

English language historian Geoffrey Hughes writes, “The early applications were to a promiscuous or sensual woman, a metaphorical extension of the behavior of a bitch in heat.” This is partially why the term “son of a bitch” is found to be so offensive. Essentially, the mother is being referred to as a woman who has sex with lots of people.

The biggest rise of the word as an insult against women was in the 1920s. In 1915, most of the books and articles published used the word “bitch” only to refer to a female dog. However, in 1925, there were numerous articles and books that used the word as a slur against a woman or women. By 1930, the number of references that called a woman or women “bitches” outnumbered those that referred to dogs.

While this can certainly be linked in part to the great change in language that took place at this time (the ‘roaring’ twenties was a time when people felt more daring and adventurous), could it not also be partially attributed to women finally gaining a bit more power in society? Women received the right to vote in 1920. Men were extremely hesitant to give women the right to vote; voting would give women quite a bit more power. The Seneca Falls Convention, where women demanded the right to vote, took place in 1848. Women didn’t achieve suffrage until 68 years after that. There was even a National Organization Against Women’s SuffrageDuring this time, the word bitch was used to mean one or more of the following: “Malicious or consciously attempting to harm,” “Difficult, annoying, or interfering,” or “Sexually brazen or overly vulgar.” Women who were fighting to attain the vote could definitely be attributed to the former two definitions.

The word’s growth stopped for a bit during the 40s and 50s, maybe because women started “behaving” again. This is the time of the nuclear family, the perfect housewife. Women went back to doing their familial duties: cleaning the house, cooking, looking after children, tending to their husbands.

Starting in the late 60s, it began climbing quickly again. (this linked graph below shows the prevalence of the word in the Google Books database since 1850).

Women’s discontent with their social standing had finally reached a boiling point. During this second wave of the Feminist movement, in the 1960s, “bitch” was reclaimed by women. Feminist attorney, Jo Freeman, wrote “The Bitch Manifesto” in 1968.

“A woman should be proud to declare she is a Bitch, because Bitch is Beautiful.”

Personality-wise, she states that bitches are “aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent.”

Feminists have since then fought to give the word a more positive connotation. They have attempted to reappropriate the word to mean “a strong or assertive woman.” The 90s song by Meredith Brooks called “Bitch” has the refrain, “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.” There’s also the extremely common phrase, “You say I’m a bitch like it’s a bad thing” that has become an internet meme as well as being printed on numerous T-shirts, etc. Bitch magazine refers to itself as “a feminist response to pop culture.”

EXAMPLE:
bitch

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the word hasn’t continued to be used derogatorily since then. “Bitch” can be used to refer to practically anyone. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it began being applied to men in the 1500s, to the male gay community in the 1930s, and also became prevalent in the black community in the 1990s (note almost every rap song ever). Now, in reference to men, it is generally a negative term used to mean “subordinate” (i.e. “Jeff is totally his boss’s bitch.”) All of these connotations are pretty negative.

In 1997, the New York City Council tried to introduce a measure against the word. Councilwoman Darlene Mealy stated that “the term is hateful and deeply sexist” and called it “a vile attack on our womanhood.”

Also in late 2007, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a female audience member asked then presidential contender Senator John McCain, “How do we beat the bitch?” (referring to Hilary Clinton). This caused quite a stir in the news.

We can all agree that name-calling is offensive. However, it becomes worse (in my opinion) when minorities or those who have been historically discriminated against are slurred by their historical opressor. I ammuch more offended at being called a “bitch” by a man than a woman. In a way, it feels if we can reinvent this negative word and claim it as our own, it makes us stronger. Some women feel that they are dropping the negative connotation when they keep the word within the female community. I can understand that.

However, this word is never okay to say when used negatively. As women, do we really want to perpetuate a male stereotype? Do we want to be thought of as whiny? Or skanky? Do we want female ambition to be given a negative connotation? I find it extremely shameful that a woman called Hillary Clinton a bitch. Surely, there are negative things that can be said about Hillary Clinton, but does resorting to sexist name calling have to be one of them?

Regardless of how he means it, it will never be okay for a man to call a woman a “bitch.” Luckily, there are about five billion other words men can use to criticize without sounding like a misogynist.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoe-triska/post_4332_b_2526243.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

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