There are many pejorative words used to describe women that are meant to demean, deflate, disempower and otherwise devalue us. They are hurled about like so many thorns and darts that can puncture hearts and damage lives. You know the adage: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." The truth is, no matter how thick the skin, words are able to penetrate and do their dirty work. It is when we believe them, that they are the most insidious. I have often asked clients this question, when they take personally what people say to them or about them: "If someone called you a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater, what would you do?" Of course, the answer was, "I'd laugh, because it isn't true." If only we could be that cavalier about the other insults that come our way.
Having said that, I don't condone name calling for any reason.
Another means of disarming the onslaught is through reframing, just as you would a picture. The same image will appear different to you when surrounded by a variety of frames. I have learned to reclaim and reframe that term which in basic terms describes a female dog. Although I can't recall being called a bitch more than a handful of times and if memory serves, those incidents came when in contact with irate patients in the psychiatric hospital where I worked, who were unhappy with me at the time.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as:
1. the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2. a : a lewd or immoral woman; b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman --sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3. something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant
As I know I am no more those descriptives than I am a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater, I can shrug it off and yet, there are times when I wonder if I will be perceived that way if I am 'too outspoken' or persistent.
I recall a story told by author and speaker Debbie Ford, who sadly, passed on February 17, 2013.
Like most people, my intro to Debbie was through her writing. I had the joy of interviewing her when her groundbreaking book: The Dark Side of The Light Chasers was released. It was a revelation to this light chaser who was (and still is) a perpetual optimist, refusing at times to look at anything remotely shadowy. Debbie was at a personal growth training and the facilitator called her a bitch. At first she was taken aback with what I imagine was a "who me?" reaction -- much the same as I might have. And then she recognized the grain of truth in the woman's perception of her and the ways in which pretending that she wasn't a bitch ran her life and was her M.O. Of course, there were times when she was bitchy, as are we all. Then she came to understand that being a bitch came in handy at times when otherwise she might have been emotionally pushed around by others and needed to stand her ground. Did that ever ring true for me! It was as if I had permission to be more fully expressed, set boundaries and be assertive rather than remain the starry eyed idealist who was like a dishrag at times. As a former client shared, and with which I can identify, she was not just a doormat, but wall to wall carpeting!
She went on to elaborate that what we most attempt to hide about ourselves, is eventually revealed and can become our greatest strength. These days, while I don't quite embrace my shadow, at least she and I are on cordial, nodding at each other as we pass by, terms. I learned through Debbie's work that even though I have what I call "cave thoughts and feelings," judgments and mental "nasties," I am still loveable.
At breakfast last week with two other seasoned women, Patricia Gallagher and Yvonne Kaye, who have seen their share of challenges and bumped up against people and circumstances for which they needed to stand their ground, the topic of being referred to as a bitch, came up. Yvonne, who has been my mentor for over 25 years, gave a mischievous grin and in her irreverent manner and clipped British accent said " I am glad to be a bitch," and defined it as Being In Total Charge of Herself. When I looked at it that way, I too was pleased to be among those who claim that designation for themselves. It doesn't mean being disrespectful, self righteous, outright mean or verbally abusive. It does mean, as my wise mother would advise that I can "walk in like I own the joint," with head held high, making eye contact, 'knockers up'. Confidence embodied so that I am less likely to be knocked on my butt by someone's ill chosen words.
When does being a bitch come in handy?
When someone makes a commitment and consistently breaks it?
When you are expecting payment for services rendered and it is not forthcoming?
when you have been standing in line and someone pushes ahead of you as if you are either invisible on inconsequential?
When you see someone lighting up in an area clearly marked "no smoking"?
When people continue to cross your boundaries physically or verbally?
After nearly a lifetime of co-dependent people pleasing and acting like an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please others, I am proud to be a total bitch!