Last Sunday, Kanye West took to Twitter to ponder: "is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it’s endearing?" This little slice of soul searching went on for 18 tweets, seemingly prompted by criticism for the musical love letter he penned for his girlfriend Kim Kardashian. Well the simple answer, Kanye, is no. And a rather big no, too.
Most insults for women, and men, delightfully tend to be synonyms of both female and male genitalia (read into this what you will) and what’s more they are interchangeable regardless of gender. But bitch is different. For the most part it is reserved specifically for women and there is something nasty about that hits harder than other insults. If someone calls me a dick, I can take it. I can be a dick, we all can. But if someone calls me a bitch, I would seriously question my behaviour and whether it justified such a label.
Aside from the female dog aspect (bad enough), other dictionary definitions of bitch cite ‘a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, especially a woman’ and ‘a person who performs demeaning tasks for another; servant’. That these meanings underpin why men call women bitches, (even if it is for your art, Kanye), is what really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This doesn’t seem to phase Kim, however. Her response to being the ‘Perfect Bitch’? "I'm honoured. I love it… I know he doesn't mean it in a negative way when he says the word 'bitch.'" Which is a whole different can of worms that I don’t even want to touch right now.
Yes you can argue that how the word is delivered and the intention behind it is what makes it offensive or not. But I don’t buy that. There are a thousand tried and tested terms of endearment. And #thewordbitch couldn’t be further from them.
“Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bitch to get his point across,” Kanye mused during his Twitterospection. No, he didn’t. And why might that be? Because “I just called to say I love you, bitch” doesn’t really have the same ring to it, does it?
by Jessica Hopkins, @jessicamhopkins