“You Bitch!” Excuse me what did my TV just call me? Freezing at the words that came blaring through my TV during a prime time broadcast, I was left with my mouth agape. Since when can you say Bitch on TV? This wasn’t HBO or Showtime, this is was regular cable. And I found myself laughing as I saw a commercial for (BLEEP) My Dad Says. Ok wait, just give me one second to process this. You can’t say Shit on TV but a word that degrades women can be thrown about casually?
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can restrict but not censor broadcasts from using profane language. If the FCC would censor broadcast material, this would infringe on the First Amendment. So instead the FCC imposes fines for obscene, indecent, or profane material. According to the FCC website, “Profane speech is prohibited on broadcast radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.” Any material that is “so highly offensive that their mere utterance in the context presented may, in legal terms, amount to a ‘nuisance’” is considered profane.
Ask any woman: if you were approached by someone and as a conversation starter, you were addressed as Bitch, would you deem the word as a “nuisance?” The word bitch has mutated from its original meaning. Merriam-Webster defines bitch 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,
Somewhere in between its first usage and now, Bitch shape shifted to meaning an immoral woman, a man of low effeminate character, difficult circumstances, or a grievance. Which brings me back to why would the FCC allow the word Bitch, a word that obviously denigrates women, to be uncensored and not a word like Shit. Calling someone a piece of Shit does not equate to calling someone a Bitch. So when did we as a society take such a misogynistic view of the word?
For starters, Bitch is found in more places than just Male Studies (See Molly Knefel’s argument towards Manhood101) and TV/Film. With headphones dangling from the ears of subway riders, fast walking New Yorkers, and the locusts that commute in and out of the city, Bitch is in ears of many. I cringe when others discuss music misogyny and use Hip-Hop and Rap as a primary example. However, being that I am not an avid listener to Country or Pop-Elektronica, I will continue with a quote from Ice Cube, “A bitch is a bitch. So ladies, we ain’t just talkin’ bout you, cause some of y’all niggas is bitches too!” Aside from showing that Bitch not only is disrespectful towards women, Ice Cube points out that the word is insulting to a man when used to call him out on being less than a man, and therefore a Bitch.
The word’s usage has infiltrated music just as it is now being used more casually in conversations. Examples of Bitch in music spread from the 1980’s band called Bitch, Akon and David Guetta’s song “Sexy Bitch,” to Meredith Brooks embracing the word bitch in her 90’s hit “Bitch.” Of course I am leaving out the obvious overuse and many meanings of the word Bitch littered throughout Hip-Hop and Rap, but even though Bitch has become common in music, it doesn’t support or give reason to making it anymore socially acceptable.
Shit has many definitions. Merriam-Webster starts every definition of shit with “usually vulgar.” Meaning anything from “an act of defecation” to “a detestable person.” Used in such phrases as “I don’t give a shit, Don’t tell me that shit, We’re in this shit together, You’re nothing but a piece of shit, SHIT!!” None however demean the person’s being to the extreme derogatory usage that Bitch has been equated to.
In 1968, Jo Freeman published The BITCH Manifesto, a feminist article. She has this to say about Bitch: 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. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her.
In following suit, the coined phrase H.B.I.C. or Head Bitch In Charge is taking the profane word and using it as a title of power. I respect those who can take adverse circumstances and use it to their advantage. But still, the take-charge approach to Bitch does not make me anymore comfortable with the word. Oprah recently announced that her new channel will refrain from using the word altogether. I am not one of those Oprah disciples that carve her beliefs into my arm, but I do think she is onto something.
Which brings me to this: it is not the use or integration of a word that should make it ok but the meaning. Shit is more commonly used across all platforms of media, entertainment, and social interactions, yet the FCC justifies the imposition of fines for it. So why not Bitch? My fight is not with the FCC entirely or with our society’s use of profanity. My fight is with the type of thinking that accepts the word Bitch over Shit. Condoning a word that is emphatically anti-women shouldn’t be socially acceptable.