No matter who I’m talking to, or where we’re talking, when I mention the “bitch stigma”, woman’s eyes light up in recognition. Doctors, waitresses, project managers, entrepreneurs…no matter what a woman’s chosen profession is, she’s likely run into this invisible yet potentially crippling issue. Being accused of “bitch” status, is a fear many women struggle with, which keeps them from speaking up and taking up space.
We all know it’s bad to be called a bitch. While some pop culture has been reclaiming the word in recent years, it’s still considered to be a very particular kind of insult when calling women a bitch.
Bitch Stigma is a phrase I’ve coined to describe the legitimate fear many women feel in their personal and professional lives, that they will be judged harshly for being assertive.
This sexist sentiment says that women who are described as bitchy, bossy, or domineering can’t get ahead and won’t be liked. The stigma that women feel when it comes to being assertive (and therefore often being labeled as bitchy, bossy or domineering) is a very real concern.
Some of the things that the bitch stigma has been described as affecting is:
- feeling like you’re “not allowed” to complain or will be called a drama queen
- being talked over during conversations or being accused of dominating conversations
- having to use apologetic or softening language to ask for what you want
- not being able to point out sexist jokes because you’ll be told you have no sense of humor
Find statistics in DiG quote research how often bitch is used as a derogatory statement
I did this as a Core Conversation at SXSW 2015 and what resulted was a lively, passionate discussion about this particularly gendered obstacle.
I’ve been told by some that I should use the word “bitch” to describe this problem. That using a profanity will turn people off. That it’s too “strong” a word. But that right there is a chicken-and-egg example of the very issue.
Bitch IS the word, the only appropriate one. because it’s the one that’s used as the strongest insult, it’s used to be verbally violent to women.
A Bitch is defined as (Wikepedia)
I’ll talk more about the “Bitch Spectrum” in a future blog post…..