Womens Issues

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

How do the words we’ve all been called affect us?


The first time someone called me a bitch was at a middle school ballet camp, a hotbed for divas and drama. I asked a girl if she could move down a bit to make room at the barre, and voila! I went from unassuming middle-schooler to bitch extraordinaire.

I hear the word bitch every day. It’s ingrained in our language, and we toss it at women all the time. We use it to describe women who don’t respond to catcalling, bosses who assign their employees to a hard task, or girls who turn down a date. What do these so-called “bitches” have in common? They all dared to assert themselves and stand up for their basic rights.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

We use bitch to put down strong, assertive women. It’s the word we use when a woman steps out of the traditional feminine sphere. Men use it when women threaten the professional and social power they’ve monopolized for so long. Women use it against each other as well. It’s time to stop.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?Like too many other insults, we direct bitch pretty much exclusively towards women. This presents a problem with the way our language makes us think about girls. It goes way back, too: bitch was first used in the 1400s. If there’s one thing I don’t want to have in common with Europe in the Middle Ages, it’s their views on women. And it’s not just the word bitch that we use to put women down. Slut shames women for their ability to say yes. Friendzone, uptight and frigid guilts women for their right to “no.” Bitch comes in when a woman tries to defend herself against these sexist standards and assert herself as an individual.

The word gives female assertiveness negative connotations. It perpetuates the myth that women always have to be nice, which prevents a lot of women from asserting themselves. Men who assert themselves in the workplace get promoted. Women who try to do the same get called a bitch behind their backs. Our language makes many women feel like they need to put everyone’s needs before their own to avoid the unholy title of Bitch. But bending over backwards to please everyone before yourself comes at the cost of your personal goals.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

Some feminists have tried to re-appropriate the term. The founders of Bitch Magazine, for example, believe that the word should have positive meaning. It’s a step in the right direction, but society as a whole still views assertive women as bitchy in a bad way. To achieve any real progress, we need to start viewing assertive women as empowered, instead calling them unkind and bitchy.

Does Our Language Discourage Women?

The movement to reevaluate our view of assertive women has to start with us. Women are taught to be competitive with each other, starting with Disney. So, sadly, we don’t often help each other out in the workplace; but it’s time that changed.

Encourage other women to be assertive, and work to be more assertive yourself. Instead of tossing out the b-word when one of your coworkers asserts herself, respect her ability to go after her goals. Better yet–learn to do the same. Combining both these factors is the only way we’ll ever be able to affect any real change in women’s workplace experiences.

In a world where men continue to dominate most fields (especially the influential ones, like media, entertainment, tech, politics, and advertising), our language works against successful women. Girls grow up associating assertiveness with bitchiness, and try to act nicer. And while everyone should strive to be nice to others, we need to remind girls that it’s possible to be kind and assertive at once. It’s possible to be nice to others and still stand up for yourself, or go after your goals. Anyone who tries to call you a bitch for that is just wrong.

How do you respond to negative language against women? Sound off in the comments!

Avatar of Auriane Desombre

Born in France but raised all over the place, Auriane has wanted to write ever since she was old enough to spell her name. In her spare time she loves reading, hanging out with her best friends (even when they're not in the same time zone), and spontaneous singing with her Broadway-bound roommate.

Reader Discussion: 136 Comments

  1. Avatar of Doreen Carlson

    Doreen Carlson

    I am introverted and like going outside and enjoy doing things alone, like going to the movies or coffee shops alone. And people get to call me a ‘careless bitch.’ Say what?

    • Avatar of Flora Wiström

      Just go ahead and enjoy yourself! I do quite the same, though I get to see some of my friends sometimes.

  2. Avatar of Nora

    A cashier made an awkward look on her face when I hand her the condom I need! I replied with a sly smile just to point I don’t care about her judgment, and I don’t want shit to happen to me. I need to satisfy my needs as a woman, and I am responsible for it so why do I need to bother myself?

  3. Avatar of Jackie Chavez

    Jackie Chavez

    Funny how people judge me even from the way I dress. So what if I wear some deep cleavage dress or a bikini?! I don’t see anything wrong with that?! Why call me a bitch just because I can wear them proudly!?

    • Avatar of Marilyn May

      Marilyn May

      Hope I have the same level of confidence. I’m inspired, though. Thanks!

  4. Avatar of Sonja Armstrong

    Sonja Armstrong

    That is how some men call me when I do not react to their flirtatious advances. Men throw something like little boys they truly are when they don’t get what they want. Boys are also prone to temper tantrum but can’t show it in front of others becasue they are afraid to be called ‘boys’, so they just pay in kind with words.

    • Avatar of Judith Peck

      Judith Peck

      Immaturity is trully one of men’s flaws.

  5. Avatar of Melanie Mitro

    Just don’t accept any words on its face-value. Words don’t really have meaning on their own until it goes past our ears and into our mind. So, we must train our minds not to take any words as they are intended to.

  6. Avatar of LELA KAREN OLIVER.

    Sometimes most things I do don’t really turn out fine, and I am called a bitch, especially when my relationship goes wrong. But I’m only human. Why do I need to offer my apologies with that?! And to whom will I say sorry?! I don’t even feel sorry my self!

  7. Avatar of M e l a n i e

    Just now, after reading this, a guy on Facebook was constantly messaging me. The thing is, he was a high school friend that I had history with but it didn’t progress. After so many years, I graduated from college and now I’m a working lady, he added me on Facebook and we chatted for a while. Our chats consisted of updates that happened in our lives and me telling him that I’m currently dating this one special guy that I had deep feelings with. For some reason, he thinks that it’s okay to ask me out, even though I obviously told him that my heart belongs to someone else. He even invites me over to his flat, asking me if we could even go out for a drink, and so on. Most of the time I’ll leave his messages ‘seen’ on Facebook. But after a few days he’ll be saying hi again, as if I didn’t just ghost him for days. Not sure if it was my fault that made him feel like I was giving him a go signal, or that men are sometimes just very oblivious about the fact that some women don’t like cheating in relationships and that they should just f*ck off and leave taken women alone. I’m pretty sure I’ve told him dozens and dozens of times how I really love this guy that I’m dating and that I have no plans in meeting him or whatsoever, because that would mean that I’m trying to cheat. Men simply can’t understand simple messages telling them to F*CK OFF.

    • Avatar of Erma Sparks

      Erma Sparks

      There are tons of guys out there who can’t take a hint. Thirsty ass men!!

    • Avatar of Patricia Hackworth

      Patricia Hackworth

      That’s pretty lame of him. Maybe just block him? Who cares if he was an old friend or something. If he acts like that, he deserves to be blocked.

    • Avatar of Victoria George

      Victoria George

      Wow, seriously, this has happened to me so many times. Some men really don’t know their boundaries!

  8. Avatar of Paulette Wheeler

    Paulette Wheeler

    Liberated women are the ones frequently called a bitch or something shaming. Because they often have a different lifestyle, or clothes, or hairstyles, they got to be called something that they do not really define them as they are, and it’s very unfair to them.

  9. Avatar of Cathy Daniel

    Cathy Daniel

    Just because I have a life, that doesn’t mean people around me can call me something I am not. See me walk into my house really late nearly every night? Why do you have that look in your face as if I’m doing something shameful?

  10. Avatar of Sara Moore

    Sara Moore

    Some girls on my work even call me a slut because I have commitment issues, and I always go for casual datings. But, it’s all good. I just don’t respond to slut-shaming because I know what works for me. If they have problems with me, they can always tell, but they must accept me as I am, though.

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