By: Aidan MacGregor
Female horses are called mares. Female cows are called heifers. Female deer are called does. But did you know that female dogs are called bitches?
I don’t like the word. It seems cruel to call all girl dogs “malicious, spiteful, or overbearing women” as Merriam Dictionary suggests. I certainly would never want to call my dog Nutmeg a bitch, because she was the sweetest dog I knew.
So, when I discovered what “bitch” meant, I was confused for a while, until I realized that I shouldn’t be worried about hurting my dog’s feelings. No, we should be far more concerned with what the word means for women.
If you don’t like the Merriam Dictionary’s definition, try Oxford’s: “a difficult or unpleasant situation or thing.” Wow, this thing is a bitch to define. It’s like Oxford saw the connection to sexism, and decided to let this one go.
The B-word has been used to describe and insult women for a thousand years. Originally, it was a synonym for whore, proving that sexism is in fact the oldest profession. Basically, any woman who has sex before marriage is like a dog in heat.
But now, and for the past century, it is used to describe someone, typically a woman, who is weak, submissive, and totally owned by the dominant male.
There are many words like this. Words like nasty, bossy, and ditzy, are far more likely to be used when describing women, and men get called words like idiot, prick, and jerk far more than women. There are exceptions, but all of these insults, including the B-word, have a gender-specific connotation.
However, most of the time, you can tell whether or not people are being serious. In context, like with your friends, it is clear when someone is using the B-word jokingly. Also, if someone calls you “a stupid bitch,” then they probably aren’t being friendly.
So, does it really matter where the word comes from? If the intent is all that matters, why should we care?
Think of it this way: would you want to call your girlfriend a subservient animal who does everything her man says? Would you want to be called that? Is that what women are to men?
So, next time you feel the impulse to insult someone who is getting on your nerves, don’t be sexist. There are plenty of wonderful, forward-thinking insults that won’t hurt my dog’s feelings, not to mention all women everywhere.