musings on the word "bitch"

This is the result of "shower thoughts". I just bought some soap I haven't used since I was 15 because they discontinued it until now. The smell brings me back to the time of the story that follows because I was in fact 15 then. This story is about a cousin of a friend of mine. I don't think my friend is particularly close with him but I still apologize to her in advance, it's a little weird that I am writing this. But I want to write more--in general, and about real things that happen in my life. For as much as I like to express myself, I really don't share very much. I would like for that to change. 

This started with a camping trip that I never really forgot. It was the camping trip where I talked to a new friend about the boy I liked for hours, the trip where I tried my first taste of alcohol (Mike's Hard Lemonade--god, I hate Mike's Hard), the trip where I was first called a bitch. We were camping for three nights, the showers were incredibly cold. I decided, well, no hope for my hair, I will just put it up. So I had had my hair up for most of the trip. My friend's cousin was there. He was a man of about 30, he had a little girl who I think joined us for a while but I don't really remember now. So anyways we were just sitting at the picnic table when I took my hair down. It was probably greasy and knotty and huge, like it gets. But the cousin looks at me and says, "You are actually pretty with your hair down. You looked like a bitch before." Apparently seeing my face with my hair pulled back was unappealing? I don't know, I haven't thought much about what made him see me as a bitch. I just knew that he did. All my friends kind of laughed. I sat there, not knowing what to say. One part of my 15-year-old self was like wow someone thinks I'm pretty! Another part of me was like that's a shitty thing for a grown man to say. Am I really a bitch? Or at least, do I look like one? 

I think from that day on, I pretty much accepted that I either looked like a "bitch" or was a "bitch" throughout the rest of my high school career, and some of college. I kind of threw the word around to describe myself and other girls. I used it when talking about a moment when I was particularly loud or outspoken. Or when I would confess my ambitions or confidence in myself. "Yeah well, I'm a bitch, so..."

Number one: how does me simply speaking make me a bitch? How does dressing so that I maybe look a little more intimidating (not that I mean to, I just always liked wearing tall shoes and black) make me look like a bitch? And why did I believe that I was? Number two: Why did one dude telling me I looked like a bitch make me feel like I could call myself and other girls that same name? Why did I think his word had authority? I mean, I'm sure we all know the answer. I was a young female who was being told many things about the way my body and my appearance represented me. I was feeling the pressures of being attractive. And then to suddenly hear I did not come off as attractive, but instead as a "bitch" was hurtful and worrying. After that, I took on a persona of both trying to be very friendly, alluring, attractive; as well as accepting that I was unappealing. It's just amazing what the words of a man I cared very little for could suddenly change the way I saw myself and the way I made the world see me. 

Sometimes I think about how on Parks and Rec Leslie never uses the word "bitch". For a long time I thought that was very silly. I don't like the word when men use it; it always sounds super aggressive when they say it. But I thought it was just fine for women to. It's a reclaiming of the word. But lately I've thought, no, it's not okay. I am not trying to speak of or for all women, of course. But don't I think using the word "bitch" to describe myself or other women is cause for a very positive environment for women to be in. It's not supportive, and even when joked about it's a cruel sounding word. It cuts across the tongue in a way that just doesn't taste good to me. It insults and demeans. I don't think I want to use the word any longer. 

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