One of the best things about being a queer feminist is reclaiming all the sexist and homophobic insults people have hurled at us over the years. Bitch is just one fun example, and it’s taken on extra significance in the past year as the systems of toxic masculinity in politics and business and art have started unraveling around our ears. But a bitch isn’t just one thing. It’s lots of things, and every one of us has as different definition — so for this week’s Monday Roundtable, we asked our staff: What kind of bitch are you?
Laneia, Executive Editor
I’m an only child and I’m never wrong (sometimes I’m mistaken). I can and will figure out a way to do everything by myself to keep from having to be nice to someone I don’t want to be nice to. I don’t want to be nice to a lot of people.
Heather Hogan, Senior Editor
When I was a teenager in Sunday School in my Southern Baptist church, my teacher told us the best way to make boys fall in love with us was to ask them questions they could answer brilliantly. As an adult I’ve decided to flip that advice on its head and prove that I know more than every man who ever talks near me. A guy in the airport recently tried to explain beer to me — beer to me — so I lectured him, unblinkingly, on the feminist history of the brewing industry until he abandoned his drink and fled to his gate. Every time I hear a dude in public talking about Wonder Woman and he’s getting something wrong, I take the time to “well actually” him, even if I have to stop in the street. I do it about politics. I do it about religion. I do it if a guy is just casually telling his girlfriend something factually inaccurate on the train. It’s not just that I’ve stopped letting men off the hook simply because they’re men and that’s what we’re taught to do; I’ve started putting men on the hook even when it’s none of my business. I’m a misandrist vigilante. That lesbian man-hating bitch Rush Limbaugh warned you about.
Rachel, Managing Editor
My mom is one of the warmest, kindest, and most generous souls I know; I’m not sure I can ever remember her even raising her voice around the house. When I was fifteen or so and going to get my driving permit at the DMV, the woman working at the desk wouldn’t accept my ID even though the official DMV materials and told me I couldn’t take the test. My mom got very quiet and said “Rachel, wait outside for a minute.” I did, and she came out about six minutes later and said “Okay, you can take the test now.” I don’t know what exactly she said to her, but also, I kind of do. I was in awe, and have aspired to be that kind of bitch ever since: someone who can calmly and quietly, in a low voice, make you feel so terrible about your life decisions and who you are as a person that you agree to whatever they want so that you can just leave and go lay in a dark room to rethink your whole life. When I’m mad, which also happens rarely, I work very hard at being communicative and generous and open-minded and really hearing the other person. But when I’m so mad I’m pushed over the line my voice gets very low and I don’t care about anything except you understanding clearly and succinctly exactly how you just fucked up.
As an insufferable know-it-all, even small things being “wrong” or incorrect drive me crazy, and when an entire PERSON is wrong the bitchy satisfaction of pointing out how and why is unreal. When I really dislike someone — which happens very rarely, honestly! — and they’ve truly and finally lost any wisp of a hope of my goodwill toward them, I begin composing a multimedia Powerpoint presentation in my mind, with a thesis, supporting evidence, quotes from experts, diagrams, visual metaphors, infographics and very intentional typeface choices about their endless failings. It’s 90 minutes long. Someday I will have these people sit in a lone chair, by themselves, in the center of a dimly lit room and present it to them with a laser pointer in a business casual outfit, and take them on an emotional journey to the very deepest darkest cellar of their being. When they start to cry I will tell them coolly that they need to keep it down because we still have a lot of material to get through. That’s the kind of bitch I am!
KaeLyn, Staff Writer
Bitch Magazine (formerly Bitch zine and currently Bitch Media) was my first introduction to the radical notion that girls could reclaim the language used to terrorize and break us down. I picked up my first copy of Bitch at the Women’s Center at SUNY Oswego sometime around 2002. It was the pink issue. I hated pink. I hated being called a bitch or a slut or a cunt. But I was strangely drawn to the hot pink cover and the now-iconic Bitch title font.
It was pink, but it was also in-your-face and unapologetic. In those pages I found thoughtful feminist and queer analysis that was in such sharp contrast to the dry academic theory I was reading in my women’s studies and English lit crit classes. It was one of those Lifetime movie moments, where someone opens the shades and you realize the sun was right there all along. I was a bitch and a slut and a cunt and I could use those words as my own weapons in this war against the patriarchy.
I’m the type of bitch who approaches the world with open arms and with clear fucking boundaries. I’m the type of bitch who you ask if you can hug because you wanna hug me, but you know I demand consent. I’m a bitch who actively chose being respected over being liked. I’m a bitch who controls my own damn narrative. I’m the bitch who laughs the loudest…literally…I have an astoundingly loud laugh. I’m a bitch who is unapologetic about pissing of men, white people, and straight people when they can’t handle their own fragility. I’m the bitch who will take you down with one long focused stare. I’m a bitch who is learning to be vulnerable again against all odds.
Ali, Staff Writer
I am well-past any personal era in which I can answer any question about myself confidently. So much of who I am is currently in flux; I am not, at this moment, sure what sort of bitch I am. But I am definitely discovering that I have little patience for folks who want to do only fun things with me and only when I am happy. Oh, feelings? Nah, don’t want none of that. Just let’s go to rad events and talk only about rad stuff and everything is candy all the time. Perhaps I’m the friendship bitch? And I say bitch because gosh, I have spent years and years and years actually doing that. Doing a whole ton of emotional labor for other people and expecting absolutely none in return. It feels—dare I say—bitchy to flip the script so quickly. To be suddenly sick of imbalance when I have welcomed it before. It feels bitchy to be assertive about my needs. I have yet to reach the bitch level of not giving a fuck if people leave me over it, so perhaps this isn’t the kind of bitch I am yet. Perhaps this is the kind of bitch I’m about to be, the bitch that expects and requires reciprocal friendship. But I can tell y’all for certain: I am far, far less likely at this moment to allow myself to be a toy that someone picks up only when it suits them, only when it’s fun, and puts down otherwise. So perhaps this is a welcome bitchy development.
Mey, Trans Editor
The first time I felt confident enough to call myself a bitch it was thanks to Dr. Lizz Rubin at my first ever A-Camp. She was talking about how she’s a cunt, and she loves being a cunt, and she looked at me, just a day after we first met, and said, “You look like you’re a cunt too, I can tell.” My life was changed. I hadn’t even considered myself a bitch before. Largely because I had only been out as a woman for about five months and didn’t feel comfortable using words aimed at women like that yet. But Dr. Lizz set me free. Now I’m a bratty bitch, sometimes a salty bitch (although I’m trying to move away from that one), and definitely a ride or die bitch. I like getting my way and I like being popular and if that makes me a bitch and a brat, I’m okay with that. I’m also a total chismosa and hold many very strong opinions, so I can be more than a little salty more than some of the time. And if you hurt one of my friends, you’re dead to me. I’m forever loyal and will go down with my friends and my family and my job in flames and stoke the fire to make it burn hotter and brighter if that’s what they ask or need of me.
Erin, Staff Writer
I have been told by more than one person in my life that I am the friend they would go to if they ever needed to dispose of a body. Unprompted. I don’t all of a sudden ask my friends during a lull in conversation, “Which of your friends would you ask to help you dispose of a body if this nightmare scenario ever presented itself?” This information is offered freely. I’ve taken this to mean a couple of things: one, I put out a morally bankrupt vibe, and two, people trust my ability to be discrete. An under the radar depravity, if you will. Oh, you won’t? Fine by me!
But this, I think, also speaks to the kind of bitch I am – only in the most extreme of circumstances does it present, but when it does, things get dark. For people who’ve gotten to experience my face/demeanor in person, this will seem like a shocking statement, as they might already assume the kind of bitch I am is The Biggest/Never Not A. This is fair but untrue.
It is only when pressed do I become bleakness incarnate. I will go the distance, quietly, without trace, until I literally bury you.
Nora, Fashion & Beauty Editor
I’m a bitch about my work, though I’d generally use terms more like “perfectionist” and “uncompromising.” This extends from (probably in many cases excessive) revision of my own writing/production, to holding the people I edit to standards they may view as nit-picky, to alienating my loved ones in the pursuit of making the career I want, to demanding a lot of others involved to some degree in the fashion and beauty industries (be they fellow media folks, models, brands, etc). The productive “bitchiness” of asking people in power to make larger sizes or include more than an occasional token in their campaigns; the tough love “bitchiness” of streamlining greener writers’ work so that their best lines shine through, just as more experienced editors do for me; the potentially hyperfocused “bitchiness” of insisting on the perfect punctuation mark or lip color or photo crop — I do them all! And sometimes I still get it wrong, but on the whole, my being a literal “career bitch” has led to good things.
Natalie, Staff Writer
“I just took a DNA test, turns out, I’m 100% that bitch.” – lizzo, “Truth Hurts”
Moments after Viola Davis collected a long overdue Oscar for her work in Fences, she went backstage and was asked how the win felt. Davis admitted, “It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time I still have impostor syndrome. I still feel like I’m going to wake up and everybody’s going to see me for the hack I am.”
That feeling is something I confront on a semi-regular basis. Everyday there’s a little part of me that screams that I’m just not enough…not smart enough, not talented enough, not pretty enough…just not enough. Everyday, I worry that this is the day I’ll finally be exposed as a hack and whatever success I’ve achieved will be snatched away.
But I’m trying to develop coping strategies to deal with my bouts of impostor syndrome and music has been a great help. Beyonce reminds me that I’m flawless, Cardi B encourages me to be a boss and Lizzo assures me that “I’m 100% that bitch, even when I’m crying crazy.”
That bitch is the woman that earns people’s admiration and jealousy in equal measure. That bitch does what others can only dream of. That bitch is worthy. That bitch is enough. That bitch causes all this conversation. On my best days — on the days that I don’t let impostor syndrome slow me down — I am 100% that bitch.
Tiara, Staff Writer
I get told that I’m a bitch for speaking up against discrimination and injustice. I was exiled from a lot of the Australian burlesque community circa 2010 because I was outspoken about the rampant racism in the scene. I know some people find me bitchy online because I’m very forthright about my politics. The thing is, I’m not usually trying to be mean; in the early days I was doing a lot of hedging and “shit sandwiching” when I tried to confront people directly. But the fact that I said anything at all that wasn’t 100% “you are the BEST” was enough to make me bitchy. So now I’m all “well if you’re going to think I’m bitchy no matter what I’m just going to be upfront”. Not pretending to be honest just so I can be mean on purpose, that’s counterproductive. Just direct and real about where I come from, trying to add some nuance or personal perspective to situations.
Carrie, Staff Writer
I am the Editor Bitch. Friends, family, and even some paying clients send their writing my way so I can lovingly eviscerate it. Essays, cover letters, grant proposals, whatever — nothing is sacred. In true Virgo fashion, I just want to help other people do their best work, and it turns out one of the ways I can do that is by pointing out how they used that same adjective in the previous sentence or left an extra space after the period.
(My mom used to be an English teacher.)
Well, the obvious answer is “I’m a boss bitch.” somewhere on the spectrum between “boss-ass” and “bossy.” I’m about as sugar-coated as a piece of dry matzoh. I’ve got minimal patience for inefficiency or things being done in an inferior way to the way that I’d like them done.
I like to be in charge… until I don’t.
But I’m also the kind of bitch who is bossy as well as insecure and painfully aware of her own limitations and biases! Which means I need to surround myself with other bitches. Different types of bitches.
Alexis, Staff Writer
I’m a question mark bitch. I’m a I-have-no-idea-how-I’m-doing-this-but-I’m-doing-it-anyway type of bitch. Do I know what I’m doing? Probably not, but I’m gonna keep researching and trying and obsessing until something happens. I’m a walking question bitch always moving towards answers. I’m also obviously the kind of bitch that takes questions really far.
I don’t know what’s going on but I know what’s up. One of my high school people told me, “I just remember that day you checked in with me. Like, there was absolutely no reason to but you just went, “Hey, are you okay?” and I was having a really bad day and no one else said anything and I haven’t forgotten that.”, six years after it happened. When one of my friends came in, I left my group to ask them what was wrong and they said, “How do you do that? I was trying to pretend everything was okay but you saw right through that.” I sat with my cousin one day and she said, “Lexi, you always know my heart.”
When me and my best friend are on that finish each other’s sentences type shit, we say we’re riding the same wavelength. I’m a wavelength bitch, I try to meet you at your frequency and if I can’t, I try to find shit that’ll make you feel less alone. Don’t ask me what’s going on or how I know, but I be knowin. I don’t always listen to my gut for me, but I listen when it’s for other people. Not all the time, cause it’s not perfect, but enough for it to matter, I think.
Molly Priddy, Staff
I’m that bitch who, after someone crosses a moral line for me, they get my teeth, regardless of who they are or what they mean to me. You can call me the Boundaries Bitch. Don’t cross them without a conversation, don’t assume you know mine without a conversation, and don’t — definitely don’t — fuck with my people. That’s the biggest boundary for me. Fuck with my people and I let myself off the leash, gleefully and usually intoxicated by the freedom of living within my personal righteous indignation.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
Here’s the thing, I’m really very rarely actively trying to be a bitch – I just am. I’m so sorry.
Reneice Charles, Position
I’m the bitch that is committed to being the best possible version of myself at all times. Sometimes that makes me the bitch that writes, runs a business, sings, advocates, has a vibrant social life, goes on vacations, makes most of my meals at home, is stylish and has a good sense of humor, and is the bitch that brings homemade cupcakes to your birthday party and gets along with everyone there because I’m warm and inviting. Sometimes it makes me the bitch that forgets to call on your birthday the next year because I’m prioritizing myself to make sure that I can come out of the other side of what I’m going through better and stronger than I was before. Regardless of which of those modes I’m in though, I am always the bitch that will answer and show up when someone really needs me. I’m the bitch that people say must have lived a thousand lives before this one because I understand and can relate to so my any people and experiences. Most of all I’m the bitch that knows my strength lies in the support of all the other bad bitches I have around me, so I owe it not only to myself but them as well to be obsessed with doing my best.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer
In middle school, a group of boys tried to get me sent to the office for wearing an anti-George W. Bush t-shirt. Well, I kept on wearing the shirt, because I’m that bitch. It was probably long before then that I realized that fighting men would become one of my hobbies. In high school, I was the bitch who pointed out how ridiculous it was that the boys’ tennis team got to use the better courts than the girls’ team and wouldn’t shut up about it until something changed. In college, I was the bitch who lectured the group of boys who worked for me at my college paper on the many layers of Hollywood’s sexism when I overheard them making dumb remarks about Megan Fox’s talents. I continue to be that loud, proud bitch pretty much every day.
Carmen, Staff Writer
I am the bitch that you don’t see coming. Anyone remember MySpace? My profile used to say, “I’m no Angel but I know how to smile like one”. My 18-year-old brain thought the turn of phrase sounded flirty, but the truth remains that with my bright eyes, chipmunk cheeks, and self-effacing personality most people would first describe me as a sweetheart. That is, until they cross one of my friends.
I’m loyal and protective. My memory is long and I know how to hold a grudge. As far as I’m concerned, hurting one of my friends is paramount to war crimes. I will cut you you with words, make you feel small. My trademark sweetness can turn ice cold on a dime. I’ll steel myself if I have to, because I will always protect my loved ones first.
Raquel, Staff Writer
It took me twenty-seven years to stop correcting my partners’ spelling and grammar in texts. I’m twenty-eight.
Laura M, Staff Writer
Last month I was arguing with someone at work in front of a room full of people. We’d been going at it for a good five minutes, neither making any headway. “I’m not changing my mind, Laura,” he said in exasperation. “So I guess you’re just gonna have to go around me.”
“No, I’m not going around you,” I shot back. “I’m going to go right through you.”
He laughed bitterly and evaporated into a puff of smoke. Argument over. The following week, he changed his position.
As I walked away from the room, I thought about what an outrageous thing that was for me to say to someone above my pay grade, with years more experience than me. Yet nobody else in the room even blinked — presumably because they all know that that’s exactly the kind of bitch I am.