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Bitch: a sexist insult or a sex-specific insult?

(30 Posts)
FrozenNorthPole Mon 06-Jun-11 22:52:47

Am just debating with DH whether to call a woman a bitch is explicitly sexist, or whether it is a sex-specific insult? I know, it's an odd thing to be discussing.

My perspective is that bitch, whore, slut etc. are all discriminatory and sexually derogatory terms that have specific non-feminist implications.

His perspective is that bitch is rather different to the other insults listed above - he equates it to 'bastard' as a sex-specific male insult. He agrees the other terms are sexist.

I told him you'd probably know grin Am I right or is he?

MadamDeathstare Mon 06-Jun-11 22:56:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FitBlokeFromWork Mon 06-Jun-11 22:58:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MillyR Mon 06-Jun-11 22:59:32

I think both bitch and bastard, in their 'old' meanings are sexist towards women. Bastard is an insult to your mother - a woman who had sex and got pregnant out of wedlock. Bitch (according to my grandmother, who is horrified by the term) means a prostitute. In fact, it kind of has come back to a similar meaning through rap music.

The modern meanings of bitch are (according to me; I didn't look it up in The Combined Feminist Rule Book and Dictionary):

1. the same as bastard (cold hearted/mean), so that isn't sexist.
2. A person who makes nasty, gossipy, meanspirited remarks about other women. That kind of criticism is only ever really made towards women, so is sexist.
3. My bitch. This implies you are sexually owned by a man. This is sexist. It is also sometimes said to men, often by other men. This implies both that they are owned and that they are also being accused of being a bit of a girl, so again, sexist.

TeiTetua Tue 07-Jun-11 03:33:31

Either a woman or a man could be born illegitimately and this be in a literal sense a "bastard". But I'd call it very unlikely that you'd ever say to your best mate "My boss is a total bastard" if your boss were a woman. Likewise you wouldn't call the female boss an asshole/arsehole. There's no logical reason why not, but I just don't think anyone would do it. In a way it's like a lot of other things in life, where we assume everything important is done by men, and then we have to make it clear that once in a while we're talking about a woman.

AliceWhirled Tue 07-Jun-11 09:09:01

What's the difference between a sexist insult and a sex-specific insult? confused

HaughtyChuckle Tue 07-Jun-11 09:33:53

I call men bitches sometimes

the phrase 'whinging like a bitch' is common where I'm from suppose thats quite sexist

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 07-Jun-11 10:14:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

InmaculadaConcepcion Tue 07-Jun-11 10:56:48

A vote for sexist.

Don't forget the "bitch on heat" connotations too. (Wrongly applied usually - when used as an insult it implies a woman is desperate to have sex with a man, when in fact it's the time when a female dog becomes irresistible to any un-neutered male dogs in her vicinity)

dittany Tue 07-Jun-11 11:08:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FrozenNorthPole Tue 07-Jun-11 13:06:20

Thank you grin. I think sexist just about wins!

Alice - sexist = sexually derogatory / inappropriate
sex-specific = can only be / is usually only applied to individuals of a specific gender
I guess the two terms are not mutually exclusive e.g. something could be both sexist and sex-specific ...

buzzsore Tue 07-Jun-11 13:29:46

It is sexist, I'd say. I don't think the two mean the same, and agree with MillyR.

Haughty, when someone calls men a female-orientated insult, it's a way of putting them down because it's such an insult to be a woman. Cos women's status is so lowly & othered. Like big girl's blouse or stop being such a girl or indeed, bitches. But it's ok because it's funny hmm.

HaughtyChuckle Tue 07-Jun-11 14:15:47

Where did I say it was funny,
I agree it is sexist, a word like bitch is so commonplace in society

buzzsore Tue 07-Jun-11 14:18:02

Sorry, I didn't mean to attribute the funny bit to you, I knew I'd worded that badly. I just meant it is often used like that to be 'funny'.

HaughtyChuckle Wed 08-Jun-11 10:46:34

Oh right okay

DontCallMePeanut Wed 08-Jun-11 11:47:12

Sexist. Even if you call a man a "son of a bitch", you're still placing the onus of the insult on the woman (the man's mother).

There are very few (if any) male specific insults. But bitch is applied to women, or men deemed to have "effeminate" qualities, usually more camp males. I've never heard "bitch" applied to a straight male, or a very masculine man.

Bitch = female dog. So, sex specific. But in it's use, it's degrading someone for being a woman, or having effeminate qualities.

Also, it's "animalising" (I may have made that word up) women. Again. It's comparing us to dogs, again. Man's best friend. So many female targeted insults have this link. "Cow", "Mare", "Catty". Add to this, the use of sex related uses of animalisation. "Doggy style", used because the woman is on all fours... like our four legged friend... and taken from behind, like a dog. OK, the enjoyment is down to the individual, but it's only called doggy style because of the position the woman is in. Add to that, "hog roast"... I'll leave you to work that one out.

By being compared to animals, both through insults and in the bedroom, us women are still being made inferior to men. We're being compared to animals, and not kicking up enough of a fuss about it.

TrillianAstra Wed 08-Jun-11 11:48:26

"To bitch" as a verb is definitly not sex-specific.

TrillianAstra Wed 08-Jun-11 11:51:01

I have told men "don't be such a bitch", but I think I use it in a more specific way when talking about a man.

Man being a bitch = bitching (talking nastily about people, usually behind their back)
Woman being a bitch = the definition above OR generally being nasty = same as man being a bastard

DontCallMePeanut Wed 08-Jun-11 11:53:03

Hmm, your example is something I don't hear often, Trillian.

OTheHugeManatee Wed 08-Jun-11 11:53:24

The thing with insults is that they're so context-specific. One woman calling another woman 'bitch' would tend to mean 'you are mean, malicious or unpleasant' whereas if a man calls a woman a 'bitch' then it typically has a payload of sexist put-down as well. Unless he's gay and referring to another man, in which case it's different again.

So my tuppence worth: it's usually a pretty rude thing to call someone but is sex-specific or sexist depending on the context.

DontCallMePeanut Wed 08-Jun-11 11:54:24

But then, isn't that effeminating the man? And by effeminating him, you're, however subconsciously, saying "you're acting like a female, and that's a bad thing"?

TrillianAstra Wed 08-Jun-11 11:56:13

Maybe I am unusual in how I use it.

TrillianAstra Wed 08-Jun-11 11:56:48

If a man is doing something where I think the correct word for it is "bitching" why shouldn't I say that?

OTheHugeManatee Wed 08-Jun-11 12:01:05

DontCallMe Gender politics among gay men is ver ver complicated and I don't pretend to understand it. (this is assuming your reply was to my post wink) But when I think of my gay friends saying 'oh, he's such a bitch sometimes' I'm not sure that necessarily carries a sexist payload as such - it could just be used more in the sense one woman might use it about another, to mean 'spiteful, two-faced, malicious'. IOW, at least among some groups of gay men, 'you are acting like a female' isn't ipso facto an insult.

DontCallMePeanut Wed 08-Jun-11 12:16:12

OTheHuge, it was kind of something that just sprung to mind. Yes, I'll agree that gender politics amongst the gay community are complicated. BUT the thing that bothers me is the traditional gay stereotypes. (Something that bothers me on BOTH sides) It's only recently we've started seeing more masculine representations of gay males in the media. In fact, I'll be honest, I used to be very confused re: the stereotypes... I used to think most gay men were effeminate, as per the ones we used to see in Are You Being Served.

I think with the gay community, they're more sympathetic to the feminist issues... They've been oppressed for centuries... Still are, in many ways. So, I think, in a way, they've adapted "bitch" and other female related comments, almost as a way of saying "We've been oppressed by society too..." If anyone can put me right on this, PLEASE feel free, but it's how I've interpeted it.

To me, you can't steer away from the true meaning of bitch, as to mean female dog. To bitch = to act like a female dog. So, to me, used by the gay community or not, for the MOST part, it's VERY gender specific, and therefore sexist.

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