We all know that the pool of acceptable behaviours is a lot smaller for women, and anything that transgresses outside of these behaviours can see you branded a “bitch.”
From an early age, most girls have experienced negative reactions to assertive behaviour in a way that little boys don’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, female assertiveness in later life can be a fine art.
If you’ve made it to adulthood and are still being called a bitch then you’ve probably done something right. Here’s what people might secretly be meaning when they drop the b-word.
If you’re being called a “bitch”, it’s likely because you’re a strong female and the accuser doesn’t know how to categorise you. When you don’t fit into the usual understanding of what a woman should be, a go-to call might just be ‘bitch’.
When someone calls you a bitch, what they could actually mean is “I’m intimidated by the fact that you know what you want”.
As a woman, if you’re asserting your thoughts you’re likely to be called “opinionated”, if you’re expressing emotion, you can expect to be called “a psycho,” and if you’re strong AF you’ll probably be called a “bitch”.
On the contrary, a man who gives his input is usually deemed “confident”, whilst a guy expressing his emotion is considered “in touch with his feelings”, and a strong man is just called “a man”.
Once you start asking yourself how often you’ve heard a man be called a bitch in a serious way, you’ll start to realise that bitch is just a gendered word for strong. Embrace it.
When a man asserts himself, he’s a go-getter and a leader, and generally someone that “you don’t mess with”. When a woman does the same, often it can be met with criticisms such as “stop being a bitch”.
Whilst a man who barks orders in a hard and fast fashion is a decisive leader, a woman who behaves similarly is normally thought of as a bitch.
With that in mind, when someone calls you a bitch, what they could actually mean is “I’m intimidated by the fact that you know what you want”. Being confident and assertive is nothing to worry about, in fact they are both common traits of great leaders.
In studies where people are asked to perform a gender-neutral task, women will repeatedly be assessed as less competent despite delivering the exact same performance. This is because people naturally assume that women are less competent than men across the board.
The good news for us bitches is that a woman will rarely get called a “bitch” if she is incompetent. In fact, if you’re incompetent, people will likely go easy on you since you’ll fit the damsel in distress stereotype. Rather than call you a bitch, they will actually want to help you.
When a woman is struggling, people are socialised to swoop and save her, as opposed to berate her. If you’re incompetent or are doing a bad job, people won’t be calling you a bitch, they’ll more likely be trying to rescue you.
So, if you’ve been called a bitch, it could be because you’re killing it. Albeit in an assertive manner.
If you’re being called a bitch, it’s likely that you’re assertive and independently minded, two traits that aren’t commonly associated with femininity. Gender studies have shown that “women tend to assume that men will be more attracted to them when they behave in a deferential, accommodating, and agreeable way”.
If being a bitch means you’ve disregarded a stereotypical way of behaving because it’s not who you are, kudos to you. You’re not going to bend to fit a gender stereotype, or to make men want you. That’s not a bad thing.
You’re being yourself regardless of what society deems to be feminine, and that’s very cool.
Of course, it could be the case that you’re actually just a bitch and need to sit down and think about what you’ve done, but that’s unlikely.
That being said, if you’re shouting at your significant other, storming out of meetings, or making personal attacks on people then yes, it might be worth re-evaluating.
However, if you’re dealing with situations in a calm manner, and not making anyone else feel intimidated or threatened, then you’re probably just being assertive.
Celebrate being called a bitch for what it really means most of the time - simply being a strong woman.