The word has been used since about the fourteenth century and currently is said every day. It is used in advertising, pop music, daytime television, and ordinary conversation. The word is said to have a multitude of meanings which are not always offensive. But I am here to say the word is offensive no matter who is using it or in what context. If I or any other woman is called a bitch; it is not a compliment. There is no misunderstanding. It is very simple; a bitch is a dog, to be more precise it is a female dog that is in estrus, though breeders often refer to all female canines as "bitches". To call a woman a bitch (under any circumstances) is to demean and de-humanize her, to objectify and subjugate her; there is no other purpose in the word.
Women like Florence Kelly, Jane Addams, Susan Anthony and Sojourner Truth dedicated their lives in the fight for social justice and equal rights during the first wave of the Women's Rights movement between 1850 and the turn of the century. Through the twentieth century the fight was taken up by women like; Angela Davis, Kate Millet, Ruth Ginsburg, and Eleanor Norton. Despite the efforts of these women and thousands of others, our society continues to cling to the Victorian ideal of the "true woman". That woman is one who is subservient to a husband, father, brother; a woman who is pious and pure (yet must be sexually attractive). We continue to live in a patriarchal society which seems to thrive on discrimination; a society in which the white, christain, male is the ruling elite.
Today women on average earn about seventy-seven cents to every dollar earned by men. Women constitute only 18% of the Congress and Senate; with just 78 congressional seats held by women eighteen of which are in the Senate. Of the fifty three (yes there are 53 don't forget Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico) United States Governors; forty are white men, and five are women. The way that society views women is reflected in these numbers. As was seen in the media coverage of our last Presidential election; as the media covered the important issues such as the war in Iraq and our economic situation in the discussions of the men who were running for that office, it was the families and the fashion that was discussed in regards to the two women who participated in the race.
Disparities in education are also reflected in the numbers above. Yes girls are attending the same schools as boys in America; but they are bombarded with gender bias in the schools. One example was evidenced at a local high school where both the girls and the boy's basketball teams won a spot at the national championships. The school paid the way for the boy's team to travel to the playoffs, while the girl's team had to hold fundraisers (one of which was a tee-shirt and short-shorts car wash) and ask for donations from family and friends to pay the costs of travel and lodging to attend the games. Last summer this same schools cheerleading squad held their "white elephant" sale at a local strip club. I have not yet seen any of the boy's activities from this school attempting to raise money from the community. This society holds little value in women; even rape is not considered a hate crime despite the fact that it is a crime that targets a specific gender based on hate.
While women have struggled to gain equality in America; the media, employers, public school systems and even our government have maintained the patriarchal ideals of the Victorian and Antebellum eras'. However, it has not been men alone who have perpetuated these ideals; women too are at fault. We ourselves pass judgment on other women. If a woman chose's to raise her children and keep a home instead of holding a paying job she is often looked upon as being lazy or standing against women's rights. If a woman pursues a career instead of family she is questioned about her perceived lack of "maternal instincts". We demean ourselves and others when we refer to ourselves as bitches, or allow others to use that term in describing us. We fail ourselves when we plainly see the oppression and subjugation of women right here in America yet do nothing about it. As we raise our sons and daughters in gender specific environments we fail our future generations.
It is time for us women of the second wave to pass the torch to our young sisters. It is time for the younger sisters to stand up and bring the third wave of the Women's Rights Movement to America. Perhaps the best place to start is to bring an end to the use of the word bitch, for in that word is at the very core of gender discrimination.