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“Faith, it is my cousin’s duty to make courtesy, and say, Father, as it please you.”

September 10, 2008

I picked up “Bitchfest” (a collection of essays from Bitch Magazine) at the library recently. It must be good; i’m not even to the pages with numbers yet. In fact, i’m writing about the first two paragraphs of the forward, by (The Magnificent) Margaret Cho:

“Whenever anyone has called me a bitch, I have taken it as a compliment. To me, a bitch is assertive, unapologetic, demanding, intimidating, intelligent, fiercely protective, in control – all very positive attributes. But it’s not supposed to be a compliment, because there’s that old, stupid double standard: When men are aggressive and dominant, they are admired, but when a woman possesses those same qualities, she is dismissed and called a bitch.”

Let’s pause to say hell yeah, though i immediately noted that i could only seriously claim one of the traits on her list – i am not a bitch. (Well, i can’t vouch for what people say behind my back, but i have only ever been called a bitch to my face by those people who equate bitch with female, or in jest by my friends. The latter is usually deserved; if i have a bitchy aspect, it resides at that point where snarky crosses over.)

“These days, I strive to be a bitch, because not being one sucks. Not being a bitch means not having your voice heard. Not being a bitch means you agree with all the bullshit. Not being a bitch means you don’t appreciate all the other bitches who have come before you. Not being a bitch means since Eve ate the apple, we will forever have to pay for her bitchiness with complacence, obedience, acceptance, closed eyes, and open legs.”

That is bullshit. I must respectfully disagree. (That’s not bitchy, i swear. I do mean respectfully – the rest of the piece is great.)

No, the fact that i am unintimidating, apologetic and obedient does not mean that i am accepting of or blind to our problems, or that i am complacent. It simply means i react differently. And my particular breed of un-bitch believes strongly that differently does not imply better – or worse. My un-bitch is self-confident, if demure, and so likes to think that both my un-bitch and your bitch play important roles in the change we are trying to affect.

Here is my defense; the reason i think my traditionally feminine demeanor is not unfeminist:

I am not assertive. At least, not as it is typically used: forceful. This does not mean i do not defend my position. But i am a peacemaker, and i do not like to win at the cost of the peace. But i do make progress in this fashion; just my progress is both slower and steadier than that you make by being assertive.

I am apologetic, but not unduly. There are, after all, two forms of apology: expressing regret and asking forgiveness. I am always ready to do the former, because i do not like to see people in discomfort, and i try to always do the latter when it is applicable. Neither of those make me weak. It does not mean i am acceding my point, but that i am sorry, if nothing else, that it (you know, the truth) causes anyone any sort of pain.

I think my response to the rest of the first list follows, more or less, what i’ve said – with the exception that you’re goddamn right i’m intelligent. So, on to the “negatives”:

Complacence, acceptance and closed eyes, as i said, are in no way directly related to not being a bitch. Open legs are just fine by me, so long as it’s by my own choice.

That leaves obedient. Which i am, even in a general, cultural sense. I am typically a rules-follower. Following rules is not the same as agreeing with rules, and breaking them is not the only way to express your dissent. I follow rules (or, i generally try) because i believe rules are what keep a society (group, organization, relationship, etc.) running. If i think it is a shitty rule, then i would much rather attempt to change it than ignore it.

So, that’s my housewife’s guide to being an activist.

Lady Brett
“but yet for all that, cousin, let him be a handsome fellow, or else make another courtesy, and say, Father, as it please me.” – Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2008 10:45 am

    I totally agree! I don’t mind being a bitch sometimes (based on that definition) but there are other ways.

  2. September 10, 2008 12:04 pm

    Great post! I love that fact that you yoke ladylike manners with feminist commitments. I don’t think this move is at all postfeminist; it strikes me as very specifically femme.

    I haven’t read Margaret’s piece (just your excerpts), but I’m not sure I’d read her quite so literally. We all know she’s really a gay man–one of the many reasons I like her so much!–so I’d read this with a healthy serving of camp and irony. Just my 2 cents. Lord knows she’s all in favor of open legs (and open mouths) herself!

    Hey, maybe you should send this to her?

  3. September 10, 2008 1:31 pm

    oh, no less love to cho! she really is brilliant (specifically because of the camp and irony), but i also think it is a bit to easy to use wit to excuse content sometimes, so i wanted to respond anyhow.

    and, whether or not she seriously meant it, it is a common enough modern feminist sentiment as to get under my skin (part and parcel of the whole “feminism means you have to reject femininity” view some folks take)

  4. September 10, 2008 5:15 pm

    An excellent retort! Thx ;-)

  5. September 11, 2008 11:21 am

    I know you’re not a fan of bitches–but what about witches? I’m curious to know what you think of my post today!

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