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