Annotated Bibliography: a conversation
This time I wanted my annotate bibliography to revolve around a recent conversation I had with my roommate. First, allow me to set up my living situation. I live in North Minneapolis in an intentional community house. What this means is that we all decided to live to here because we wanted something more than just roommates. We do life together. We invest in each other. We come from all different backgrounds but have similar future goals. We compost, have a garden and getting a chicken coop... we are those people! Together, we are trying to make sense of this messed up world. Because of this we have many conversations and most of the time we do not meet eye to eye of them. I find this both inspiring and exhausting. One of the conversations I had with my roommate Steve revolved around language and the power, resistance and oppression it can have on groups of people. I will try to my best ability sum up the conversation I had with him. Along with the conversation I will offer up a critique of the word 'Bitch' (lot of the conversation revolve around the etymology of the word) by Patricia Hill Collins. Lastly I will offer various sources of how the word 'bitch' is used to show its power, subversiveness and oppression (I used these as examples in my conversation with Steve).
The conversation started because we have a family moving into the house. They have a one-year-old child and they asked us to limit our swearing when she is around. We all gladly accepted but my one roommate, Steve, likes to discuss the 'whys' of it. I proceed to tell him about a friend of mine who is a self proclaimed radical, queer, anarchist who doesn't use certain words like fuck or suck because of its oppressive, misogynistic, heteronormative connotations. He of course asked why and I tried to my best ability to explain but because of my limited knowledge I instead explained the etymology of bitch. We had a long heated conversation about how he thought it was ridiculous to not use that word even if it meant nothing towards a woman (which I wasn't arguing that he do so), for example saying son of bitch when you hit your foot on a table. I tried to get him to understand how it was first used to refer to a female dog, then how it got transformed into phrase to degrade women and finally how it is being reclaimed by some women. In the whole conversation I was trying to show language can be excluding, hurtful, oppressive but at the same time can be a form of resistance, subverting and claiming. I am not sure if I got anywhere in the conversation but he did claim that I was 'right' about the subject. During this conversation I was trying to get across to Steve how language can be used as a point of resistance. Was this conversation useful? Of course it is. I think we both learned from one another.
Patricia Hill Collins in her book, Black Sexual Politics, she has a chapter named, Get Your Freak On and within it there is a subsection called "Bitches" and Bad (Black) Mothers: Images of Working-Class Black Women. In this part of the chapter she looks at how the controlling image of bitch that "constitutes one representation that depicts Black women as aggressive, loud, rude, and pushy... When this is increasingly placed upon poor, working-class women the representation of 'bitch' creates a reworking of the image of the mule of chattel slavery" (123). She looks at how within the Black community the word bitch can be offensive but when combined with other words can be deadly. She also touches on how the Black community has resisted this negative stereotype and has used bitch with a capital 'B' to signify a strong, powerful and celebrated women. I believe that this discussion around language is important. Looking at the history of how a word has been used in terms of gender and race oppression is important. It allows for there to be knowledge and the ability to reclaim or reject.
Other sources (for lack of a better title):
The only great resource I could find was on Wikipedia. :-) For purposed of not making the blog too long check out the link above to see the etymology.
With this last formal source I wanted to offer many sources to how the word bitch has been used and is being used. I want to do this to spark more discussion than to critique. Within these sources much could be said. Some are incredibly offensive and some are empowering. These are sources that should add to examples of oppression and resistance.
Interestingly enough, the site is now limited to only Danish people (where the PSA originated). I was able to check it out before it was taken down it was unreal. Actually it was very real. There was a male hand that you were able to control with your curser or via webcam with your actual hand to 'hit the bitch'. Here are a few photos I was able to find:
This was the first time I felt okay with saying bitch out loud! I remember thinking it was on the radio so it is okay for me to say it! My parents didn't think so but I had my little moment of claiming it...
Another video: Sexy Bitch
"I am trying to find a way to describe this girl without being disrespectful.... she's a sexy bitch..."
Watch if you want, I only made it through the first minute.
I hope this blog showed how one word can hold so much. It has a history of oppression but now in some spaces holds a position of empowerment, resistance and reclaiming. Whatever it is I believe it is worth being aware of it.