Op-Ed: Call Me Bitch, Never Biddy–Can We Change an Overused Insult?

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>I always save my texts so I can laugh about how much of a drunken whore I truly am. <a href=”https://twitter.com/search/%23bitchinBUbiddy”>#bitchinBUbiddy</a></p>&mdash; BU Biddy (@bitchinBUbiddy) <a href=”https://twitter.com/bitchinBUbiddy/status/244899937148600320″ data-datetime=”2012-09-09T20:47:49+00:00″>September 9, 2012</a></blockquote>

There are close to 10 different Twitter accounts about Boston University “biddies.” They are mostly joke accounts that relate to “biddy” moments like drinking iced coffee in winter, UGG boots, frat parties, and promiscuous sex. While some of these tweets are harmless, some seem to cross the line.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>Pissed that Sandy blew more frat guys than me tonight. <a href=”https://twitter.com/search/%23bitchinBUbiddy”>#bitchinBUbiddy</a></p>&mdash; BU Biddy (@bitchinBUbiddy) <a href=”https://twitter.com/bitchinBUbiddy/status/262834943783215105″ data-datetime=”2012-10-29T08:35:08+00:00″>October 29, 2012</a></blockquote>

Like on college campuses across the U.S., BU students have embedded this new term into the campus vernacular to describe behaviors and fashion choices that many in the student population exhibit at one point or another.

This means that a student wearing a North Face jacket with yoga pants and UGG boots is equivalent to one who gets sloppy-drunk on a Thursday at TITS. This seems a bit unfair.

Last year, Quad columnist Sarah Merriman (CAS ’12) wrote a piece about women owning the term “biddy” and ceasing to use it negatively. She recently said, “I still think that word ‘biddy’, and any derogatory word, can be reclaimed by the individual whom it affects.” This seems to be easier said than done. How can we do this? Is it possible to completely change the meaning of a word that insults so many?

Some female students find that the term contains more harm than good.

Carly Lindgren (CAS ’15), a statuesque blonde, has been called a biddy before and dislikes the term.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m blonde that they think I’m a dumb girl. I was surprised and I remember being pissed off,” she says of the encounter.

Lindgren is also a part of the sorority culture at BU, so being called a biddy comes with the territory. “It’s a stereotype for sorority girls [to be a biddy],” she says.

There is one word she is not offended by–and that’s “bitch.”

“I’d rather be a bitch and speak my mind than a biddy going along with what everyone says,” she explains.

Over the past 15 years or so, the term “bitch” has evolved from demeaning to empowering. Though Urban Dictionary has pages and pages of definitions, from a whipped man to the guy that has to sit in the middle backseat of a car, there was one that took the cake: “A woman that doesn’t give a flying fuck anymore and can, and will, be cruel to men.” A bitch is mean, but she’s strong, she’s opinionated, and she’s not afraid to say it.

In 1996, the non-profit magazine Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture hit the stands. Their content inspired, explored, and exposed the real lives of women. Today, Bitch has expanded into BitchMedia which has a website with blogs, essays, and articles, podcasts, and their famous magazine–all focusing on women’s issues and their empowerment.

Tina Fey and her book "Bossypants" via Wikimedia commons user David Shankbone
Tina Fey and her book Bossypants. | Photo courtesy of David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

From then on, it seems like the usage of “bitch” just got stronger and more positive. In 2008, while hosting SNL, Tina Fey defended Hillary Clinton, who was running for president at the time, when she received criticism for being a “bitch.” Fey proudly proclaimed, “Yeah, she is. And so am I. And so is she [pointing to Amy Poehler]. Bitches get stuff done.” Other famous women, like Chelsea Handler, Nicki Minaj and Whitney Cummings are coming forward about and embracing their “bitchy” image.

All these celebrity “bitches” are independent, strong-willed, opinionated, loud, and not afraid to prove it to you. They are women other women emulate and appreciate. They sell books, music, and television shows. They are making “bitch” a word for strength and empowerment by embracing what the word means and seeing the best in it.

So this idea could work for “biddy,” right?

It’s a mixed bag for this answer.

Lindgren says she sees a future where the term could change. “No matter the word or phrase, it can lose value over time,” she says. Lindgren thinks it could one day mean just a “girly girl.”

Emily O’Donnell (COM ’13) agrees.

“Look at how long it took bitch to change, and this is a new word,” she says. “If women embrace the word as meaning owning who you are no matter what you look like and what you’re doing, it can change.”

Diana Burmistrovich (COM ’13) sees it differently.

“I don’t know. I think there is too much negative in the word,” she says. “There’s little in the definition of ‘biddy’ that I would want to be.”

Even if the term can change, there could still be negativity attached to the word. Though “bitch” has become socially acceptable and empowering to some, there are those who see its derogatory roots still apparent.

“I still prefer not to use either word for myself or for others,” says Merriman. “In my experience, I’d only use it to cut other women down, and even if an individual is being awful, I’d rather convey my frustration in other terms than label them and erase my solidarity with women as an oppressed group, which gendered insults do so often.”

It’s true that meanings of words, positive or negative, come out of a certain context. There are times when the “bitch” crosses a line or “biddy” doesn’t. It’s the overall definition that really matters. In ten years or so, “bitch” may not be a “bad word” at all; today, there’s even a television show with “bitch” in the title. Whether or not this may be the same for “biddy” remains unclear.

There are more negative implications within the definition that will make it hard for “biddy” to change. Empowerment comes through positivity, and I don’t see a lot of positivity in “biddy” right now.

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