I remember the first time I was called a bitch. I was eight years old and had just come from playing in the schoolyard with my 3rd grade class. See, only a few of us were privileged to enjoy recess that day. All the fresh kids had to stay inside and write lines. I was especially pleased with myself because I had outrun the cutest boy in the class, “Jay,” in tag.
It was time to go home, so I put my backpack on and stood in line waiting for my teacher to lead us outside. As I stood in line, the most popular girl in class, “Dee,” got up and pretended to throw something away. She purposely bumped into me on her way to the trash can. “B—h,” she spat under her breath, so the teacher couldn’t hear. My eyes ballooned in shock. On her way back, she pushed into me again saying, “Stay away from my man, b—h.”
All this because word had gotten back that her “man” (she was totally referring to “Jay”) had chased me in tag, thought I was cute and had blown a kiss at me. Okay, maybe “Dee” had a reason to be upset, but to call me a bitch? I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I remember my eyes watering and my teacher asking, “What’s going on over there?” I sputtered, trying to explain that “Dee” had just called me the unthinkable, a word I had never heard in real life because nobody in my house used such language, but I knew that I didn’t like it. “Dee” and I were both scolded for arguing before I was led outside to my brother who was waiting to walk me home.
When I got home, my father asked me what was wrong because I was still upset. “Dee called me a bitch,” I sobbed. I remember my father telling me to stop crying, that I was not a b—h, and that we didn’t use that language in this house. I wiped my eyes and pulled it together. Interestingly, “Dee” and I actually grew to be BFF’s by the end of the school year. Still, I always felt a way about the word “b—h.” To this day, I cringe when I hear it. In high school, where b—hes reign supreme in the halls and city buses, I was ready to fight about it. Even when my friends tried to use it as a term of endearment, I always took it personally. And as an adult, I am still quick to tell somebody to “watch their mouth” if they let the b-word slip around me. The way my stomach dropped when “Dee” introduced the b-word into my eight year-old world was enough to let me know that it was unacceptable. I know women are supposed to be giving “b—h” a positive meaning like Black people do with “nigga,” but I feel like there are too many other words that can be used to proclaim how boss you are. And call me crazy, but I fail to see the correlation between all those positive things and a female dog.