The whole idea of comparing a woman to a dog in order to be extra derogatory almost certainly came from a man*, and like all mean and demeaning things, it caught on quickly. While never intended to be exactly empowering, in recent years attempts to take the word back have been made with varying success. Adorable band geek Michelle in American Pie uses it to assert her sexual dominance over dorkalou Jason Biggs in a witty role reversal. Paris Hilton tried to make it as ubiquitous as “bro”, by using it on everyone leading it to achieve the same level of charm. All in all, for the most part, the original meaning as “you are like unto a thoroughly disagreeable crotch licking animal” continues to stand. So why do some trans women immediately begin shouting from the rooftops, “I’m a bitch!” upon starting transition?
Veering left for a second, I’m going to make a bold statement and say that I think the future of heterosexual sex would be in grave danger if men and women truly understood each other. It’s probably good that the misunderstandings persist as I believe they allow for procreation of the species and help avoid public screaming matches. Because of this, when a man calls a woman a bitch, she can soften the blow by assuming he is reacting out a complex emotional conflict and denied the use of a lengthier, more accurate description due to gender limitations. He of course really means nothing more than, “I think you are like a crotch licking animal”.
Here’s the thing. Cisgender women have no reason to know this. Trans women though… I don’t like it either, but none of us can deny that for a good chunk of our lives we were accepted as card carrying members of the great big sausage party. Behind the lines in disgusting places like locker rooms, we know what men really think in male only environments. I think it is why a lot of us have a hard time finding attraction there, no matter what our orientation would have been had we been born in the correct body. Getting to the point, we all understand that when a guy calls a woman a bitch, his intention is to be insulting and hurtful. So why do some insist on doing this?
Those of us who identify with one of the binary genders know that it is very desirable to our self esteem to be accepted by the cisgender versions of ourselves. For many trans women who feel they are female and not a third or separate gender, it feels very good to be considered to be one of the girls. I am one of them, and in the past I’ve complained much about when we are excluded on account of having been born different. I really hate it when the reason is given that we didn’t have girlhoods and therefore enjoyed a patriarchal favorable upbringing. I think this is false and mean in spirit. In some cases though, I kind of see their point.
We had it hard in our own way, but we were not victim to the same derogatory insults as cisgender girls. I can see cisgender women getting a little put out when we “take back a word” that was not hurled at us every time we offered a strong opinion. Unfair as it is, and regardless of our feminine equality to cisgender women, we can’t assume ownership of experiences we didn’t have. If a butch cisgender lesbian declared herself a “lady-boy”, we might find that a little offensive. If Mitt Romney, always a hillbilly in heart and mind, moved to Alabama and started pronouncing, “I’m a whiskey tango redneck, y’all!”, he could reasonably expect to get shot in the ass with rock salt.
The point is, yes, we are real women and it is right that we be accepted as such. At the same time, I think it would be better and more sensitive of us not to assume ownership of derogatory experiences we didn’t have. Lord knows, we have enough of our own to draw from if we want to take something back. Having someone call us bitches and really mean it like that isn’t one of them, so think we should respect our sisters and not use it.
*As referenced in my last post, a particular kind of man, ubiquitous** as they may be.
**Seriously Michelle, “ubiquitous” used twice in the same post? Ugh. Done for today.