I hear it every day
“Don’t be a bitch, jump.”
“Quit being a bitch, man up.”
Merriam-Webster has two major definitions of the word bitch:
the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
a lewd or immoral woman
What do those two definitions have in common?
They both describe something feminine.
Yet, when we use this word in a negative, diminutive, connotation, we direct it at men. If a man isn’t doing something out of fear, he’s a bitch; If he displays a quality that other men mark as “feminine” he’s a bitch.
This is a clear attempt to emasculate a man. If a man is not doing his job of being masculine, he might as well be a woman.
But why do we demonize femininity? We don’t want our heroines in media to wear dresses, lest they be seen as feminine, and therefore weak. We insult women who make the perfectly valid choice to be homemakers. If a man shows that he has an emotion other than anger, he’s relentlessly mocked and called a bitch. Why?
Why can’t a man cry when he is sad? Why Buffy wear a dress for Halloween and not be stricken useless by her femininity? What is the problem embracing your feminine side?
We use it as a joke, as a punchline. We show men in dresses on television because we think it’ll get a laugh, and it does.
You may have noticed I keep using the word we.
That’s because I do it too. I have two brothers. I grew up around them calling each other feminine words to get a rise out of each other. I heard them spew emasculating words to people through headsets.
Chances are, I’m not alone, because it’s true. Everyone at some point or another has tried to emasculate a man. We’re taught that without his masculinity, a man is nothing. That’s why in the media, men are identified by their genitalia. They fight with large phallic weapons; Broadswords and lances in fantasy, automatic weapons in action films. We do the same with women.
Once a woman is given a sword, or a gun, or a pair of pants she is empowered. This only teaches us that femininity is weakness, and masculinity is power. Of course, no one does this on purpose. It’s only years of reinforcement that have taught us this. We see it in media, hear it in school; we have people telling us that we have to be confident and assertive to get what we want. And which people are stereotypically “assertive”? Men.
Everywhere people go, there are other people telling them to shed their feminine traits. And yes, like it or not, men have feminine traits. Men are empathetic, sensitive, and compassionate. Why these traits are seen as feminine is a different blog entirely. What matters is that these traits are seen as weaknesses in men, but with no clear reason why.
We want our men to be “men”. Strong willed and hardy. The problem with this is that whenever they break out of this box, they’re shoved back in. And we start this type of thing early, too. There are toys for little boys, and those for little girls. Boys get adorned in blue upon birth. They’re beat over the head with messages to suppress their emotions and fight like the men they are. They can’t cry for fear of being called sissies.
Isn’t this more damaging than letting them be “feminine”?