We need to talk (a/k/a Island Girl gets serious)…
For all the encouragement I offer to be a badass and claim the life you love, never, ever did I intend to imply that along with being fierce and fearless you should add “bitch” to your C.V. There’s a fine line between badass and bitch, and crossing it is not part of this Island Girl’s game plan. For herself or anyone else.
But before we go forward, let’s go back. To our grammar school days, when Merriam-Webster dictionaries were all the rage. I have comforting childhood memories of the dog-eared pages and worn red and blue cover of the copy I carried with me at all times. (An early sign, it seems, of my eventual career choice.)
Of course, who am I kidding? In 2018 we’re just going online for good old Merriam-Webster. So open that browser and let’s get clicking. We’re going to look up a few words. And the first one is…bitch.
- the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
- often offensive: a malicious, spiteful or overbearing woman
- often offensive: a lewd or immoral woman
- something that is extremely difficult, objectionable or unpleasant
Hmm…not the most flattering of definitions. Unless you’re a lady dog, of course.
When Did The Meaning Of Bitch Change?
It is strange because over the years the word bitch has attempted to reinvent itself. To connote something else, something more positive. Songs were sung. Books were written. Memes were created. All touting the merits of being a bitch. It has even evolved into a badge of pride for some women. All I can say, I guess, is go forth and wear the bitch crown proudly if that’s your thing. It isn’t mine.
I’ve always strived to be likable. Even at the ripe old age of 50, while I may not care a whole lot what you think of my sartorial choices, I do prefer that you find me a nice person to be around. Someone you want as a roomie on a girls’ weekend trip. The gal you want at Sunday brunch (and not just because I’ll make you feel good about your mimosa consumption rate.)
Yet for all my desire to be someone you keep at the top of your WhatsApp chat list, I also still want to be the best badass I can be. I try to be strong and fearless and do unexpected things. I also don’t shy away from arguing my points or fighting for my rights. I just try to do it in a diplomatic way (must be the Libra in me). In short, I try to be a badass with class. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
I also spend a helluva lot of time trying to convince the people who read this blog or follow me on Facebook or keep up with my Instagram account, that being a badass is the best thing since sliced bread. Which, of course, it is. Duh.
Why do I love being a badass so much? Well, let’s go back to my friends Merriam and Webster, shall we? According to them, being a badass means you are:
- ready to cause or get into trouble
- of formidable strength or skill
Either sounds pretty damn good to me. Or both. But…
Don’t Confuse The Two Words
I struggle a lot when I encounter women who confuse badass with bitch. (If I’m totally honest, I’ve crossed the line once or twice myself in the past. Hey…I’m a work in progress.) They go out to make their mark in the world (yay!), but get nasty and malicious along the way (boo!).
And while they might have a good message, it gets lost in their delivery. They confuse strong and independent with mean and spiteful. They think in order to ascend, somebody else has to fall. And that somebody else is invariably one of their fierce, fellow females.
Heads up…it doesn’t really work that way. Or at least it shouldn’t.
I recently stumbled across a blog post via Facebook. The message of the blog post was clear – I’m over 40 and damn I’m going to do what I want, so stop telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. Now that is definitely a message I can get behind. Hell, it’s been my life mantra for a while now. It is a message I thoroughly believe in and champion, one thousand percent. So much so that I even started a blog about it.
Ok…this could be a blogger I could get behind. One click and I’m taken to her oh-so-promising website. Yet once I got there, it only took a few seconds for this bitter blogger’s message to rub me the very wrong way. It happened when she began her rant by name-calling, including such terms as “fetuses on the internet” and “woman-child.” The target of her ire? Younger female writers who dare to suggest, via those silly listicles of all things, what women over a certain age should and should not do.
The particular transgression that really stoked the blogger’s purported ire? Not to wear hoop earrings after 30. Say what? That suggestion is so ludicrous, I would take anything that followed with a very tiny grain of salt…followed immediately by a shot of tequila. I sure as heck wouldn’t get worked up or offended by such a ridiculous article. But hey, it’s always taken a lot to offend me, so I may not be the best barometer for offensive things.
Still…even if you are easily offended by clickbait you find all over the web, is getting nasty the answer? Once you hit 40 I’m pretty sure you should have learned how to address perceived slights and offenses without resorting to schoolyard bullying tactics. Especially if you refer to yourself as a writer. If you must hurl insults, at least flex your writing chops and be a little more subtle with your barbs.
But this other woman’s blog shouldn’t really be the focus here. She’s gotten plenty of undeserved mileage out of her caustic diatribe. At most, her post – and my visceral reaction to it – served as a prompt for me to consider a bigger issue.
Why I Care
This sort of woman-on-woman bitchiness does nothing to unite us as fierce, fabulous females that we are – or are striving to be. As women, whether we like it or not, we are still facing the same struggles in 2018 as our mothers and grandmothers did decades ago. Glass ceilings. Inequitable pay. Sexual harassment and discrimination.
So why the animosity among us? Don’t we have enough stacked against us already? Wouldn’t we be stronger if we were united rather than divided? This unnecessary name-calling carried the stench of “I feel better now that I’ve made you feel worse.” Why do we need to do that? Why is attacking our fellow sisters still the default behavior so often relied upon?
It shouldn’t be. And there’s definitely nothing badass about it. To the contrary, I think you lose badass karma points every time you try and take down another woman. Of any age.
Dye your hair turquoise if you want. Get a tattoo. Rock the damn hoop earrings. These things can be perceived as badass no matter your age. Well, maybe not the earrings…that’s just a normal, summery look, isn’t it?
Do badass things (however you define them), and I’ll be the first in line to cheer you on and applaud you for your fierce choices. Choices I’ve made myself. Well, not the hair dye as the Caribbean sun would destroy the fun colors very, very quickly, leaving me with a faded mess. (I’ve already begged my hair stylist, because what Island Girl doesn’t want turquoise mermaid hair?)
Just don’t haul your badass-ness across the line and end up in bitch territory. Women, in general, have enough struggles without having their sisters pile on. We need to build up and support each other, regardless of age. And referring to someone you disagree with as a “fetus” or “woman-child” or any other derogatory name doesn’t build anything up, except maybe your own fragile ego. For like six seconds.
Of course, simply sharing the same chromosomal makeup isn’t enough to guarantee a blissful future of spa days and girls’ road trips that include half the globe’s population. I’m not naive. I know we won’t always agree with each other. I also know that just because we have vaginas we’re not going to be all “kumbaya and hugs” with every single other woman we meet in our lifetimes. Let’s keep it real here, shall we?
But there is one thing we can do…
…be total badasses who support each other. Or at the very least respect one another.
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I’m a writer living on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. Originally from the U.S., I followed my heart to the tropics in 2011 at the wizened age of 43. Since then, I’ve been blogging to inspire and entertain. I love kitesurfing, a good gin & tonic, and corgis.
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