Why So Many Women are Embracing their Inner Bad B*tch

by Kinsey Carke

Bitch. Black women have been called this when we assert ourselves in any way that is deemed contradictory to what society says we should do. Women who dare to carve out their own space in a male-dominated environment are especially susceptible to being called this. Though the word causes much offense when used to belittle, I believe the term “bad bitch” is symbolic in encompassing how black women have used their creativity to sidestep what would have been an insult. Through coining this term as being affirmative, being a “bad bitch” represents the potential social mobility previously denied to black women.

The first time I encountered the popularity of the bad bitch was a few years ago with the women’s t-shirts that read the acronym “B.I.T.C.H.: Being In Total Control of Herself”, which was shared relentlessly on my Facebook feed by friends and relatives. This was followed later by Nicki Minaj’s “Boss Ass Bitch”, Beyonce’s “Bow Down”, and other songs that employ the use of bitch as a means to empower oneself. The bad bitch has high self-esteem. She is in control of her surroundings, she has influence, she doesn’t care what other people think of her, and her sexuality is hers to own. Indeed, the bad bitch is in charge and exercises an unquestioned authority.

The bad bitch operates independently of the structures that have traditionally denied her any opportunity to succeed in patriarchal society. By reclaiming this word, the bad bitch defiantly places herself front and center in a system that tells her that she will never be good enough without subscribing to respectability.

The bad bitch rejects the respectability mantra that tells her that “bad bitches get bitten by dogs” and to instead aspire to be a “queen”, which really means “champion the kind of womanhood that represses your agency and do not stray from this teaching.” By even implying that a woman who describes herself as a bad bitch is responsible for the actions a man may take against her is to further perpetuate this contrast to a “queen.” The bad bitch is somehow less than deserving of respect. In rejecting this, not only does the bad bitch free herself of the restrictions of an oppressive system, but she affirms her right to humanity and to be respected in however she chooses to identify.

The emphatic use of “bad bitch” illustrates its resonation with those who embrace agency and reject the policing of identity. How dare we take the denotation of bitch as a word to reference an inferior being and instead give it the preceding adjective of “bad”? Thus, giving it the opposite connotation: empowering those who choose to use it. We dare to take a word that is so often used as a dismissive retort and change it to becoming an identity synonymous with the Beyonce’s, Rihanna’s, and Nicki’s of the world: Women who defy the status quo and decide for themselves their chosen path.

Should we find a new word to replace the variations of “bitch”? No. Who are we to tell others how to identify? When working to reclaim “bitch” with phrases such such as “bad bitch” and “Head Bitch In Charge”, it is important to remember that whatever a woman uses to refer to herself, it is her choice and her choice only. Though some may find the term offensive and degrading, there are plenty of women who will tell you, bad bitches are here to stay.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photo

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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