March, 2009

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Coming Out Against ‘Bitch’ and ‘Miracle’

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I’ve set myself a new ideal: to stop using two words – ‘bitch’ and ‘miracle’. I know, those two seem pretty random! But I do have reasons.

Bitch
I use bitch a lot. I call people bitches, I call things bitches, I call events bitches – I’ll even call myself a bitch (usually something like ‘Oh, I will be a bitch about it if I have to’).

The problem is, I, and many other people, use ‘bitch’ in two different senses. First and perhaps most commonly, people use ‘bitch’ in a derogatory sense. I’m sure everyone has their own exact definition to attach to this, but when I use ‘bitch’ this way I usually mean someone who’s making a scene and/or being being rude and unreasonable. The travel agent who won’t let you check in because you’re 30 seconds past the closing time might be considered a ‘bitch’. The lady making a huge scene over a coupon at the grocery store and holding up everyone behind her instead of going and taking it up at the customer service desk might be a ‘bitch’.

The second usage is usually how I use it on myself. It can almost be a complement. It doesn’t mean being unreasonable or making a scene, but it means being strong, assertive, and perhaps a little rude if that’s what needs to be done. Usually I call myself a ‘bitch’ when I’m in a situation where I’m going to have get strong about something in order to get it done. Group-work is a great example of this – I don’t stand for people slacking off or handling things so that I have to work harder to make up for it. My current payment situation is another great example – TCU has owed me about $1000 for about 4 weeks now – I will be pretty damn strong and assertive about getting my money.

The problem arises because you’ve got these two completely different meanings – one positive, one negative – in the same word. I realised that whenever I call myself or another woman a bitch for being strong and assertive, meaning it to be a complement, I am feeding fuel to the misogynists who believe any woman who dares to stand up to anyone is a ‘bitch’ – in a derogatory sense. While it would be great if we can ‘reclaim words,’ I am just not sure that with a word like ‘bitch’ that’s going to happen anytime soon. And I don’t like the idea of words (‘n*gger’ is a great example) that can only be ‘safely’ used by one group or another – I have no desire to make so that only women can call each other ‘bitches’ without fear.

So the solution, in my personal life anyway, is to simply stop using the word. When someone’s being rude and unreasonable, I have many other words I can fall back on, like asshole, without worrying much about offending the butts of world. When someone is being strong and assertive, I will call them just that – using words that can’t later be used as ammunition against me and other women!

Miracle
While my problem with ‘bitch’ might be considered feminist, my problem with ‘miracle’ is purely scientific. Mainly I have developed a hate of it because it is so overused!

There are so many situations where ‘miracle’ is used in a purely historic sense, and is so obviously outdated. ‘The miracle of life’ is the most obvious example – how is it a miracle? There are 6 billion people on the world! Believe me, there is nothing miraculous about that! Yes, conception and birth are very, very cool – believe me, I will be the first to agree on that, but they’re not miraculous! And it’s not a miracle because we don’t know how it happens – we know exactly how it happens. It’s pretty day-to-day – think about how many eggs got fertilized today, not just by humans, but by all the living organisms in the world!

‘Miracle’ implies that something is amazing, unique, and shouldn’t happen. It implies that we don’t understand how it works, or it seems so amazing that obviously mysterious outside forces are at work. Now there are some situations where it might seem that the word ‘miracle’ might be appropriate – a tree falling over and missing your friend by an inch, the helicopter finding the lost hiker a few hours before he would have died of hypothermia, on and on. But even then, I don’t think we can attribute these to a mysterious power – whatever made the tree fall made it fall exactly how it did, and when you throw in random chance, there was always a chance it wasn’t going to hit your friend. The helicopter rescue team might be very well trained, they might have found someone there before, they might have decided to make that last sweep – and again, there was always a chance they were going to find the hiker.

If you personally want to invoke God or the FSM to these situations, that’s fine, but I personally believe that God is not here to direct the falling of trees or the direction of a helicopter search. And I think it covers up the science of the real world – it encourages people to get too caught up in how wonderfully amazing something is to take time to give credit to the natural order of things, and the scientific data so many have slaved so long to gather and test and interpret!

So, because it is such a wavy and unclear line, I have decided it is best not to use the word ‘miracle’. Amazing, sure, incredible, why not, lucky, no problem. There are many other words that can express my amazement without taking credit and attention from the fact that the world is a chancy place that runs on rules.

By the way, I am not advocating that everyone needs to stop using these words, though I think you might want to consider your own thoughts on the subject. What do you think?

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