As I walked to my flight in the Houston airport last Saturday, I happened to notice a bookstore display prominently featuring a book called Why Men Marry Bitches. I've been thinking about this ugly title and the word "bitch" and how it's used ever since. I don't know anything about the book itself (nor do I think I want to), but once the B word was the 5-letter equivalent of a 4-letter word not used in polite company. Not only would it not appear on the cover of a book prominently displayed in an airport bookstore, it also wouldn't describe a woman that any other than the most un-self-respecting of men would marry. It meant a pushy, harsh, nasty, cutting, self-centered, mean, critical and never satisfied woman who was horrible in a particularly female kind of way - an altogether awful human being.
I’m guessing the book uses the word "bitch" in a more 21st century way to describe a woman who thinks for herself, doesn't cut people much slack, and insists - probably vocally and in no uncertain terms - on high standards from herself and the people around her. All of this, of course, would make her "difficult" in the minds of the traditionally, conservatively inclined and anyone else who thinks women should be seen and not heard.
This pisses me off. A woman who refuses to be a doormat or even predominantly a subservient listener (as opposed to an active participant) should not necessarily be labeled difficult. A woman with a mind of her own who is willing to express her opinions and insist on high standards is not necessarily a bitch. A man with the same characteristics wouldn't be slammed with a similarly derogatory term. I understand the classic need for the weak or intimidated to denigrate the strong and the threatening, but come on....
Why has the word come to mean (as my cool new iMac Leopard dictionary widget defines it) "a woman whom one dislikes or considers to be malicious or unpleasant?" That definition covers a lot of territory. The word has evidently become an all-purpose descriptor to apply to any woman who doesn't fit one's personal definition of what a woman should be. It seems to me to have become a misogynistic social statement rather than merely a noun used to label legitimately bad behavior.