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Fat Bitch

March 10, 2014

Fat PoliticsDickweed

Fat or bitch… which word is more offensive?

Fat Bitch

Language — ain’t it a pip! The NFL has just voted to implement a 15 yard penalty for using the N-word during play on the field. The decision to do this stems, in part, from a recent debacle involving locker room bullying by Richie Incognito who used the N-word against his Miami Dolphins teammate, Jonathan Martin. This-straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back incident led to Martin leaving the team and Incognito’s suspension.

While some people are cheering the move by the NFL, others are finding serious flaws in the decision. One problem is that penalizing just one word, out of a language with countless racial slurs, is ineffective and does little to punish and curtail the bullying culture on and off the fields of professional sports. Then there is the question of how to choose which words are offensive and to whom?

I was listening to sports radio the other day and the host of the show, a Caucasian male in his 20s, was saying that using the word “redskin,” as in the Washington Redskins, was not offensive to him, but the N-word was. He went on to say that there had to be sanctions against using the N-word, but let’s not go overboard and start penalizing words like redskins, or calling someone a pussy, which even though their usage may be annoying to Native Americans and women, just don’t have the same negative connotation as the N-word.

Not so, writes Simon Moya-Smith in an article for CNN. Moya-Smith is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and a writer living in New York City. He has a master’s from the Columbia University School of Journalism and asks, “Why is it bad to demean a player of African descent, but the pejorative ‘Redskins’ is still just fine for use as the name of the Washington football team? Makes no sense.”

And what about the F-word? Ashley Dunkak writes in an article for CBS News, that if the N-word is banned, then the F-word, used as a slur toward gay men, should be banned as well. In Dunkak’s article he quotes Terry Foster, a long time Detroit News sportswriter, who believes the NFL will crack down on both slurs simultaneously, especially since the league expects to have its first openly gay player, Michael Sam, coming into the league for the 2014 season.

“The whole N-word banishment has more to do with getting rid of the F-word,” Foster said, “because now you may have your first openly gay player, and they know if they don’t do something, he’s going to be called that name.”

But back to the sports radio show that I was listening to; as the broadcaster went on with the rest of his program, he used the word bitch or beeyotch four times and did a full riff about Pablo Sandoval, a baseball player noted for his struggles with weight, that were rife with fat jokes and size slurs. Should that F-word and the B-word be penalized as well?

Fat is an adjective!

Fat is an adjective!

The Fat Acceptance movement has taken the word fat and is trying to destigmatize it. By educating people to see the word fat as an adjective about body fat without linking it to any personality or health traits, there is hope that being called fat will no longer be considered a bad thing. But when it is used to inflict pain and reinforce that fat people are lazy, stupid, unhealthy, a blight on society, and a drain to the pocket book of the American government, then what?

Well, then there’s the B-word. There’s a doozie for you! When I was growing up, the word bitch was almost equal to the four letter F-word. It was not quite as bad as the F-word, but pretty damn close (damn was also on the list but much less heinous). In junior high school, we got around saying the word bitch by calling someone a female dog… and we were pleased with how we worked around the language police at school. Weren’t we clever? But now the word bitch is practically mainstream. When Aaron Paul, the actor who plays Jessie Pinkman in Breaking Bad, accepted his Golden Globes award, his thank you speech was, “Yeah, bitch!”

Jessie was infamous for using “bitch” and “bitches” as punctuation marks in his expressive language pattern, and this wasn’t even on CABLE!!! Clearly, times have changed, and now people can use the word bitch without fear of punishment or putting money in the swear jar.  (Remember those?)

But now, let’s talk about combining words. What is your reaction when you hear the words, “FAT BITCH”? In my personal experience, it has always elicited anger and hurt, whether it was hurled at me or someone else. It felt like a double whammy; not only was I being verbally bullied about being a woman, but being a fat woman on top of it! I could not imagine ever hearing the words “fat bitch” and not feeling the urge to throw a yellow flag, or something worse, at the perp… until recently.

When I was presenting at the Popular Culture/American Culture Association conference early in February, I gave a session in which I read poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction pieces about Fat Acceptance and fat stereotypes. One of the pieces I read, was Fat Bitch written by Kathy Barron from the anthology, Fat Poets Speak: Voices of the Fat Poets Society, edited by Frannie Zellman and published by Pearlsong Press.

As I read the poem out loud for the first time, I had an entirely different reaction! Seen from the perspective of the author, all of the sudden Fat Bitch was not an insult, it was a badge of honor! Despite the intention of the person hurling the insult, it was what I did with it that had the most impact. I know that what I am talking about is as old as the hills… the whole sticks and stones debate and don’t let the bad guys get you down. But it is complicated.

Yes, I can fine tune my reactions to being verbally abused and at the same time, NO, the bullies should not be allowed to continue to bully even if it doesn’t hurt me in the same way it used to. After all, just as each person has their own valid list of offensive words, each person reacts in their own way to being hurt; and hurting someone, no matter how it is received, is just NOT okay.

Here’s the poem that I read. What do you think?

Fat Bitch
by Kathy Barron
Reprinted with permission from the author

“Fat Bitch!”?
That’s all you got?
I eat “fat bitch” like a cookie,
the crunchy sweetness satisfying all the way down —
with a nice sugar buzz when it hits my bloodstream.

Yeah, I’m a fat bitch, all right.
I won’t get out of your way.
I won’t change myself to make you feel better.
I won’t take your shit.
And I most assuredly won’t won’t feel ashamed.

I am a fat bitch
who holds her head high
and knows who I am
and is not intimidated by some
small-minded bully trying to intimidate
with hate and ignorance.

I am a fat bitch
who eats what she likes
and makes love when she wants
and lives and loves OUT LOUD.
I am a fat bitch who won’t
shut up and get out of your way.

“Fat Bitch!”?
Why thank you!
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’m not here to please you.
Your opinion of me is not my concern.
This fat bitch is here to live
MY life on MY terms.
Fat Bitch, indeed.

Yup… different reaction… kind of … well… empowering!!! So, because as some of you know I am a t-shirt person, I went looking for a Fat Bitch T-shirt and what a surprise — there they were. But what I also found was that out of ten websites offering fat bitch t-shirts, there was only one site that offered a template of a fatter body wearing the t-shirt! What is it with all of these t-shirt stores that show only one size rendering of a t-shirt? As if all bodies will look the same in their shirt? As if we don’t want to see how our body might look in their product? Granted, the template at Bitch shirts was not in the 3x-and-up category, but far F-word+ing out that there was a shirt with a bigger belly shown wearing it. It felt logical and somehow re-affirming to see some diversity in the visual representations of the shirts.  So I bought one!  When it arrives I’ll post a photo!

BBW-FAT BITCH-WHITEWay to go fat bitches!!! Ain’t language a pip?

Kathy Barron’s blog:  http://freekat.livejournal.com/
Her website is www.bodyliberationtherapy.com.
Her business FB page is www.facebook.com/MFRinKissimmee.

And keep your eyes open for Fat Poets Society volume 2! Due out in April!

Til Next Time!
Dr. Deah

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    March 10, 2014 11:05 am

    Nice column, Dr Deah! Our preoccupation with particular words is a great analogy for our culture. Don’t call someone a nigger, but it’s just fine to kill children walking home from the convenience store, to lock up millions of men for doing the same thing white people do (smoking a joint), to not maintain the schools, sweep the streets, etc, in certain parts of town. Don’t call someone a redskin, but what’s the problem with endless persecution of native Americans? (Yes, folks, we’re still persecuting our indigenous people.)

    I feel nothing but contempt for this sort of liberalism. Everything’s fine as long as the surface is glossy; it doesn’t matter what rot and stink exists under the gloss. And I personally would rather deal frankly with outright racists than with the liberals I’ve known who were just as racist but denied it utterly.

    • March 10, 2014 11:26 am

      Thanks for writing Elizabeth. It is a tricky tricky subject to deal with but so important! I can only hope that if we keep screaming out that the emperor has no clothes, that more people will see and rectify the double standards.

    • March 11, 2014 11:47 pm

      I guess I missed the bulletin where striving to use respectful language was the be-all and end-all of everything, rather than… y’know, an essential part of trying to interact more effectively with others by respecting them.

      Nine times out of ten, I recoil when I hear/read the word “bitch.” Yes, it’s possible to reclaim it the way that dr deah talks about here, but even most of the women I’ve met who insist that they’re reclaiming it really aren’t: It still ends up being used to insult and belittle another women just because… she’s a woman.

      I’ve had both men and women go off on me when I’ve politely asked them to stop using female-denigrating terms in social settings or online. It’s got nothing to do with “liberalism” as I’m not a liberal and have seen this phenomenon all over the place: On varied political blogs and in spaces that purported to not be political at all. :/

  2. vesta44 permalink
    March 10, 2014 11:56 am

    Great post Dr Deah! I’ve called myself a fat bitch for years – and when others call me a fat bitch, I just look at them and say “You say that like it’s a bad thing. It’s not. It’s who I am, and it means I live my life my way and if you don’t like it, tough shit, deal with it.”
    Women are called bitches when they stand up for themselves and others, they’re called bitches when they refuse to knuckle under to patriarchy, they’re called bitches when they don’t go along with the status quo, they’re called bitches when they don’t conform to whatever society thinks is the “ideal” woman. Well, thank you very much, in that case, I’m honored to be called a bitch.

    • March 10, 2014 2:45 pm

      Vesta as always u r way ahead of the Curve! 😉 thank u for ur consistent inspiration!

  3. Denise Mayosky permalink
    March 10, 2014 1:22 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is just perfect! I feel like taking this on as a badge of honor myself. Somebody calls me that, I’ll just say ‘Why, thank you!’ or ‘You say it like it’s a bad thing’, and blow their minds!

    • March 10, 2014 2:44 pm

      Right on Denise! So happy u found the post “bitchin”:-)

  4. lifeonfats permalink
    March 10, 2014 6:25 pm

    I’m not offended by fat bitch anymore because I’m fat and I can be a bitch when I want to.
    Getting angry at those that make those comments means they have the power, they win.

    • March 10, 2014 8:00 pm

      So true!! It really is exhilarating to take our power back!!

  5. March 11, 2014 12:03 pm

    I would love to post that poem to my facebook page, with due credit to the author…. would that be OK, ya think?

    • March 11, 2014 6:42 pm

      Hi fab! Let me check with Kathy Barron and see what she says. I will be back in touch as soon as I have an answer. Warmly, Dr. Deah

    • March 12, 2014 2:31 pm

      @Fab, I spoke with the author and publisher and as long as you mention the author’s name, Kathy Barron, the editor of the book Fat Poet’s Speak, Frannie Zellman, and the publisher Pearlsong Press. Take care! Dr. Deah

  6. March 12, 2014 2:08 pm

    @ms xeno. I totally get what you are saying and really can’t disagree. It is a personal choice with no right or wrong way of thinking. I always hated the word bitch because of its obvious anti woman connotations. I think what changed my mind first was hearing it used with humor among women in a non-self deprecating way. Then I noticed it creeping into the vernacular and in many cases it felt like dude. And ultimately it became a way, for me, of not letting the assholes get me down when it was being used to hurt me. I also had a long similar journey with the word chick. Chick was a huge insult to me in the late sixties early seventies, did you have a similar experience with chick? I always love it when you comment, btw, you always bring food for thought to the “table.” Thanks!

    • Elizabeth permalink
      March 13, 2014 3:32 pm

      Isn’t bitch similar to nigger, faggot, dyke, etc, in that one may use it to describe oneself or in talking to other women, but heartily object to someone outside the club denigrating a woman by calling her a bitch? I guess I say this because I could call myself a fat bitch but if some guy called an uppity woman a bitch I would strenuously object. I just never use these words, so am unsure.

      • Deah Schwartz permalink
        March 13, 2014 4:56 pm

        Hi Elizabeth. That is definitely one way of interpreting the use of the word bitch. And some of it may also be generational. The truth is that intention behind using words like bitch faggot nigger say much more sometimes than the word itself. The bottom line in those circumstances, I think, is how do we as individuals and or a “movement” choose to deal with mean name calling bullies. If we embrace the word or reject the word is less important than taking back our power and holding on to the keys that drive our self esteem. Those are my thoughts about it. I always open to more discussion. Warmly, Dr. Deah

        Sent from my iPhone Warmly, Dr. Deah http://www.drdeah.com

        >

        • Elizabeth permalink
          March 14, 2014 11:01 am

          I think you are exactly right. I remember when the Gay Liberation Front deliberately used the words faggot and dyke to lessen their hurtful connotations, but it is very true that people often call themselves names because they feel like crap about themselves. The fat part of fat bitch is simply descriptive, but bitch is used in such deliberately hurtful ways. I am also not fond of the British use of the word cow. Women are not cows, and cows deserve respect too.

          • March 14, 2014 12:15 pm

            The feeling is mootual! Groan, sorry. If u r familiar with my writing u know I am a sucker for a pun!!

    • March 15, 2014 2:29 pm

      I guess “chick” has always been one of those words that I accept better from close friends than from strangers or casual acquaintances. FWIW, I was born in 1966 so I think it’s always sounded pretty quaint to my ears.

      Thanks for the response. I’m glad you got my point (and hopefully Elizabeth does to). I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings even though the word is something I have a lot of issues with. I’m a huge fan of Roberta Gregory’s character “Bitchy Bitch.” Also, I love Saffire’s old song “Bitch With A Bad Attitude.” (RIP, Ann Rabson.) So I do believe that women can definitely reclaim the word. I just wish I read it and saw it used that way more often than I do.

      • Elizabeth permalink
        March 17, 2014 1:21 pm

        ms xeno: I guess I missed the bulletin where striving to use respectful language was the be-all and end-all of everything, rather than… y’know, an essential part of trying to interact more effectively with others by respecting them.

        Hi, ms xeno, I’ll quote Angela Davis; when people say welfare, crime, immigration, these are the new words for nigger. (I’ve read people saying the word thug — Trayvon Martin was a thug — is as well.) Now if you live someplace where no one complains about those people on welfare, I want to move there! I find that people really think if they do not use out-and-out racial or sexual slurs, they are loving people even if in the next breath they say nasty things about illegals (speaking of a despicable word), i.e., undocumented workers who mostly look like indigenous people.

        And shouldn’t we thank Dr Deah for this column!

      • March 21, 2014 1:30 am

        Elizabeth, you’re talking about one type of situation in which offensive language might be used. But that’s not the only situation that exists. Besides, it doesn’t follow that our interactions with each other (if already subject to misinformation and misunderstanding) will get less hostile or more productive if we all start hurling sexist insults at one another. I’ve certainly never known it to happen, at any rate.

        Besides, I don’t even know how this turned into a discussion about racism or classism. There may be some parallels to be drawn, but I didn’t really want to muddy the waters by drawing them. The long and short of it, as I said above, is that I really, really have to know my audience before I’m going to feel comfortable using “bitch” in a reclaiming sense. Because that’s simply not the way most people use it in my experience. Plus, I personally don’t consider it worth my time to try and rehabilitate it. As for using it in a derogatory way? In addition to it being degrading, I also find it to be unimaginative. The English language has countless variations of “to complain,” for instance, that don’t involve symbolically making the act of complaining something inherently feminine (and thus easy to disregard or play down): Gripe, grouse, kvetch, whinge, bawl out, rail at, etc.

  7. March 15, 2014 10:49 am

    Reblogged this on drdeahstastymorsels and commented:

    This is a post I wrote for the Fierce Freethinking Fatties website and I wanted to share it with those of you who may follow my blog but haven’t yet followed the FFF’s (a grand blog btw!) Warmly, Dr. Deah

  8. vvwolfe permalink
    March 20, 2014 2:46 pm

    I have a problem with bitch, as well as whore and slut. I think these words are routinely used to dehumanize and devalue people and by using them about yourself or someone else you aren’t doing yourself any favours. By using these words you aren’t redefining the meaning they still mean the same things. Unless of course you are referring to a dog in heat, a prostitute or a woman with multiple sexual partners. then by all means call yourself one.

    Call yourself by any word you want but don’t be surprised if by doing so other people will also feel as though they can as well.
    And don’t be surprised if you aren’t using the word by the actual definition that people will not draw conclusions about you. Essentially claiming you are a slut or a whore or a bitch, tends to have people taking you at your word.

    Though I see no problem with having many partners, or people paying you for sex, I do insist if you call yourself a bitch you at least be able to morph into a werewolf while during your cycle so at least some portion of the original meaning will stay true.

  9. March 20, 2014 7:21 pm

    V V I especially understand your statement, ” Call yourself by any word you want but don’t be surprised if by doing so other people will also feel as though they can as well” Of course the only thing we can be responsible for is what we do, say, think, and feel and choosing a course of action with the expectation (not the hope) that others will change can be radically disappointing. Thanks so much for weighing in on this topic!

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