Updated: Jan 10
GINA does not support the use of the term ‘bitch’ in alignment with sexism & misogyny…
This piece explores the reclaiming of the word ‘bitch’ (in this case, the term is coined within the parameters of confidence & self-validation).
Instead of men using this word for the degradation of women (in alignment with misogynistic views & female oppression forming part of the patriarchy), this piece removes the male power & privilege within this word & places it in the hands of women who wish to reclaim this word as their own. This includes an opportunity to claim back this word & meaning so it can be changed in the interests of that female individual (in this piece, exploring the use of this word to disconnect from & discredit male validation).
Hello lovely readers!
Today I wanted to write a bit about some thoughts I had after reading My Body by Emily Ratajkowski. It is an EXCELLENT book; it really made me think and re-analyse certain experiences I had had in my life. It is also so refreshing to hear such a raw perspective on what it is like to be a woman, our complex relationships with our bodies, especially when the male gaze is taken into account. By way of warning, some of the chapters in her book go into some detail of her experiences of sexual assault and violence.
Sometimes I feel like I can split my life into a Before and an After. Before, is before I got raped. After, is everything since. In some ways, I have stayed the same. The core elements of my identity are the same, my personality has not changed. It didn’t want to give him that power. But in other ways, I have changed. But it was my choice to change. I grew up too in some ways. Saying “No” became a thing for me, setting boundaries was a new found phenomenon.
Emily Ratajkowski talks about how she understood the power of her beauty at a very young age. I agree that girls, even in primary school, have some sense of the male gaze. I certainly did, without realising what it was or why I was feeling the way I was.
I remember in primary school there were certain girls who always had “boyfriends”. I at the time mostly just thought that boys were annoying and I couldn’t be bothered with them. I would treat them as I treated my brothers; I argued back and probably pissed them off too. But there were other “pretty” girls. They didn’t argue back; they appeared interested when the boys talked about football all the time. They were the ones with “boyfriends”.
By the time I was 13, I was at my secondary school. It was a girls school, but there was a boys school across the road and we shared a bus stop. Every day, like all the other girls, I rolled up my skirt, walking out to the bus stop. Waiting for the bus was somewhat like a beauty parade. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me. So why were we rolling up our skirt? Well everybody was doing it, and everybody probably had a desperate need to fit in, but maybe we already knew that showing our legs off would make us more attractive to the boys. It feels somewhat embarrassing saying that now, that we were making choices for them not for us.
Fast forward a few years and I am at university. By this point, I, like so many girls, including Emily Ratajowski, am an expert in knowing exactly what to say, wear and do to get male attention. Or at least, a certain type of male attention, from a certain type of guy. I have a particular memory of a party when something in me switched. I was wearing a pair of flares and they made my butt look good; I knew it too. I was walking up the stairs and I was ahead of the guy who was trying to make a move on me. As he was following me up the stairs he said something along the lines of “your ass looks insane, you shouldn’t be allowed to wear those trousers”. I laughed and replied with something along the lines of “fuck off I will wear exactly what I want to wear”. I think something clicked that night, I was fed up with not standing up for myself, and taking every weird creepy compliment as a genuine compliment and letting it validate myself, in an effort to please men. And whilst this realisation didn’t change everything immediately, I think it kickstarted a process for me. But it wasn’t until After that I suddenly started to understand the intricacies of the weird society we live in, the gendered dynamic that exists between men and women, the strange relationship women have with themselves and their bodies when we exist in such a society.
The messy period straight after I got raped also coincided with my best friend and I adopting the idea of being bad "bitches." When I got to university, I loved how so many women just didn’t care what others thought of them, they sought validation from no-one (at least seemed to do so on the outside), they said no to social plans and seemingly didn’t have FOMO, and STILL had friends. There was one girl, we looked up to in particular. She first coined the term “bad 'bitches'” to us. She would wear a massive fake fur coat, sunglasses covering half her face, an oversized t-shirt dress with a chunky belt and knee length boots. All in the middle of winter….you get the vibe. We soon realised that it was all to do with your mindset so one random afternoon we decided to adopt it. So, from then on forth, we would try our best not to care what others thought of us, we would hustle and work hard, we would dress exactly as we wished, the sleazy men in clubs would get the middle finger if they came too close to either one of us but most of all, it was a process of feeling confident in ourselves. It might sound cheesy, but it worked.
I celebrated my birthday recently. One of my friends texted me “HAPPY BIRTHDAY’. Next message: “ALL MY LOVE, one bad 'bitch' to another”. This made me smile. She believed it and I believed it. That is not to say, that everyday I am filled with confidence and self validation. I certainly still have my own insecurities and love a compliment from friends and people I like. But I certainly make every effort to dress for myself, not for others, I do not feel the need for male compliments (most of the time). I am no longer doing things just to validate men; I no longer entertain boring conversations with semi pro footballers who think that everyone wants to hear about their football career…all the time.
On my birthday I wore a green slip dress. I felt sexy and confident.
We went clubbing in the evening. I have a love/hate relationship with clubbing. I don’t go out as much anymore because of it. On the one hand I love letting my hair down, dancing and having a good time with friends. On the other hand I hate it. I hate that when I walk in, the minute I pass the bouncer at the door, I feel on edge. I suddenly have eyes on the back of my head. I am aware that it is not safe. I could be spiked, I could be groped. I need to keep an eye out for my friends. I will no doubt have drinks thrown at me. I am worried about my new green slip dress. I want to wear it for christmas; I don’t want it to be ruined by some idiot man throwing his drink around.
But here; suddenly I am also playing a game. I feel like I am competing with the other girls, including my closest friends, for male attention. I hate that. I am being judged by the men in here; on my attractiveness, on my sexual appeal. Suddenly I am looking for validation on my looks again. If I pull tonight, or have the opportunity to, whether I end up walking away or not, I am sexually appealing. It is a “success”.
When I walked home I felt oddly deflated, and not just because the alcohol had worn off. I couldn’t put my finger on why. It didn’t make sense because I had had a lot of fun inside the club. The next morning I was having the obligatory “debrief” with my best friend, when I suddenly realised why I felt so deflated walking home. I hadn’t gotten as much attention as usual from men in the club. But I hadn’t found anyone in the club attractive, I hadn’t therefore made an effort with any of them. Why then did I care so much? Why was I so desperate to get this male validation? My best friend replied “yeah exactly why do you care; women are complimenting you, those are the compliments you want”. I knew she was right, but why did I still feel so insecure all of a sudden? Why did I care so much, despite calling myself a feminist?
I hated myself for caring this much. I thought I was past this. Was I the only one who would feel like this after going out? I posted this question on my private story and within minutes I had about 15 replies. Most of them empathised, they would regularly feel the same. I breathed a sigh of relief. That helped….somewhat.
But still, why did I care? And how do I not care? Following some research on the topic; this is what I realised:
Since time immortal, women have lived in a society where more value is attached to male opinions than those of women. It is so ingrained that often, we (men and women) are completely unaware that this is happening. This means that women often place more weight on the opinion of men than those of other women, especially when it comes to beauty. Beauty and art have traditionally been dominated by straight male artists so women have come to see themselves through these eyes. And whilst this is changing, and more and more of us are aware of this, it doesn’t mean that we are immune to it.
So whilst I cannot make the male gaze go away, I think being aware that we, as women, are trained to seek approval from other men to validate ourselves is important. For me, re-training my thought process around compliments has also been useful. In the past, I placed more value on a compliment from a guy, even if it was some random sleazy man, than from my female friends. I am learning that a compliment from my female friends, who have no other intentions, means more than from a random guy, who might well have ulterior motives attached to the compliment. I also think, following conversations with a lot of my male friends, that a lot of decent guys, wait for women to make the first move, in an effort to not come across as a creep in the current climate. So, maybe if I actually do have an interest in someone, it’s time to make the first move. Key phrase, being if I actually have an interest.
I hope this post has been insightful and useful. I think it is a difficult topic to confront. The emotions are ugly and difficult. I know I cannot provide the answers to all these issues, and my views surrounding it all are sure to evolve with time, but for now this is where I am at. I can only recommend My Body. It really does make for a good read, despite at times being uncomfortable as I was forced to confront a lot of these ugly emotions, but I would still wholeheartedly recommend this book!
All my love,
Your GINA sister