Eileen Cook Author, Writing Consultant, Editor

On owning the term bitch

I love shoes. My favorite brand are Fluevogs and my most favourite of my favourites, is my pair of Zaza’s. I love these shoes with a white hot passion. I feel zippy when I have them on. The world is a better place because of those shoes.

I wore them the other day to run errands. I stopped at the gas station and the pay at the pump wasn’t working so I had to go inside. As I walked toward the station the guys filling up their cars next to mine yelled out.

“Those are some really ugly shoes! Don’t you feel stupid wearing those?”

I looked down at my shoes, then back at them. “No,” I said, after pondering their question. “I love these shoes. They make me feel pretty. What you said was really ugly. Don’t you feel stupid for being mean to a total stranger?”

We stared at each other while I waited for them to answer.

“Bitch.” One guy said. “Fucking Bitch,” the other added. Then they smirked waiting for my response. I’m guessing they thought one of the following would happen:

a) I would break into tears
b) I would begin screaming and cursing them
c) I would scurry inside, shocked and horrified.

Calling me a bitch was intended to shut me down. To get me to shut up. It was supposed to upset me. I gave them both a huge smile and said, “Thanks!”

You know who never gets called a bitch? The quiet girl in the corner who never says anything. Some of the women I most admire get called bitches all the time. If you’re a strong woman with opinions, someone is going to call you a bitch sooner or later. They do it because they think it will shame you. Opinions are risky. I have all sorts of strong opinions on things that matter a lot (women’s rights, animal cruelty) to things that maybe don’t matter, like what is the best flavour of ice cream (In case you’re wondering it’s Baskin Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip. Don’t mess with the classics.) You may like my opinions or not, but I own them.

For years I was really insecure. I didn’t like myself very much. What that really meant is that I worried that other people didn’t like me enough. One thing I’ve learned in publishing is that no matter what kind of book you write there will be someone who hates it. There’s no way around it. That made me realize that no matter who I tried to be there would be someone who doesn’t like me. I can’t change that. I can only worry about if I like who I am. I’m far from perfect. I’m a touch of a drama queen. I’m impatient. But you know what else? I’m also really kind. I’m funny. I’m a decent writer. On the whole, I’m okay. I consider myself to be a work in progress. If that makes me a bitch- so be it.

Let me be clear, calling someone a bitch is a scummy thing to do. I don’t want someone to call me names. However, I am no longer going to let someone calling me a name shut me down or up. Not liking me or my opinions is your problem, not mine. The fact that two guys as a gas station (one of who had bits of his lunch dried and crusty on his shirt) think I’m a bitch is fine with me. Most likely people they think are bitches are the kind of women I’d like to hang around.

I went into the station to pay. The clerk looked up. “How are you doing today?” He asked. I looked down at my shoes, up at him and smiled. “I’m doing just great.”

21 Responses to “On owning the term bitch”

  1. Joelle said:

    This is quite an amazing piece of writing, missy! Not just what happened or how you dealt with it, but it’s a powerful piece on its own. It needs to be shared. Good for you. I love you and your shoes too!

  2. Patti said:

    Oh, momma! I don’t know how many times I’ve been called a bitch (so many!), but you’re right, it’s used to shut women down. Funny thing is it always tends to fire me up.

    Bitch? Yes, I can be. If by having an opinion different than yours is annoying to you.

    And for the record, the only flavors I get at Baskin Robbins are Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Fudge Brownie on a sugar cone.

  3. Barb Ferrer said:

    And yet again, you demonstrate one of the many, many reasons I absolutely adore you.

    I love that YOU love your shoes. And you absolutely OWN everything about your being, for you are fabulous.

  4. Joanne Levy said:

    Hear, hear. YOU are in control of how you react to things, not stupid asshats with no manners. I’m glad you didn’t let them ruin your day or even your trip to the gas station.
    I, for one, think those shoes are super-fun and anything that makes you feel great AND look great is aces in my books.
    -signed, fellow bitch.

  5. Nan said:

    Is it wrong that now I so want someone to call me a “bitch”?

    The shoes are all kinds of awesome and I know you look fabulous in them! Shoes are sore point (often literally) for me because I have wicked feet–arthritis and painful arches make shoes difficult, but I’ve found TEVA sandals and am looking forward to finding TEVAs for winter time. The sandals are cute and fun and actually make my lumpy Fred Flintstone feet look pretty.

    So Brava to you for being super cool with the jerks at the gas station and wear those shoes, baby!

  6. Megan Crane said:

    This is awesome.

    And those shoes are fabulous.

  7. Jess Riley said:

    Eileen Cook, I absolutely love you.

    I am angry at those idiots. They have no style, no manners, and hopefully, they both will contract itchy, unsightly, untreatable rashes on their faces.

    It is also highly likely that they have tiny peens.

  8. denisejaden said:

    Man, I wish I was around to witness that interaction. I admit, I’m not the person most people would call a bitch. (Well, except for my husband, maybe) I’m the one who zips my lips and scurries away. I’m the one who writes characters who say the things I wish I could say. My characters are much braver than I. Thanks for writing this inspiring little piece…

  9. Shari Green said:

    Wow, way to turn a nasty situation on its head! This is awesome. 😀

  10. Erin E. said:

    This post is exactly why I love you 🙂 You rock the shoes, and frankly, who wants fashion advice from a guy wearing his lunch, anyway? And even more importantly, you rock your positive attitude.

  11. Stephanie Elliot said:

    You are the biggest baddest bitch I know and YOU.FUCKING.ROCK!!!!! I’m HONORED TO KNOW YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Caryn Caldwell said:

    Oh, Eileen, no words can describe how much I live this post!! Thanks for being such a strong woman, and also for sharing your thoughts here.

  13. Brenda said:

    It sounds like you really stunned those ugly guys with your amazingly quick response! I wish I was that quick on my feet, it’s much more likely I would have gone down the 4-letter highway!

    I agree with everyone else here, this is a wonderful story and piece of writing!

  14. Christine said:

    I loved this so much I read it out loud to Aaron!

  15. Leah Strange said:

    Eileen you’re awesome. You’re more than kind, you’re amazing. You’re more than funny, you’re freakin’ hilarious. And you’re a kickass writer who I admire. I’m with you on the women’s rights and animal cruelty, I’m not sure about Baskin Robbins because I’m vegan, but you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip-anything. Love your post! And the shoes.

  16. Pam said:

    Way to own your bitchness, which is different than bitchiness. Dr. Phil would be so proud. On a tangent; I am not a shoe person, so I can’t identify with the shoe portion of the story, but I am a Baskin Robbins fan and have actually walked out of a BR store that had run out of Mint Chocolate Chip.

  17. Eileen said:

    You know what else you are? My heroine. Awesome response beautifully put.

  18. Sharlene Ford said:

    I love it and your spunkiness! Way to go Eileen. I am going to pass this along to a few other strong women I know (which of course would be all of them). Awesome!

    BTW = Tiger is the only really good ice cream.

  19. Susan Spann said:

    This is a fantastic piece of writing, and not just because you correctly identified the Best Ice Cream Flavor in the World. Fantastic response. I hope I’d have had the fortitude to answer those idiots exactly the way you did, and to talk about it with this kind of strength and grace.

  20. Everyday Sexism, Part Who-the-Hell-Can-Keep-Track-Anymore? « said:

    […] I’ll wait) wrote some remarkable posts on their blogs dealing with, in Eileen’s case, owning the term “bitch,” and in Mere’s, two that dealt sexism. The first was about Everyday Sexism and connected to […]

  21. Heather Brewer said:

    Aside from all of those very valid points, can we point out that those morons had seriously poor taste in shoes? THOSE SHOES ARE ADORABLE!