race + gender + politics

The Bitch Factor

July 3, 2013


Yesterday Luvvie published a post entitled, “I’m Digging Nicki Minaj Lately and It’s Not For Her Music.” The post was in response to a video from a few years ago where Nicki Minaj – a female rap/pop star – talks about misogyny, sexism, and double standards in hip hop. In this clip, Nicki bluntly shares the frustrations women around the world deal with day to day.

When I am assertive I’m a bitch; when a man is assertive he’s a boss. He bossed up. No negative connotations behind bossed up but lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch… When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet, and you have to be sexy, and you have to be this and you have to be that and you have to be nice and you have to – it’s like, I can’t be all those things at once.

Say word, my sista! I can’t be all those things at once either, and I shouldn’t have to be. And like Luvvie, I am here for this.

This idea that women get negatively labeled by exhibiting the same tenacity and drive as their male counterparts who receive no such backlash is not new. It’s been addressed over and over in every space imaginable. And yet women are still having to deal with this! It’s still an issue! And don’t be a Black woman who is assertive and commanding because that would make you an angry bitch.

One thing my PhD mentor – a very successful brown (Iranian) female scientist – always emphasized to me the importance of standing my ground (no Florida) as a woman in science. She taught me not to let being labeled a “bitch” to prevent me from demanding respect and my proper due in the male-dominated field that I’m in. I’ve heard senior male administrator from another university refer to my advisor – to me! – as “difficult” and “hard to work with” (in an attempt to persuade me not to work with her) despite having never met her in person. And when I told her this, she simply responded [paraphrased], “I’m a woman who doesn’t take sh*t from men so that makes me difficult.” And from that moment forward I knew I was working with the right woman. She constantly reinforces to young female researcher their need to be assertive in our careers, because “you won’t get anything done being a wuss.” Being labeled negatively never seemed to bother her, like she wore the labels with a badge of honor. As she so eloquently posted on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, “Seriously, strong women are “called” many things but as a wise (male) mentor once told me, who cares what you are called as long as you get what you want.” BOOM. There it is. The truth from another true G. #Gladiator

I respect the hell out of any woman who isn’t afraid to be called a bitch in order to handle business. I respect women who teach younger women to not be afraid to go after what they want and need to succeed, for fear that they will be met with name calling. Many women get paid lower wages because they are afraid to ask for the wage they deserve, or that’s comparable to their male counterparts. I won’t be that woman! I can’t and won’t be super sweet, sexy (Do female scientists need to be sexy? According to one idiot professor, the answer is YES), and nice all the time to avoid being the angry bitch. I won’t dumb down my drive and desire to get ish done to make men (and even women) feel comfortable that I’m in my quiet, docile woman’s place. Back down for what? Angela Davis didn’t do it, Margaret Thatcher didn’t do it, Michelle Obama didn’t do it, Dr. Moghaddam (my advisor) didn’t do it. Why should I? Call me what you want, but bet I get what I’m entitled.

How do you feel about the double standard between men and women when it comes to assertiveness? For the ladies – does it bother you to be called a “bitch” for playing the same game as your male counterparts? For the fellas – do you stick up for women who are labeled “bitch” for being assertive?


Bitches Get What They Want,
~Gem, G in Training

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  • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. July 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    As a minority (Black guy) it would be crime for me not to acknowledge that there is a full on double standard for women in the arena of assertiveness. (Throw in some brown skin and we’re playing the feud.)

    I manage a branch of a sizeable firm so I HAVE TO use a hammer at times when something softer would do the job so I get what the ladies go through. So automatically, I’m “angry”. No, it’s not the same but it’s not that different either. The fact is I don’t like to see people get piled on for doing their job and looking slightly different while doing so.

    I’m a big fan of the shoe being on the other foot so if I’m a putz for the sake of being a putz call me on it. If a woman is being a pain in the ass just for the sake of doing so then I’ll call her on it but if she’s just doing her job then bully for her, chilly for me.

    • Reply gemmieboo July 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      yeah, Black men definitely have similar struggles. its really a balancing game and the second you get firm with folks, you’re “angry”. smh

      and i agree with you and calling people on their BS when they are acting like a ____. but if we’re just standing up for ourselves and trying to get ish done – dont come at me with the names!!!

  • Reply madscientist7 July 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    i feel for women who live with this predicament. as a black man i deal with something similar especially in the workplace. can’t get mad because i don’t want to be seen as menacing. can’t really speak my mind. so i really feel for y’all. i would never refer to an assertive woman as a bitch. bitch is labeled for someone (male or female) who behaves as such. assertiveness is not one of those characteristics to me.

    • Reply gemmieboo July 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      totally agree with you there. and you know how i am, i have a hard time NOT telling people when i think theyre being ridiculous so im often seen as the ABG. but sometimes it just has to be done. and if im a bitch because of it, so be it. there are plenty of other times where im being a legit B so save that name fpr when its true lol

  • Reply Mo-VSS July 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This has evolved for me. I’ve always been labeled “difficult” and sometimes for good reason. However, as I get older and give less than half a damn, I realize that my personality is assertive. Not strong. Not irrational. Not crazy. Assertive, and anyone who knows me knows I make no apologies for it. You either like me or not. Get in where you fit in. Period.

    Funny thing is at work I get described by my co-workers as the most chill person they know. I have the ability to hire and fire, but no one seems to be intimidated by that…which I like. Hopefully that means I won’t have to fire anyone. But if I have to, I’m assertive enough to do it.

    I wish Nicki Minaj would have kept that line of thinking and rapped about it instead of selling out…but that’s a whole ‘nother response for a whole ‘nother day.

    • Reply gemmieboo July 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      girl i totally feel you!!! we are so >>here<<

      i play the part when i have to and make no apologies for it. and i often get respect from other people i work with for getting ish done. not all women are "strong" or "assertive" enough to get what they want or need. but i'm not one of those women.

      and as for Nicki… le sigh. i guess we all have our price and shes clearly tryna get money, cash money. eh.

  • Reply dtafakari July 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I am shy and not assertive by nature; it’s a persona I adopt when I need to portray that, just because I’m under 5″ tall, people cannot walk over me. My size makes me non-threatening, so I find that I win more fights with honey than vinegar. But coworkers have told me that I have a face, a stance and a tone when I’m politely telling folk off or insinuating that *this* is some bull. However, when I need to be a b**** about mine, I will get nice-nasty in a flash.

    The double standard does bother me, but only to the extent that I let it. I’m too busy steamrolling to contemplate who thinks what about me, most days.

    • Reply gemmieboo July 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      i hear you but dont think one has to use sugar or vinegar to get what they want though. like, i dont consider being assertive being nasty or a bitch. ive seen my advisor in action – being assertive and firm – and yet she still gets these labels for handling her career like men do daily. and its not OK. its one thing to be a bitch and get called a bitch as a result, but its entirely another to demand respect, ask for perks/salary youre worth, and then be called a bitch because women are expected to be quiet and “take what they get”. and thats not cool.

  • Reply dtafakari July 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right about ‘taking what you get’ not being cool, yes. No one ever expects a man to be ‘demure,’ and yet that’s considered appropriate for women in certain arenas.

    I recently negotiated a salary for the first time and realized that I AM the statistic of women who generally don’t negotiate salary and thus end up earning less than male counterparts. Not any more…

    • Reply gemmieboo July 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      i know thats right – get that paper girl!!

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