BITCHES, BABES AND BROADS

71 Comments#MondayMusings, Blogfests, Life, Opinion

[This topic was inspired by a discussion with some female friends.
Thanks, Linda, Shelly, Mary, Vickie, Jody, Zhak, Barra  et al!]

Some women take offense to these terms, but not me.  In fact, I embrace them willingly. (Just don’t ever call me “girl”, otherwise you could be subjected to one of my famous diatribes! More about that later.)

This goes back to the 1970s and 1980s when I was working clawing my way up the corporate ladder.

 ~BITCHES~

Back then, women were still mostly looked down upon as lowly support workers and few held positions of authority.  The ones who did had to work twice as hard to get half as far as the men in similar positions. Then, their ultimate reward was to be labelled a BITCH.  This was meant to be derogatory, but in reality, it indicated these women had the balls and forthright attitude to make it in a “man’s world”.  Call me bitch and I say:

“Thank You.  That’s Ms. Bitch, to you!”

B.I.T.C.H.

~BABES~

Many women, especially feminists hate it when men call them babes, foxes, eye candy etc., and get angry over catcalls and wolf whistles.  The reasoning, of course, is that this is vacuous and has nothing to do with accomplishments or intelligence.  They find it insulting and/or degrading.  It certainly can be if the comments are vulgar, but I must confess….

This used to happen to me regularly and it always gave me a little ego boost!  Now that I’m on the downhill slide, nobody looks or comments anymore and I miss it.  A grey-haired, overweight matron isn’t going to attract those guys on the construction crew.  Too many lovely young things walking around! Sigh…..

[Yes, I know this is a paradox.  Life is full of contradictions.]

~BROADS~

For me, it’s a supreme compliment to be referred to as a “Great Broad” or a “Tough Broad”.  Bawdy, fearless, not easily embarrassed or offended; a woman who can hang out with the guys, cracking dirty jokes, using colourful language, all without losing her femininity.  That’s what I call a strong, sassy woman!

Some great, tough broads of the silver screen: 

Photo credits:  Bette Davis  Lauren Bacall  Marlene Dietrich

♦♦♦♦

So, what’s my beef about being called a girl?  

Picture this:  A female department head is referred to as “the girl” by a male colleague, as in “Talk to the girl over there. She can help you.”  This completely negates her accomplishments and shows an appalling lack of respect.

Definition of “girl” (from TheFreeDictionary)

girl (gɜrl) 

n.

1. a female child, from birth to full growth
2. a young, immature woman, esp., formerly, an unmarried one.
3. a daughter: My wife and I have two girls.  4. Usu. Offensive. a grown woman.
5. girlfriend; sweetheart  6. Usu. Offensive.  a. a female servant.  b. a female employee.
7. a female who is from or native to a given place: She’s a Missouri girl.

These old feminist tendencies aren’t likely to change.  I’ve never been a “Girly Girl” and some have even called me “Butch”  (the other “B” word), but that doesn’t apply either.  I do wear makeup, the occasional maxi skirt and even sometimes curl my hair.  All those years holding my own in the male-dominated manufacturing industry might indicate more masculine than feminine thought processes, in some respects.

Best of both worlds!

[Vintage commercial, 1980]

What are your thoughts about these words?

Looking forward to your comments!Debbie

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Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as “The Doglady”. Writer/website owner, photographer, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal “hippie/rockchick”. Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Looking for the next adventure!

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71 thoughts on “BITCHES, BABES AND BROADS

  1. I don’t like getting called bitch as it’s often not in a nice way. Ok, actually it never is. So I have no good connotations of it. Nobody’s ever called me a broad… I think I’m too young for that? Babe has been yelled a few times (and all those sort of compliments) but growing up with bitch and ugly and such, I don’t take those as compliments as my first reaction is… it’s a joke or a prank or something. Lies. So yeah, I have too many self-esteem issues for any of these words. Good on you though! I hope I one day can take them like that!

    1. It’s probably different today, but I fought my way up the corporate ladder in the 70s and 80s. To me, “Bitch” is a badge of honour and meant I could do the job as well as any man. 🙂

  2. I used to look pissed at the workmen when they whistled…now I look at them longingly wishing they would give a whistle-hahahaaa. I was told I was a bitch once and I said Thank you that means I am doing my job well and “B” is still my first and last starting initial. I like broad but I love Dame and not the English style. Carole Lombard was a real Dame. I’m not one for girl as that ship has sailed but please don’t call me Ma’am

    1. Yup; I miss the attention, too. Perfect response to being called a bitch, Birgit! Dame is another good one and Carole Lombard fits the description well. 🙂 Girl makes me grimace; it’s just silly and condescending, for the most part. Lots of women object to Ma’am. I used to, but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Something about turning 60, I guess. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. I find it strange that “bitch” is usually an insult but “dog” will often be complimentary. Same with “vixen” and “fox”.
    Have you tried using “boy” to men who say “girl”? It really seems to confuse them!

    1. Good point Clowie, although “dog” when referring to a man isn’t necessarily so complimentary. 😉
      When I was lambasting a male colleague once for referring to me as “the girl” in the office, I did ask how he would like being called “the boy”. He said it would be weird, and yet, he thought “girl” was perfectly fine. Jackass! 😛

  4. I generally try to use proper names when I address my female friends. On the rare occasion I’ll call one of my friends, ‘wench’, but she’s into olde tyme speech and loves ren fairs.
    So what’s your stand on being called a ‘chick’ or as the brits might say a ‘bird’.

    1. “Wench” can be fun, as in “you saucy wench”. 😀 Considering I refer to myself as “the eternal hippie/rockchick” [sic], there’s no problem with chick either. I’m not British (although Canadian is related), so “bird” seems a little odd, but not disturbing. None of these are appropriate in the workplace, however. During my stint as a department manager, the gender discrimination was appalling and when any of my male co-workers called me “girl”, they got an earful! (I had to censor myself when the clients did it, but I would diplomatically correct them.) Thinking about it still pisses me off, even now!

    1. You have a more “genteel’ society by the sound of it, Parul. We North Americans can be pretty rough. 😀 Yes, although many use the term “Bitch” to insult, I consider it a testament to one’s strength of character.

  5. I’ve been married to all three and that was just one wife. I don’t think about these terms too often and certainly not in the sense of the women to whom I’ve been married, but each of them had their moments that might have been defined in each way. To me it’s not so much the words themselves, but the way and the intent with which they are expressed.

    I like your reasoning on these. Although “broads” seems so outdated. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a female referred to as a “broad” other than in old movies.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host

    1. That wife must have kept you hopping, Lee. 😀 Whether one is serious or joking when using these terms certainly does make a difference, but I’ve always considered the word “Bitch” to be a reflection of a woman’s strength of character.
      You’re right about “Broad”; it does date back to the 30s and 40s, but I’ve always used it with appropriate adjectives.
      Love this quote from Bette Midler – one of the great broads of our time:
      [Bette Midler on her persona:] “People always love a broad — someone with a sense of humor, someone with a fairly wicked tongue, someone who can belt out a song, someone who takes no guff. “

  6. Loved the post. I have been called all three many times. I have called myself all three many times. I always take it as a compliment.

    Bitch — agree with your definition of working your butt off and making other workers jealous.
    Babe — hubby’s nickname for me
    Broad — tough as nails and doesn’t take any flack
    Girl — I embrace this one as well — to me it is a term of endearment

    The one I L O A T H E and try not to answer to is “Ma’am” That one dates me and I could kiss the young men in retail situations when they call me “Miss”

    1. Hi Carol; “Girl” can be an endearment between women and I’ll tolerate it in that context (although I don’t use it), but IMO, it has absolutely NO place in the work environment, expecially when addressing a female department head or manager. It shows a complete lack of respect. As for Ma’am, it doesn’t bother me that much. I know I’m old. 😉
      Thanks for taking the time to drop by. You are definitely a great broad!

  7. Hi, Debbie the Doglady! Now I know why you don’t like “girly” voices! 🙂 This is obviously a hot topic and is already reaping many comments. When using words like these, I think the key is to always know your “audience.” In some circles, like a close knit group of friends, they are used liberally and are deemed appropriate. The same words used in a different environment might be jarring and considered rude. I worked at three different television stations and the culture in all three was loose and laid-back. People had a sense of humor. Employees could get away with using language that would land them in hot water in other types of workplaces. I remember my female boss at one of the stations telling staffers that “sexual harassment was one of the perks of the job.” I think there are two basic kinds of people in this world – the kind that don’t take themselves too seriously and are tolerant and forgiving, and the kind that are always on the defensive/offensive and looking for a way to sue somebody. Surely words have the power to hurt, but before we take offense we need to make sure we understand the intent of the person who uses them. It might be benign. Words are easily misinterpreted especially when they appear in print.

    1. Hi Shady; Haha! Now you know. 😀 You make some good points. It definitely depends on context and audience. On the other hand, I consider the derogatory use of “bitch” an affirmation of my strength of character, especially in the corporate world (where I spent 16 years.) It just means I’m acting like any man would. True also that some people take offense much too easily. Always consider the source, yes?
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. Your comments are always a pleasure to read.
      (Speaking of comments: This is a “From the Archives” post, [as shown by the logo after the article] so you can see the original ones, in addition to new ones. [The dates are shown.] It’s a great way to give some of your best, timeless posts new life.)

  8. I like being called Babe, I love the word Broad and I’ve been called a Bitch more times than I can remember…and never much minded it. Re: Girl: I guess I’m lukewarm on the term. I don’t like it when men are using it to describe women that work with/for them, but we just used it the other night when we went out with the “girls” enjoying girl-time. So I guess it depends on the context.
    Signed, one tough old broad…

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. HI Michele; I’m not surprised we have similar attitudes. Yes, the “girl” thing between women is okay, although I rarely use it, if ever. You’re definitely a great, tough, broad! 😀 Thanks for coming by.

  9. I think for me it depends on how these words are used and under what circumstances. If used with malice, I have a problem with that..But yes I love to be the bitch that men can’t tolerate just because I have a head of my own 🙂

  10. Great article. I ran my own business and had to learn how to be a tough cooky… or else the male employees didn’t respect me. I hated that part… because I had to play the part. I admire women like chancellor Merkel who have made their way in a man’s world. Women in top positions have it doubly hard to be taken seriously. Merkel has managed to do that, but still keeps her femininity and charm. That’s the trick that I never really mastered. Merkel is really something.

    1. You mean you’re not really tough? 🙂 Personally, that part was easy, since I’m such a bitch. 😉
      Oh yes, Angela Merkel is a fabulous role model for all of us. I am appalled at some of the nasty propaganda about her seen in Italy and Greece.

  11. I agree with you, Debbie. ‘Girl’ does sound offensive, when used my men. I often like to use it when chatting with my girl friends, like, “You go, girl!” Or something similar. I do like ‘Tough broad’, though. It does sound complimenting! ?

  12. I’m sure broad is an American term. Certainly not used much here in Australia.

    Could never work out why women get so upset at catcalls, especially when they dress in a provocative way.

    Bitch is something Aussies use but it’s not big in my vocabulary.

    All in all it’s not the words that matter but how you let them define you.

    1. Welcome to The Den, Peter. 🙂 Yes, “broad” is definitely North American slang. I completely agree with you about the wolf whistles and cat calls, unless something completely vulgar is uttered. Women should be happy for the attention, because let me tell you, when it stops, you do miss it. This from an old broad who knows! 😉 Thanks for visiting and come back, anytime. Cheers!

      1. Using vulgar words not only demeans the woman it shows the true character of the men using them. Women can use this as a way of learning which men to stay away from.

  13. I hear the term broad comes from the idea that women have broad hips. Can anyone here confirm that?
    That was that whole silly thing here in America where some female CEO wanted to ban the word ‘bossy’ as it makes women seem like a bitch, which many consider a bad thing.

    1. Welcome to The Den, Troy. 🙂 I believe you’re right about the origins of “broad”, but it evolved over the years. Yes, many people do consider the word “bitch” to be bad. To me, it’s a badge of honour and means I won the battle. 😉 Thanks for visiting.

  14. Oh Debby,

    Boy can I ever relate to all of these terms my friend and trust me when I say I feel the same way. When people use to call me a bitch I use to actually say thank you! I had the nerve to do what they didn’t and I was very proud of that but things got done when I was around.

    The girl part doesn’t bother me so much because you have to remember the source. Oh yeah, they are the immature ones not me. I just laugh it off because they’re a fool.

    I love your definition of them all and now that I’m way over the hill, I yearn for the days they use to call me a babe or a broad. Oh well, it had to come sometime right! LOL!!!

    Enjoy your weekend and loved it “girl”… 😉

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne; Yes, we bitches accomplish things! 😀 I love the “tough broad” “great broad” monikers, because they indicate women of substance; women with guts and brains. Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for visiting. Happy Memorial Day to you! 🙂

  15. Hey there Debbie,

    I love this post! I think I should apologize if I might have ever called you “girl”. I meant it lovingly if I did ;).

    I consider myself a bitch. Not the dirty kind but the kind you describe in your post. I’ve got balls and not afraid to use them :).

    I loved the cartoon you shared…I remembered that one. I feel very uncomfortable when I see a guy staring at me but I know where you’re coming from about the ego boost thing…sometimes they’re just creepy. LOL

    I love this post…so empowering! Happy Thursday Lady! I think you’re on rockin’ B.I.T.C.H. 🙂

    1. No worries, Corina. 🙂 It’s not offensive to me when used by women in this context, but I don’t like to hear it from men and especially NOT in the workplace by either gender.
      Oh yeah – it’s GOOD to be a bitch – even better to be Queen Bitch! 😉
      I joke, but it’s really too bad this double standard still exists, isn’t it?
      Yeah; some men do have a certain creepiness when they leer at you, but you’ll miss it when it stops happening. Thanks for dropping by and I’m glad you enjoyed this. From one rockin’ B.I.T.C.H. to another, have a great weekend!

  16. To be honest, I’ve always used the “bitch” word to describe either 1) a female animal or 2) insult a guy with. Never would call a woman a “bitch” out loud or even in my stories. Use the word “babe” only in the context of an intimate conversation. And “broad” is so 1940’s, isn’t it?

    1. You are a true gentleman, George! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by and offering a male perspective. Sadly, women in positions of authority are often thought of as bitches, so, I decided to turn an insult into a compliment. Oh yes, “broad” is definitely retro, but it’s making a comeback.

  17. I haven’t been called those names (at least not to my face! ;)), Debbie, but I can totally identify with what you’ve written. And I used to always prefer hanging out with boys, naughty jokes and all! 🙂

  18. It’s interesting that you just did this. My 21 year old sister told me that at her internship one of the older gentlemen came up to her and said hey babe what are you doing tomorrow afternoon….When she answered working very suspiciously he asked her to deal with one of their clients. My sister was bothered by this because she didn’t feel it was appropriate and after the internship was over she told me and our parents. My step mom and I agree not appropriate my dad thinks the talk was fine. Needless to say there is a big family debate happening right now.

    1. I was referring to the use of the word “Babe” in a somewhat different context, not in a boss-employee relationship. That would be inappropriate, in my opinion, right along with calling a female manager “girl”. Thanks for visiting, Diana. 🙂

  19. Interesting perspective on the three Bs, Debbie. I like the positive spin you brought to usually negative terms for women. Love the Acrostic words for Bitch. Oh yeh! Go, Bitch! Love those broads in movies…er actresses. They were tough in a time where women were even less likely to be respected.

    I like those terms better than other derogatory terms for women like dowager, spinster and old maid.

    Sigh. It’s been a long time since any construction crew whistled at me, too, if ever. Now I’m in my matronly years, too, so the chances grow even slimmer as my waist grows thicker. LOL!

    Thanks for another thought provoking and fun post!

    1. I think those words you mentioned have fallen out of favour; at least I hope so! No shame in being single these days. Matron – there’s another word that conjures up less than attractive images, LOL Oh well, you can only stave off ageing for so long and I’ll be 60 next birthday. Yikes! Thanks for visiting, Cathy.

  20. Hell yeah. I’ll take being called a broad or a babe anyday 😀 I loved the perspective and the spin you put on those words, Debbie. Feminism is fine, provided you don’t overdose on it. Lovely!

    1. Glad you enjoyed this Shailaja and I totally agree with you. Feminism up to a point is a good thing. Some women take it to extremes though.

  21. Flirting is fun but I hate wolf whistles… I find it very insulting. The guys in my team often forget that I am girl… and I know it’s nothing to do with my dressing 🙂 I love your post and I admire women who can handle themselves so well.

    1. They wouldn’t whistle if they didn’t think you were attractive, yes? 🙂 I enjoyed working with mostly men and never had a problem. It was the few women in the company who didn’t like me. Jealous! LOL Thanks for visiting.

  22. Wow! Great post Debbie. Though I do not like to be called by any of those names and that too in a workplace, I totally understand your point of view 🙂

    1. Hi Bhavya; I think these colloquialisms are more commonplace in North America. To me, “Bitch” is a badge of honour, like someone who has fought a battle and come out victorious. 😀 Unfortunately the old double standard still survives, even in these modern times. Men who are ambitious and forthright get compliments, and women get insults. Solution? Turn the insult into a compliment! 😉 Thanks for dropping by.

  23. Okay, so I guess I have a slightly different outlook on things. I’m more than slightly old school in some things, and I’m not wild about being called a doggy-witch (see, I can’t even write or say the word, unless I’m talking about a dog, and even then I have a hard time spitting it out 😉 ) or even a broad, because I think of what the word was when I was still a kid. Babe is good–it’s even my computer’s name. And, despite my xx amount of years, I still get whistled at and called babe :D. And, sorry, I use ‘girls’ all the time. But, it’s all good–you can just call me the babe of the group, if you’d like. heeheehee

    1. Hot stuff Mary! You go GIRL! 😀 We obviously have very different life experiences and opinions about this, but isn’t it great we can be friends, regardless? Doggy-witch?? That’s cute, actually. Thanks for dropping by.

  24. I fall into all three B categories and agree totally with you, including missing the wolf whistles from the construction crews. Makes me realize we have even more in common than just the pups.

    1. Yes, I had a hunch about that too, Carol! 😀 Thanks for dropping by. (Still working on that other project and hope to have it posted soon.)

  25. I’m totally fine being called all of those for your same exact reasons. And I definitely don’t mind being whistled at. I’m a big flirt anyway so I can play that game too. :-). Great post Debbie. Love the Enjoli commercial. I remember it well…