Can we not use gendered insults? December 5, 2017 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I really think the word bitch is problematic and highly offensive and adds nothing to the inclusivity here. This may be an antipodean thing but it’s a sexist and nasty insult. May I request we discuss not using it? Or any gendered insults?
posted by taff to Etiquette/Policy at 2:20 PM (239 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

I agree.
posted by carter at 2:23 PM on December 5 [11 favorites]


I don't think we should discuss it. I just think the word should not be used. I'm not sure there's much to discuss otherwise.
posted by saeculorum at 2:24 PM on December 5 [13 favorites]


This word has been in a couple of recent posts -- an AskMe, and a Mefi post. I assume that's where this post is coming from? Both of these recent uses are using the word in phrases ("bitch eating crackers", and "badass bitch") and in contexts where it's not being used as an insult.

In terms of mod intervention, we already would delete the word if it were being used as an insult, in just about any situation I can think of, so we're down to these more idiomatic uses, which I think are more of a thing for community discussion.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:28 PM on December 5 [25 favorites]


Better luck this time.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


Yeah I admit that the two times I've seen it on the site I've been a little annoyed. At the same time, they've been part of larger meme-type things and as such I've felt that pushing back against it would be more of a "pushing back against the internet" since I really rarely see it on MeFi except when people are talking (occasionally) about themselves. Tricky stuff, thanks for bringing it up.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:59 PM on December 5


Donald Trump is a real dick, though.
posted by floam at 3:08 PM on December 5


I agree. That word is highly offensive; it bothers me to hear/see others use it.
posted by Annabelle74 at 3:37 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I disagre 100% with LobsterMitten--"bitch eating crackers" and "badass bitch" may not read to you as insults, LM, but the word "bitch" is the insult, because it is a gendered slur. Period. End of. I hate it, I hate that people use it on this site, and I hate that the mods still don't see it as a problem.

"BITCH" IS A GENDERED SLUR AND IT SHOULD BE UNACCEPTABLE TO USE THE WORD ON THIS SITE.

And fuck all y'all who are gonna come back with shit like oh but we can say 'fuck' and 'asshole' YES BECAUSE NOT GENDERED AND NOT SLURS.
posted by tzikeh at 3:41 PM on December 5 [17 favorites]


Donald Trump is a real dick, though.

Your point being?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:42 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I mean, do we really need to get into "contributes directly to rape culture because language communicates on multiple levels?" Seriously? After all this time?
posted by tzikeh at 3:42 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


I'm a woman. I occasionally use the word "bitch." I'll try not to on MeFi. Apologies to anyone I've offended.
posted by xyzzy at 3:47 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


I also felt dismay at seeing it emblazoned across my screen while trying to read an interesting ask.me. I also felt dismay at seeing it all through my feeds while people were engaging in ritualized "this type of woman is all that but this type is to be mocked for thinking she is"

It's a gendered insult and "innocent" uses are part of the rules of patriarchy to enshrine sexist attitudes and misogynist thought structures and continue to divide women into the Right Kind who Can Get Away With That (because they fit a very narrow view of value) and the Other Kind Who Cannot (for a variety and often contradictory set of features that diminish their value).
posted by crush at 3:49 PM on December 5 [20 favorites]


"innocent" uses are part of the rules of patriarchy to enshrine sexist attitudes and misogynist thought structures

Thank you.
posted by tzikeh at 3:51 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


It really took me aback in the men explain books to me thread, too. I'd be happy to have it not around.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:52 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


Your point being?

Dick is a gendered insult and I hope I can keep saying it.
posted by floam at 3:58 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I don't think it helps anything to bring "well what about gendered insults against men?" into the conversation. This is specific to the context of "bitch" as a patriarchal insult.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 4:07 PM on December 5 [38 favorites]


buddy.
posted by boo_radley at 4:07 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


Dick is a gendered insult and I hope I can keep saying it.

Until someone in MetaTalk says it's an issue, go right ahead and dick away. And even then you are actually allowed to say whatever the hell you want, you may just wind up with community sanctions, comment deletion, or possibly even a banning if there are guidelines and you just ignore them for the hell of it.

But! You are more than welcome to say whatever you want in the world, because MetaFilter is just a website of people who mostly care about each other not actually a substitute for the world at large.

So! Rest assured that the example being used in this thread--bitch--despite some surface similarities to the gendered insult that you are using--dick--is actually a horse of a different color because of *handwavey society stuff which I can explain if you truly are confused about the patriarchy* and so you should feel free to keep using it but maybe work on your timing?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:09 PM on December 5 [83 favorites]


I started to write a comment about how, while I personally have been trying to reclaim that word in an attempt to reduce its power, I also agree with the OP...
...and then I went looking for a better way to phrase what I was thinking about 'reclaiming' it, and stumbled on this essay, and now I'm pretty firmly on Team Unacceptable.
So if you're in this thread and thinking, "okay but, Bitches have Power and Strength and I want to embrace that!" you should check out that link.
That was a really good essay, ya'll.
posted by ApathyGirl at 4:14 PM on December 5 [30 favorites]


This is specific to the context of "bitch" as a patriarchal insult.

FWIW I was responding to "Or any gendered insults?" in the original post - was not trying to derail.
posted by floam at 4:41 PM on December 5


Also, wow that thread Miko linked to is toxic. Thanks, everyone who has worked to make this a better place.
posted by crush at 4:59 PM on December 5 [17 favorites]


I stopped using it a while ago, and I was never really personally comfortable with the idea of reclaiming it. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the repurposing of the word douche to describe a guy who is literally like a douche - marketed to, but actually harmful for, women. So I hope that doesn't fall under the gendered insult umbrella like it once did.
posted by Ruki at 4:59 PM on December 5 [18 favorites]


Wow, thanks for that link, ApathyGirl (and a nested thanks for the link to the pdf provided in the article you linked to). That was a great read. I'm going to memorize bits of it so that I can explain my position rationally when this topic comes up (instead of descending into a frothing rage as I did here in this thread my apologies everyone).
posted by tzikeh at 5:01 PM on December 5


100% agree that we should do away with the word on here, and seconding crush's comment above. Jeezdang.
posted by duffell at 5:15 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I don't use it as a rule (search my comment history and you will find a tiny discussion of Bitch Media and a quote from a book that contains the phrase, "son of a bitch").

It sounds like there is a pretty strong consensus against using the word as a pejorative label for a woman, which I'm fine with -- I've avoided that usage for years.

But it would be helpful to know whether there is as strong a consensus against other uses that are often regarded as less offensive, and / or are not themselves gendered insults. Some people in this thread are strongly against those uses, too. But should members who don't agree avoid them?

Examples:

1. The reclaiming uses ("bad-ass bitch").
2. Neutral, non-pejorative use meaning something like "woman" (not part of my lexicon but you see it sometimes).
3. Idiomatic / non-endorsing uses (e.g., you can talk about "bitch eating crackers" and it's not the same as calling someone a bitch, because you're expressing a certain distance from your own reactions).
4. Verb form, meaning "to complain." I avoid this one too, but you see it in contexts where people wouldn't call someone a bitch, and it shows up a bunch on the site.
5. "Son of a bitch."
6. Uses in quotations.
7. Uses in names ("Bitch Media").
posted by grobstein at 5:47 PM on December 5 [7 favorites]


xyzzy: I'm a woman. I occasionally use the word "bitch." I'll try not to on MeFi.

I appreciate this response. Of course xyzzy is free to use the word, but I appreciate it when people here are willing to accept that community norms are more important than using any particular word right here right now on this site.

Personally, this reminds me that thanks to MetaFilter I have eliminated gendered slurs from my vocabulary. I’ve made many changes for the better, and at least a few started by not saying or something here.

I unashamedly watch most of Bravo’s reality trash shows, and the thing that bothers me most is how much that word is used so casually between women in a friendly way. (No one is reclaiming that word, it’s trash tv!)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:49 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


Ironically, I left one out of my list that I repeatedly used in my list:

8. Uses under embeddings. Example usage, "It's not okay to call someone a bitch."

You could imagine a ban on 8. -- I think there are some words you shouldn't even use indirectly under normal circumstances.
posted by grobstein at 5:50 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


An autocorrect fail years ago led to my wife and I using the word “biotech” instead.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 5:53 PM on December 5 [66 favorites]


Personally I try to just not use it. I have been trying, for example, to say "that'll be a bear" rather than "that'll be a bitch" when I want to say something is hard or annoying, because it's about on par, to me, as calling something you don't like "gay". No, it's not directed at women, but it perpetuates the assumption that being a woman is a bad or lesser thing.

I have a slightly different reaction to "bitch eating crackers" because, in my personal head, it's a use/mention distinction - "I dislike her so much that I am inclined to call her a bitch, which is obviously disproportionate and inappropriate" - but I wouldn't actually try to persuade anyone else of that reading and I only actually use it in contexts where I can make that nuance really clear. It's probably best to just let that one go for mixed-company use.

Grobstein, other than quotes and the "mention" half of the use/mention distinction, I would strongly suggest just skipping it. There are a lot of words to use in any situation that don't carry that baggage. It's your call, but if you don't want to be read as hostile to women, maybe just don't use a word that is widely understood to be hostile to women.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:54 PM on December 5 [22 favorites]


grobstein: But it would be helpful to know whether there is as strong a consensus against other uses that are often regarded as less offensive, and / or are not themselves gendered insults.

The word is offensive. It's a gendered slur. There are no "less offensive" phrases if the phrases use that word.
posted by tzikeh at 5:58 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


"Son of a bitch."

Personally, I'm a lot more bothered by "son of a bitch" (and "motherfucker") than I am by "bitch" (especially in its "bad-ass bitch" types of uses), because you're insulting a man by dehumanizing his mother. Like, even when men are shitty, it's women's fault and women should be dehumanized for it!

(Not that I haven't dropped some MF-bombs in my time. But it bugs me more and more.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:04 PM on December 5 [42 favorites]


The word is offensive. It's a gendered slur. There are no "less offensive" phrases if the phrases use that word.

You've used the word 4 times in this thread.
posted by grobstein at 6:04 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I’m so not using the word that I even abandoned using the meme from A Christmas Story when something turns out to be unexpected advertising.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:06 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


grobstein: You've used the word 4 times in this thread.

Don't even with that weasel bullshit. You know you're doing it. Don't.
posted by tzikeh at 6:09 PM on December 5 [59 favorites]


It really costs the site’s members very little to just find another set of phrases and words IMO. I’m all about reclaiming terms and language descriptivism however I believe that line is drawn in public shared forums where we can’t know who is “in the room” with us. Privately though, if using those terms and words flies with your closest friend groups then who am I to judge.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:09 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


I try not to use it in any context, especially not in writing, thanks primarily to past discussions on this website. I do still sometimes slip up in conversation with the "complain" usage, and even more so with SOB, which seems to skip my brain filter in the moment (primarily, I'm guessing, because I'm not typically focusing on anything having to do with women or even negative comparisons to women when it comes to mind). I mean, I do get why it's problematic. I try not to use it at all, and it's much easier to catch in writing. But damn that one slips out sometimes when I'm not even aware I'm going there. I think that's why it's so important to try to eliminate all usage, not just the most obviously offensive. Because language is pernicious, and so much of our thinking is rooted in language.
posted by The Great David S. Pumpkins at 6:11 PM on December 5


You've used the word 4 times in this thread.

Since it seems you haven't heard of it, and I'm sure other folks haven't, too: the use-mention distinction
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:14 PM on December 5 [34 favorites]


4. Verb form, meaning "to complain." I avoid this one too, but you see it in contexts where people wouldn't call someone a bitch, and it shows up a bunch on the site.

This one is clearly misogyny. I don't know why anyone thinks that's a question.

FWIW, I think people should avoid 'dick' as an insult, too. I don't feel strongly about it, but you try coming up with a good reason for using parts of people's bodies as an insult. If you think you have, we probably don't need to hear about it in this thread.
posted by hoyland at 6:59 PM on December 5 [8 favorites]


Since it seems you haven't heard of it, and I'm sure other folks haven't, too: the use-mention distinction

I would like a brief explanation of this to be part of the Metafilter Ts and Cs, because it gets liberally ignored all the time.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:11 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


1. The reclaiming uses ("bad-ass bitch").
2. Neutral, non-pejorative use meaning something like "woman" (not part of my lexicon but you see it sometimes).
3. Idiomatic / non-endorsing uses (e.g., you can talk about "bitch eating crackers" and it's not the same as calling someone a bitch, because you're expressing a certain distance from your own reactions).
4. Verb form, meaning "to complain." I avoid this one too, but you see it in contexts where people wouldn't call someone a bitch, and it shows up a bunch on the site.
5. "Son of a bitch."
6. Uses in quotations.
7. Uses in names ("Bitch Media").


8. Female dog
9. Women using words about themselves and not wanting to be told what to fuckin do e.g. 'me and my bitches'
posted by Sebmojo at 7:12 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I don't, and wouldn't, call someone a bitch.

I guess I might say someone is "bitching" when I mean "complaining." I'll avoid that going forward.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:19 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Just because one piece says it's not possible to reclaim it doesn't mean it's not possible. I'm OK with case No. 1 on that list. No. 3 also gets a pass from me, for both idioms and mentions. No. 2, well, it's probably true there's no real neutral use of it, so it probably should be avoided in seemingly neutral usage. Though that also raises a question of how to know when someone is using it in a way they mean as neutral as opposed to a way they mean as reclaiming it. It seems problematic to have to interpret that all the time for those use cases, though I'm not sure whether that's a point for pro or con. No. 4, I don't know that the verb form has to be interpreted as misogynistic, does it? It could just mean "barking about it" or "complaining in an unpleasant way," basically. No. 5, yeah, that's no good. No. 6 is the same as No. 3 basically. Nos. 7 and 8 seem OK. Isn't No. 9 just the same as No. 1?

Personally I try to just not use it. I have been trying, for example, to say "that'll be a bear" rather than "that'll be a bitch" when I want to say something is hard or annoying, because it's about on par, to me, as calling something you don't like "gay". No, it's not directed at women, but it perpetuates the assumption that being a woman is a bad or lesser thing.

Anyway, to my point about No. 4 and as a counterpoint to this, I guess I feel like there is a use case for it as just a word that means something or someone exceedingly unpleasant, without necessarily misogynistic intent.

This is totally not a hill I want to die on, but I did want to talk it out a little, because I'm a woman and I do think it's more nuanced than "this is always bad and you should feel bad for wanting to use it."
posted by limeonaire at 7:31 PM on December 5 [11 favorites]


I view all conjugations of the word as offensive and don’t like hearing anyone using it. Mother Fucker has beautiful and seductive sonance, but is no less problematic.
posted by taff at 7:34 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]


I guess I feel like there is a use case for it as just a word that means something or someone exceedingly unpleasant, without necessarily misogynistic intent.

Intent doesn't matter. It's not "just a word that means something or someone exceedingly unpleasant," even if you intend it to be. It is gendered and can't be ungendered.
posted by tzikeh at 7:37 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


To be clear, I don't care all that much whether it's banned in non-mention usage, but it does seem to present moderation challenges either way. It occurs to me I actually don't know: Do we have a banned words list on the site? Some words seem like obvious choices for any such list, even if I don't think this one is obvious. But if we go down this path, it seems like there would need to be a reference for it. I'm not saying "Don't do it because then we would have to have a rule about it," but rather, "If we do this, there probably should be a rule about it somewhere, consistent with and able to be referenced with any similar rules." Copy-editor's habit, I guess; I want it to be in the style guide, so to speak, heh.
posted by limeonaire at 7:53 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


We could have a “no gendered insults thanks” in addition to the “no self linking”.

If we don’t allow casual racism I’m not sure why we allow casual misogyny.

There are perfectly cromulent ways of insulting someone without gendering it. In much the same way gendering anything (toys, clothes, behaviours, colours) is not necessary and usually harmful, I can’t see why insults need to be gendered.
posted by taff at 8:43 PM on December 5 [21 favorites]


Wow, thanks for that link, ApathyGirl (and a nested thanks for the link to the pdf provided in the article you linked to).

That link in the article doesn’t seem to be working anymore, so here’s another one: Reclaiming Critical Analysis: The Social Harms of “Bitch”
posted by progosk at 8:54 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I had mostly eliminated it from my usage but the other day I called trump a “whiny little bitch” and felt conflicted afterward. Probably one I need to really root out and move on from.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


When i saw it in ask i was quite taken aback. I think it's highly offensive, and should not be used in metafilter. Thank you OP for this threas. I hope mods decide to ban useage.
posted by 15L06 at 11:18 PM on December 5


Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the use in memes (b eating crackers, bad b, me and my b’es or just ‘bihhhh!’, for emphasis) stem from AAVE, where it denotes just...woman in a colloquial sense, without it being meant as a slur? It would feel weird to me to police *that* type of ‘b’ through a blanket ban. I admit that using it straight up, like ‘my roommate is a b’, makes me uncomfortable, and I’d prefer deletion in that case. OTOH having a blanket ban would impose majority/white rules on minority vernacular contexts where (to me) it doesn’t feel like a misogynist insult at all?

Just an aspect I think should be considered. (Not a native speaker so my intuition may be off.)
posted by The Toad at 11:39 PM on December 5 [7 favorites]


(Super interesting context to the AAVE/meme connection: Voicing The Other: Mock AAVE on Social Media)
posted by The Toad at 11:53 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


That's a really good point, The Toad. See also: one of my favorite local blogs. The writer, Pamela Merritt, is actually exactly who I thought of earlier, but I had wanted to double-check before I mentioned it and then forgot. But she uses phrases and idioms all the time that include the word and relate it back to the title of the blog. She's most certainly in the reclamation camp, I would say.
posted by limeonaire at 11:59 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


This may come off as a bit of a pony request, but...

If there are going to be banned words on the site, it might be useful to just code a warning preventing a comment, 'Hey, XYZ word has been declared to be problematic on the site, if you are going to use it your comment may be deleted and continued use of problematic words may result in being banned from the site,' while allowing the user to continue if they wish to (at their own peril, obviously).

Not everyone reads metatalk (and new users join all the time), so it's pretty easy for folks to use words that are disallowed (or heavily discouraged).
posted by el io at 12:03 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


To not abuse the edit window. Said list of problematic words could include a link to each appropriate metafilter thread that created their disuse, and could include fun stuff like 'national treasure' as well as obvious things.
posted by el io at 12:07 AM on December 6


The only person I know who regularly uses the word is my 80 year old mother. Mostly about other drivers. I'd say something, but at her age... (shrugs)
posted by pipeski at 2:22 AM on December 6


I am an enthusiastic supporter of the repurposing of the word douche to describe a guy who is literally like a douche - marketed to, but actually harmful for, women.

I mean, I use it as an insult myself, but there are in fact women who very much benefit from douching for medical reasons. This being (some) trans women specifically, I'd suggest maybe being a bit circumspect with categorical statements about how useful or no it is for women.
posted by Dysk at 3:21 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


(Also the thing of douching being common/encouraged for women with no medical need is a US specific thing? Lord knows it's bloody near impossible to find a douche for sale here in Northern Europe.)
posted by Dysk at 3:24 AM on December 6


Also, totally in favour of this MeTa/pony. I also think the phrase "bitch eating crackers" relies on understanding "bitch" as an insult and is problematic for it.
posted by Dysk at 3:27 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


I would love to find a good replacement for 'b eating crackers' because it's a useful phrase, and yet I strongly prefer not to use that word. Any ideas?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:31 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I mean, you could chuck any insult on the front of the phrase and it still works? Asshole eating crackers. Idiot eating crackers. Shithead eating crackers. Etc, etc.
posted by Dysk at 4:34 AM on December 6 [6 favorites]


It would feel weird to me to police *that* type of ‘b’ through a blanket ban.

Agreed.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:47 AM on December 6


The only person I know who regularly uses the word is my 80 year old mother. Mostly about other drivers.

One for the road

posted by flabdablet at 4:54 AM on December 6


I would love to find a good replacement for 'b eating crackers'

I had never encountered this phrase prior to this thread and somehow am living a full life.
posted by selfnoise at 4:57 AM on December 6 [23 favorites]


> I mean, you could chuck any insult on the front of the phrase and it still works?

I'm not sure that it does. For me the original phrase refers to an e-card with a picture of a little girl 'eating those crackers like she owns the place'. Changed versions would probably have confused me. I might not have understood that the person being referred to is not actually eating crackers and not even actually an asshole.
It might just be me; I tend to take stuff way too literally especially in foreign languages. For example, I'm not sure whether you're asking a question here. The question mark could indicate that, or it could indicate something else but I'm not sure what. Doesn't really matter, it's just an example.

What I'm looking for is a handy shorthand phrase that means 'this person got under my skin for some reason and now everything they do annoys me even if it's totally innocent'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:02 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


For me the original phrase refers to an e-card with a picture of a little girl 'eating those crackers like she owns the place'. Changed versions would probably have confused me.

Wait. What. This is where the phrase comes from? I too had never heard it before that thread and thought it was problematic, even though I understood it was being used ironically. I still think it's problematic.

Explaining its origin just... that's... wow. Because it's an uppity little... girl. That's, I mean, how is that a valid explanation. No question mark because it's a rhetorical question. Please don't answer it.

I too don't think the word should be used.
posted by fraula at 5:21 AM on December 6 [7 favorites]


I mean, I use it as an insult myself, but there are in fact women who very much benefit from douching for medical reasons. This being (some) trans women specifically, I'd suggest maybe being a bit circumspect with categorical statements about how useful or no it is for women.

I'm sorry. I was very much coming from a cis US perspective, indeed.
posted by Ruki at 5:28 AM on December 6


This is where the phrase comes from? I too had never heard it before that thread and thought it was problematic, even though I understood it was being used ironically. I still think it's problematic.

My understanding is that it was a neologism from Television Without Pity back in the day, used specifically to describe a situation where your dislike of a person has become so irrational and excessive anything and everything they do annoys you. The expression predates the tchotchke.
posted by Diablevert at 5:43 AM on December 6 [9 favorites]


Yeah yeah so, like, gendered insults are “of the world” so I have don’t believe I have the veracity to claim that a word has to be deemed globally bad, I think the context Here on mefi Is such though that we can definitely NOT use gendered insults. Some woman running her own blog? She can do whatever she wants. It’s her blog. You don’t like it, don’t read it.

I guess I’m really skeptical of oppressed and minority groups trying to establish monolithic rules of word usage as if locality and context somehow don’t matter anymore. None of us speaks for all of us everywhere. The greatest we can achieve is to agree on how we will communicate in given specific times and places and softly define where those boundaries begin and end.

Contextual Word Usage vs. Global Gender definition is like...position and velocity, you can only absolutely know one. And there’s no way you can use a positional element to derive velocity and vice versa. So in my mind Gender is like velocity and words are like positions. they act upon each other and we can’t absolutely define both at the same time.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:14 AM on December 6 [8 favorites]


I guess I’m really skeptical of oppressed and minority groups trying to establish monolithic rules of word usage as if locality and context somehow don’t matter anymore. None of us speaks for all of us everywhere. The greatest we can achieve is to agree on how we will communicate in given specific times and places and softly define where those boundaries begin and end.

Can you explain that, Annika Cicada? I'm not sure I get what you mean.
posted by carbide at 6:25 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


@Carbide: to start with my personal experiences: As a trans woman I've been criticized by other trans women (here and elsewhere) for not saying something in a manner that they agree with, and certain groups of trans women have made claims that the aims of the community should be to find a globally unified rulebook for word usage that all people MUST adhere to in order to avoid harming the global transfemme community. Which I find kind of like...uhhhh...Well, I think that's an impossible task really.

In this thread specifically There's the reclaiming critique article that was posted which makes the claim that any usage of said gendered insult "harms all women" and I just think that's a load of shit. It harms some women but absolutely no one can make the claim to speak for all women everywhere. It irritates me. Define your context, and speak within that, don't speak for all women everywhere otherwise you're just reifying a monolith.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:39 AM on December 6 [22 favorites]


I tend to think actions that support patriarchy do harm all women everywhere, and I think using slurs (no matter the intent) supports patriarchy, so, to me, this word contributes to patriarchy.

I'm one of those who do believe you can enact some reclamation in specific contextual spheres - a blog, a community, a group. But you can't extrapolate that set of shared understandings and intents to all society, to the point that the word no longer has sting as a slur or has power to oppress. When I think of all the other slurs that people have attempted to "reclaim," with varying degrees of adoption, in every case I can also show more than one recent example of that word's use in harassment, violence and oppression by people outside of that community of shared understanding. No matter how positive the context in which a given individual or community uses it, and no matter how liberating their intent, those people and communities simply do not have the power to fully "reclaim" a word because they can't secure the agreement of those outside that community to revise their understanding of the word. So the slur retains its power as a component oppressive systems that do in fact hurt all women.

That's not to say people shouldn't use those words in those specific contexts of shared understanding. But it is to say: this is not one of those contexts.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on December 6 [19 favorites]


I see what you're saying miko. We have to enumerate the problem which is factually true: "the patriarchy harms all women".

I understand that intrinsically and where I land on that is "okay, that's the static backdrop upon which all the shitty world rests, now onto living my life trying to live as far outside that as I possibly can while still being problematic and trying to grow and learn oh god it feels hopeless don't give up I wanna give up."
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:10 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


How does Metafilter deal with the N word, which brings the same complexity of being used in a neutral sense in AAVE?

Again - I find this conflict interesting because it ends up being a ban on, or at least extreme suspicion towards, neutral AAVE expressions (bitch-ass etc).

I’m assuming this is a purely academic concern though, because nobody comes to Metafilter expecting conversations to take place in AAVE. Most of the ‘meme’ uses here are probably appropriated by non-AAVE speakers for shock value, and do not deserve protection.

Personally, I’m ok with saying ‘lady eating crackers’ instead. It works just as well.
posted by The Toad at 7:17 AM on December 6


This may be an antipodean thing

It's definitely not an antipodean thing. It's a shitty word. I don't police women's language, but when men say it you better believe I police the fuck out of them.
posted by maxsparber at 7:26 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I had no idea the eating crackers things was a DGAF reference. I thought it came from the old comment about a person's attractiveness, as used in "I wouldn't kick him/her out of bed for eating crackers."

Also, I concur with the poster that bitch is generally bad and insidiously bad when used to mean "complain".
posted by BeeDo at 7:32 AM on December 6


How does Metafilter deal with the N word, which brings the same complexity of being used in a neutral sense in AAVE?

Again - I find this conflict interesting because it ends up being a ban on, or at least extreme suspicion towards, neutral AAVE expressions (bitch-ass etc).


I live my life surrounded by AAVE. I have no trouble telling the difference between a student using AAVE in their daily life and a white MeFite attempting to appropriate AAVE so they can call a woman a bitch. It's really not hard.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:35 AM on December 6 [21 favorites]


I wish people would not frame these conversations in terms of "ban" and "prohibition" when the request is really "be cognizant of the cultural context of the word and the harm it creates and while you're at it, consider how you seem to other people when you use it." This latter consideration is an important part of the debate around "reclaiming". I don't know where I fall, personally, on the reclaiming argument. I do know, however, that context is the most important element in reclaiming. I don't think Metafilter is the right space for reclaiming, in large part because there is no consensus use nor is there a unified agenda. If you read the room, your reclaiming use is going to be misread by enough people that it will reinforce, rather than re-interpret.

There's a lot of ink spilled (and a lot of thoughtful video) on who can and can't say the N-word, same with the F-word. Less on this B-word because, like many casually sexist deeply entrenched misogynist things, many women still use it to divide good women from bad women, whether the word itself is denoting "good" women or "bad" women. I don't know.

As for the "eating crackers" phrase in particular--I had always assumed it was a recast of the sexist trope "wouldn't throw her out of bed for eating crackers" to denote a woman so irritating for not knowing her place, she can't even justify crackers with being an object for the usual purpose. But I've never seen that e-card nor having familiarity with Television Without Pity.
posted by crush at 7:49 AM on December 6 [12 favorites]


How does Metafilter deal with the N word, which brings the same complexity of being used in a neutral sense in AAVE?

Used as a derogatory term it's usually an instaban. And it's pretty dodgy even when you're just mentioning it, as in "This person said ________" as in people should be careful/mindful and they usually are.

So doing a quick search... for just 2017... in non-deleted posts/comments

- N word - used 14 times in comments, three times in posts (almost always quoting someone else)
- Bitch - used ~650 times in comments, 35 times in posts (various contexts)

So, realistically it's worth looking at the fact that this would be a change in how MeFites are used to operating. Not saying it might not be a welcome one, but from a "What is the ask here" understanding the current starting point.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:54 AM on December 6 [9 favorites]


For everyone's reference, the 'bitch eating crackers' phrase comes from something like this image. I feel like this isn't the orgininal though.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:55 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Having read the thread so far, it is obvious that most feel the word's use is unacceptable.

Given that, I am wondering if there is a consensus about what is being asked for of the mods regarding application of this position.

Are people here asking that:

* The use of it uncensored be grounds for deleting a post?

* If so, using the examples of recent usage in FPPs, would censoring it ... i.e., "asked twitter to: 'Name a badder b---ch than Taylor Swift.'" be acceptable?

* The use as a derogatory term be an instaban, as with the N word above?
posted by WCityMike at 8:04 AM on December 6


> How does Metafilter deal with the N word, which brings the same complexity of being used in a neutral sense in AAVE? Again - I find this conflict interesting because it ends up being a ban on, or at least extreme suspicion towards, neutral AAVE expressions (bitch-ass etc).

I think it's a stretch to say that either the n-word or "bitch" is neutral in AAVE. A different usage with different expectations and implications, but c'mon, "bitch-ass" is sexist in AAVE, too.
posted by desuetude at 8:09 AM on December 6 [12 favorites]


So I wanted to use the notion of the phrase "bitch eating crackers" to illustrate a concept in a work lightning talk a couple years ago (the talk was about how to build relationships under stressful conditions, harkening back to some of John Gottman's principles—I thought the concept of "bitch eating crackers" was relevant to describe that point in a difficult conversation where flooding and negative narrative interact to put people in a place beyond their normal reasonable selves, such that an ultimately nonsensical notion like the original sentence it comes from would ever occur to them). But I most definitely did not want to include that word in a work presentation. So I rephrased it like this: "Look at her over there, eating crackers like she owns the place." That's the sentence the shorthand came from anyway, just with "her" instead of "that bitch." It works just as well.

But yeah, the shorter phrase has become a shorthand for that point at which you're so frustrated by someone, everything they do becomes irritating, and irrationally so. I've found it useful over the years as a way to remind myself not to react so much and to consider things from the proper perspective, which ultimately is a really positive thing. So that's why I would suggest that its use, perhaps counterintuitively, can be not just acceptable but even a good thing, provided it's put in the proper context.
posted by limeonaire at 8:16 AM on December 6 [6 favorites]


But it would be helpful to know whether there is as strong a consensus against other uses that are often regarded as less offensive, and / or are not themselves gendered insults. Some people in this thread are strongly against those uses, too. But should members who don't agree avoid them?

I've tried to stop using the word here and elsewhere after that awful 2011 metatalk thread Miko linked to, except when I'm quoting other people. Which has happened only very rarely. I also don't use the 'eating crackers' phrase because it feels like a gendered insult, no matter its etymology.

This has not been difficult. The word is offensive. It costs us nothing to substitute an inoffensive word that respects women.

I don't think consensus should be required for people to be kind and polite to one another. If something feels wrong, it's okay for us to stop doing it.
posted by zarq at 8:21 AM on December 6 [9 favorites]


I am down with people avoiding the word on the site. It's gendered, it's insulting, and it's so pervasive in our culture. I was shocked to see jessamyn's totals saying 650 times used on the site in 2017?! It would be good if we all would lessen our usage of it, because it's a reminder that women aren't respected.

The word is hateful. 2017, after all we endured already in 2016, is for me, another wave of feminism. Of women saying, ENOUGH. We are drawing more lines in the sand, and this wouldn't be a bad one to Metafilter users to strive for.
posted by agregoli at 8:23 AM on December 6 [12 favorites]


Personally, I’m ok with saying ‘lady eating crackers’ instead. It works just as well.

The fact that you're cool with replacing "bitch" with "lady" but not any other insult kinda says it all, doesn't it? I know where "bitch eating crackers" comes from, but I don't see why "that shithead eating crackers" isn't just a drop-in replacement. What you're trying to signify is that you have a possibly unreasonable hatred for someone (hence the insult) not insinuate that they're a woman.
posted by Dysk at 8:27 AM on December 6 [25 favorites]


(And if you're taking things too literally and you worry "asshole eating crackers" might imply that the person is actually an asshole? Why doesn't that apply to bitch? And isn't that the idea - the speaker does think the person they're talking about is an asshole, they just recognise that that might be clouding their judgement.)
posted by Dysk at 8:40 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


Personally, I’m ok with saying ‘lady eating crackers’ instead. It works just as well.

No it doesn't, because it's still gendered. A man can irrationally bother me in the exact same way as a woman.

Bitch is not my word to reclaim and I am 100% confident I can live the rest of my life without using it, just as I've lived my life without using the n-word. I get what Annika is saying about a few people trying to set language standards for an entire group, and I'm not sure which examples she has in mind, but bitch has a pretty long, clear history as an insult. Unlike "queer," which has been rather fully reclaimed since the early 90s, "bitch" is still mostly used to reinforce misogyny.

tzikeh and others have a visceral reaction and she is making a reasonable request. There are other words that are bright lines for me - if people were defending the use of f-g or tr-nny and there wasn' t an immediate and clear smackdown from the mods, I would leave the site immediately.
posted by AFABulous at 8:48 AM on December 6 [11 favorites]


I didn't really realize it until now but I think it's definitely been on the way out from my vocabulary over the past few years. I still use "son of a ..." but more as a general exclamation than referring to a person. I'm not as strongly invested in other people not using it but I think it will help make mefi a friendlier place. My preferred replacement is jerk eating crackers - I know this feeling so well and I think using jerk instead scratches the same itch without being problematic.
posted by brilliantine at 9:03 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I don't think consensus should be required for people to be kind and polite to one another.

This is both true and not true. Obviously every single person doesn't have to be on board in order to try to make some changes in the way the community looks at language use. On the other hand, in a community full of irritable nitpickers (I count myself among them) one or two people who didn't "get the memo" (i.e. who still use the word whether because of personal preference or because they didn't know it had become a thing) can be seen as reflecting the entire community's failure to be sufficiently kind/respectful/feminist.

So, again, it's important to note that short of requiring a mod action anything that's just "Hey let's try to do less of this thing" is always going to be imperfect in its coverage. Which is fine, the world is imperfect, I am imperfect, MetaFilter is certainly imperfect. But we should try to find ways to assess improvement (maybe by counting, maybe by some other way) to see if things are getting better and/or moving in the right direction. And be flexible in our tolerance.

tl;dr consensus is not required as long as total compliance with a request is not required.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:15 AM on December 6 [15 favorites]


what is being asked for of the mods

As I said above, I take this as a community discussion about people being more thoughtful about this stuff and making voluntary changes to their own usage -- a "hey fellow members" kind of conversation, not a "mods should x" conversation.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:27 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


‘Dude eating crackers’ works for me, too. But of course, YMMV. The point for me is that it’s a ‘generic woman/man’ who has no special attribute that would make him/her deserving of my hate, at that specific moment.

Hydropsyche, of course it’s pretty easy to ascertain whether it’s used as in AAVE or appropriatively - here, it’s gonna be mostly the latter -, which is why I said that’s an academic question and we should just look at it very critically from a use/moderation standpoint, without having a 100% blanket ban. Which seems to be what people want, no? That’s a good outcome IMHO.
posted by The Toad at 9:37 AM on December 6


I still use "son of a ..."

I like "son of a vondruke."
posted by Room 641-A at 9:51 AM on December 6


"Bitch" is a gendered insult.

The verb "bitching" doesn't read to me as gendered. I use it in conversation in real life because it's pretty common expression where I'm from meaning "complain" or "make a fuss" about something, and I don't know anyone IRL who takes it as an insult and objects to it that way. However, I don't use it on MetaFilter because I know some people here would understand it insultingly, and I want to avoid insulting people when I don't mean to. "Complain" works fine as non-slangy and universally understood substitute.

MetaFilter is a diverse community, both geographically and socially. We don't all understand and use words the same way (and we don't all have the same native language). There's something to be said for trying to understand that diversity and avoiding unintentionally insulting people, for just avoiding regional terms or jargon that won't be understood by a lot of people.

There's also something to be said for recognizing that the community is diverse and giving people some benefit of the doubt when they say that they didn't intend for something to come across as offensive, because it isn't in their speech community. This isn't all that relevant to the word in question in this thread. But if you stamp your feet and insist that what a word means in your (almost always American) dialect of English is objectively what it means and declare "intention doesn't matter", you're an asshole. Intention always matters. And no dialect of English is universal across time and space. Annika Cicada was absolutely right to bring this up, because we need to keep this in mind
posted by nangar at 10:25 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


"Bitching" really is exactly the same thing. To complain like a woman who is being annoying and pointless in her complaints.
posted by agregoli at 10:27 AM on December 6 [35 favorites]


Personally, I'm a lot more bothered by ... (and "motherfucker")

Yours noted, and I shall no longer use that term here, for the respect I bear for thee (which is great respect, and I hold that no reasonable being may deny that you are worthy of it).

For the avoidance of doubt, this comment contains no bullshit, snark or sarcasm.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:37 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


My understanding is that it was a neologism from Television Without Pity back in the day, used specifically to describe a situation where your dislike of a person has become so irrational and excessive anything and everything they do annoys you.

My partner and I express the same concept by referencing a stand up comedy routine by a forgotten comedian (he might remember who it was) that we saw on TV probably 20 or more years ago, in which the comedian described reaching a point of being so irritated by someone that even the necessary autonomic nervous system functions of life became annoying: "All that breathing! In..out...in...out..."
posted by Orlop at 10:39 AM on December 6 [11 favorites]


- N word - used 14 times in comments, three times in posts (almost always quoting someone else)
- Bitch - used ~650 times in comments, 35 times in posts (various contexts)

So, realistically it's worth looking at the fact that this would be a change in how MeFites are used to operating. Not saying it might not be a welcome one, but from a "What is the ask here" understanding the current starting point.


Realistically, it sounds like MeFi has a much larger tolerance for misogyny than racism.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 10:52 AM on December 6 [21 favorites]


I agree with your reading of that information.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:54 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I reject that. The N word is in a different class entirely, and just about everybody recognizes that, and that's why it's treated differently. Comparisons can be useful but they also have limits, and I don't think insisting these words are exactly equivalent is fair or illuminating.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:57 AM on December 6 [17 favorites]


I think it’s a thing a lot of us have side eyed here for a while but really we can challenge ourselves to not use any gendered insults of any kind on metafilter and the site dynamics would improve in a way that’s almost imperceptible yet vastly improved.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:57 AM on December 6 [5 favorites]


I mean, misogyny is a problem, absolutely.
This Metatalk is totally fair and I agree with it.

But this insistence on taking it back to the N word is a distraction. It doesn't need to be the same as that in order to be a problem.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:58 AM on December 6 [10 favorites]


LM, are you male? You don't have to answer me and I won't contribute further (progress!) but I don't think men get to say what is or is not offensive to women, and on what level. And if you are a woman, it's not impossible to internalize misogyny so deeply that you do not see it. I appreciate your work here but to be told "nah bitch isn't as bad" is itself misogyny.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:02 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


I'm female. My point is, we can have a useful conversation about the misogyny in the word 'bitch' without getting into that comparison.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:05 AM on December 6 [14 favorites]


I'm female.

I'm also female. A better analog might be how we deal with the C word (a word that usually triggers a ban if used as an insult), and the arguments and asks we went through when we discussed that. So in 2017 it was used in four posts and sixty-nine (sorry!) comments nearly all of which were in a few threads specifically talking about the word in specific (like this one or this one).

I think there's a larger argument to be had about MeFi's relative tolerance for various -isms and room for improvement in same, but this is not that thread.

I will say that to me the site has come a long way since that terrible 2011 thread and since the mod/admin team makeup became significantly more feminist. The roots of this place were really "Matt and his (mostly white, mostly male) buddies" and it takes a long time and a lot of positive actions (not just the absence of negative actions) to make useful changes.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:28 AM on December 6 [18 favorites]


I reject that. The N word is in a different class entirely, and just about everybody recognizes that, and that's why it's treated differently

Agreed. There has been plenty of racism expressed on the site even without the use of certain words. Coded racist language usage, whether passive to avoid criticism or intentional to rile people rarely uses verboten terms. There are too many variances in usage and intent between misogyny and racism to draw a bright parallel.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:46 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


> "Bitching" really is exactly the same thing. To complain like a woman who is being annoying and pointless in her complaints.

I understand that's how you, Miko and tzikeh understand the term. That's why I don't use the term here.

But that's not how I understand it, and that's not how people I know use it. That was my entire point.

You're claiming that the way you understand the term, and way people you know use it is objectively what it what it means. That attitude is precisely what I was complaining about.
posted by nangar at 11:49 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


There's no possible way this discussion could be improved by turning it into another example of "white people discuss usage of the n word".
posted by parallellines at 11:49 AM on December 6 [26 favorites]


Backing up LM on this; there is a great stretch of middle space between "these two words and their usage are culturally and contextually identical" and "one of these words isn't problematic". Most of the discussion there is to have about the problematic nature of "bitch", its use on the site, the various wrinkles of its usage in pop culture at large and social subgroups, etc. is going to necessarily occupy that middle ground, because neither of those two extremes are where most folks are.

And on preview, also what jessamyn notes about closer nuclear-grade word choices. Some things really do hit a higher level of prohibition than others, without only one of those levels being worth recognizing or considering.

From a personal perspective I basically agree that "bitch" is on the whole problematic enough that it's worth just avoiding in mixed company where any assumptions about either reclamation or, if that's your group dynamic, shared boundaries of edginess or whatever, can't reasonably pertain. I'm interested enough in the linguistics of the thing to recognize the more complicated usage wrinkles as having meat on them, but that too is something I don't think there's a ton of space for in a non-linguistics-centric general discussion.

So I've aimed to scrub it from any casual personal use; I used to use verb-as-in-complaining a bit and I've cut that out pretty much entirely at this point I think; I still fall over to SOB a fair amount though I've been trying to catch myself and substitute something else there instead. And I share the specific appreciation for the complicated, self-deprecating payload of the "eating crackers" formulation but have come to the conclusion at this point that it's just not worth the very good likelihood of people receiving it out of it's very idiosyncratic and specific context and being rightly wtf'd about it, and have said as much in a mod context at least once in the last year.

That's my personal decision-making and basically where I'm coming from when I see it in the wild on the site. If I see someone tossing it around as a generic insult, that's just gonna get deleted. I think there's some phrasal and idiomatic and mention-rather-than-use contexts where it shows up on the site that are more complicated, which doesn't make them not problematic but does mean it's more something to look at closely and encourage people to rethink than it is an obvious auto-delete-and-cruisin'-for-a-bannin' situation like cut and dry nuke-grade stuff would be.

I'd be curious if I end up with the rainy day and the emotional energy to page through all the hits for "bitch" in comments in the last year; a quick search basically ballpark verifies Jessamyn's numbers and suggests a collection of different vectors for it, including a lot of casual use of "son of a bitch", a lot of recent mention/discussion from e.g. the Taylor Swift twitter meme thing, some talking-shit-about-Trump stuff that much as I loathe Trump I'd have deleted if I'd seen them at the time, and a couple other variations. But I'm not gonna do that with my day off today I don't think.

Generally, I strongly endorse the idea of folks stopping and thinking about when and why they're using some non-mention inflection of "bitch" on the site and if it's really useful or justifiable to do so. I'm guessing the answer most of the time would be "no" and as a prompt for folks to do that analysis and to just opt for something else when they catch themselves I think this post and discussion is a good idea.

At the same time I'll echo the thoughts above that the difference between "hey, folks, talk and think about this because we can probably do better" and "hey, folks, excise this immediately and unanimously" is the difference between doable and MeFi-like and not-and-not. We usually do better at doing better by degrees on stuff, I feel like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:50 AM on December 6 [7 favorites]


Nangar, what does it mean then, what does "bitching" refer to if not the original word, "bitch," and all the meaning inherent?
posted by agregoli at 11:51 AM on December 6 [14 favorites]


Like, don't act like I'm flippin crazy to think "bitch" and "bitching" refer to the same thing.
posted by agregoli at 11:53 AM on December 6 [21 favorites]


I'll also say, on the practical side: flag the problematic stuff when you see it, so we can be sure we're at least taking a look mod-side.

I worry (with some justification based on past experiences) that folks will sometimes just not flag a thing because they've decided nothing will be done, and then the mods end up in this impossible spot where someone's like "why didn't you do anything about this thing I didn't bring to your attention". It's an understandable phenomenon but also a super frustrating one. So if you see something that seems like a problem, go ahead and flag it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:54 AM on December 6 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised at the whole "bitch eating crackers" thing. Is that really a phrase that you use so frequently, on metafilter, that you gotta hang onto it?

I'm more than happy to accede to this request, I don't think it's a very onerous thing, and I'm embarrassed by my own deraily comment on the original thread now! Proof that we can all change I hope.
posted by smoke at 12:17 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


I wholeheartedly endorse this post. I consciously don't use gendered insults, because of what I've learned on this very site, and I've hated all conversational and derogatory uses of "bitch" for a very long time. Thanks for making this.
posted by billiebee at 12:34 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I remember hearing a long time ago that Chris Tucker in one of the Rush Hour movies had a really hard time getting through a take where he had to call a woman a "crazy bitch" because he was so uncomfortable using the word, and my esteem for him as a person rose a notch.

NOTE: I wasn't going to bother sharing this very small and vaguely-remembered anecdote until I remembered something that gives it a bit of extra relevance these days: in that movie Tucker was being directed by confirmed piece of shit Brett Ratner.
posted by doctornecessiter at 12:35 PM on December 6 [9 favorites]


Sorry for bringing up the N word that turned into a big derail :( I did NOT mean to imply that those two are similar in offensiveness.

My point was that we, as a community, have found a good, largely unproblematic way to deal with one offensive word - ie restricting and critiquing its use but not a 100% blanket ban, because there might be rare cases where it is ok to use, and that this approach might work for the other word as well. I think there’s consensus that less use of the b word would be nice.

So my point was about the working approach we already have in place, and for which there is a huge consensus (right?!?), and for maaaybe extending it to another, less offensive, use case.

I agree we should NOT rehash the question whether White folks can use the N word and sorry if I pushed the discussion off the rails there. Not my intent.
posted by The Toad at 12:40 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


I have a point of anecdata for those of you who wonder whether these discussions actually move the needle in any meaningful way. As a cishet white guy with two sons, this discussion (and others previous) have definitely caused me to reevaluate and actively work to change not only my own modes of thinking and expression, but those of my children, for the better.

So, even if it’s just in a small way, discussions like this have impact in the Real World and are (I hope) having a real impact on the future.

Thank you to everyone who engages in the emotional labor of explaining and demonstrating.
posted by scrump at 12:41 PM on December 6 [24 favorites]


I'm surprised at the whole "bitch eating crackers" thing. Is that really a phrase that you use so frequently, on metafilter, that you gotta hang onto it?

I think the phrase is, for folks who have found it a easy-to-reach-for addition to their vocab, more just something that really hits a very specific area in their self-perception. The usual intended sentiment behind it is basically entirely self-deprecating: it's not about insulting the person you're irritated with, it's about recognizing that however justifiable or not your overall irritation might be, your in-the-moment reactions have become unreasonable and reflexive.

And the way the whole dark timeline thing has been the last year especially, there's a lot of especially justifiable overall irritation at a lot of great big assholes in the public eye. And so a whole lot of us are experiencing flashes of that subsidiary phenomenon, of finding ourselves twitching and flinching and snapping at some erstwhile asshole doing some basically unremarkable thing, utterly out of proportion with the actual unremarkable thing we're reacting to. When I react that way I simultaneously understand that all in all I do deserve to feel annoyance/outrage/disgust at the cracker-eater, and yet understand that I'm being pretty ridiculous trying to pin it on the fact that they're just eating some crackers where I can see it. That I'm so justifiably wound up by the prevailing conditions that I'm lapsing into being the asshole saying some awful thing reflexively about some shit that doesn't at all merit it.

So having an evocative referential label for that is really tempting. It's a niche usage with a lot of application lately in the context of shit sucking and wearing people down. I think when people hear a phrase that just completely nails down an emotional or behavior phenomenon they're experiencing, it tends to be sticky. They want to use it to describe and adjust their own mental state or that of people they care about.

But the actual components of the phrase suck for the reasons of see above. And like any reference or idiom, it doesn't carry its context with it automatically, which means as it gets used more widely it misses the mark more and more often.

And that's why I feel like people should basically give it up on MetaFilter, where for every person who nods along because they get your specific reference and intent, there's gonna be another person or five or twenty who just hear you saying "look at that bitch" and, uh, yeah. No, that's not really gonna work out. Think it through and find an alternative.

In any case, to answer the maybe rhetorical question quantitatively, it doesn't seem to be a phrase that is being used very much on MetaFilter to begin with. On a quick search, there are a few dozen hits, wandering back to 2013 as the earliest citation, and of those few dozen most comprise one or another short subthread of discussion including quotations of the first comment of the respective subthread. Maybe once a month or a bit less on average in the last year, and at a glance I think overwhlemingly in catch-all US Politics threads re: Trump et al.

Which, to tie this to other site stuff lately, lines up pretty well with the kind of stuff we've been trying to cut down on in those threads. It falls into the realm of just sort of loosely venting/chatting and I think we only get to that careless use of a problematic phrase when that's the kind of space-filling vibe in a conversation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:03 PM on December 6 [8 favorites]




Like, don't act like I'm flippin crazy to think "bitch" and "bitching" refer to the same thing.

I don't use either term, but my understanding of "bitching" is as a positive reference....like "wow, that car is bitching". In my little corner of the Universe "bitch" and "bitching" have totally different meanings and uses. I think the use of "bitching" as a positive slang reference developed in the same way that "bad" words like "sick" and "killer" were inverted to refer to cool stuff.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:20 PM on December 6


That is a different usage than nangar was expressing and I responded to.
posted by agregoli at 1:21 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


jessamyn: "- Bitch - used ~650 times in comments, 35 times in posts (various contexts)"

I would bet a substantial number of those are the Trump quote about, "moving on her like a b*tch."
posted by Chrysostom at 1:25 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


As a data point, Dictionary.com...

bitch
v.
"to complain," attested at least from 1930, perhaps from the sense in bitchy, perhaps influenced by the verb meaning "to bungle, spoil," which is recorded from 1823. But bitched in this sense seems to echo Middle English bicched "cursed, bad," a general term of opprobrium (e.g. Chaucer's bicched bones "unlucky dice"), which despite the hesitation of OED, seems to be a derivative of bitch (n.).
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:10 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


I would bet a substantial number of those are the Trump quote about, "moving on her like a b*tch."

Not really, you can check yourself though you'll have to go a few pages back just to skip all the comments in this thread. In my quick scan it's mostly people using the word as a verb.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:12 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Many members would prefer not to see this word on the site. Would we actually lose very much / anything in terms of self-expression by at the very least reducing its use? I do not think so, and I don't think it has been demonstrated in this thread that it needs to be used. (Noted: use vs mention.) I like el io's suggestion above that members be reminded to consider their choices and think it may well be effective. Would require coding but not add to the work of the mods. And, getting people to think carefully about their word choices is probably a good thing all around. This thread has reminded me that I used the word recently in conversation (verb usage re teachers complaining in the break room). I didn't need to use the word. It was lazy. And, I would have been more professional and communicated better if I had chosen something else.
posted by Gotanda at 5:29 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


I am a woman and a feminist, and one largely on the side of STFU when it comes to a word or phrase that can cause offense, whether intended or not. But the anti-bitch argument here is sitting wrong with me, for several reasons:

1) We mention the usage/mention distinction to say it’s OK to talk about the word “bitch,” but then specifically condemn “usages” of the word “bitch” in phrases where it’s clearly meant to be referential or self-aware rather than a directed insult toward a person. “Bitch eating crackers” is referential but I’ve seen so much misunderstanding of it’s origins in this thread that I could understand discouraging its use— though the fact that it’s rarely used makes me feel it’s both not a problem (hardly see it) but also more of a problem (people aren’t going to get any more familiar with the actual meaning). “Bad-ass bitch” is not merely a mention but it is absolutely more subtle than just calling someone a bitch. If we’re going to protect “mentions” of the word, unlike we do with the N-word (could you imagine a bunch of adults saying “the N-word” of their own volition if the mention taboo was not incredibly strong?), then I don’t think it’s immediately obvious that the word isn’t fairly context-dependent.

2) on the “bad-ass bitch” note, above someone brought up AAVE, which was shot down because there’s a distinction between a black person saying it and a white woman appropriating it to call someone a bitch. Whether it’s constructive or not, “bad-ass bitch” isn’t an insult. If we say it’s not allowed here, are we saying implicitly that Metafilter has white rules of discourse... ? I mean, it does, and we could say that accurately. But what would be the reaction if a black woman said it? A black man? I doubt our approval or not is actually based on the speaker’s identity, which would be weird; we’re assuming the speaker is a white woman and a stupid or cruel one, which feels like soft racism and sexism on a bunch of levels.

3) I also see a lot of very self-assured claims that the word hasn’t been reclaimed which is not so clear to me. Bitch Magazine, as someone mentioned above, exists. The word “queer” is still used perjoratively by very many people despite the fact that it’s reclaimed. I’m not sure why it’s so cut and dried that bitch is strictly offensive.

I think there are a lot of cases where the word is either tacky or offensive— used as an insult toward a woman or man, “son of a bitch” is a stupid sexist turn of phrase, saying someone is bitching about something relies on the idea that they’re being a whiny bitchy girl in one way or another. But there are plenty of legitimate uses of the word, IMO.

The C-word to me is a word which is generally not reclaimed and almost always meant to cause offense to women specifically in the US (I rarely hear a man called a c-word here, there really is no use beyond “this woman is a fucking awful dirty woman”). So I would agree with people that we don’t really need that word here uncensored if we want to keep a sense of collegiality. But I feel that’s a different class of word.

There are definitely many uses of the word bitch that don’t deserve the amount of bad faith accusations it’s getting here, IMO. I would not die on this hill; there are lots of things I don’t say on MeFi because I don’t want to be a jerk. But what’s worse than having a word “taken away” is the idea that even if there are groups who use the word in subtle or non-offensive ways, we don’t merely ask them to not because it’s jarring to us, but decide that they’re being intentionally awful and/or define them as subaltern or outside the confines of the community.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:22 PM on December 6 [14 favorites]


It's probably a more derail than meat (I know, I know, why bring it up then) but I can't help but mention that there is a tiny bit of usage of the term when in nuanced conversation about dog breeding (a la sire, dam, bitch, crossbreeding, brood, whelp, etc). I'd consider this usage valid but I'd welcome other folk's opinion on it, not that dog blood lines or kennel policies come up much around these parts that I can see.

My family doesn't have hunting dogs anymore, and very rarely bred them when we did, but it was a valid word in our house when discussing family trees/pedigrees for registered dogs, even for a 8 or 10 year old like myself, but would have elicited heavy punishment if used in the broader sense of the word. I'd be ok with the same sort of policy here outside of pedagogical discussions such as this one.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:45 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I appreciate the nuanced feelings of folks like stoneandstar and others of course, I just don't have a dog in said fight and don't want to offend folks so I'll sit aside and just try to go with whatever approximates a consensus here.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:48 PM on December 6


Stoneandstar, discomfort with “the c word” (for me the c word is either Christmas, commitment or cancer) is not universally held. Americans are well know as less sweary than Poms and Australians. It’s not got the same response here in sunny downtown Sydney. It’s a very powerful swear, and men aren’t allowed to use it, but it’s not the same for you as it is in the UK or Australia. I’d be happy if no one here ever used gendered insults. C word from Australian’s included.

(I’d also hope whore, slut and prostitute will eventually be retired here, but this thread pertains to bitch.)
posted by taff at 7:00 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


As a data point, I guess, a couple of years ago I used the contact form to complain about a form of the word being used in a way that felt like it was referring to me. It is still up on the site, because the person who said it used the word often (and indeed, they did). I understand the mods' reasoning there, but I stopped using that part of the site for a while because of it.

I encourage everyone to at least think about the context in which you're using gendered terminology, as what feels comfortable to you might not feel comfortable to everyone. I am probably guilty of it somewhere here, and I pledge to do better. Thanks for making this post, taff.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:36 PM on December 6 [6 favorites]


It’s a very powerful swear, and men aren’t allowed to use it

In my (Victoria, Australian) experience, men rarely use it to refer to women, and when they do they come over as arseholes. Women and men here both use it to refer to men, which can come over anywhere from friendly joshing to poisonously insulting depending on their relationship with the target; women using it tend to skew more toward the poisonously insulting end of that spectrum.

In almost all cases (armed and emergency services personnel are a notable exception) it's used much less often in mixed-gender company.

Swearing is complicated, but it's also not some kind of universal human right. It doesn't seem so hard to me to treat Metafilter as if it were populated heavily by my grandmother, and shaping my choice of magic words accordingly.
posted by flabdablet at 8:26 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


I can’t see why insults need to be gendered.

I think often insults do need to be gendered, but not reinforcing the patriarchy but tearing it down? Like, there’s a lot of specifically male-gendered shitty behavior that cannot be referenced without being gendered, because the shitty behavior itself is gendered and would be really different coming from a woman. Like, oh - off the top of my head, “mansplainer” would be a gendered insult, but is 100% an accurate and necessary descriptor.

Bitch as an insult deserves to be pushed back on 100% though I don’t think I’ve actually seen it in usage lately, but that might be our awesome mod team?
posted by corb at 8:47 PM on December 6


I don't know much about c-word usage in Australia, but I do know that Kevin the Goat is a c--t.
posted by floam at 9:05 PM on December 6


Being edgelordy but munging links?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


damn
posted by floam at 9:22 PM on December 6


Realistically, it sounds like MeFi has a much larger tolerance for misogyny than racism.

I would put forth that on this issue the site is a fairly accurate reflection of the (US) society/culture.

Civil rights activists have worked hard for decades to change ideas, beliefs, and attitudes with regard to racism. While the feminist movement has worked just as hard, I think we can all agree that their efforts have obviously not had the support of our various media and entertainment sources. It took a while for our society to move forward on the racism issue, while right on up through the election our society has been moving backwards on sexism, at least measured against the last 30 years or so.

Please understand me here, I'm not saying racism is "over", or that we don't still have a long road ahead, and I am certainly not trying to create a derail where we start comparing racism to sexism - but the n word has been banned in media for - I don't have a cite for how long - while within recent memory it has become acceptable according to FCC standards to use the word bitch on prime time TV, and stations are happy to do so.

Now that sexism has been thrust forward in the national consciousness again (I don't know where my mother and her cohort even get the energy anymore) hopefully it will propel our society to move forward a bit.

Hopefully we will all start to have our consciousness raised about how often and how easily we use sexist slurs. I'm certainly offended by such slurs when I hear them, whether directed at myself or another person, but if I'm being completely honest I throw them around easily and without thinking when I'm mad (mostly when I'm in traffic; I'm not using that language to anyone's face). It's a bad habit, like smoking; toxic to both the smoker and anyone around the smoker. It's been normalized. It's ingrained. Discussions like this one help.
posted by vignettist at 9:51 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I don't find "bitch" to be exceptionally offensive (yeah, yeah, just let me know where to hand in my second X chromosome), but I wouldn't miss it if it went away, either. Having said that, this thread demonstrates that the word is used in many different ways, and not always with conscious misogyny (I don't think anyone's even mentioned "up in this bitch" yet). A blanket ban on the word could contribute to a situation where less attention was paid to what users said than to how they said it. An AskMe user who says, "My female colleague won't date me, how do I get her to stop being a frigid bitch?" needs to be called out on his language (among other things). A user who says, "I suffer from depression and it's been a real bitch lately" does not.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:57 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


A user who says, "I suffer from depression and it's been a real bitch lately" does not.

I kind of disagree. I don't think it's as bad, certainly, but it's still problematic. What benefit is there to using bitch in that context over any non-gendered term?
posted by Dysk at 2:34 AM on December 7 [10 favorites]


What benefit is there to using bitch in that context over any non-gendered term?

None, but that's not the point I was making.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:08 AM on December 7


I know, it was the point I was making.
posted by Dysk at 3:16 AM on December 7 [8 favorites]


But what’s worse than having a word “taken away” is the idea that even if there are groups who use the word in subtle or non-offensive ways, we don’t merely ask them to not because it’s jarring to us, but decide that they’re being intentionally awful and/or define them as subaltern or outside the confines of the community.

I don't really agree with this framework - I think usage of language is part of what defines a community. The whole idea behind code-switching is that there is a nearly universal tendency for people to change their language usage when moving between groups, and I think this applies to online spaces and communities just as much as in-person spaces. I would imagine that most people on here have a different writing style on MeFi than they do on Facebook or Twitter, and I feel like there are even slight differences in style between MeFi and AskMe.

People who speak dialects such as AAVE tend to know this better than most, and assuming they are incapable of adapting to common community standards is a discredit. Framing a phase-out of the word "bitch" as a blow to black members of our community feels like a weird kind of concern trolling to me.
posted by parallellines at 7:23 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


When I was maybe 15 I used the term "bitchin" in front of my mom, and she called me out on it and we had this huge, endless, Chinese-restaurant-family-dinner-ruining, dragging argument about it. I just did not agree that it was gendered, and since it was positive I just could not see it as related to "bitch" the misogynist noun (which I didn't see as THAT misogynist), and I saw her as joyless and humorless, forever trying to remove some of the spice and flavor and fun of language.

God, what an asshole I was. I am so thankful that she was willing and able to engage me on that, fucking 30 years ago, because once I had time to think about it I, of course, saw how right she was. And every time this comes up, about bitch or anything else (although bitch and related isotopes come up the most, in my world) it is clear that getting normal well-meaning people to think about their words is incredibly hard, and only gets harder the longer you don't do it. I acknowledge that this is not a news flash.

The business end of the term, the power of it, is anti-woman, and there's just no way to use it without that radioactivity infecting your conversation.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:44 AM on December 7 [14 favorites]


And the odd exception to the rule is that "bitchin'" used as a modifier rather than a verb usually connotes a perceived good thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


(not that I've earnestly said "bitchin'" since the 1980s.)
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on December 7


Over the years, I've gone from throwing the word around as just another swear to using it less and less. I don't know that I had taken time to consciously think about where my unease was coming from. I do think the points made above about how the word may be used different within certain vernaculars would cause me to still take things on a case-by-case basis when I hear it from others. (For instance, I don't think I'd be comfortable hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates' spouse hectored about using it, as described here, as that use seems decidedly different in a way I cannot properly articulate.)

But for me personally, I'm comfortable closing the door on the word and not using it all all anymore.

Anyway, I am glad for this thread. I think people mostly did a good job here and I learned a little from having read this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


And the odd exception to the rule is that "bitchin'" used as a modifier rather than a verb usually connotes a perceived good thing.

It does mean something good, but I don't see it as an exception. The WAY it gets to mean a good thing is by being a bad thing. As RUN-DMC says, "not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good." The power of it is still, when you untangle it, that "bitch" is bad.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:19 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


I'm totally fine with shitcanning "bitchin'" by any measure.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on December 7


The only real loss to me personally is my fondness for the phrase "son of a bitch" which ties back to my Southern background.

I can let that one go, too, though. I've been trying to swear less in front of my kid, so I've started phasing that one out in favor of calling people "fart knocker" or "turd fondler" or other semi-gibberish terms without swear words.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:24 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


In 1974 (5th grade I think) there was an after-school program and we sometimes listened to records and we all got mad when the teacher wouldn't let us listen to Elton John's The B*itch Is Back. It also happens that this teacher was the very first "Ms." I ever knew.

We were mad, but I'm willing to concede that maybe 5th grade me did not, in fact, know it all.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:29 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


(For instance, I don't think I'd be comfortable hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates' spouse hectored about using it, as described here, as that use seems decidedly different in a way I cannot properly articulate.)

He's describing someone using the word in a personal relationship with someone. That's not mefi. What you and your mates call each other with no problem when you're palling around is not necessarily what's acceptable in a more public setting, with a wider audience. For example, I have friends that I will, in certain jokey contexts, call "tranny" (and vice versa). That does not mean that it's okay for anyone else to do so (or wrong for them to be admonished for it) and nor does it mean my friends and I can use that word with each other on mefi (or that of would be wrong for anyone to admonish us for doing so).

Mefi is a (semi-) public space, and the audience is all of us. That is a very different context to what goes on between mates in (semi-) private settings.
posted by Dysk at 9:10 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


That was an example that popped into my head. There may be better ones. Even so, I already stated I'm comfortable not using it myself, so you wouldn't need to convince me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:19 AM on December 7


Right, I'm just pointing out that even a blanket prohibition on mefi doesn't actually stop anyone joking around with their mates in private, and that I would be perfectly happy with that kind of joking to be shut down here, because there's literally no overlap with that kind of in-joke use.
posted by Dysk at 9:21 AM on December 7


I very specifically pointed out that I was referring to the US usage because we have had a million conversations about the way the rest of the English speaking world uses the word. In my experience, it has nothing to do with how “sweary” you are, it’s just a much less casual word here.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:36 AM on December 7


I think however common codeswitching is, putting a blanket ban on a word with different and more playful uses in other communities just underlines that this is a community for not-those-people.

I also think that ship has sailed; I don’t read or post here as often these days because I find many posts here hopelessly ignorant about class. It’s not just that my toothless hillbilly relatives (I jest) are going to try to post on MeFi and feel left out; it’s that those of us who came from those backgrounds and know how to “codeswitch” come to Metafilter, see a groundswell of just-so middle class attitudes about the working class, and implicitly know it’s an uphill battle. People from a subaltern background always know it’s a choice; if you want to have conversations about the things you’re interested in with likeminded people, you have to disavow your background or be really angry or just feel a certain type of despair. Of course we know how to fit in, it’s beaten into people, it’s just that it feels soulless and bizarre much of the time, because the standards of the community are based on the norms and taboos and comfort zones of a very specific group of people who take them for granted, and definitely not yours.

I don’t think the change in my language between Twitter and MeFi is strong enough to be called “codeswitching.” I really don’t want to get into a detail about whether codeswitching is good or bad though.

I guess this really isn’t just about the word “bitch,” it’s about the fact that we’re talking about one very specific subcommunity’s feelings about the word but saying that this is a cleansing of something universally bad. Which I think it’s fine to say “let’s not” with the word if certain members of the community find it very jarring and hurtful, I just wish we didn’t have to demonize the people who are sympathetic but not fully convinced of your argument.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:46 AM on December 7 [24 favorites]


I don’t think I communicated my argument about the word c—- well, the point was that we always here from non-US folk about how it’s just a word, lighten up, etc. the point isn’t that we should accept that argument, it’s that non-US posters can sympathize with the fact that there is a different usage in the US, and Americans can take a stance that the word is harmful enough here to be toxic.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:51 AM on December 7


People from a subaltern background always know it’s a choice; if you want to have conversations about the things you’re interested in with likeminded people, you have to disavow your background or be really angry or just feel a certain type of despair. Of course we know how to fit in, it’s beaten into people, it’s just that it feels soulless and bizarre much of the time,

This just decscribed a tension I have with the world to an absolute point and I’m surprised I never connected these dots before. Damn. Mind. Blown. Thank you.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:02 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


PSA, a great replacement for the verb form of the word (the "to complain about" definition) is: Gripe

I have successfully replaced my usage of the former word with the latter and I don't feel any loss from the transition. I do feel good about the fact that I am less likely to hurt someone inadvertently, and am not contributing to patriarchy's continuation.

I am strongly in favor of making casual use of b---- a deletable offense, and feel that using the word in direct quotations and in comments about dog breeding to be just about the only other appropriate usage that I can think of.
posted by wires at 10:15 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


meredith brooks is gonna be pissed
posted by entropicamericana at 10:46 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


I think however common codeswitching is, putting a blanket ban on a word with different and more playful uses in other communities just underlines that this is a community for not-those-people.

I see it more as underlining that this is a community for not-those-usages. I agree that MeFi often feels like a place with a somewhat limited diversity of voices, but I'm not sure that establishing these kinds of community norms is necessarily the reason for that.
posted by parallellines at 11:01 AM on December 7


I agree that making rules or soft guidelines is as you say. It’s just the type of attitude that says “this word is wrong no matter what, you’re offended even if you don’t know it” when speaking to largely sympathetic MeFites that grates.

And it’s a chicken and the egg problem to be sure; but when we draw a hard line in the sand around our own norms we should at least consider it.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:07 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


I think some of the reason for the hostility is that women and feminists are used to fighting back against bad faith arguments, but that’s really not an excuse to be super inconsiderate toward other women and feminists making good faith arguments on a relatively low key issue. Which is actually a reason I’m glad mods are more likely to come down hard on bad faith bullshit, so we can all relax a bit.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:10 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I just wish we didn’t have to demonize the people who are sympathetic but not fully convinced of your argument.

I appreciate this thoughtful comment and I very much agree with this statement especially. I don't think we have to demonize people either - language and in-group speech are complicated, this word is particularly complicated because it has so many dimensions, I've used it myself and will again. But I'm on board with asking for users to reflect and be thoughtful about its origins, use in practice, and necessity. For me personally, it's one of those slow-drip reminders of deep patriarchal assumptions that women are supposed to be second-tier. Every time I hear it, it's one more drip. Of course we've lived with it all our lives, and won't keel over from seeing it here, but it would be nice if it's something we could move away from at an individual practice and general norms level.

In general you make a good point about "whose norms." What I've found in professional activist practice seems to apply here, though - the more diverse the group, the more attention you need to pay to evolving some shared norms that push as few triggers as possible. When a group is highly homogenous, they have a lot less need to talk about how perspectives on, say, a piece of language differ, and don't need to craft agreements or discuss norms about it. Language use becomes unreflective and unquestioned when everyone's got the same frame. It's true that when we start being more careful about language, we also start stepping toward the reinforcing of some general norms that might be endorsed by the culturally dominant group, and also toward those accusations of "PC language police" and "snowflakes" trying to create safe spaces. Those are unfair stereotypes of what the effort is. But I can't say I've ever been part of a diverse progressive group where we didn't have to agree on some language uses, like ones in which white supremacy language and classist language were called out, that felt uncomfortable or maybe like a minor loss for some people in that specific context. I'm not sure it's avoidable if we also want to avoid creating a "slow drip" environment that perpetuates oppressions, even small ones, by sustaining them.

PSA, a great replacement for the verb form of the word (the "to complain about" definition) is: Gripe

There's also kvetch, for those who feel at home using Yiddishisms. I like it a lot because it's non-gendered, but has the same form (sound and syllable) as the b word.
posted by Miko at 11:45 AM on December 7 [9 favorites]


There's also kvetch, for those who feel at home using Yiddishisms.

And if you're not Jewish, maybe there are words in your own culture you can use.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:46 PM on December 7


Don't be a putz. Yiddish is universal.

I keed because I love
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:04 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


It's true that when we start being more careful about language, we also start stepping toward the reinforcing of some general norms that might be endorsed by the culturally dominant group, and also toward those accusations of "PC language police" and "snowflakes" trying to create safe spaces.

I don't think that last set of accusations is worth taking action on, since it's deployed almost exclusively by reactionary dickheads so personally fragile that they simply refuse to participate in anything even remotely resembling good-faith dialogue with people they perceive as unlike themselves.

These clowns are not against safe spaces per se, as demonstrated clearly by their extreme fondness for the safe spaces they demand for themselves. They're against safe spaces for all those other people.

Insisting on some kind of right to use language generally agreed to be offensive by any given audience, and enforcing that right by deliberate use of that language toward that audience, is political incorrectness policing by delicate little snowflakes with no point to make beyond whining about their own disappearing privilege. To my way of thinking, that's worse.
posted by flabdablet at 4:20 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


I completely agree. There's a principle we need to stand on that lands between stoneandstar's point about insisting that every participant accept general norms that are to some degree set by dominant cultures, and the accusations of PC/safe space policing - and for me, that principle is to develop a language ethos that has a few put-offs as possible and also rejects the accusations - by making it clear that it's as an intentional choice, not a knee-jerk reaction or blanket ban.
posted by Miko at 6:10 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Well said, Miko, and I agree. Thus the “C word” digression— I can hold in my head at the same time that non-Americans don’t give a shit as much as we do (for the most part), and also that it’s largely male non-Americans telling us this, and also that I personally really don’t need/want to see that word here and think that’s valid. In general I feel the same way about “bitch.” It doesn’t bother me much and certainly doesn’t in a self-referential or tongue-in-cheek usage, but I really genuinely was not persuaded that someone saying “bad bitch” is equal to “bitch eating crackers” is equal to “what a bitch!” and that all are contemptuous. But I believe that people are offended by it, I don’t mind refraining from using it here, and I was willing to be convinced I was wrong.

I know feminists (myself included) in these annoying times have a reflex against spelling things out to people who are pretending they don’t get it to waste your time, but if we don’t have productive and respectful ways of hashing things out in-group, there’s no way to develop shared norms.

Re: the vein of culture clash, it’s a very difficult issue... Metafilter is not going to magically become something it’s not. Unfortunately most of the things that I find exhausting here are not simple to flag or explain and are rarely tied to offensive language, just derogatory ideology. Like above— I deeply disagree that use of misogynist language demonstrates that misogyny is more acceptable than racism, because language is really only one plane of oppression.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:36 PM on December 7 [5 favorites]


I'm responsible for the BEC post and am really sorry that so many people were shocked or offended by it. It's not a word that I use, really at all, in fact I think it's a terrible word. That's probably the reason why the meme was so attractive, because the awfulness of the word was so far out of proportion to the behaviour.

But I can see that it didn't add to the post, or the question, or the discussion. I won't be using it again.
posted by superfish at 11:56 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Yiddish is universal.

I love you back, JW. I didn't think it was Miko's to give away any more than it would be my place to tell people to just go ahead and use AAVE words and phrases, and I wanted to express that.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:17 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


Stoneandstar, discomfort with “the c word” (for me the c word is either Christmas, commitment or cancer) is not universally held. Americans are well know as less sweary than Poms and Australians. It’s not got the same response here in sunny downtown Sydney. It’s a very powerful swear, and men aren’t allowed to use it

What Taff writes here is total bollocks.

I've never once heard a woman use the c-word, only men, and only against men.

It's also nuanced & contextual. If I substitute "dog" it has similar usages:
- "You're a mad dog" (really, an affirmation)
- "You sick dog" (ditto)
- "You fucking dog, how dare you say that?" (obviously not an affirmation)
- "Hey, you dogs over there, how about you get on with your fucking work?" (different again, more casual)

It was only on MetaFilter that I discovered that USians are really super sensitive about the word. Different culture, different meanings. But best the word be avoided for those reasons.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:32 AM on December 8 [2 favorites]


I've never once heard a woman use the c-word

You're clearly not hanging out with my elder daughter or her friends.
posted by flabdablet at 12:38 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


Actually, I remember an Indigenous woman on The Block asking "What is this white c--- doing here?"

But again, it was directed at a bloke.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:25 AM on December 8


superfish: I'm responsible for the BEC post and am really sorry that so many people were shocked or offended by it. It's not a word that I use, really at all, in fact I think it's a terrible word. That's probably the reason why the meme was so attractive, because the awfulness of the word was so far out of proportion to the behaviour.

Yes! That is, for me, exactly right. The word is working so well in that meme precisely because it's completely awful and out of proportion. I will not be using the meme or the expression here again, because of that word, but I'll miss it because it's so succinct. The e-card even explains the concept.

Replacements like jerk and asshole will have to do, even if they don't really work (because that's not what the original e-card said). It's a small loss and it's worth it. Maybe in time someone will come up with a better, short and snappy way to say the same thing. Or just replace the e-card.

I do think that mentioning the BEC thing here added to the discussion. It's not a derail, it's a valid part of the conversation.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:54 AM on December 8 [4 favorites]


I didn't think it was Miko's to give away any more than it would be my place to tell people to just go ahead and use AAVE words and phrases, and I wanted to express that.

Your comment really puzzled me because I/m not sure on what basis you decided it was "not mine to give away," and because you also breezed right by my qualifier "if you're at home using..." which was meant to indicate that it's a culturally specific usage and not something appropriate to everyone. I resisted saying this earlier because I didn't want to derail into a discussion about appropriate access to Yiddishisms, but this was an example of an uninformed callout for callout's sake, and that's pernicious too. Looking for every opportunity to take 'gotcha' people who mean well and have a legitimate perspective to offer and are capable of engaging in a deeper conversation is not where I'd hope we can be.

By all means, if there's a synonym for "gripe/complain" in your own culture and you want to suggest it to other people who are insiders to that culture, please suggest it. It's likely you're not the only one here and it is interesting to make comparisons as to how the behavior "bitch" indicates is constructed cross-culturally.
posted by Miko at 5:29 AM on December 8 [8 favorites]


By all means, if there's a synonym for "gripe/complain" in your own culture and you want to suggest it to other people who are insiders to that culture, please suggest it.

"to metatalk"
posted by entropicamericana at 7:07 AM on December 8 [8 favorites]


"Whine" has generally worked fine for me everywhere I could otherwise have chosen the other. Nicely captures the connotation that the complaint is to some extent unworthy.
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


I can also recommend wider adoption of the Australian "whinge", which works well too.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 AM on December 8 [2 favorites]


Your comment really puzzled me because I/m not sure on what basis you decided it was "not mine to give away,

If there was a question in Ask about ways to express surprise about something a friend did I think it would be inappropriate for me, a white person, to suggest people say "Oh no you di'nt!" Whether other non-African American people are comfortable using it doesn't really matter, it's still appropriative. Yes, there are words that have been assimilated, but those words don't need to be pointed out.

We have lots of conversations here about appropriation, from the term "spirt animal" to white people cooking foods of other cultures. I don't think the lines are always cut and dry; this happens to be my take on this particular issue. I'm not throwing down a gauntlet, and would not start a MeTa about it, fwiw.

If you are Jewish I sincerely apologize. I did skim through some of your comments and saw Christmas references, which is how I came to that conclusion.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:58 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


Yiddish is not universal, and kvetch is an interesting question, because it doesn't just describe complaining, but describes the unique Jewish martial art of complaining, which, for much of our history, was the only weapon we had to fight back against the dominant culture, and one we wielded superbly.

Also putz is something people should be cautious with, because it means penis, and would upset my grandmother to hear it used causally, if she was still alive, but she died of shock when somebody casually said the word schmuck around her.
posted by maxsparber at 8:04 AM on December 8 [14 favorites]


There's actually an entire book based on the idea that kvetching is a uniquely Jewish undertaking, called Born to Kvetch by Michael Wexler, which also discusses Yiddish.

I wrote about the word a little too.
posted by maxsparber at 8:07 AM on December 8 [7 favorites]


Don't be a putz. Yiddish is universal.

I have no idea if you are Jewish, speak the language or have Yiddish language speakers in your heritage, but you might want to look up a Yiddish dictionary's definition of the word "putz" and its associated connotations before calling someone that. Alternatively, you might want to read this.
posted by zarq at 8:07 AM on December 8 [2 favorites]


On non-preview, what maxsparber said.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on December 8


but she died of shock when somebody casually said the word schmuck around her.

Funny story. My parents spoke six languages between them, but we were an English-only speaking home -- Yiddish and French were reserved for adult talk and bad words. When I was in fourth grade I was in the car with my mom when another car almost hit us. I called the other driver a schmuck, and then for the first and last time ever, my mom turned and slapped me across the face.

Of course I started wailing, and she told me it was an awful word and I should never use it. "Bu-bu-but... you and papa say it all the time *sob* She apologized, and now we laugh about it.

Come to think of it, I also got in trouble in elementary school when that older French-Canadian boy thew a dodgeball at my face because I said "merde" when I lost a game to him. I didn't know what the word meant, just that my mom said it all the time when she was frustrated.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:19 AM on December 8 [4 favorites]


I did skim through some of your comments and saw Christmas references, which is how I came to that conclusion.

Right, this is the kind of thing I think we have to acknowledge: our understandings of one another, and also potentially of more unfamiliar cultures, are necessarily piecemeal. We don't know one another to the extent that we have the illusion we do, and are not in a position to gauge what anthropologists sometimes term legitimate access to cultural information, and we aren't engaging here with the same in-groups we do in family, with friends, at home, at work, in our cities/countries, whatever.

This is what points back to the point stoneandstar was making, or at least what I took from that point, which is that when we want to create an inclusive table, it means settling with the fact that there are some culturally specific forms of usage that we're not going to bring to that table, because we don't have enough shared context to always be able to parse who's using what when and whether they should or shouldn't and who they are and what they know and what their in-group communications are like. Those kinds of discussions almost always end up ugly.

And of course what follows is that in-group, culturally specific, etc. communications often get quashed or ruled out because we can't make that determination. For example, saying "only Australians can say the c-word, you can't if you're not Australian" makes for an impractical rule to follow. So even though we recognize that it doesn't pack the same punch in Australia, if it is not legible in the same way to some people here, and does pack a bad punch, as a community norm we might want to say "please don't." So what ends up being our language is relatively homogenized, and homogenized according to the terms of whatever the dominant culture here can be described as, which is probably though not exclusively a lot white, middle-class, coastal/urban, and Western.

That's the two-edged sword: we're developing norms for this sandbox, and it sometimes means norms that work in your home sandboxes don't meet ears here the same way. Of course that has an exclusive edge as well as an inclusive edge. But I don't know of anything else to be done about that, since we can never know everyone here in such a way as to thoughtfully evaluate their usage, and probably wouldn't want to engage in that sort of policing even if we did.
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


Miko, your suggestion did get a privately eyebrow raised from me, since I vaguely remember from a long past conversation between us about Catholicism that you're not Jewish. I don't feel it's cultural appropriation to recommend to others that they use Yiddish words, but at the same time your comment felt a little weird. It didn't hit any sort of "i want to comment on this' threshold, mostly because a bunch of Yiddishisms have become a part of mainstream popular culture over the years and I'm not the language police. But yes, Yiddish is a uniquely Ashkenazi Jewish language. For some Jews (including my wife's parents,) it was their first language, even if they were born in America. That doesn't mean non-Jews can't use it, but it would be nice if they understood what they were saying and didn't use Yiddish words as exoticisms.
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on December 8 [5 favorites]


I remember from a long past conversation between us about Catholicism that you're not Jewish

I am not going to engage in a discussion about bona fides here. If you'd like to discuss, MeMail is open.
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on December 8


I'd argue that it matters when you're superficially recommending that non-Jews sprinkle elements of a uniquely Jewish language that represents some facets of Ashkenazi Jewish identity and associated Yiddishkeit into their interactions here.
posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


If the language I mentioned is not familiar, appropriate, legitimate and comfortable to any individual, they should not use it.
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on December 8 [2 favorites]


We don't need to know Miko's background, but it is worth asking that non-Jews be aware that Yiddish has a lot of subtle connotations that non-Yiddish speaker might miss.

Probably also worth noting that white supremacists use Yiddish all the time to mock Jews on social media now, so I tend to flinch unless I know for sure the source is a fellow Jew. I'd say 90 percent of the time I see the phrase "Oy vey" on twitter now it's being said by a raging antisemite.
posted by maxsparber at 8:48 AM on December 8 [12 favorites]


If the language I mentioned is not familiar, appropriate, legitimate and comfortable to any individual, they should not use it.

Personally, I don't think this is adequate, especially if what's being discussed is sensitive or could possibly be offensive.

Those who have not been not raised in a culture -- especially that of a minority / oppressed group -- often do not fully understand the deeper meanings and contexts underlying concepts, because being an outsider doesn't casually provide such things. Suggesting that outsiders self-assess is not something that works in every instance. That road leads to "why isn't there a white history month" type defensive arguments.

The first person to use a word from the language in this thread after your recommendation revealed a lack of deeper understanding of the word they used. He was gently corrected by people who had a deeper understanding. Now, that's not the end of the world, but it does betray a flaw in the reasoning that everyone might have the knowledge to self-assess properly.
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on December 8 [3 favorites]


Personally, I don't think this is adequate

I think MetaFilter is particularly bad at recognizing that identities are complex.

However, I see your points that the language is problematic and retract any mention of the word in question. If we can't trust individual self-assessment, we simply can't use the idioms here.
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on December 8 [1 favorite]


I will say, though, that Yiddish is a great god damned language and if people are interested in learning more about it, whatever their background, I would highly encourage them to do it. Studying Yiddish was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

And there is a fair amount of Yiddish that has made it into English and can be used safely, but it's mostly stuff that doesn't necessarily strike you as Yiddish when you hear it: bupkis, dreck, lox, tchotchke.

If you find yourself temped to do a Jewish accent when you say a word, it might be worth double-checking that you are using it appropriately. Chutzpah is so misused in English is has almost reversed its meaning, which is a pity.
posted by maxsparber at 9:00 AM on December 8 [5 favorites]


Right, this is the kind of thing I think we have to acknowledge: our understandings of one another, and also potentially of more unfamiliar cultures, are necessarily piecemeal. We don't know one another to the extent that we have the illusion we do, and are not in a position to gauge what anthropologists sometimes term legitimate access to cultural information, and we aren't engaging here with the same in-groups we do in family, with friends, at home, at work, in our cities/countries, whatever.

You can apologize without having to faff about re: whether anyone can ever actually know anyone, maaaan
posted by beerperson at 9:52 AM on December 8 [6 favorites]


The first person to use a word from the language in this thread after your recommendation revealed a lack of deeper understanding of the word they used.

That would be me. Although I'm not Jewish, I've had Jewish friends since high school and my lovely wife of forty-one years is Jewish, as are most of our friends. I do know what "putz" means, so it's an interesting choice in a thread about gendered insults, eh? If anyone was offended, please forgive this alter kocker.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:16 AM on December 8 [4 favorites]


I am curious if you know any Yiddish that wouldn't make my grandmother get up and walk out of the room.
posted by maxsparber at 10:19 AM on December 8 [3 favorites]


Tchotchke, mishegas, maven, meshuggah—I know what not to say around bubbies and zaydies.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:34 AM on December 8 [5 favorites]


The reality is that most people online do not “know each other, maaaan” and making idiotic assumptions about other groups and what they are and aren’t allowed to say almost always ends up asymmetrical and arbitrary.

We’re in a thread where claims that misogyny is the Last Great Hate were basically completely glossed over so we could all complain that someone suggested that if “kvetch” is used in your circles, you should use it. I get it, you don’t want out-groupers to use it. But maybe spend five seconds thinking about how much more alienating and exhausting the claim that “misogyny is worse than racism” is despite not featuring a single naughty word.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:14 PM on December 8 [4 favorites]


I also think cultural appropriation is very real, but I’m waiting for 99% of white MeFites to apologize for ever using the words “yo,” “shade,” “side-eye,” “swag”....... hm, shocking, it’s not going to happen. The entire white internet would implode if people stopped appropriating language.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:16 PM on December 8 [2 favorites]


If you'd like to recenter the discussion of misogynist language, please do so, but instead it sounds like you're just flat-out dismissing a discussion of how people use other language, and nuances they might miss, and that doesn't seem useful so much as shitty.
posted by maxsparber at 12:30 PM on December 8 [7 favorites]


It's a frequent and justifiable complaint that posts intended to center on women and their experiences get derailed into discussions about other groups of people; I wouldn't be so quick to assume bad faith.
posted by lalex at 12:47 PM on December 8 [8 favorites]


The brief discussion of Yiddish was in direct response to a suggestion that it be used as a replacement for a gendered word. It was no stranger to discuss that than to discuss the use of African American Vernacular English in this context, and there had been no new comments on the subject for two hours.

Sorry, but if we're going to discuss Yiddish as a useful substitute for problematic English, it is strange to me to feel that Jews can't point out that there are nuances to its use that non-Jews might not be aware of.
posted by maxsparber at 12:53 PM on December 8 [5 favorites]


I also think cultural appropriation is very real, but I’m waiting for 99% of white MeFites to apologize for ever using the words “yo,” “shade,” “side-eye,” “swag”....... hm, shocking, it’s not going to happen. The entire white internet would implode if people stopped appropriating language.

I know the lines are fuzzy and people disagree on exact definitions, but Jewish does not automatically equal white. We were not discussing a white thing, we were discussing a Jewish thing.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:21 PM on December 8 [1 favorite]


It's a frequent and justifiable complaint that posts intended to center on women and their experiences get derailed into discussions about other groups of people; I wouldn't be so quick to assume bad faith.

Okay, but lalex, part of that conversation was the gentle request that a guy be a little more aware of a gendered, Yiddish insult they had called a woman in this thread. One that its very likely they didn't understand the full depth of how insulting it might be taken when they said it.

I'm 100% sure that it wasn't intended by Johnny Wallflower as anything other than gentle, reasonable ribbing and perhaps as a result, every response to that comment seemed to not get personal or overly shouty/offended. But because of the circumstances, that didn't feel like a derail.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on December 8 [1 favorite]


I also think cultural appropriation is very real, but I’m waiting for 99% of white MeFites to apologize for ever using the words “yo,” “shade,” “side-eye,” “swag”....... hm, shocking, it’s not going to happen. The entire white internet would implode if people stopped appropriating language.

Where is 'side eye' being appropriated from?
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on December 8 [4 favorites]


For the record, Johnny Wallflower and I (and lots of doggo videos) have a very friendly off-site relationship so I didn't even think of the gendered aspect and took it at face value as a joke. That probably says more about my own feminist awareness than anything.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:42 PM on December 8 [2 favorites]


[I feel like we might be best off at this point both acknowledging that it's a real possibility to land in problematic territory by casually assuming/expropriating/etc Yiddishisms and Jewish cultural signifiers in a contextless way for reasons folks have noted, and also to just sort of collectively step back at this point and not chase that down further right now in this thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:47 PM on December 8 [7 favorites]


Okay.

But I'm genuinely curious about 'side eye'!
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on December 8


You can apologize without having to faff about re: whether anyone can ever actually know anyone, maaaan

No, it's really true. For a long time, unless there's a demonstrated need to speak from authority as in an AskMe question or something, I actively resist going down the list of bona fides. A just world is not one in which each of us has to explain the entire context and milieu in which we grew up and live today, who we know, what we do, what we studied, and how we're embedded. It takes the whole conversation in a direction which is essentializing and policing, a direction I don't personally care to go.

I am often taken aback by the assumptions people are willing to make about others whom they've never met, which are so often incomplete or outright erroneous; and of course, I'm just as often brought up by confronting the ones I make about others that are rapidly busted as soon as I learn a little more. I say some things here about my life, but by no means do I explicate all of my activities, affiliations, belongings and identities, and have no desire to - especially in an antagonstic context. In meatspace life, it's one of my favorite topics, and at work it is too. But it's far too easy to misunderstood or misread, accidentally or wilfully, here. And it's a fair reminder that what you think you know about someone - the constructed MeFite identity that they've chosen to make public to you - isn't everything about that person; and even if you had their exact demographics, you might still not know what cultures and identities and accesses they've had in life that might influence their language and behavior and identities. If nothing else, just a reminder, despite the illusion of disclosure here, there's a lot about one another we just don't have access to. And there's no reason to expect we should.

This is why I'd rather talk about what our norms here are than what everyone's norms everywhere should be.
posted by Miko at 3:08 PM on December 8 [9 favorites]


My problem with appropriated slang is that I will very often not recognise it as such. I just know that something is a thing that English-speaking people say when they're talking casually.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:14 PM on December 8 [3 favorites]


If you don't want to state your buy in don't use slang generally considered to be in group. That seems easy enough.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 3:44 PM on December 8 [2 favorites]


Personally I'm on team "say whatever the hell you want until somebody lets you know you've been a dick without meaning to, then apologize and stop". I can't see the sense in minutely analyzing every tiny nuance of every possibly-appropriated word ahead of time; that's not a rabbit hole, it's an endless warren. Seems to me that the way to avoid unintentional offence in any given room is just stay in the room, listen more than I talk, and let intuition do the rest.
posted by flabdablet at 4:00 PM on December 8 [6 favorites]


I had never heard or read the "eating crackers" phrase until I read this thread tonight. But I've been finding myself saying the word in question less and less over the past few years, until it's only under extreme frustration and rarely in company.

And I've been actively weeding out "hysteria" and "hysterical." I've had men try to tell me that there's no gender connotation there, despite the fact that it wasn't long ago that women were routinely given hysterectomies to treat their hysteria.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:11 PM on December 8 [9 favorites]


hoyland: "FWIW, I think people should avoid 'dick' as an insult, too. I don't feel strongly about it, but you try coming up with a good reason for using parts of people's bodies as an insult. If you think you have, we probably don't need to hear about it in this thread."

As a trans woman I would like to strongly agree with the preference not to use "dick" as an insult. Just this morning I was in tears over the feelings of shame and disgust I have about my penis. Seeing ostensible progressives using my genitalia as an insult is gross. I feel shit enough about my body as it is. Seeing Mefites defending that usage in this thread is demoralising.
posted by saltbush and olive at 6:07 PM on December 8 [17 favorites]


> As a trans woman I would like to strongly agree with the preference not to use "dick" as an insult. Just this morning I was in tears over the feelings of shame and disgust I have about my penis.

Now, that's a good reason to avoid it.
posted by nangar at 6:24 PM on December 8 [6 favorites]


>I view all conjugations of the word as offensive and don’t like hearing anyone using it.

Me too, but YMMV. I'd rather not try to set rules for expression. Just let's everyone try to have a modicum of class, hey?
posted by KazamaSmokers at 7:17 PM on December 8


Nobody is trying to set rules. You've been a MeFite long enough that you should understand that MeTa discussions are generally about discussing community norms, not setting rules.

And "let's be classy" is a weird thing to invoke in a discussion about how to avoid making members of the MeFi community feel unwelcome.
posted by Lexica at 8:42 PM on December 8 [6 favorites]


I would like to strongly agree with the preference not to use "dick" as an insult

Sorry. I'll stop.
posted by flabdablet at 8:46 PM on December 8 [1 favorite]


I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today!: If you don't want to state your buy in don't use slang generally considered to be in group. That seems easy enough.

I'm not sure what it means to 'state your buy in' and it's hard to search for. I assume that it means something like 'declare yourself a member of a certain group'? Is that right?
But no, it's not at all easy for me to know what counts as 'slang generally considered to be in group' and what doesn't. Keep in mind that I don't often hear spoken English.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:25 AM on December 9 [4 favorites]


> As a trans woman I would like to strongly agree with the preference not to use "dick" as an insult. Just this morning I was in tears over the feelings of shame and disgust I have about my penis.

Now, that's a good reason to avoid it.


But we need an entire thread about not using "bitch". No misogyny here though!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:56 AM on December 9 [3 favorites]


I don't see anyone in that exchange denying there's misogyny.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:00 PM on December 9 [1 favorite]


trans women encountering genital terms used as insults are encountering transmisogyny which is misogyny.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:03 PM on December 9 [5 favorites]


I will excise "dick" from my vocabulary. I've excised and changed a LOT of my vocabulary after learning something from conversations on MetaFilter; I say that not to pat myself on the back but to let folks know that the comments you make here have real-life impact and meaning.
posted by lalex at 12:13 PM on December 9 [7 favorites]


I don't have a lot to add about the main conversation that hasn't already been stated, but I'm popping my head in to join a couple of the other commenters in pushing back against this "MetaFilter is more misogynist than racist" thing. Please, let's not conflate "fewer people around to pick up on and object to an issue" with "less of a problem." Particularly when the people who have to contend with misogyny and the people who have to contend with racism are not two separate, non-overlapping groups.
posted by bettafish at 1:28 PM on December 9 [11 favorites]


A quick Google for 'side-eye aave' will provide answers.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:36 PM on December 9 [2 favorites]


Huh. I recently started using side-eye, but because I just thought it was the updated version of stink eye, which is a phrase I grew up with. But if side-eye is AAVE then I have no reason to use it.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:32 PM on December 9 [2 favorites]


So how about we just stop using gendered insults ? I get that the B-word may not be a problem 100% of the time , but who is going to be hurt if we just drop all gendered insults ? On the up side, we may even prevent one person from crying. No significant loss, and the potential to prevent harm to at least one person. I don't see what we as a community have to lose here.

I understand that there might be words that are harder to express without using gendered terms, like mansplaining. I also think that if your slang word requires a gender to it, it might be worth taking a closer look at what you are saying. It might be fine for today, but at some point in the past the B-word was fine to the general community as well. Why not just be the better people we wish our predecessors had been ?

I propose we replace the gendered words with names from the periodic table of elements. It is surprisingly easy to replace them with something that fits , and it doesn't have conflicting connotations.

I also might just really want to get a google hit on "Trump is such a dubnium". That son of a bromine will be quite confused when he googles himself.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 6:40 AM on December 10


Being a bad person is not a gendered thing. But mansplaining is.
I'm pretty much down with [aiming for] not using gendered insults to comment on behaviour that's not gendered, but I think mansplaining is in a different category.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:13 AM on December 10 [6 favorites]


It's a gendered insult: how many layers of unacceptability does "he's my bitch" cross?

Maybe I drift. But we are moving toward homogenizing our language by searching out neutral pronouns to replace such terms as "he, she, him, her." Anyhow, what's to be gained by replacing a gender specific insult with a gender neutral insult?

No, Henrietta, I didn't mean to say that you are a female canine, I was just trying to say that you are being unacceptably difficult; you know, you're acting like an a dickhead.
posted by mule98J at 10:56 AM on December 10


What's wrong with saying that someone is being unacceptably difficult instead of calling them a word that's long been used to belittle and insult women in particular?

The whataboutism in here is unreal.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:09 AM on December 10 [20 favorites]


mule98J: Anyhow, what's to be gained by replacing a gender specific insult with a gender neutral insult?

Clarity on what you are talking about: someone's behaviour, not their gender. And you'll be avoiding hurting other people who happen to be nearby.

This has been explained multiple times in the thread; do try to keep up.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:15 PM on December 10 [12 favorites]


It's a gendered insult: how many layers of unacceptability does "he's my bitch" cross?

I mean, this shouldn't need explaining but the phrase there is still using bitch a gendered way. It implies that the man in question is subservient to you (like a woman, you know) and with the added dimension of it supposedly being an insult to be compared to a woman (in metaphor in this case).

"Bitch" doesn't lose its gendered component or nature by being applied to men.
posted by Dysk at 3:57 PM on December 10 [12 favorites]


I agree with Dysk. "He's my bitch" is in many ways worse. It's like guys who expect me to think it's funny when they call another guy a woman, because there is in fact nothing worse than being me.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:42 PM on December 10 [8 favorites]


I don't know if this is widespread, but "he's my bitch" also has a prison rape connotation to me.
posted by lalex at 5:14 PM on December 10 [3 favorites]


I hear the consensus on this, but I'm still struggling with the "baddest bitch" usage. It's not intended as an insult, but still carries a lot of baggage (gendered, appropriative, etc.) - and like "bitch eating crackers", the whole reference started well outside of this particular space. Just...best to censor? Avoid? What would make others feel comfortable?
posted by mosst at 5:37 PM on December 10


What would we be keeping it alive here for?
posted by Miko at 5:53 PM on December 10 [6 favorites]


we are moving toward homogenizing our language

Chicken chicken chicken. Chicken chicken, chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken.

Chicken chicken, chicken.
posted by flabdablet at 5:29 PM on December 11 [1 favorite]


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:52 PM on December 11 [3 favorites]


Woman: Hello, I am a human being. Please respect me.
Man: "hELo imMa humAn bEAN plZ reSpEct mEEEEE" [spongebob.gif]
posted by elsietheeel at 5:56 PM on December 11 [3 favorites]


So, one perspective. Like many gay women, I often call myself queer. This makes many other LGBT individuals uncomfortable because they experience those words as deeply painful slurs. That's valid. From my side, I try to be sensitive to their experience, and I never assume that someone else is okay being identified that way. But from their side, they have to accept that I am allowed to find power in reclaiming a slur used against me, and I alone get to decide how I identify.

I feel similar about the word "bitch." I support greater awareness, requesting men stop using it, and generally asking folks to ease off the casual use. One should never assume that someone else is cool with being called that. I think this is a great discussion for bringing this to everyone's attention.

However, ultimately, I think any woman or marginalized person gets to decide for themselves if they find a slur empowering or reclaimable. If someone finds it empowering to enjoy the "bitches get shit done" sketch, or call herself a bad bitch, I think she has earned that right by virtue of being a woman alive in this world. While she should be sensitive to the feelings of others, they should recognize that her feelings are valid. We lose more than we gain by telling her that she is not communicating intentionally. I feel like our community is robust and mature enough to handle those nuances, especially given the different class/racial dynamics discussed in this thread.

Actually the most disheartening thing I've seen so far is the way some women in this thread are misgendering other women or making women defend their gender... That's something I'd like us to be more sensitive about. :\
posted by Emily's Fist at 11:20 PM on December 11 [5 favorites]


Applying it to yourself should (near) always be allowable, agreed. Applying it to your mates or anyone else around you, even with the same intentions, I don't think it's fine (as per my discussion of "tranny" above).
posted by Dysk at 3:14 AM on December 12 [2 favorites]


« Older Metafilter's Duplicate Finder and New Policies   |   SoCal Fire Check-In (December 2017) Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments