Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Why does bitch have such a negative connotation?

Asked by ETpro (34550points) June 3rd, 2012

Bitch simply means female dog. I’ve had the honor of owning two female dogs in my life (I’m mostly a cat person). Both were wonderful, loving companions. How did the word come to be treated as a verb for complaining and criticizing constantly; and a noun for a bitter, nasty-tempered woman? Sure, if you treat a dog badly enough, they might develop a mean streak. But that goes equally for dogs of either gender, doesn’t it? So isn’t it a bitch that bitches got stuck with such a negative connotation when it’s really human behavior, not canine, that’s being pilloried?

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22 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

It might have to do with the hypocrisy of self-righteous men, who condemn prostitutes while feeling the urge to use their services.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Bitch (n.) O.E. bicce “female dog,” probably from O.N. bikkjuna “female of the dog” (also fox, wolf, and occasionally other beasts), of unknown origin. Grimm derives the O.N. word from Lapp pittja, but OED notes that “the converse is equally possible.” As a term of contempt applied to women, it dates from c.1400; of a man, c.1500, playfully, in the sense of “dog.” Used among male homosexuals from 1930s. In modern (1990s, originally black English) slang, its use with reference to a man is sexually contemptuous, from the “woman” insult. Source

Blackberry's avatar

The same reason fag does? People gave it a negative connotation.

cazzie's avatar

I take great offense that an insult is to call someone a cunt, but when you want someone to be better at something you tell them to get some balls. Balls are the weak sensitive bits that make a man fall over in agony with a small kick to them. Cunts can take a real beating and even give birth. I think people have that opposite.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It doesn’t for me. I own my bitchitude.

bookish1's avatar

@cazzie: I completely agree and have thought that for a while.

@ETpro: I think the word has such a negative connotation because whether it’s directed against a man or a woman, it manifests misogyny at its base. It’s strongly gendered and implies either too much or not enough masculinity. “Bitch” often means a woman who is aggressive, mean, direct, controlling etc., all “unwomanly” traits; only men are supposed/expected to act this way. “Bitch” can also be used against a man to imply he is weak, passive, unassertive, without initiative, without balls, of course; it’s interchangeable with “pussy” in this sense.

mazingerz88's avatar

It just caught on in our human collective consciousness like a virus. If tomorrow everybody replaces “bitch” with “You’re a son of a female dog!”, we could probably defeat the virus. Lol.

ucme's avatar

It’s the same with toolbox or spannerhead or any number of assorted “put downs” they’re just words, which if they fit…..

woodcutter's avatar

It has evolved to mean a misogynistic put down like in rap /gangsta Or to describe an overly aggressive female. whether they be taken as insults or not is irreverent to the fact that there are some women who freely admit they are bitches and run with it.

bring it

Berserker's avatar

Apparently, the negative connotation attributed to the word has been around much longer than one might expect, and didn’t originate with the English language.

Here’s a small article you might find interesting. I think what the article is trying to say is that while the word bitch became derogatory to women in Europe, due to certain beliefs and physcial depictions thereof, it can probably be traced back to much older cultures.

In a lot of places, a woman being independent, even if through something like prostitution, or if she was rebellious and otherwise didn’t apply to her role, was relegated to the status of something else that said society didn’t have a much high esteem of. Like for some people, stray dogs, as the article suggests. There’s also that some cultures had deities taking the shape of wolves or dogs, and bestowing upon women some unfavorable profession.
Obviously there must be a high turning point somewhere that made this meaning stick, but with so many cultures having treated women like shit, it might be a little hard to determine when. Although today it’s purely derogatory and usually something that has to do with some sexual element, in older times/places, a ’‘bitch’’ was either evil, an agent of some antagonistic deity, and was labeled on women who didn’t fit their role properly. Or so I’m guessing, from what I read in that article.

Words can be a bitch though. lol I’ve time and time again tried to find the origin of the word fuck, and I’ve seen so many variations, the equivalents thereof of so many languages, from so many different places…but it more or less means the same thing. Which is really sad for the word bitch, to see how universal it frighteningly seems to be in applying it to women in a negative way. :/ But to actually answer this, I guess, as we know it in the most common way today, it’s some Medieval Europe thing? Chivalry my ass.

JLeslie's avatar

Because of how the word is used.

Also, it isn’t very nice to call a person a dog. A man is a dog if he is screwing around with women outside of his SO. A woman is a bitch if she is a pain to deal with. Someone is sleeping like a dog when they are sleeping heavily and unaware With no care of what is around them.

woodcutter's avatar

F.U.C.K. For Unlawful Carnal Knowlege

rooeytoo's avatar

For a human to be called a dog is a compliment. Most dogs are much more honorable, loyal, trustworthy, etc. than the average human. I have never understood either why it would be an insult. And as @WillWorkForChocolate said, I rather like the connotation that comes with being called a bitch. I would rather be called bitch than guy.

Just as an aside there was a joke that the opposite of a misogynist is a frigid bitch. Let’s face it, some men just are terrified of women and do everything they can to put them down.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne I’d like to think it has a whole lot to do with that.

@Pied_Pfeffer Fascinating link. However it arose, it’s back in the fog of the distant past.

@Blackberry That’s certainly true. As I noted, female dogs, unless terribly mistreated, are as loving and loyal a friend as anyone could ever hope to have.

@cazzie How true. And my personal opinion is that while the pudenda and scrotum are rough analogs, the pudenda is far more attractive as well as being well ruggedized.

@mazingerz88 That would be an interesting experiment to carry out.

@ucme Yes, you’re obviously right. But that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it. :-)

@woodcutter As they say, “The best defense is a strong offense.”

@Symbeline Totally fascinating link. Thank you so much.

@JLeslie “You dirty dog.” can actually be a compliment to a man who has cleverly gotten away with cheating the system. I think the term reeks of misogyny.

@woodcutter It would be neat it that were true, but it appears to be an urban legend

@rooeytoo It’s still a pretty juvenile world.

dontmindme's avatar

There was a time when gay simply meant happy. There was a recent name change for a street in a town near us. Gay Street is now called Timber Lane.

words can be fickle…. sigh

ETpro's avatar

@dontmindme Too bad they couldn’t have made it Cherry Way. Ties in so well with the abstinence pledge.

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro Oh come now. You don’t think there are women who are just plain mean? For no other reason other than “because they can be?” Well they’re out there and truly have earned the name of bitch and it’s got nothing to do with tolerating men. They may not be as prevalent as men(assholes) but they do exist. My question to the ladies who are this way( they know if they are) do they dislike being called bitch more than asshole? The two pretty much convey the same sentiment whereby the word “asshole” is usually used to call out the men. Maybe asshole is a more generic term as well as more, shudders ,politically correct and does a better job of putting the gals on the same level as the men of the same ilk….makes it more fair?

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter Of course there are a-holes with male and female plumbing up front. My concern is the use of the put down where it’s not warranted—and the fact that it slanders a perfectly wonderful beast—the dog.

Ha! Great link. That just highlights my challenge to the word association, though. What loving dog deserves to be called Leona Helmsley?

woodcutter's avatar

No we don’t want to offend such creatures of amazing character with the likes of her. But didn’t she leave a crapload of money to her dog? Can’t fault her for that as it was probably the only act of compassion in her life.

dontmindme's avatar

oh, the poor cougar. worse than a bitch, imo. haha.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter You got a point there. Chances are the humans around here were all conniving to get her into the grave and spend her money, while her dog remained loyal and true to the end.

@dontmindme The cougar. More misogyny from elderly men chasing teeny boppers who think it’s horrible if a woman of a certain age takes a younger lover.

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