Friday, July 7, 2017

Reclaiming the B-word (Originally posted as two comments [1] [2] in a Daily Kos diary)

My (now deceased) first wife Megan, laid off after years as an accountant with no need to make outside calls, got another job as a bill collector, luckily for a B2B (business-to-business) company, which meant she was dunning other companies’ Accounts Payable departments, not trying to separate families from their grocery money (that job she couldn’t have taken).

Not that it mattered much: she still came in for verbal abuse from too many of those she called, including the B-word, and needed all the emotional support I could give. But on her own she adopted a creative solution — reclaim the B-word!

Her office cubicle’s divider sprouted brightly colored pinback buttons proudly declaring: B*tch, Boss B*tch, Queen B*tch, Klingon B*tch (and way out of your league),…. If someone cruelly told that sweet gentle lady, only collecting B2B debts, “You’re a real b*tch, y’know?”, she could calmly and confidently answer, “Oh, you have no idea!” — and it would give them pause. For all the world, it was as though she had grinned baring a mouth full of canine fangs over the phone at them.

three-headed HecateAs she was also a Wiccan (though I’m not), I reminded her of the good historical basis for witches, specifically, to reclaim the word proudly — and one reason why it was originally used as an insult.

The Greek goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, venerated by the fearsome Thessalian witches who could draw down the Moon*, and often depicted in a trinity of Queens of the Underworld with Persephone and Demeter, was associated with dogs, especially female dogs, and dogs were even sacrificed to her; sometimes she was depicted with a dog’s head (or three); thus she was the original B*tch-Goddess. To be called a b*tch or son-of-a-b*tch thus was not only to be called an animal, but by that famed association to have imputed an accusation of witchcraft.

So I have starred the word here only for those still delicate of sentiment. For myself I do not consider the word an insult (since Megan reclaimed it), and never used it as such. I suggest that others de-sting it likewise, laugh in the faces of those who so use it, and perhaps lightly bare their fangs (looking intently at the users’ throats) when they too reply: “Oh, you have no idea!”

Oh, my current wife Diana reminds me of one button (out of many) I didn’t list: 

Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Charming, Heroic  **

I think the last word on the actual button was something like “Hot”, and that was good enough when she got it, but now for me, thinking of Megan, the one and only right word must always be “Heroic”….

One night while I was at my third-shift job, a burglar broke into the house. Megan woke up and came into the hallway to see him by her daughter’s doorway. She grabbed up a purely decorative battleaxe (no edge, worthless metal), and ran at him shouting “BLOOD FOR ODIN! Hack! Maim! Kill!” — chasing him out of the house. (I didn’t mention, this normally peaceable woman normally had a bit of difficulty walking.) By the time I got home, she was back in bed, trembling, not in fear of the burglary, but due to realization of her own capacity for violence. I hugged and comforted and praised her, my own, my Klingon B*tch, for fiercely protecting her cub.

BTW, today would have been Megan’s 77th birthday had she lived. In memoriam.
"She was a singer, an artist, a poet and a wit. Her life was a musical, bursting into song at the slightest provocation and her wit was infectious. Amongst her extended circles of friends, she was always requested to sing her torch song rendition of 'Rubber Ducky' from Sesame Street."

Drawing down the Moon - ancient Greek depiction
* Oh, those “fearsome Thessalian witches”? Astronomers. “Drawing down the Moon”? Nowadays it’s a Wiccan ritual to invoke the Goddess; then it was predicting lunar eclipses — when the Moon disappeared as foretold, it had been “drawn down”. As with Hypatia of Alexandria, science in the hands of women got labeled “witchcraft”.


** Our friend Linda, an RN and Nurse Manager at the hospital vent[ilator] unit she helped establish, adapted Megan’s reclaiming strategy and that reverse-acronym, with management’s blessing, to handle verbal abuse from a cranky patient. He couldn’t speak with a tube in his throat, but he could call his nurses the B-word in writing. Linda got official policy approval for nurses to come right back, unfazed, with a cheery smile, saying: “You know that means Beautiful, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Caring, and Helpful, right? So thank you!” (The words were changed to reflect the virtues of nurses.) Robbed of its power to hurt or insult, the word dropped out of that patient’s vocabulary... at least while he remained in the unit.