Hat tip to Jo Freeman, aka Joreen, who in the 70s wrote The Bitch Manifesto. I love this manifesto, and reprinted it in the 90s as a xerox booklet which I sent out over the riot grrl zine network. Later I read Jo Freeman’s more academic writing and found her to be an academic writer I could admire wholeheartedly; she’s right up there with Joanna Russ and Dale Spender. Her books on politics and the history of feminism are incredibly great. I recommend her newest book, We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States if you are feeling politically inspired by the elections and want to keep your momentum going. On her website, you can read the full text of many of Jo Freeman’s articles on women, feminism, law, and politics. I talk about this sort of thing a lot: The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior; it is so nice to read it written up formally and coherently. Take a look!
I greatly respect that Freeman acknowledges her pseudonymous younger self, and her fierce & harsh manifesto, and doesn’t keep that side of her life in the closet.
The Bitch Manifesto still inspires me. Here’s part of its beginning:
Bitches have some or all of the following characteristics.
1) Personality. Bitches are aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent. Among other things. A Bitch occupies a lot of psychological space. You always know she is around. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her.
2) Physical. Bitches are big, tall, strong, large, loud, brash, harsh, awkward, clumsy, sprawling, strident, ugly. Bitches move their bodies freely rather than restrain, refine and confine their motions in the proper feminine manner. They clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty.
3) Orientation. Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects. They may have a relationship with a person or organization, but they never marry anyone or anything; man, mansion, or movement. Thus Bitches prefer to plan their own lives rather than live from day to day, action to action, or person to person. They are independent cusses and believe they are capable of doing anything they damn well want to. If something gets in their way; well, that’s why they become Bitches. If they are professionally inclined, they will seek careers and have no fear of competing with anyone. If not professionally inclined, they still seek self-expression and self-actualization. Whatever they do, they want an active role and are frequently perceived as domineering. Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man.
It’s nice to read this, to remember & honor my own bitchy moments for what they often are: strength. I think it’s good for all of us to honor our bitchiest sisters. Go ahead and think of the most annoying bitch you know. Measure her up to Freeman’s manifesto and consider what in her is admirable and powerful. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when you might be tempted to tear someone down. There’s nothing wrong with being a nice person; I strive for it myself — and still, for me, Bitchy is Beautiful and Bitchy is Powerful.