Many years ago, near the start of my career, I went to work for a relatively young woman who had achieved success early in her career. A 30 something female CFO working in the government, she was a bit of an anomaly at the time. Shortly after I took the position I began to receive “warnings” from people that had worked with this CFO (lets call her Jane) before. And when I say people I should be specific that it was women. They warned me how difficult Jane was to work with and for. She was hard, power hungry and the “B” word was thrown around a bit.
I worked with Jane for just shy of one year. And I enjoyed every minute of it. Jane was an outstanding boss and mentor. She worked hard and expected the same from her staff. She taught me that hard work pays off. That going above and beyond is how you get ahead. Was she tough? Yes maybe but she also was friendly, understanding and always recognized the accomplishments of her staff. Was she a b&*$%? Absolutely not. She was honest, open and truly cared about her job, her staff and the good of the organization. I’d work for her again in a heartbeat.
These days the B word is thrown around all the time. It seems to be in fashion. And, depending on the context, it can be an insult or a compliment. I see women use it as a means of implying power and/or confidence. Somehow being a B is a positive thing and you should wear it like a badge of honour. As a mother of a young girl it’s not a word you will hear me using with pride. The word will always have negative connotations. It doesn’t matter how fashionable or cool we make it out to be. I don’t want my daughter to equate success and confidence with a label like that. I want her to grow up with the understanding that being a girl, and a woman, who is strong and accomplished is just how it should be.
You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch
– Ernest Hemingway
Too often I see and hear women use the B word as an excuse to be rude and demanding. As if slapping that label on yourself gives you a licence to walk on other people. If a man acts that way he’s called an ass. Yet, how often do you see men puffing their chests proclaiming ass status like it’s an accomplishment? Women talk about wanting equality, and rightly so. Yet, they freely and proudly throw around this word that clearly is a gender specific stereotype. Does that make sense?
One thing I can tell you for sure. I have worked with and known some very successful women. And not once I have I heard them use the B word to describe themselves or any other women in a context that implies competence and success. It is not a powerful word. It is not something to aspire to. I never, ever want to hear my daughter say the B word with pride. The thought of it makes me cringe. Think of the word when we use it in reference to men. Does it evoke positive images?
If we continue to embrace labels like this then what’s next? The “C” word? Do we want to “own” that one too? Like somehow taking ownership of a negative and demeaning word makes it acceptable and gives us power? We, women, are so much better than that! I say embrace your power, embrace your knowledge, embrace your strength. And forget about embracing your “inner bitch”. It’s time to find a better B word…