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It's Time to Find a Better "B" Word - Outside The Box

It’s Time to Find a Better “B” Word

It’s Time to Find a Better “B” Word

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…


This article has 7 comments

  1. Love this perspective – thanks for sharing it. I am about to head back to work from my maternity leave and have some women on my team that are viewed in this manner as well. A change of perspective is a good thing! I'd say let's move up the alphabet a bit and choose Competent, Capable, Creative? Driven, Decisive, Dynamic? And the list goes on..

    • Those are all great options. I think it's sad that successful women are labelled this way and even sadder that it's actually the women who perpetuate it.

  2. I would rather work with a group of men with a female boss, because I have found a group of women tend to be very catty and will easily call a female boss a bitch than a man a bastard.

    • I've seen this too unfortunately.  Luckily not all women are like that but it does happen and it can make the workplace an uncomfortable place to be.

  3. It is amazing that we do this to each other. I see it all the time in my office and it saddens me. Why can't we be proud of each other and encourage other women. It's almost like women don't like to be told how to do their job by other women. I hope that 2014 is the start of supporting other female co-workers and encouraging each other to push harder and further

  4. Great post Shayna. I have been called that many times when someone that reported to me didn't like the fact I expected them to do their job. Granted with age and experience I have learned to deliver my message (at least more often) with more diplomacy, but the bottom line is I work hard and expect others to do the same. It does nothing to further our equality playing into stereotypes. I give others permission to do the same. Just like use the N word (in my opinion) does nothing to further equality. It almost belittles the struggle which is still ongoing. Re: the C word – The Vagina Monologues is the exception for this rule for me 🙂  

  5. I would have liked working for Jane too. There are so many powerful words that I would like to be called and "bitch" is not one of them. Thanks for the reminder that there is so much more to the letter B. Besos, Sarah
    My recent post The Mexican Bazar is Back in Business!

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