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Opinion: Hubbub over use of B-word seems somewhat absurd

Editor’s note: This article contains expletives.

“Bitches, get your fierce on.” 

It was a phrase I read on a half-page ad featured in the latest issue of Outlook magazine, a Columbus publication with a heavy lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender focus. The advertisement was put out by the Short North Alliance in order to draw attention for the annual HighBall Halloween festival, a Short North tradition. 

While seeing the word “bitches” splattered across a glossy magazine page certainly grabbed my attention, I didn’t find it alarming or offensive. In fact, the advertisement was indisputably referring to me (the reader) as a bitch, and I was perfectly OK with it. I didn’t rush to tweet about the indignity, I didn’t write a letter to the editor and I didn’t whip out my iPhone to call my mom.

Instead, I laughed. “Huh,” I thought. “That’s funny. Maybe I will go to the festival. Maybe I will go ‘get my fierce on.’” 

Admittedly, I didn’t sit down with a magnifying glass and double-shot of espresso to analyze the political correctness of the promotion. I read the advertisement, chuckled, considered going to the event and moved on. I thought that was what you were supposed to do with advertisements. Apparently, I was wrong, because people who have way more time than I do decided to pick a few bones with this deliciously sassy statement.

Elizabeth Lessner, a prominent Columbus restaurateur, has already taken to shaming the ad, claiming that it “appropriates outdated gay male stereotypes and offends all women.” 

Umm, what? As a perfectly un-offended gay man, I feel the need to frankly toss out a “Bitch, please.”

I understand that the word “bitch” has been used as a derogatory term for women. I understand that, at one time, calling someone a “bitch” was a way to demean or belittle their character. But it is 2014. And in 2014, we call our friends “bitches.” We call random strangers “bitches.” Some of us even call our moms “bitches.” Heck, Britney Spears sang a song about the word, telling anybody with big dreams for the future that they “better work, bitch.”

My point is, “bitch” has evolved into something that is only scarcely reminiscent of a pejorative. It’s as often used as a term of endearment or solidarity as it is as an insult. So when I hear “Bitches, get your fierce on,” I smile. The ad isn’t calling me a bitch as an insult. The ad is calling me a bitch because I am some sort of fellow fierce diva — because I am a friend.

Lessner doesn’t see it that way. Lessner doesn’t see it that way at all. In order to further explain her disapproval for the statement, the restaurateur took to her blog with a post titled: “Columbus’ Most Celebrated Gayborhood Takes an Unfortunate Turn.”

First of all, I find the word “gayborhood” in this context equally — if not more — offensive than the word “bitches.” But for the sake of keeping my hands clean, I’ll gloss over that particular injustice and focus on another, more interesting term used by Lessner: “unfortunate turn.”

What does that even mean, “an unfortunate turn?” This isn’t a localized Ebola outbreak. This isn’t some sort of mass crime spree or a Westboro Baptist Church picketing event. It’s a silly ad. It’s a silly ad that was published in a magazine known for its crass humor, and it was never meant to be taken seriously.

What I find truly unfortunate is that Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, felt the need to apologize for the advertisement.

“This publication has pushed the envelope before,” she told The Columbus Dispatch, “and we wanted to push the envelope with the ad … With all the chatter out there, we’ve learned that we’ve probably pushed the envelope too far. I can see how, if taken out of context (of the magazine), it could be seen as offensive.”

We live in a society that trains its people to avoid stepping on any toes. We are told that we must be 100 percent politically correct, 100 percent of the time. We are told that offending a group of people, any group of people, is a cardinal sin that must never go unpunished.

And I just think that’s silly. We live in a world where Taylor Swift isn’t allowed to dance alongside a line of partially black fly girls without being labelled as a racist and Beyoncé is criticized because she isn’t “feminist enough.” 

I have to wonder if this hyper-correct way of thinking is really having the positive effect that its proponents expect. People are always going to make offensive comments, and people are always going to take offense. So is it the responsibility of the offender to bite his tongue and refrain from speaking his mind? Or is it the responsibility of the offended person to develop a thicker skin, brush off the comments with a smile, and move on? 

Personally, I’m going to support the latter. Rather than teaching one another why we should be offended, I think we could better spend our time teaching one another how not to be offended. 

There exists a type of people in our society that considers itself a sort of “politically correct elite,” a term of my own creation. These people are the ones who share BuzzFeed articles and Facebook posts with titles like: “10 Reasons Why You Should Be Offended by ___.” These are the people who have turned hypersensitivity into a science. And it makes me sick. If I’m not offended by something, why should anybody have the right to tell me to think otherwise?

The intention behind this sort of politically-correct-vigilante behavior is nothing short of good. I believe that Lessner meant no harm when she criticized the advertisement, and I do not mean to scold her. I should also be clear that I am not advocating outright offensive behavior, but it’s simply true that some points are more easily made at the risk of potentially hurting the feelings of others.

 

3 comments

  1. I totally disagree. Here’s a new, revolutionary idea: RESPECT EVERYONE EVEN IN THE WAY YOU TALK.

  2. I totally AGREE. People are offended by the littlest thing anymore. ENOUGH. Get a sense of humor people, really. You’ll be a much happier person.

  3. i’m a little thrown by the phrase “partially black fly girls”…

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