I'm not offended easily by things which offend others, in particular, I don't like the sort of situation where people get very offended on behalf of others who aren't even present. Not that I support the underlying prejudice or bigotry which lead to the offence, but it just seems to me that there are a few people who seem to delight in getting offended on behalf of others, sometimes even more than the people, who have a legitimate right to be, actually get.
Now of course, the fact that I am not offended by something which might offend others does not mean I can say what you should or should not find offensive, nor does it mean I can say whether that offence is legitimate or not. All I'm saying is that things which offend some might not offend me.
Coming from South Africa, I find it strange that so many South African feminists beat the same drum as their counterparts in north-western Europe or north America: gendered language, uneven pay, under-representation of women in top managerial positions and then they twist their doctrine on “rape culture” to somehow fit a South African context and blame “the patriarchy” for it. There's no “culture” about it, we live in a society with alarming rates of gender and sexual violence with many men apparently feeling that they are entitled to treat women as they see fit without any consequences and the discussion is about stereotyping and the media? Maybe, just maybe it has something to do with an assumption about all these men which no liberal feminist would admit to making because if she were to do so, she'd have to admit that she is a racist (which she passionately hates of course) so it is better to keep quiet about what is happening under our noses and talk about things more relevant to the U.S or the U.K?
Ok, now that is already a discussion of itself and one I suspect not that many would be willing to engage me on... but I'm side-lining this for now and going with the gendered language discussion.
Have you noticed how a lot of insults used against women, the sort the feminists get very offended by, relate women to animals? Now I'll be honest, I don't see what is so insulting about some of these. I mean in some cultures to call a woman “a vixen” is to question her morals...
It is strange then that vixens, unlike humans, are monogamous and mate for life. There are recorded cases of a vixen refusing to mate again after her fox has died. Vixens are fastidiously clean and fiercely loyal animals, they are intelligent, graceful, mysterious and beautiful. Granted, a vixen will steal your chickens at any given opportunity, but generally speaking, calling a woman a “vixen” doesn't mean you think she's a chicken thief but a slut* that the image of this creature became so twisted is most unfortunate. Here is what “you're a vixen” means to me:
you are loyal, faithful, enterprising, intelligent, beautiful, mysterious resourceful, magical and charming. Since I don't keep chickens I don't have a problem with foxes (male or female) and wouldn't be insulted to be compared to one.
Now cats: “catty” is an unpleasant way to describe women and as far as I can tell, only women.
Now I'm bearing in mind that there are some hardcore dog fanatics out there who will pick a fight with me over this and pull out “scientific data” which apparently “proves that dogs are better than cats” - this I suspect is because they need a hierarchical relationship with them on top and demand attention, affection and unquestioning loyalty/obedience from their partners, but that's just because I'm a “cat person” of course.
Now you see, with a cat I could actually understand if people were to take the comparison to imply sexual promiscuity, cats are solitary hunters, they are territorial in the wild and it is often that males will be chased off their territory at regular intervals by usurpers. As such, it is a survival strategy female cats employ to make sure that when they come into heat, everybody knows it and let the males fight it out so that the strongest will father her kittens or she will mate with every available male so that her litter is fathered by many tom cats and the strongest will survive. Because they do not typically live in permanent groups with a structure and hierarchy, there are no consequences to how many male cats she mates with and how often she does, they'll probably be gone by next summer anyway and she'll avoid them when she doesn't want kittens, it is making kittens that matters. The same behaviour in a human female could be seen as troublesome because we are not generally solitary hunters and because we live in groups with hierarchies. It is strange then that with the exception of the rather outdated term for a brothel (“cat house”) insulting comparisons between women and cats are aimed at their personality. A “catty” woman is spiteful, disloyal, bad tempered and fickle. Now any cat lover is going to disagree majority on these points. Cats can sometimes be some of these things, especially when they are mistreated, but these are very human characteristics and the comparison is again, misguided. I have been compared to a cat several times and I have taken it as high praise indeed each time. I'm excluding “pussy” of course since that apparently refers to human genitals, not to a cat – that is a topic for another discussion – here is what “catty” means to me:
Clever, independent, strong willed yet subtle, beautiful and well groomed, self-assured, resourceful, mysterious and magical, careful, perhaps a little ruthless but defiantly someone who can take care of themselves, sleek and supple, surprising in good ways, dignified, someone who deserves to be adored and even worshipped (by the Egyptians) someone who solves problems without being asked to (generally small furry problems you find behind cabinets and in the kitchen at night).
And now of course the one which makes feminists see red!
Let me explain how I came to know this word: it was introduced to me by my mother, she told me to never get between a bitch and her puppies. I grew up thinking that the insult “bitch” meant that a woman was ferocious and nasty, but you know, the whole puppy thing kind of gave her just cause to be that way. I mean wouldn't you be ferocious and nasty if your children's lives depended on it? Sometimes we hear “what a bitch” as an angry retort when a woman has done something to upset someone (generally something cold and callous which is actually quite far removed from dog behaviour most of the time) but there is the other meaning I didn't know about as a kid; the “bitch in heat” meaning.
Again, sexual promiscuity.
I won't deny that dogs mate often and sometimes fairly indiscriminately but you should bear in mind that a dog mounting another dog isn't always just about sex, this behaviour serves an important social function in the dog pack, it determines hierarchy and dominance which are important things for a group of violent, toothy carnivores who want to not only get along without killing one another, but also need to cooperate in order to bring down their prey. Female dogs might mount other female dogs, not for sexual gratification but in order to reinforce the social structure. Not all the mating you see between dogs is actually “sex” as we would like to understand the term. When dogs mate to make puppies they will be joined tail to tail, not one on top of the other (even if it starts off like this) and the reason the dogs are joined in this fashion relates to the peculiar anatomy of the males which I won't go into in depth here, but I will say that it has evolved this way to prevent other males from being able to mate with the female for some time afterwards, useful in ensuring your genes live on and not those of your rivals. So yes, the female dog might seem sexually indiscriminate, but they are limited by males fighting and chasing rivals away and by the way they become “dog knotted” during sex. We should also bear in mind that a bitch comes into oestrus only a few times a year compared to a human female every month. While mating might occur or appear to occur outside these times, largely for social reasons I suspect, it is the exception. The truth is that a bitch is far, far less sexually active during her lifetime than a human female.
And while we are about it, lets not ignore the elephant in the room!
I have noticed that comparisons between human males and animals relating to their sexual practices, such as “stud” or “steer” are generally taken as compliments. Does this mean we need to stop mentioning animals names because the animals names are sexist, or does it mean we need to really think about how male and female sexuality are represented in our society?
Anyway, to me this is what a bitch is:
She's frighteningly, almost stupidly loyal, she's affectionate, she's family-oriented and nurturing, she's faithful and forgiving, she's a fierce protector and she won't back down from a fight no matter how bad things get if her loved ones are threatened! If she's a little competitive, so what, she's someone who won't accept where she was put in society and will fight for her place, she's a true friend to those who treat her right and a terrible enemy to have. She's fun to be around, the sort who would love to climb that mountain with you and who doesn't care how undignified it gets as long as we're all enjoying ourselves. That's something I can admire, I wish more of the women I know were “bitches”.
Cow, I mean, seriously, what's so nasty about calling someone a cow?
Sure, in today's society where women have unrealistic body images thrust upon them, “you cow” could, like “you sow” mean “you're fat!”, but I'd like to ask you if it is calling a woman a cow which is sexist or saying that she can't be beautiful unless she looks like the abominations paraded before you in fashion magazines which is unhealthy? In many societies where a different body shape is regarded as beautiful, we can imagine the whole matter would not be something people would get so upset over. I mean, maybe for some it means “you're beautiful” it could be a perhaps rather crude compliment which infers that you have the business up front and the business behind with wide hips (which many cultures find attractive) – change this perverse obsession with body image we have and which qualities of the cow are we left with? I mean what is so insulting about the comparison, that you are suggesting the woman smells like a cow, that she leaves dung all over the floor, that her flatulence is a contributing factor to climate change?... ok, never mind that last bit!
The point is that cows are serene and gentle creatures (again, provided you don't threaten their young), they have big, beautiful eyes with long lashes and they are very good parents, they are useful and can be regarded as very valuable, in some cultures they are taken as a mark of royalty, cows are accepting and good natures for the most part, they are herd animals and so they are loyal and protective.
If you want to insult a woman by comparing her to an animal, call her a slug or a maggot or a cockroach – these insults would apply to a man just as well. Don't take every comparison between a woman and an animal as sexist, it is not “objectifying women”, it is comparing them to animals, not objects, and as I have just shown, most of these animals, when understood properly, embody amazing characteristics people should be proud to be associated with. If anything the comparisons are disrespectful to the female animals. Don't have the word bitch banned because it is used to oppress women, change what it means. You wouldn't be insulted if someone called you a lioness, would you? Respect the animals for the amazing lessons they teach us and respect yourselves. If people want to display their ignorance, let them! Change attitudes, not words.
And please! The issue here is one of society portraying the male interest in sex and desire as “healthy”, so that if a man does not exaggerate it he's “weak” and the female interest is sex and sexual desire as “sinful”. Is this something feminists will disagree with me on? If not, you can't say in the same breath that the perverse way in which male and female sexuality is constructed in our modern western society is unhealthy and then also that it is sexist to call a woman a bitch because a bitch is a sexually promiscuous animal females wanting sex is evil. It just doesn't add up to me.
Again, I urge you to change attitudes, not words.
Ok, that's just my opinion, feel free to disagree with me if you like.
* the term “slut” originally referred to an uncouth, unkempt and unhygienic woman. “Slut” meant slovenly, the female equivalent of “slob”. How that came to mean sexually promiscuous baffles me, because I can assure you that even desperate men are likely to refuse the advances of a woman who hasn't taken a shower in 2 weeks!