Vital Signs

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Earlier this year, when Connie Chung duped Newt Gingrich's mother into confiding that Newt considered the First Lady a "bitch," victim feminists went into a frenzy. Gingrich's mother and father hardly expected this treatment from Chung, as they had spent eight hours treating her like a guest in their modest home (Gingrich's father had even baked Chung a cake). Had Newt's mom spat on the cross, there would have been fewer cries of outrage (and she might have gotten an NEA grant for performance art). Shocked—shocked!—into an acute case of the vapors by Newt's alleged use of an indelicacy, Woodstock-era media babes proclaimed their sensibilities offended and lamented that even now, men just cannot handle strong women.

This frenzied response to "bitch" rests on an evasion of the word's meaning. Consider, for example, Margaret Carlson's column in Time, "Muzzle the B Word": "Why," she puzzles, "should women be reduced to animals in heat?" In current slang, however, "bitch" has long been divorced from its literal, "doggy" meaning; a "bitch" is, rather, "a malicious, unpleasant, selfish woman, esp. one who stops at nothing to reach her goal" (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language). Rather than achieve her ends through honest and direct action, the bitch employs indirect tactics,...

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