The B Word…

The word bitch means more than just a female dog. At one point in time, and maybe still, it was considered an insult. But there are more and more other circumstances where you see or hear of this word being used.

At first it referred to a woman of ill manners or repute. It can also mean that you are complaining about something. Or it could be a person who does demeaning tasks for another. For example: “ John is so her bitch, Mary ordered him to do it and he went without complaint.” I have even heard the word used as a term of endearment, as in “you go, bitch”. There is a whole series of cook books entitled Skinny Bitch (M), a series of knitting books entitled Stitch’n Bitch (M). Here are some non-fiction books that you can bitch about if you wish.

Elton John: the bitch is back (M) by Mark Bego was published in 2009 and a couple of things (namely kids) have changed Sir Elton John’s life since there. But this biography presents the straight (and not so straight) news of Elton’s life and career. Bego presents the glasses and toupees, the addictions, affairs, and scandals right to the later years. He also presents the marriages, yes marriages, as in more than one. Elton was married before – to a woman! This eventually ended up costing him $45 million! John has won numerous music awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Tony. Rolling Stone Magazine has decreed him #49 on their list of the top 100 artists of all time. So, no matter what you think of this “bitch” he is definitely a talented man.

Bitchfest: ten years of cultural criticism from the pages of Bitch magazine (M) Bitch Media is a nonprofit feminists media organization. When asked why they chose that name for the magazine Rebecca West states “people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat. We argue that the word “bitch” is usually deployed for the same purpose, when it’s being used as an insult, “bitch” is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and don’t shy away from expressing them….If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment….if we choose to reappropriate the word, it loses its power to hurt us…..Bitch. It’s a noun, it’s a verb. It’s a magazine…

Its mission is to provide and encourage thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture. It appears that it is accomplishing this goal since it has a readership of over 80,000! This tome offers a variety of the best (and sometimes most provocative) essays, rants, and raves from the magazines first ten years, along with some pieces written especially for this book.

Almost everyone of a certain age is familiar with the television series “Little House on the Prairies.” Well, the actress who portrayed Nellie Olesen has written a biography with a surprising title – Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (M) by Alison Arngrim. For seven years she played Nellie Olesen, a scheming, selfish, lying bitch of a brat as a foil against Half-Pint Laura Ingliss (played by Melissa Gilbert). Though millions of viewers hated Nellie and her evil ways, the actress grew to love her character. She says that Nellie taught her to be brave, daring, determined and confident. She recounts how she and Melissa Gilbert became best friends (and accidentally got drunk on rum cake) and other memories from the show. Arngrim shares this all with a biting wit and also shares her life challenges. She relates her years of traumatic abuse, depression, shyness and the secret: her father kept from her for 20 years. What that secret is you will have to read the book.

I admit it – I picked up Bleachy-haired Honky Bitch (M) by Hollis Gillespie because of the title. It comes from the curses yelled at her by a man who was taking “an asshole stroll” across the road in one of Atlanta’s seedier crack neighbourhood. NPR commentator Gillespie comes across as a real, if not a bit twisted, interesting person. A bit like that crazy woman down the street who keeps swinging no matter what life throws at her. Gillespie says, “Life is too damn short to remain trapped in your own Alcatraz.” She talks about a bit of everything, similar to a friendly drunk who says one funny, impossible sentence after another. She recounts stories about her crazy family that seems to have an unusually large number of oddballs. At times I felt that her life could be the next reality television show. For example: her mother had wanted to become a cosmetologist but was terrible at it. She ended up becoming a weapons designer instead! I plan on reading her other books Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Trailer Trashed.

I will end this post with a title about the original meaning of bitch. I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship: hilarious heartwarming tales about man’s best friend from America’s favorite humorists (M) which is edited by Wade Rouse. Rouse has gathered together twenty fellow authors, comedians and humorists and got them to talk about what it means to share their life, and heart with man’s best friend. What is more special is that the author has donated 10% of his royalties from the Humane Society of the United States.

So, no matter what the definition of bitch is, there may be a related book.

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