By Shambhavi Saxena:
I remember the first time somebody called me that was in class 7 when I was trying to push my way down a crowded staircase. I was late for the bus, but I still remember the triumphant smile that followed that word, as a boy freed himself from the crowd and ran down the corridor. I was disarmed. Of all the off-limits words we knew we weren’t supposed to use at school, “bitch” was the one that could be your undoing. On the bus ride home I thought about why I hadn’t chased him down and made him apologize. But by the time my stop had arrived, I hopped off with a secret smile on my face. I didn’t quite know it then, but having mulled it over, I was ready to reclaim the word for myself.
You’re a bitch because they don’t like you, and approval is supposed to be everything. You’re a bitch because you don’t cooperate, because you don’t play by the rule. And most of all, you’re a bitch when you plain don’t care. Over the next few years at school I came in contact with that word rather often. And the more I heard it, the more sold on the idea I was.
And now, over a decade later, actor Shruti Haasan is laying into the label “bitch,” I’m sitting up and listening. Released by Blush, the video follows Haasan doing regular people-things around her apartment, set to a self-written monologue about what the word “bitch” has meant to her.
Blush is one of several YouTube channels owned by the media company Culture Machine. It has a roster of feel-food ad campaigns, and also carried Kalki Koechlin’s incisive critique of the media in her poem “The Printing Machine“? This latest production with Haasan is an important conversation starter, if nothing else. The words we use – especially some choice words reserved only for women – are coded with a lot of hate. “Bitch” carries with it the impulse to control a woman, to mould her behaviour into something that is more acceptable, more in line with what our male-dominated society requires. And when we begin to reclaim the word, we can change those equations entirely.