You know what the word “b***h” used to be? The worst thing you could call a woman, the putdown you would resort to when you wanted to make sure she—and everyone in earshot—knew that you were showing her zero respect. An insult that originated in the fourteenth century that was meant to compare women to female dogs in heat, “b***h” meant something serious.
Know what the word “b***h” is today? A greeting.
Of all of the words that have been appropriated, either by hip hop or reality TV or one of the other wheels of pop culture, b***h has lost its bite more than any other. Even the n-word is still loaded and reason to fight if the wrong person says it. But no one ever seems to have a problem with the b-word. Before we go and declare it a neutral, normal five-letter combination, maybe we should rewind: Because when Chris Brown went on a b***h-filled rant the other day, he was taking the word back to its roots, using it as a cruel attack against Adrienne Bailon and Tamar Braxton, one that emphasized that he had no regard and no respect for them.
The singer heard that Braxton and Bailon had been talking about his and Karrueche’s relationship on The Real. And he didn’t see why they needed to invoke his personal life to make a point on their talk show, so he let them know that they’d crossed a line. Brown went on Instagram, in a post that’s now been deleted, and called Bailon an “ole trout mouth a** b***h,” and the “same b***h having threesomes like the rest of these h**s.” Tamar Braxon was a “basic b***h” and, inexplicably considering she comes from one of the most successful families on television today, a “broke b***h.”
When Brown kept calling them the b-word, he knew what he was doing. He knew that no matter how many songs or magazine articles or gifs pretend that it is not a loaded word, that no one wants to actually be called a b***h in anger. And that if you do use the word, it is a vile, horrible insult. He used it to hurt them and to show that he was mad. He used it along with the other lowest ways you can insult a woman, by saying she is ugly and by saying she is sexually loose. Brown may have been furious, but this was not the rant of the out-of-control, it was a determined way to put down two women who he believed had wronged him.
Perhaps if we’re going to be so culturally comfortable with the word “b***h,” we need to stop pretending it’s a casual term. We need to remember that it is the last thing you’d want someone to call your mother. Or your sister. Or you. We need to stop accepting sexism and calling it slang. And then, we maybe need to stop using it altogether.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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