Why Is Truth to Power Easier than Truth to Fools?

If you’re a gentleman of a certain age and bring a so-young-we-ought-to-look-at-her-ID-twice woman to your local, you are going to get the blues from the rest of the crew next time you come in.  And so it was when I greeted my buddy, The Law Professor, with “It was bad enough when you were dating law students, but when did you start dating undergrads?”

The crew laughed and a few others added their smart-ass comments to the mix.  One cat who was a semi-regular but whom I’d not met was the lone dissenting voice.

“I don’t see nothing wrong with it” the mid 40’s guy said (it will become clear why I don’t refer to him as a gentleman in a moment.)  “The bitch I’m dating now is 25 or 26, and I haven’t dated a bitch over 30 in ten years.”

I bit my tongue.  He continued: “Older broads got too much drama, it’s all about their careers, and they’re too fucking difficult.  You take an old bitch to dinner someplace and she’s thinking ‘it could have been a nicer restaurant.’ You take a 25 year old bitch to dinner and she’s just grateful not to be eating fucking Ramen noodles.”

Perhaps my mistake was engaging him at all, perhaps it was failing to call him on his woman-hating language, but either way my response was a mistake.  “You and I are different” I grossly understated.  “I want a woman who is my conversational, emotional, and intellectual equal, and while it is possible in substantively younger women, I find that more frequently in women closer to my own age.”

“Dude, that’s bullshit” he replied, “There’s thousands of years of history that’ll tell you that bitches mature faster than men.  It only makes sense to date young bitches, history will tell you that.”

Reclaiming a teeny bit of my spine, I answered “Ignoring the intellectual inconsistency of suggesting that women mature faster than men and therefore younger women are a better suited to be the equal you profess that you don’t seek, your statement is really just more evidence that history, like anything powerful, is exceptionally dangerous when people fail to understand it.”

“Man, I don’t even understand what you just said… but all I’m saying is that young bitches make more sense cause older bitches got that fucking clock ticking, want you to be all perfect for them and they’re just too much damn trouble.”

Finally finding the gumption to address the larger issue I stated “Sir, I am quite sure that nothing I say will change the misogyny that let’s you use the word ‘bitch’ as a pronoun for women, but if we are to continue this conversation and that is a big if because I am not sure it is worth it, I will ask you to not refer to women in that way any longer, or at least not around me.”

We argued for a couple minutes more and every time he used bitch as pronoun for woman he would obnoxiously follow it with “sorry, I mean lady.”  Eventually, I no longer wished to be the bigger fool for continuing a conversation with a another fool.

The foul-mouthed-women-hating guy didn’t stay beyond his first round at the bar (but clearly not his first of the night.)  After he left, the bartender, a professional friend who wasn’t really paying attention, but like all good bartenders could sense tension, asked me “Dude, Refugee, what was that all about?”

“It’s simple” I said without taking my characteristic deep breath that aids in polite conversation, “If you use ‘bitch’ as pronoun for woman once, I will just assume that you’re a product of a misogynist society that mislead you into thinking it’s ok to do that, and let it slide.  If you do it a handful of times, I am going to be rather annoyed but probably let it go.  If you do it a dozen times inside a few minutes, I’m probably going to sack-up, call you on it, and stop talking to you because of it.”

I was on my high horse, I knew it, and I was completely ok with it.

After a pregnant silence, the bartender asked me “It’s still ok if we call a specific woman a bitch right, just not the general… I mean you’re not going to have a problem if I say ‘Ann Coulter’s a bitch, right?”

We all laughed a bit, the tension was loosened.

I laughed too, not because I inherently agreed but because at least he choose a hard  example for me to defend.


For the record, an earlier version of this post was published before I had an opportunity to finish my edits.  The earlier version did not tell the very end of this experience but it did close with some questions for you, gentle readers.  I will include them now, just because…

But here are my larger questions:

  • No one in polite society would repeatedly refer to any ethnic group by a pejorative slur, nor would people consistently refer to gay men or women by similarly noxious terms.  So why is it that people feel comfortable referring to women in that way?
  • If someone was consistently referencing any ethnic group that way, I am certain that I would have protested sooner.  What does it say about me that I took so long to declare that unacceptable?
  • What does it say about my “bar friends” that I was the only person who noticed this as others at least claimed to not have taken note of the language?

15 Responses to Why Is Truth to Power Easier than Truth to Fools?

  1. RR, I am more impressed that the “gentleman” could find any ‘female dog’ that was still living after so many years. I thought most dogs died at around 15 or 16 years.

    Seriously, as a woman, men who talk like this don’t warrant my attention. I imagine he would not refer to my gender as “bitch” in front of me, but I think any conversation lasting more than 2 minutes would tell me he was a loser.

    I think I’d be more disturbed by the group of men you were sitting with. How could this not impact any of them? I understand the reference to a woman as a ‘bitch’ when it fits, but as a gender, I don’t get it.

    I too think that the lack of shock or even notice is the most disturbing part of this. I am going to be charitable and suggest that the problem is societal and not specific to any of my “bar friends” as I have had many conversations with each of them over the years and while they each have varying levels of misogyny (I do too, for the record,) I have never observed it sinking to that level.

  2. LiLu says:

    I kind of think of “bitch” as being one of Our Words. You know… the kind you can’t use (in casual conversation) unless you ARE one.

    Agreed, but when you consider the full lexicon of “Our Words,” “Bitch” seems to be the one that is inappropriately used most frequently by people who don’t belong to said group. Further, it is the one that causes the least shock in polite society.

  3. Grace says:

    I try not to use that word ever. I don’t like it. I hate how easily people say it and I hate that it is allowed on cable tv.

    That guy is obviously a loser and I would likely ignore him if he continued to talk like that. I am most bothered by the fact that you were the only one to speak up and like you said, that you did not speak up sooner.

  4. k8 says:

    What does it say about your bar friends? And just to be a “bitch” I’ll question – what does it say about YOU, that you hang out with people who wouldn’t notice that kind of language as problematic?

    I’m just saying. Don’t hate me for asking it, okay?

  5. kitty says:

    Sometimes your posts make me miss DC. This post makes me miss bygone times.

  6. Vie says:

    He was clearly a misogynist pig.

    I’m mostly with LiLu on this one, with the exception of one context: I despise women who talk about how “girls are bitches” and how they dislike their gender.

    To take a stab at your questions:
    1) Society is still quite sexist. The glass ceiling is still there in lots of forms, and the hardest blocks to break are the ones we’re socialized into.
    2) At least you said something. Perhaps all it says about you is that you try to remain civil inasmuch as it is possible.
    3) It says that your bar friends probably don’t spend an active amount of time thinking about ethics or semantics, or what it means to be part of a disenfranchised group. Perhaps none of them ever have been part of one.

  7. my mama taught me to ignore bad behavior and praise good behavior.. … unless someone was being hurt…in which case she recommend you talk softly and carry a big stick… i think in polite society we all try very hard to ignore poor manners to the best of our ability… & some of us (depending on our day and our raising) just have larger thresholds for douche-y-ness than others..

  8. You know, I just wrote about someone who demonstrated a very casual attitude towards using an ethnic pejorative – at least, until he knew a member of that group was present. There are “pockets” of people where this is accepted and expected. And confronting people who grew up in those pockets and choose to remain there as adults is generally a lost cause.

    Also, maybe it’s possible that we change our expectations for people’s speech based on other aspects of their presentation? If he was already drunk, and perhaps gave off an antisocial or surly air to begin with, that word might not have stood out so much to casual listeners who wouldn’t have expected better from the guy in the first place.

  9. Kim says:

    #1- it isn’t
    #2- Don’t know. You had an off night? I’ve certainly heard of you calling out less.
    #3- They don’t want to “cause a fuss” the usual reason people sit back and let shit land in bucketfuls at their feet.

  10. magnolia says:

    wow, that guy was just a complete prick.

    as for your questions:
    1) by asking this question, it’s clear that you – unlike me – haven’t been living in the deep, deep, DEEP south for the last 2 1/2 years. there are plenty of people here who use ethnic/gay slurs in polite conversation, and treat you like you’re the crazy one when you call them on it. we still live in interesting times, and enlightenment is a long way off.

    2) don’t be so hard on yourself; most people – myself included – would’ve resorted to the “maybe if we ignore him he’ll shut up and go away” tactic. you took a stand, and that’s always admirable.

    3) your bar friends, if i’m not misreading, may very well have tuned him out at the first instance of the invective (see my tactic in #2). i mean, you yourself used the phrase “sack up” when you talked to the guy. it takes some courage to actually call people on their stupidity. not everyone’s willing/able to do that, especially at a bar.

  11. Eeeeek. In my book, “bitch” is an acceptable way to show anger on a case by case basis (holla, Ms. Coulter), but otherwise, should only be used as a term of endearment (“Love you bitches!” she slur-typed, sweating straight rum and tucking a swizzle stick behind her ear) or, better, never.

    Thanks for speaking up, RR, and never be afraid to do it earlier. The worse anyone can do is call you a pussy. Which is a great springboard into yet another demeaning-words-we-oughtn’t-say-in-polite-company PSA.

  12. I don’t care how long it took you say something, I am glad you did 🙂 As for the pig, I am surprised how with that kind of attitude he gets any girls at all.. cuz surely it’s hard to hide that..no?

  13. Lemon Gloria says:

    He wasn’t at all worth your time. But I find it pretty shocking that your cohorts claimed not to have noticed.

    As for Ann Coulter being a bitch…I’m pretty sure she’s a man. Isn’t she?

  14. Carla Ganiel says:

    Thanks for speaking up in the moment, and thanks for raising the bigger questions.

    It’s so important for guys not to tolerate misogyny and to hold other guys accountable for their words and behavior relative to women. (Especially since a woman doing the same thing might very likely be dismissed as a bitch.)

  15. #1: I agree with LiLu about the acceptability of women using the term around other women. I’ve also had men use the term to describe my behavior, but with the distinction that I was acting “bitchy.” Just one consonant makes that word far more palatable to hear from the opposite sex.

    #2: I think your reaction was normal. You were watching the verbal equivalent of a train wreck and probably hoped he would stop. Then, when you realized that he wasn’t, you stepped in and said something.

    #3: Hmm…I would hope that others would have said something. And, if there were other pejorative words used, I’m sure the bar crew would have. But, they probably cared more about their drinks than standing up against misogynistic speech and people who love to date girls who could be their daughters. *Shudders*

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