Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23

Update: You contact ABC here: http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us.

@silentkpants pointed out to me that ABC also has a show called “GBC” which is short for “Good Christian Bitches.”

And this post is now cross-posted at the fabulous Bitch Flicks. *dies*

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That would be the title of ABC’s newest sitcom.  According to Entertainment Weekly:

The story is about a naive young woman who comes to New York City and ends up with a trouble-making party-girl roommate.

This sounds so fun.  I love when American pop culture makes fun of the ladies!  As one of the commenters at EW said: “How about “Don’t Trust the M–F–ing C– Wh-re in Apartment 23″?”  Or as another put it: “What’s wrong with Don’t Trust the Girl in Apartment 23. That would have gotten my attention too, either way it’s an unusual title.”  I don’t think they meant “unusual”, though.  I think they meant “offensive.”

There are, of course, plenty of supporters for this.  As some dude there argued: “The ABC sitcom DTTBIA23 doesn’t offend me. I’m a male with a sense of humor though. If the title is a female’s perspective of another female, the show could have catty, campy potential.”  And then there’s this gem of an observation: “Watch shows like The Office or 30 Rock or Arrested Development and you will understand why it’s sometimes okay to be racist or sexist for comedy. When you do it right, it’s more funny than it is offensive. This title is risque, yes, but funny at the same time.”

I mean, after reading these comments about people’s reaction to the TITLE of this show, I can’t possibly see why anyone would be offended that ABC would back such a project.  I mean, dudes with senses of humor get it.  And it is okay to be racist and sexist in comedy.  Sheesh.

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In case you are wondering what is wrong with using the word “bitch” in this way, check out Shakesville’s take on using the word “bitch” (and the word “cunt”) as an insult.  But, you know, it is encapsulated by this:

demeaning and marginalizing sexist language has the capacity to make women feel demeaned and marginalized.

The title is making fun of a woman for her lifestyle of “partying”.  It is an insult.  It is a particularly gendered insult, one that can only be lobbied at a woman.  Because if you call a man a “bitch”, it’s an effective insult in that you are calling him a slur that is used to cut down women, so he’s not only a mean person but a feminine one, too.  And we all know being like a woman is insulting.  [On a side not: Is there a truly insulting cuss word/insult for a white hetero dude that doesn’t also demean a woman or a minority OR can’t also be used on a woman or a minority?  I don’t think such a thing exists.  If you think of one, let me know.  I think this is yet another instance of white hetero male privilege.]

Here is a GREAT article in The Washington Post from the Andi Zeisler, a cofounder of Bitch magazine (go read it), from 2008 that McEwan at Shakesville refers to in the above link.  And here is the part that matters for me right now:

Bitch is a word we use culturally to describe any woman who is strong, angry, uncompromising and, often, uninterested in pleasing men. We use the term for a woman on the street who doesn’t respond to men’s catcalls or smile when they say, “Cheer up, baby, it can’t be that bad.” We use it for the woman who has a better job than a man and doesn’t apologize for it. We use it for the woman who doesn’t back down from a confrontation.

So let’s not be disingenuous. Is it a bad word? Of course it is. As a culture, we’ve done everything possible to make sure of that, starting with a constantly perpetuated mindset that deems powerful women to be scary, angry and, of course, unfeminine — and sees uncompromising speech by women as anathema to a tidy, well-run world.

It’s not within a cultural vacuum that this show chose its title.  The creators and ABC all know it demeans women.  But they obviously don’t give a shit.  What’s new?

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Also, according to TV Week (in a post about this show): “And for your own edification, some stats about the word bitch. According to the Parents Television Council, “The use of the word, “bitch,” for example, tripled in the last decade alone, growing to 1,277 uses on 685 shows in 2007 from 431 uses on 103 prime-time episodes in 1998,” it has been reported by The New York Times.

And EW wrote just this past fall that “Oprah bans the word ‘bitch’ from her network.”

I’m sure this statistic is totally and completely unrelated to this tripling of the word “bitch” on TV (post from EW by the fabulous Jennifer Armstrong, first posted on Oct. 30, 2009):

Women are being beaten, tortured, and brutally murdered more than ever on network TV: A new study by the Parents Television Council shows violence against women on television is up a stunning 120 percent in the past five years. Violence overall in the same period increased only 2 percent, which seems to indicate there’s very little guy-on-guy combat happening, relatively speaking.

There’s no connection between demeaning language against women on TV increasing and violence against women on TV increasing.  It’s not like all of these shows are created by the same people in the same cultural atmosphere selling to the same American public, right?

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23

  1. I just want to give a huge thumbs up to this post. Nothing really to add (or nothing articulate anyways) but just…yes. This whole post. And I’ve noticed the increase of the word “bitch” on TV shows that won’t use the even slightly curse-like words such as “crap.” Unbelievable. Or rather, scarily believable.

  2. Good article! I’d also like to add that I think women have been trying to appropriate the word “b-tch” by calling it a compliment (saying it means a woman is aggressive and gets what she wants in a positive way). However, this effort at appropriation has been largely unsuccessful in changing the tone of the word. It has only, unfortunately, sheltered “b-tch” from being *seen* as anti-feminine.

  3. Thanks. And I agree with you. There is definitely an amazing attempt at reclamation (Bitch Magazine, the awesome Angry Black Bitch). And I think that appropriation is important. But, yes, a show title like this shows how far we have to go for that reclamation.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. How can we fight back? Have you got contact info for ABC so that we can all protest in a focused way?
    Thanks!

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