Tianna Mañón

Young women call themselves “bad bitches.” It is said so flippantly and boastfully that listeners not familiar with the term begin to question whether the words “bad” and “bitch” ever held negative connotations.

However, while “bad bitches” may believe that the term is acceptable to us, they may be doing more damage than good by using it, according to some counselors, psychiatrists, parents and other women in the black community.

“Under no circumstance is this positive or affirming label,” said Jamie Salatino, school counselor at School Without Walls. “These are young women are hurt, angry and have been through trauma. They have had to develop a hard outer-shell to protect themselves and deflect from what is going on, think “displaced aggression.”

Even more confusing is the term’s lack of clear definition. This term sometimes describe a woman has “it going on.” However, what “it” is differed wildly from person to person, especially between the sexes. Among men, a “bad b—h” typically means a woman who is faithful to her male partner, regardless of his actions. Additionally, she must be attractive.

However, women often argue that a “bad b—h” does not even need a man. She is more than capable of taking care of herself, and “looking good” while she does it.

So why use the term at all when connotations differ from one ear to the next?
“They do it to fit in,” said Dr. Idonia Owens, principal at School Without Walls. “To feel like one is something rather than nothing. They would be a ‘bitch’ rather than nobody. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I would suspect that these girls have self-esteem issues.”

The term first began seeing mainstream use in the 90s, when female rappers adopted it, taking it back from male rappers who had been using it for years before then. Current pop sensation Nicki Minaj, cemented the term. It soon stopped being used only by males negatively to describe women, but women adopted the term to describe themselves positively.

Sherelle Gee, 18, remembers the first time she heard one of her peers use the term. She steered clear of the word “bitch” and opted for “b” instead.

“It was 2007, and I was in school,” she said. “I was lost when I first heard it. I was like ‘she bad and she a b. What?’ She just said it with so much confidence; as a “bad b” is the way to go.”

Many girls consider being a “bad bitch” to be the highest compliment and aspire to it, according to Anqesha Murray, 19, a local model. She said that she personally does not use the term because she does not like the word “bitch,” but is considered one by her friends.

In addition to her dislike of the word “bitch,” Murray said the term focuses almost exclusively completely on physicality. Although she is a model, she said she does not want to be recognized just for her looks.

“If you say you are a “bad bitch”, they just want to see your body,” she said. “(It’s) not ‘oh, she smart’ or ‘she’s talented.”

Some young women say they are empowered by the term.

“It keeps people from walking all over me,” said Daryia Walker, 16, a student at School of the Arts. She said she see being a” bad bitch” as a mentality with multiple elements that should be turned on and off. While she said she saves the attitude part for those who “deserve it,” she tries to dress well, a characteristic that she attaches to the term.

“But that (doesn’t) mean one have to show skin. I try to be classy,” she said. She compared the “bad bitch” mentality keeps her from being taken advantage of, being her alter ego.

Although she understands why some women may see it as empowering, Tameakia Little said that, as a black woman, the trend saddens her. Little is the wife of Brian Little, producer of the “Grip Music Video Show,” a local Christian rap show. She said, “To address the CEO in the boardroom who may happen to be a woman excelling in her career. Would we use it in the boardroom to address her? Outside of the rap genre and in mainstream America the term is not one of endearment.” She argues that it gives young women a disillusioned, and often detrimental, way of interacting with the world.

“I think we’ll look back and be ashamed,” said Gee of the term’s widespread use. Regardless of the individual definition young women have assigned to the term, she said she believes usage is a mistake to begin with, and that other terms can better capture the strong will they are trying to convey. “If you could be anyone, be a black woman. That title is so strong itself; everyone should want to work towards that.”