first things first, i love how i met your mother. i love the exploration of story-telling techniques. i love the characters. i love how the show has evolved in the last eight years. i love the long-running jokes. and i love everything ever about neil patrick harris. y’know what i do not love? the show’s nearly constant use of the word bitch.
seriously. have you noticed this? i didn’t until a recent HIMYM marathon. only then did it hit me that the word is used in nearly every episode by someone in the gang. it’s almost as inevitable as the throwing of a party in an episode of gossip girl. to the extent that lily’s catch phrase is, in fact, now ‘you son of a bitch.’
to be clear, i point this out not because the word is profane, but because it isn’t funny. and i think that not because i’m a total sourpuss with no sense of humor, but because i think the writers could do better than a running joke based on the use of pejorative that has been historically used to demean women. it’s lazy comedy, people. shape up.
you could make the case that it’s a woman whose saying it so it’s totally ok. except no.
were there a male equivalent in constant use on the show, i might be a bit more forgiving. but there isn’t. largely because there isn’t a male equivalent in our culture. and in the hierarchy of language, bro does not equal bitch.
you could also maybe make the argument that feminism has reclaimed the word bitch. that it’s totally ok now! girl power! yeah bitches!
except i don’t think that works either. it’s one thing to say that women have reclaimed words that have, historically, been considered profane when those words apply to their bodies. (i’ll assume we’re all adults here and we know what those words are.) yes, emphatically YES, the language used to describe female bodies shouldn’t be inherently wicked. we should own that. hurrah! but bitch is different.
bitch isn’t a pejorative applied to women’s bodies. a bitch is a female dog. the word is profane because it is dehumanizing and feminizing. it lowers an individual to the status of both a dog AND a woman. which isn’t particularly funny in the end.