I couldn’t sleep the other night so I decided to get into the new ABC series Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (It had been pre-released online in advance on its April 11th network premiere). When that was over, I started on the new Texas housewife comedy GCB. By the time I’d gotten through both series’ pilots, I still couldn’t nod off, only now I was up because I was good and mad.
Though we’re told GCB could stand for “Good Christian Belles” as well as “Good Christian Bitches,” the fact remains the same that the show draws most of its comedy and plot development from grown women treating each other horribly. Don’t Trust… similarly centers on a selfish, duplicitous woman who thrives on taking advantage of other females and sexually manipulating all-too willing men.
I actually find both shows pretty well done, and amply buoyed by the performances of great female comedians (GCB’s Kristin Chenoweth and Don’t Trust’s Krysten Ritter.) My issue here is less with the quality of the shows than with what their existence suggests about the way we talk about women, and the kinds of behaviors we accept-- and expect.
When did it become this acceptable to call women “bitches?” And no, don’t blame Meredith Brooks—she was reappropriating the word, not using it to revel in the spectacle of women treating each other badly. And why is it so funny/enjoyable/acceptable to watch women try to destroy each other? Do we, on some level, buy into that sexist bullshit that women are always inherently in competition for male attention? Or is it that we recognize there are only so many opportunities for women out there, and so decide that we all have to fight each other to get at them?
I’m reminded of Tina Fey’s awesome speech in Mean Girls, when she advises her students “You have got to stop calling each other ‘sluts” and ‘whores.’ It just makes it ok for guys to call you ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’.” Maybe let’s apply that lesson to the word “bitch” and the behaviors it connotes. Backstabbing and devaluing each other as women only makes it easier for men to do the same, so if we’re going to watch these shows, let’s remind ourselves that funny as they are, women treating each other like this is actually pretty tragic.
Emilie Spiegel is a grad student, studying the effects of Media Cultures on young women. She starts a PhD program in September.