I have been calling myself a BABE for years because I am. I am a total BABE.
In college I took this feminist literature class, and my professor shared this play on the meaning of the word bitch as Being In Total Control of Herself. I loved this acronym! It resonated with me and my Feminazi heart – thank you, Eli, for calling me that at 16; it stuck. Before college I had been called bitch many a time for not agreeing with someone’s opinions or actions, and being called a bitch hurt. The casual viciousness of that word flung at me too many times to count hammered home that my actions, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs were bad, and I was bad for doing or speaking. So, I became cautious, too cautious really, testing the waters to see if the person was going to be a respectful listener or a bitch caller. I learned not to talk about religion, politics, social issues, cultural issues, or women’s issues. I learned to close my throat down hard on those words that wanted to escape when someone made some jackass comment that was as hurtful as it was untruthful because invariably the speaker of that jackass comment was just as likely to think I was a bitch if I did speak.
As I got a little older (I didn’t “blossom,” whatever that means, until after college), I got called a babe by some guys and gals, and I found myself shrinking from it because it didn’t feel true to me. It also didn’t feel right. Neither babe nor bitch felt very good until I put them in all caps and combined them.
BABE and BITCH – they have such different meanings and feelings attached to them. Each has a positive aspect and a negative aspect, but it all depends on how I think about them. After that feminist class the meaning of bitch changed for me. Getting called a BITCH, all caps, meant you were strong, you had a boundary, and you stood your ground.
Getting called a babe obviously meant someone thought you were attractive, which is lovely and wonderful, but to me it also never felt really good because it meant that person only saw part of me. Saw only a body, an object – not me, not the person, who thinks puns are hilarious, inhales popcorn by the pound, tears up at sweet commercials featuring animals and babies, and yells at the stupid people in horror movies.
So, I got to thinking about the person that I was and the person that I wanted to be: strong, confident, determined – in other words, a badass. So, BABE popped into my head as in BadAss BITCH in the Extreme, Being In Total Control of Herself: Power. Confidence. Beauty.
Being in total control of herself is really about being in control of my thoughts, my feelings, my reactions, and my choices and allowing no one and nothing else to have power over me. When I was younger, I too often gave up my power, gave up my voice and my choice (as do we all), which left me feeling angry, pissed, and small – as if I was less than. Many times I heard in some fashion or other that to speak was “dangerous:” speak up, speak out, speak against, or speak for might get me hurt. Perhaps that can be true, but I found that swallowing my words over and over again hurt more because I was giving up pieces of myself to someone else over and over again. I traded my power for “safety,” the safety of acceptance within social and cultural groups, allowing my “place” at home, at school, at work, and at social functions to be dictated to me instead of by me.
Years ago I worked with this guy at a major corporation, who referred to women as ho all the time and who one day held his empty cup out to me and told me to go get him a drink of water. We’re talking 2001 here. Needless to say, I was shocked, then I was pissed. I stood frozen in place as I very, seriously fantasized about filling the glass with water and flinging it in his face -a fantastic scenario that played out perfectly in my head. His shocked face, the power of staring him down, and the sweet feeling of finally telling him what I thought of him flitted through my mind. Instead, I chose to march my ass down to HR rather than the kitchen to find the largest cup for water flinging and file a formal complaint. I chose to use my words to speak up for myself and all the other women he had been putting down this whole time, who hadn’t spoken up for themselves – me included, here.
It felt good to advocate for myself, to set a boundary of what I would allow, and to speak out, using words to make a positive difference in a situation that I had been ignoring.
In case you were wondering, he was “let go;” I prefer term fired!
Even though the situation was a bit nerve wracking since I had no idea what to expect, I realized my words have power and that they are power. I can change my whole world with just the sound of my voice, speaking from my heart – speaking my truth.
Being a BABE for me is all about compassionate action, speaking my truth and setting kind, but firm boundaries for myself and with other people. Changing how I talk to myself is just as important as how I talk to anyone else. I own my power: I am a BABE.
So are you.