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The Canine in Conversation
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woman behind counter listening as an angry looking man shoves something into her face
figure 1  


bitch. (verb) Complain.

Clearly this is related to the implication that bitches complain. Any gender can bitch and bitching is not an action engaged in solely by women. Nonetheless, the term remains genderized. Bitching is not considered professional or polite. When a woman complains, she is much more likely to have her concerns characterized as bitching, as opposed to a man who presents similar issues in a similar way. Conversely, when a man's actions are described as “bitching” there is an implied negative judgment, perhaps even the implication that he is whining and certainly not acting the way a “real man” would.

Senator Hillary Clinton
figure 3  
Former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev

Figures 2 and 3 demonstrate the impact of gender on the interpretation of the shaking of a finger. Former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Senator Hillary Clinton have drawn the ire of many, each in his and her own time. Yet we are unlikely to think that Khrushchev was a bitch when he complained. Labeling someone as “bitching” often acts to delegitimize reasonable complaints, or undermine a woman exercising appropriate authority. Not that Khrushchev's complaints were considered legitimate or reasonable in this country.




About the illustrations: The person bitching can be of any gender. In Figure 1, it is relatively easy to determine the complainer. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 2 is Khrushchev as he appeared on the cover of the December 2, 1957 edition of Life Magazine.reference 1 In Figure 3, Senator Clinton's photograph was taken by EPA/SCANPIX. These images are copyrighted and unlicensed. I believe that the use of these scaled-down, low-resolution portions of images to illustrate the article “bitch (verb) ” qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

1. Duncan, David Douglas. 1957. Khrushchev Speaking at a Moscow Party. Life, Dec 2, cover.
see also: bitch (female); bitch (male); bitchin'; son of a bitch Last updated: June 21, 2008
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