Every morning as I walk my daughters to school, I pass a billboard advertising a new sitcom on ABC. Alongside a close-up of a smug young woman dangling a key off the end of her finger reads: “Don’t trust the B—- in Apt. 23.” And every morning, I’m glad that they’re too young to read, not only because the whole thing is so staged and lame, but because of what that dash says. More important, it’s what it elides — how we think and talk about women — that’s very troubling. It’s what the title doesn’t say that screams the loudest.
My discomfort will come to an end soon. “The B—- in Apt. 23” debuts tonight. The billboard will be replaced, but what it tells us about how we talk about women isn’t going anywhere.
According to Google Books, the word “bitch” appeared 170,710 times in the decade beginning in 2000, almost always in an up-with-women way. (Compare that to the 1930s, when the 11,369 entries ran more to issues of animal anatomy and veterinary medicine.)