Said blamer Morag:
“About all that hate-mail: so much for the reclamation of the word ‘cunt.’ Remember Inga Muscio’s book with that very same title? Well, she tried. Even the ubiquitous ‘bitch’ still has some residual subjugating power depending on who is using it, and how. Reclaiming hateful words hacks at the branches, not at the roots.
On the subject of the subjugating power of the word “bitch”: as it happens, I have just slogged through the Britney Spears video for her new single “Work Bitch.” In this hackneyed piece she waxes dominatrixy at her all-girl leather-bikini posse, cracking her whip at them as they crawl around on all fours, leading them around on leashes etc. The lyrics, delivered in a creepy sexbot Engish accent:
“You wanna hot body? You wanna Bu-gatti? You wanna Maserati? You better work, bitch. You better work bitch. You better work bitch. Now get to work bitch. Now get to work bitch. Now get to work bitch.”
The video imagery is pretty much patriarchy encapsulated. Britney is little more than a clump of airbrushed, buff-ass assimilation perfectly aligned with dudebro fantasy. She compels her bitches to perform this leather-clad Zumba workout in order to reap the material rewards all Britney Spears fans apparently yearn for: sports cars and looking hot in a bikini. Also, in the next verse, martinis (it rhymes with “bikini”) and partying in France (it kind of rhymes with “fancy” and, I guess, “mansion”).
Emily Dickinson she’s not.
Unsurprisingly, this corny-ass video is being sold as “shocking” à la the whole Miley Cyrus twerking thing. But like most mainstream porn-informed pop culture, it’s about as shocking as the Macarena. It’s just more of the same old BDSMy misogynonormative crap, watered down for the tweens. Madonna was doing this back in the 80s, with way better songs and way better production values. And she didn’t call anyone a bitch.
Of course, Britney’s not even trying to reclaim “bitch.” She’s going for the total opposite, by using her awesome blonde celebrity to reinforce its powers as a patriarchy-replication device. When you hear some P2K-compliant hack — and you will — referring to this video as a statement of feminist empowerment wherein Spears declares her choice to choose bondagewear as a symbol of the awesomeness of earning Italian sports cars through aerobic dance, you will laugh a hollow, mirthless laugh. As ew_nc commented:
“I have spent many hours of utter frustration trying to convince people that “reclaiming” derogatory words does not take their power away. Men could care less if women’s groups call their action a “Slut Walk”, for instance. That doesn’t do one damn thing to change their attitudes or behavior. They’ll still dehumanzie us with those words whenever they feel like it.”