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Bellatrix Lestrange Is No Bitch

July 25, 2007
As far as I can recall J.K.Rowling has never used the word bitch until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It saddens me that she did so because it was not only inaccurate it subtly perpetuates misogyny. No reasonable person will deny that bitch is a female specific pejorative. Bellatrix Lestrange’s behavior, which incites Mrs. Weasley to call her bitch does not display gender specific qualities, therefore her usage of such a word is inappropriate. Anyone familiar with Bellatrix’s character can hardly deny that she is diabolically evil, even psychotically evil. She is a sadist demonstrated over again, for instance, Bellatrix glories in McGonagall’s despair when Harry is assumed dead. She taunts Harry after killing Sirius Black (his godfather and her own cousin) and taunts Neville about what she did to his parents. Bellatrix is a monster. Monsters are not uniquely female. Actually, Bellatrix is Voldemort’s most loyal servant, his number one lieutenant and their relationship is platonic. I understand that Harry Potter is supposedly for the nine to twelve year olds and bitch is more benign compared to other possibilities such as cunt. However, cunt would not be accurate either because again the characteristics that best describe Bellatrix’s evilness are not exclusively female. If anything her behavior more precisely mirrors other adult males in the saga, –most of the death eaters mentioned are male.

The unnecessarily offensive excerpt, page 736:

Bellatrix was still fighting too, fifty yards away from Voldemort, and like her master she dueled three at once: Hermione, Ginny, and Luna, all battling their hardest, but Bellatrix was equal to them, and Harry’s attention was diverted as a Killing Curse shot so close to Ginny that she missed death by an inch——-
He changed course, running at Bellatrix rather than Voldemort, but before he had gone a few steps he was knocked sideways.
“NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”
Mrs. Weasley threw off her cloak as she ran, freeing her arms. Bellatrix spun on the spot, roaring with laughter at the sight of her new challenger.
“OUT OF MY WAY!” shouted Mrs. Weasley to the three girls, and with a swipe of her wand she began to duel. Harry watched with terror and elation as Molly Weasley’s wand slashed and twirled, and Bellatrix Lestrange’s smile faltered and became a snarl. Jets of light flew from both wands, the floor around the witches’ feet became hot and cracked; both women were fighting to kill.
“No!” Mrs. Weasley cried as a few students ran forward, trying to come to her aid. “Get back! Get back! She is mine!”

What would have been wrong with, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU MONSTER!” Same impact, if not more of one and free from misogyny. Monster is gender neutral.

I can forgive the use of the protective mama bear tired cliché, but I just cannot take delight in the use of bitch. Amazingly, I have read many responses from other readers who think the line is funny and/or one of the best. There was less to gain than there was to lose. This on the news that middle school children equate slapping girls on the ass as the same as shaking hands.

21 Comments
  1. Anna permalink
    July 25, 2007 2:38 pm

    Oh my. Bothersome, to say the least.

  2. July 25, 2007 6:23 pm

    Well, the word no longer applies specifically to women:

    From the unabridge online dictionary:

    3. Slang. a. a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, esp. a woman.
    b. a lewd woman.

    4. Slang. a. a complaint.
    b. anything difficult or unpleasant: The test was a bitch.
    c. anything memorable, esp. something exceptionally good: That last big party he threw was a real bitch.

    –verb (used without object) 5. Slang. to complain; gripe: They bitched about the service, then about the bill.
    –verb (used with object) 6. Slang. to spoil; bungle (sometimes fol. by up): He bitched the job completely. You really bitched up this math problem.

    And personally, I find bitch perferable to the other word you used, apparently with no problem.

    cjh

  3. Pippa permalink
    July 25, 2007 9:47 pm

    hmmm. CJ, I think you might question WHY the definition of the word bitch has spread out to encompass all those meanings. Of course the word no longer applies exclusively to women, but the offense of the word derives explicitly from its connection to femaleness and the resultant and implicit insult is there for all woman haters to see. The word cunt, on the other hand, has not yet made that leap to mainstream.

    But it will, and perhaps when it can more easily be used as an adjective (“that party was cunting!”) or verb, (“wow you just cunted up THAT comment!”) you’ll find that it offends you less and you’ll accept it and try to defend it just as much as that harmless word, “bitch”. Or you could get on board and agree that there’s a line and Rowling crossed it. Just my two penn’orth. And yep, I still LOATHE HP! Pippa x

  4. July 26, 2007 2:58 pm

    It would seem to me you’re fighting a lost cause. The word bitch has become an accept part of the culture and language. It’s too late to change it.

    What you should be asking yourself is how it got that way.

    Perhaps because people started throwing it around unnecessarily.

    Kinda like your use of one of the most offensive words there is. Use it enough, it loses its ability to shock and disgust.

    Not that I’m for the overall coursening of society. I abhore the fact that words once considered vulgar and inappropriate have now become common place. All words, not just those that offend feminist sensibilities.

    Personally, I thought the entire scene was humorous and I love HP and will miss the books terribly.

    But, I can admit yours is an interesting perspective.

    cjh

  5. Michelle permalink
    July 26, 2007 3:34 pm

    My two sickles…

    In spite of Harry Potter being a fantasy series, one thing at which JK Rowling has always excelled is making the characters relatable and realistic. In the case of someone attacking a child, no one in their right mind is going to stop to contemplate the ramifications of their insults on feminsim as they rush to defend the child. If they did, I’d heartily suggest having their head examined – if they themselves survived the attack.

    I think calling a female a bitch is as valid as calling a male a dick, but I don’t see any complaints about male-specific insults up there.

  6. gingermiss permalink
    July 26, 2007 10:26 pm

    Same impact, if not more of one and free from misogyny.
    I disagree. It wouldn’t have the same impact. I have mixed feelings on the use of the word “bitch”, but part of the shock value comes from the fact that Rowling is using a ‘forbidden’ word. Monster doesn’t have the same tone. She had other options, though.

    The word bitch has become an accept part of the culture and language. It’s too late to change it.
    Untrue. Word usage, like everything else, goes through cycles and evolutions. How many people today are still throwing around words like ‘doth’? It may be fighting an uphill battle, but it’s never too late to change anything.

    In the case of someone attacking a child, no one in their right mind is going to stop to contemplate the ramifications of their insults on feminsim as they rush to defend the child.
    If they really were rushing to defend the child, why would they take the time to scream anything so lengthy? They’d probably just scream “stop”, or “no”, or just act on their impulses.

    To say the scene was “realistic” is a defensive overstatement. Rowling is giving her readers what she thinks they want – someone unexpected who vocally and physically stands up to the villain. If anything, it sounds like she just ripped off Ripley from Aliens – “Get away from her you bitch!”

  7. Chris permalink
    July 26, 2007 10:38 pm

    I was thinking she should have said “Not my daughter, you twisted fuck” but I guess that wouldn’t make it into the film version 🙂

    Re: the ass slapping, my thought when I read that was that the girls should have returned the “handshake” with a good kick to the nuts! I thought it was overblown when I read the headline of the article but when I saw the smug look on that kid’s face and read the detail, I quickly changed my mind. I obviously don’t agree with everything that you say is misogynistic (don’t fall over, ha ha) but that picture says it all when you look at the kid and his dad in the back ground.

  8. Michelle permalink
    July 26, 2007 11:32 pm

    In the case of someone attacking a child, no one in their right mind is going to stop to contemplate the ramifications of their insults on feminsim as they rush to defend the child.
    If they really were rushing to defend the child, why would they take the time to scream anything so lengthy? They’d probably just scream “stop”, or “no”, or just act on their impulses.”

    Or, they might actually scream something that lengthy to distract the attacker. Just saying “stop” or “no” doesn’t seem enough to divert the attention away from the child and to the defending adult.

    “To say the scene was “realistic” is a defensive overstatement. Rowling is giving her readers what she thinks they want – someone unexpected who vocally and physically stands up to the villain.”

    Defensive overstatement? Yeah, not so much. LOL. First of all, I never said the scene was realistic, I said that the characters are realistic and relatable. It’s my opinion that Rowling wrote exactly what people imagine themselves saying to someone who might hurt their child, having had such similar thoughts myself on a few occasions in defense of my own child.
    Furthermore, Rowling is a responsible enough author to have written these stories true to her own original vision of them – I highly doubt she wrote such a thing just to “give readers what they want.”

  9. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 27, 2007 12:23 am

    We are not discussing calling males dicks because the epithet was not used on a male. Beside dick does not have the same connotations as bitch. A dick implies that particular man, whereas bitch encompasses all women.

    If bitch were used on a male, it would still be misogynistic because it is a word rooted in the feminine. Therefore in a masculine is stronger than feminine world, bitch would be an insult to the male, for no other sting but to imply he is less than a man, he is a bitch, which would mean he is a woman, which would mean he was less than.

    Molly Weasley realistically using the word at that very moment only proves how permeated misogyny has infiltrated our society. So she is supposedly at the pinnacle of anger and the word that comes out is bitch, a world that insults the female.

    What if a Death Eater screamed to Kingley Shacklebolt (nice slave imagery by the way) at the moment he was fighting a Death Eater’s child, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU NIGGER!” Yeah, then it would be a whole different story. Because people who are willing to subordinate women will holler how epithets that denote race are more damaging than epithets that denote gender subjugation. Even though the mainstream argument can apply to the word nigger. Just mix up the spelling and it is all good. /sarcasm

    “NOT MY DAUGHER” would have been fine. We see the ALL CAPS!

    I think it is very sad witnessing people who continue to defend words that clearly divide.

  10. Michelle permalink
    July 27, 2007 1:17 am

    Calling a man a “dick” or a “pig” – very frequent saying that men are pigs, but no one seems to be up in arms about it, and I find it divisive – should be equally as offensive as calling a woman a “bitch” and calling a black person a “nigger.” You can’t have equality if you’re not defending everyone.

  11. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 27, 2007 1:21 am

    Michelle, we are discussing an excerpt in a book and how that excerpt mirrors the general population. When you find the excerpt in a Harry Potter book calling a male a dick then you can write an entry about it. But, I am quite sure you will find an excerpt calling a woman a bitch first. Oh, we did.

  12. gingermiss permalink
    July 27, 2007 1:32 am

    Calling a man a “dick” or a “pig” – very frequent saying that men are pigs, but no one seems to be up in arms about it, and I find it divisive – should be equally as offensive as calling a woman a “bitch” and calling a black person a “nigger.” You can’t have equality if you’re not defending everyone.

    Calling a man a dick may be wrong under certain circumstances, but it’s not the same fucking thing as calling a black person a nigger or a woman a bitch (or, to choose a more pejorative female slur, a cunt).

    Why is it that people have such tremendous difficulty accepting the fact that there is a difference between the dominant group and the subordinate group? Equality doesn’t mean everyone can say the same thing and have it mean the same thing. The same words coming out of the mouths of different people OFTEN mean something different.

  13. JMC permalink
    July 28, 2007 1:17 pm

    Okaaaaaaaaayyyyy. Wow. Dare I make a comment? Oh, sure, why the hell not?

    Just to get back to the original quote:
    “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”

    One moment while I put on my body armor… I don’t think it’s (don’t say it… you stupid, stupid moron, you… oh, you’re gonna say it… okay, deep breath) asbigadealasyou’remakingitouttobe.

    Before you start seeing red, let me explain. First of all, as to the shock value. No, “monster” wouldn’t have had the same effect, nor would nothing at all, just seeing the caps. Why? Well, like was already said, the word “bitch” is still considered a forbidden word. Furthermore, Mrs. Weasley saying it is kind of like hearing your mother cuss. For a lot of us that would be totally shocking. As a teenager, I once pushed my mother to the point that she said “damn,” and I was mouth-hanging-open completely floored. So it was showing just how far Mrs. Weasley had been pushed. And who happened to be to person who wielded the straw (or should we say wand) that broke the camel’s back? An evil person who was a woman. Kitty said, “So she is supposedly at the pinnacle of anger and the word that comes out is bitch, a word that insults the female.” I don’t think it is a word that insults THE female, I think it was a word that insulted THAT female. Excuse me a moment while I double check my armor… Had I been in that situation, I would’ve called her a bitch, too. Of course not BEFORE attacking her, but during and after. After all, I don’t want to waste time talking when she’s after my kid. (Chris – have to say, “twisted fuck” would have worked, if it weren’t so many syllables. She was after the kid, though, so the situation called for brevity.)

    Anyway. Context, people, context. Had someone at Bill and Fleur’s wedding said, “Wow, look at the dresses on all these bitches!” THEN this discussion would make much more sense.

    (Oh no, what have I done…)
    🙂

  14. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 29, 2007 10:49 am

    Derogatory gender specific words, particularly geared toward the female, the member of society who is systematically oppressed are never acceptable in any context. If anyone needs armor, it is the female to protect herself from misogyny, including the misogyny that has permeated mainstream society conditioning many in a state of adapting misogyny.

    Advocating misogyny will not be fostered at this blog.

  15. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 30, 2007 5:56 am

    JMC,

    I apologize for some of my reaction. I had several windows open at the time and now that I access it again I see that I mistaken you for the person (it was Michelle) who posted an entry at her blog stating it was her deliberate intention to antagonize radical feminists.

    Of course you can have your opinion, however, on my blog I can decide when I no longer will continue an interaction that seems to have no purpose other than to provoke or mislead. I felt that way the minute you came into the conversation defensively with the body amour metaphor. It is in fact the ardent feminists, women who dissent mainstream ideology who are in need of the body amour not the people who enable misogyny to continue. Which is what I feel is the case when terms like bitch is accepted.

    The porn allusion still stands though, because you did in fact allude to a blog that enables porn.

  16. JMC permalink
    July 30, 2007 5:53 pm

    I’m only replying because I assume my ban has been lifted for the moment?

    The body armor was meant tongue-in-cheek because I saw how riled up things seemed to be getting in the comments section. I am the type of person who can laugh at myself and tries to interject humor in order to diffuse situations; it was a bad decision to do so in this forum.

    As to the porn thing, I didn’t realize she enabled it (still don’t know that it is the case, actually). I was only making the point that in 3 clicks I could get from your sidebar to a blog with the word “bitch” in its title. And only pointed that out because I thought that my implying because of that, YOU were advocating misogyny, was about as valid as your telling me I advocate misogyny.

    As for Michelle, I think she was reacting to being made to feel as if her opinion was somehow less valid than yours. If you want intelligent discussion in your comments section, you have to be willing to allow everyone his/her own opinion, without fear of personal attack. Then maybe everyone could learn something.

  17. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 30, 2007 6:39 pm

    I will not say much about Bitch PhD because I do not approve of her writing for SG. It is a porn site period and any crap about it empowering women is just that, crap. However, her using the word bitch vs. a woman being called bitch are two different things. This is all fine and good for her if that is her thing. I personally do not believe that reclaiming it will diffuse its usage much but it may be worth a shot.

    To insure inequality, tactics are routinely perpetuated by mainstream society which is exactly what Michelle was doing by justifying the use of bitch. People will argue the innocence in using gender specific derogatory epithets, yet, the list mostly consists of words that degrade the woman born woman. She was crying about the men and I told her she can write about the men. The already have enough power and therefore do not need me to aid them any further.

    You are wasting your time defending Michelle here. Her comments were allowed and they were refuted. Then she went and wrote an entry stating that it is her deliberate intention to antagonize feminists. I don’t take any shit from men and I ain’t going take any shit from a woman who is behaving like a man either. In fact, that entry makes her a man in my book. If she uses oppressive tactics here she will be met with hostility. With an entry like hers, bragging that it is her intent to subvert feminism, she is not showing or proving a valid interest in dialogue, so I do not give a damn what she has to say, she already did the damage.

  18. Dewey permalink
    July 30, 2007 8:18 pm

    If that entry makes her a man, though, Kitty, do you consider male feminists women? I am married to a male feminist who would die before deliberately antagonizing a feminist, and so it hurts to see all men lumped into one bucket.

  19. Kitty Glendower permalink
    July 30, 2007 8:44 pm

    If we must split hairs, then I will say it symbolically makes her a male who benefits from women’s oppression and/or have default male privilege, which in fact, includes all men. There are so many so-called feminist men, let someone’s wife or girlfriend tell it. But keeping it in context, Michelle aggressively went back to her blog and declared war on feminists. Men systematically and traditionally have been the sex that has declared war on feminists. Therefore, she is symbolically displaying typical male behavior.

    After dealing with some of the comments here, from supposedly women, I have to wonder why so much energy is spent defending bad behavior toward women instead of targeted at the true oppressors, men. Men have male privilege regardless of how feminist he appears to act. When women attack other women because that woman is defending the right to be free from abusive language it benefits men. Way to go. One for the man team.

  20. Imaginary permalink
    April 24, 2010 11:08 am

    “NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU DICK!” Might that have worked? It’s still “forbidden” and I imagine some people would find it fairly funny considering Bellatrix is not a man.

    Also, I never noticed the “Shacklebolt” conotation before. Yeesh. That’s not very nice now that I think about it.

    Oh, and HI! I’m new.

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