When I was running the 2011 Divas Wahine Half Marathon in Honolulu, there was a portion of the course where people had written words of encouragement and drawn funny pictures in chalk on the road. Pretty similar to what Nike did for the Tour de France a couple of years ago. It was unexpected and helped to pass the miles as it was part of the course that didn’t have much in the way of scenery.
Most of the “chalk talk” was encouraging, “You can do this!” or funny, “Donuts at the finish line!” But then there was one that almost made me stop in my tracks. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was along the lines of “You bitches got this thing.”
I’m not against swearing – I can swear with the best of them, thanks to 6 years of working in a manufacturing company. And I realize that words that were considered naughty when I was growing up have become more mainstream over the years. But here’s the thing – when I was growing up, our moms were ladies, we aspired to be women, and bitches were female dogs and girls who tried to steal our boyfriends. So despite the ubiquity of the word “bitches” I was a bit taken aback that some random stranger would (1) call me a bitch and (2) think that it was encouraging to me.
As if to reinforce the omnipresence of that word, on campus last Thursday, a young man in front of me called out to a young woman, “Hey there, Melissa, my little bitch.” I can only assume that they were friends as his tone seemed friendly enough and she responded to his greeting.
My goodness. How the world has changed. How the bar for civility and courteousness has dropped.
On Facebook I created an interest group of running and fitness pages that are a mix of fitness articles, motivational quotes and pictures, health and nutrition articles, etc. Imagine my surprise on Thursday morning when I saw this picture posted by the MotivateHopeStrength page:
In that same group, there’s a page called I ❤ to run. Again, there are a lot of fitness-related (mostly running) posts, article links, and motivational memes. A few months back, I browsed the website and was on the verge of buying one of their running calendars and a 13.1 sweatshirt for my brother and then I saw this:
These things struck me as discordant because to me, “Namaste” does not belong anywhere near “bitches.” To me, as I was taught in my yoga practice, Namaste is a word that means peace, honor, spirituality. According to about.com, “Namaste” is a greeting that means, “The God/Goddess Spirit within me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit within you.”
How does “Namaste my bitches” honor anything about me, about you, about any human being? How does calling someone a “bitch” honor that person? According to dictionary.com –
There is nothing in that definition that even hints at the word being honorable or positive.
If that post had been on a humor page, I might have had a different reaction – grimace and move on. But the fact that the post was on a fitness page that is meant to motivate, inspire hope, and strengthen people made me react differently. We don’t motivate each other by calling one another “bitches.” We don’t inspire hope by calling someone else a “bitch.” And you certainly don’t strengthen someone by calling them a “bitch.”
Remember that rhyme we used to say when we were growing up? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve learned over the years that it’s not true – words can hurt. Words do matter. Choose them wisely.
And the thought processor churns on…