“Which bitch?” I asked a co-worker who just complained about “That bitch.” Every third word spoken in a women’s prison is “bitch”. Every woman here is a bitch, if not in demeanor, then in name.
Despite my education and commitment to spicing my conversation with “bitch,” rather than making the word the meat of my discourse like the other inmates do, I refer to women as bitches now without any rancor or regret. It’s like I’m Jay-Z. My new pottier mouth gives testimony to the power of immersion in learning a second language. No one said the second language had to be anything other than “bad.” Along with everyone else in here, I use the word so often that I sucked the sting right out of it. “Bitch” isn’t an insult; it’s a pronoun.
“Bitch means ‘Being In Total Control of Herself,’” trumpeted a 23-year old inmate, her face studded with cystic acne, her worldview too innocent to survive this place. Everyone around her knows she swiped it from a bumper sticker and everyone around her knows she’s full of shit. “Being In Total Control of Herself” as a ward of the state, a slave to her poor choices, trying to master anyone but herself? No. Not here.
Some inmates are proud to be true bitches: nasty, trifling and cruel. “No one loves you and that’s why you’re here” is their version of “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.” The bitches’ vitriol not only grows more potent but employs itself with greater frequency when an inmate with a physical or mental disability stares back into their bitch binoculars. To an inmate with a lazy eye: “Which way you lookin’? I can’t tell where you lookin’ with that fucked up eye. Probably why you’re here.”
Pointing out ostensible – maybe implausible – reasons for a woman’s fall into crime is the cherry on the bitch sundae; it’s just no treat merely to insult someone. A bitch must send the message: IF you were different, you’d be better, as in not here. BITCH: Bullying Individuals That Call for Help.
Every woman in prison features dysfunction, but female inmates walk in clouds of chaos the way Peanut’s Pig Pen roams Charlie Brown’s neighborhood in a billow of filth; it follows them everywhere and forms their identities. Not that the bitches acknowledge this. They castigate others about their problems.
“I got my shit straight. You need to get your head right. Use the steps, yo. You know them. If nothing changes, ain’t nothin’ changin’. You know that, you dumb bitch!” is a typical soliloquy from an inmate returning from an NA meeting, biting her nails and selling slices of American cheese stolen from the kitchen in exchange for another inmate’s Neurontin, a pill shed of its shiny coating from being tucked between the seller’s check and gum so a hawkish nurse doesn’t see. BITCH: Backsliding Into Three Compulsive Habits.
Bitches try to be as big as their britches and their efforts only end up showcasing their inferiority. They puff up around any guard who withstands their manipulation.
“Faggot, with your motherfuckin’ fake colored contact lenses. Get me some toilet paper. You got an extra cookies?” They think these mini-harangues make sense and are inoffensive and effective. When the guard disciplines them, the unfairness of the expected comeuppance dazes them. “Yo, why you gotta be all fagotty and aggy (aggravating) ‘bout this shit? I never said nothing bad to you?” BITCH: Babbling Improprieties That Catch Hell.
Of course, no bitch elects herself mayor of Bitcharea; usually other people have campaigned against her self-esteem to put her in office. At her swearing in, they belittle her, telling her she’s stupid and worthless, striking and molesting her, twisting her mind to accept that she deserves torment because she’s inferior. BITCH: Bearing Injury That Caused Harm.
Bitches continue to sustain injury in prison. The male correction officers’ barrage of put-downs bothers each of us but, somehow, the men’s words don’t sting as badly as the sly condemnation from female officers. Many female guards are maternal and kind. Others are such vipers that we feel betrayed because there’s the human condition and then there’s the female condition. We all share that; no one granted them immunity from misogyny. Whether they wear cloth badges or we wear laminated tags like dogs, all of us have been called a bitch by a man at one point or another.
As an inmate, when you interact with a correction officer, sometimes you feel like you’ve re-entered society because the guard is not institutionalized; it can be almost humanizing. When female guards defile that communication with bitchiness, it really crushes you. From the male guards, we expect bald chauvinism and ridicule. From female officers, we resent it. BITCH: Being Inhumane To Crush Hope.
I can’t really tell anymore, but I think I have become more of a bitch than I was upon entering. Although I talk less and being a bitch requires bitching, so my bitch level may have been reduced. But when I do speak, my words seem like icy daggers. It’s been one hell of a rehabilitation, especially if I can’t tell if I’m a worse bitch or a better bitch, a hoarse bitch or a bitter bitch. BITCH: Basically I’m Tired, Confused = Hateful.
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering which kind of bitch I am. And any prisoner will tell you: figuring yourself out is always a bitch.
From vice.com: The Story of How Pimp C Ended Up in Prison
“…[J]ournalist and Southern rap expert Julia Beverly explores the life of Pimp C—real name Chad Butler—and, in particular, sheds light on the period leading up to and encompassing his incarceration. Among the many revelations she offers is an astute analysis of the way that Pimp C’s legal troubles coincided with an intensely concentrated investment in the Texas correctional system.”