‘Difficult’ is the new ’b-word,’ according to Meghan Markle
In the latest episode of her ‘Archetypes’ podcast, Meghan Markle explores the sexist background of a label she has personally experienced.
Each week in the first season of her Spotify podcast “Archetypes,” Meghan Markle has broken down a different stereotype specifically applying to women. This week, the Duchess of Sussex dissected the word “b***h” and its impact on women.
Joined by Robin Thede, writer and creator of HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” zoologist Lucy Cook, author of “B***h: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal,” Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and chairwoman of Starbucks, and Victoria Jackson, makeup mogul and medical advocate, the group investigated the term in an episode titled “To ‘B’ or Not to ‘B’?”
Markle began the conversation by sharing her choice to use the word minimally. However, her first guest, self-proclaimed “word nerd” Thede, argued that the b-word can be a tool, “used to describe a woman who goes after what she wants.”
Co-signing Thede’s thoughts on the “very charged word,” Markle explained it’s typically associated with “difficult” women who aren’t afraid to say “no,” a label Markle was no stranger to during her time as a royal.
“Which is really just a euphemism, or is probably not even a euphemism. It’s really a code word for the b-word,” said Markle, per People.
Even though Markle claimed to have “zero interest” in ever using the word, she expressed admiration for women like Thede and Cook, who are rewriting the narrative and finding empowerment in the term. “[T]hese women I respect, whose work I love, a lot of them are entirely comfortable with that,” said Markle. “They want to do that, to take power out of it.”
Later in the episode, Markle and Cook discussed a parallel within the word’s meaning — “in the context of this larger notion of difficult women who are threatening the human social order. Being masculine is being aggressive and dominant, and being feminine is being submissive,” Markle noted.
“It annoys me, these labels, because actually being feminine, you know, amongst the animal kingdom, involves being aggressive and promiscuous and competitive, and dominant, and dynamic and varied and all the things that males are, so these distinctions between masculine and feminine,” Cook explained. “And I think are cultural, not biological. I don’t think the word ‘b***h’ should be a swear word. Why should being a b***h be a bad thing?”
Reflecting on the discussion, the Duchess of Sussex explored the possibility of the label as a deflection in which assertive women are “convenient villains.”
“[It’s] a way to hide some of [a woman’s] really awesome qualities, her persistence, her strength, her perseverance, her strong opinion, maybe even her resilience,” said Markle.
“But that’s what happens when we label someone, a woman, especially, one of these words,” she added. “It becomes a way to take their power away. Keep them in their place.”
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