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Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Becky Due wants to eradicate the B-word.

The first person Becky Due ever called a bitch was her mother. She caught a whuppin' for it, and since then, Due says, she's never called anyone a bitch again.

Almost thirty years later, Due was on an airplane and heard a grown man call a young girl a bitch as the plane touched down. "He called a little crying girl that, and his wife was sitting with him and she didn't say anything," Due says. "So when the plane landed, I made eye contact with him and said, 'It's very inappropriate to call a little girl a bitch.'"

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em," the man replied.

"I think you'd better look in the mirror. You'd better check yourself," Due countered.

She was so mad about the incident that she went home and looked up "bitch" in the dictionary to see how Webster's defined it. "There are so many dictionaries that have derogatory words against women -- slut, bitch, cunt, tit, whore -- I just couldn't believe it," says Due, who lives in Loveland. "And I started looking up derogatory words against men, and I couldn't find any. 'Son of a bitch' refers to a woman, and then 'bastard' was a baby born to an unmarried woman. And when it came to derogatory words against men that you would think would be associated with a man, it didn't say man, it said 'person.' But when it was derogatory against a woman, it would always say 'bad woman.'"

To Due, the only purpose the B-word serves is in describing a female dog.

No bitching allowed.

Nothing's bitchin.

No one is a son of a bitch.

Nobody's riding bitch.

No bitch-slapping.

Life is not a bitch.

And no self-proclaimed bitch is righteous.

"I think that's ridiculous. It just seems to me like they feel that they're not strong enough to say, 'That's a terrible word against women, and I don't want to deal with it anymore.' It's almost like they decide, 'well, if I can't beat 'em, I'll join 'em.' And I think that we can beat it. Almost like the N-word. Everybody knows you can't say the N-word."

A generation of young black men who've embraced the term would disagree. So would the women over at Bitch magazine, who've embraced the B-word. "Basically, we have pretty much the opposite hope for the word, which is that it can be reclaimed the way once-derogatory words like 'queer' have been reclaimed by using the word," says Andi Zeisler, Bitch's editorial/creative director. "And we've always been for using the word as both a noun and a verb, because while 'bitch' is certainly still considered a derogatory term, in many ways the act of bitching as a whole can lead to really positive change."

Due doesn't buy into Bitch's philosophy.

"I think it's too bad; I really do. I think that the thing, too, is that a black person would not start a magazine and call it the N-word. And white people cannot use that word against black people. But among themselves they can do it. And I know that there are girlfriends laughing, and jokingly they'll call each other a B-word, and I don't think that that's that much of a problem. But when a woman calls another woman that word in a derogatory way, or a man calls a woman that word in a derogatory way, it's crazy."

So Due has made it her mission to stamp out the term by starting the Stop the B-Word Campaign. "My whole point of starting this campaign is to bring awareness that this word is derogatory and demeaning against women," she says. "I'm not saying I'm going to go and change a law that anybody who uses this word will be arrested; it's not like that. I'm trying to encourage women to take a look at that word. It's just unbelievable that women call another woman a bitch; we're really calling ourselves that, women as a whole."

Due offers five suggestions on her website, http://beckydue.typepad.com: One, stop using the B-word; two, invite your daughter to stop using the word; three, make your home a bitch-free environment; four, tell the men in your life to stop using the word around you; and five, encourage friends to stop using the expression and sign the commitment form, which Due says has scored support from more than 500 people, half of which are men.

Leon is one.

"I am a man," Leon wrote to Due's site. "I give you my word that from my lips I will never use the B-word and other degrading words that hurt another human. I am sorry if I caused you or any other woman pain because of my choices of word. Please forgive me. I really didn't know I was hurting anyone. Thank you."

"That's pretty cool that Leon actually decided to take a look at that," Due says. "One of my goals it to try and encourage men and women just to be mindful of the word. Just to think about it."

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