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WORKSHOP: Contact Alternative School

February 17, 2015

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Last Wednesday I facilitated a workshop at Contact Alternative School, Who You Calling a B*tch: Understanding power dynamics of language and the renaming of young women. Inspired by the Queen Miss Latifah’s song U.N.I.T.Y, the workshop explores confrontation, conflict and violence within young woman with emphasis on language. Together without judgement the young women, teachers and myself created space to dialogue about the way young women talk to each other, both positive and negative and the impact it has on self-esteem.

I do a lot of community work, and I am especially honoured to welcomed into classrooms and share knowledge. And the group had a lot to say. We discussed everything from dress code, language that is offensive, funny, insulting. We had an incredible dialogue that was uncensored but also open about who we as women speak to each other and how we want to be addressed.

I asked the group who has ever been called a 'bitch' before. Everyone (including) teachers raised they hands.

I asked the group who has ever been called a ‘bitch’ before. Everyone (including) teachers raised they hands.

Two main questions we unearthed were:

Would you use the word ‘bitch’ or is it not a big deal?

“I don’t take the word bitch seriously at all. It’s a joke. Slut and whore now…”

“I feel they [the people who called me bitch] are offended by me. I want to understand why. What about me makes you think that I’m a bitch?”

“I laugh too.”

“At the end of the day, there are bigger problems.”

“I’d teach her [my young sister] how to advocate for herself.”

“People calling me a bitch want me to be violent”

“You don’t have to take the bait.”

“When people use words like that, they put all that energy [into it]. It’s entertaining.”

“What are you going to do. Let someone walk around and disrespect you?”

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Is it worse if a man calls you a bitch or if a woman does?

“Men do it out of anger or out of spite. Men are selective with their words.”

“[When] men do it, it deepens our understanding of each other. You really don’t get me.”

“You [women] are the same as I am. You should know how it makes me feel.”

“With men, you know their intention.”

“People self-project. They don’t want to deal with their own character.”

I’m always impressed by how intelligent, direct and aware young women are. In high school I had opinions but I know for a fact I couldn’t articulate myself this clearly. It was an honour hearing some of the stories shared in the group. Can’t wait for my next ‘Bitch’ Workshop!

Connect with me by emailing: whitneyfrenchwrites@gmail.com or check out my tab to see what a Whitney French Workshop entails. Not a lot of time to book a meeting? Simply fill out a WFW form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Like what I do? Just spread the word.

And to end things with a beat, take in Queen’s classic song, the inspiration behind the workshop:

Over and out!

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