Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The B Word

ROSEMARY HARRIS: My new book, The Bitches of Brooklyn didn't start out with that title. In its first incarnation it was a mystery entitled, The Fifth Woman. I loved that title. It was mysterious, intriguing.
And then I walked through an airport and saw Hennel Mankell's book, The Fifth Woman. And then The Sixth Man came out. The Fourth Witness. Suddenly everything sounded too much like my title.

On top of that, my agent said she liked the book but thought I should consider taking the murder out. (Hunh?) It was really about friendships, she said. Marriages. And it was funny. She annointed me the next Susan Isaacs (from her lips to you-know-who's ears.) But the title would have to change.

At one point it was The Bitches of Bushwick (a neighborhood in Brooklyn and a nice riff on The Witches of Eastwick.) The location may have changed but they've always been bitches.

Back in the day, it was an epithet. Joan Crawford's character doesn't even utter it at the end of The Women. " There's a name for you, ladies but it isn't used in society - outside of a kennel!"

Nowadays, it is. Skinny Bitch. Stitch 'n' Bitch. Don't trust the B*tch in 2B. Elton John sang that The Bitch is Back and The Stones thought love was a bitch. Miles Davis made a brew out of it. We've got Bitch Magazine, The Book Bitch, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. In many circles, including the one in my book, it's a term of endearment.

And for goodness sake, we regularly kill, maim and otherwise abuse characters in our books. One would not think a simple one syllable word would be cause for censorship.

So, I was more than a little surprised when facebook refused to run my ad or promoted post for the free download of my book last week. This from the people who - on the same day that they refused my ad - ran a picture of a murdered Florida woman while her body was still warm. It also seemed inconsistent to me when facebook is riddled with the F bomb - even in people's page addresses. The ad kept popping up as The Of Brooklyn. Not very helpful. But Zuckerberg isn't taking my calls to explain.

I haven't crossed the rubicon yet in terms of using the F word in my books (and may never) but I have embraced my inner - and some would say outer - Bitch.
To paraphrase Margaret Cho  - "any time anyone has ever called me a bitch, I've taken it as a compliment."

Whether you say Bitch, Bee-atch or B*tch, one lucky commenter will win one of these bitchin' tank tops. For yourself or your favorite bitch.


  1. The vagaries of censorship over what language is and is not “accepted” at a particular place or at a given time seem to have absolutely no rhyme or reason.

    Nevertheless, “The Bitches of Brooklyn” is a great book . . . .

  2. I noticed just last week that The New Yorker had an uncensored f-bomb. I consider that a Rubicon, for sure.

    Facebook is just goofy, no matter how you look at it. They had best get with it. Looking forward to a good sit-down with your latest, Rosemary!

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  4. So Facebook is bitchin' about bitch? Ever since FB went public, they've been going to the dogs. (We should probably buy the stock, though.)

    That is MY shirt. If I don't win, I must buy, as with that shirt on I will be the star of the New Jersey shore -- currently inhabited by thousands of Brooklynites. Oh please, Ro. I'll trade you that Tommy Bahama I had on last weekend ...

  5. Ooooh, Jack...that's a mighty tempting offer! There's a pic of Jack's rather wonderful, From Here to Eternity type shirt on my facebook page.

    Seriously though, it's not as if I was trying to place an ad in The Tablet (a Catholic newspaper) and they turned me down.

    It'll be a fun story whern I sell a milion copies ;-)

    Dare I offer another shirt for the first Amazon review?

  6. Too funny Ro--THE OF BROOKLYN? I hope they didn't charge you for that ad!

  7. So I'm in the middle of Ro's B*tches of Brooklyn and loving it. Congratulations on a smart, funny (dare I say scary?) story... and flat out best opening line of the year: "As deliveries went, this one was somewhere between a balloon telegram and a bulletproof vest wrapped around a dead fish."

    I do not have an e-reader but had no trouble downloading the Kindle reader to my laptop and then getting the book. In fact, it's altogether TOO easy.

  8. RO, I keep hoping that the buzz over the book will swoop it in to the spotlight..where it absolutely deserves to be!

    And I do think that might begin in earnest with Jack in the shirt.

    KAren in Ohio--I remember when I heard "ass" on TV..was it in NYPD Blue? I was scandalized...but that was before cable.

  9. Ro, one of your best blogs! You have a wonderful sense of humor and have the gift to get it inside the head of your reader! Thelma , one of the Bitches in Manhattan

  10. Selective censoring is crazy rampant nowadays.

    But they certainly should have denied the ad outright, rather than run it as The of Brooklyn. I agree that I wouldn't pay for that.

    But considering the things they do let run on Facebook, it makes no sense to censor a book title.

    Maybe the controversy will generate interest in the book, however, so it might all come to a positive end result.

    And I agree, Jack should be given the shirt, just for asking. He can be a walking billboard for the book on the Jersey Shore.

  11. Bizzarro world! But seriously, is the shirt for sale (if I don't win)? My Brooklyn daughter needs that shirt!!

    On a bus heading to NYC, "The BITCHES of Brooklyn" loaded on my Kindle app for laptop.

    Thanks for a weird and wonderful post.

  12. The second I saw your title, I thought it was brilliant.

    And I am grossed out by Facebook. So it is okay to show the body of a woman who was murdered in real life, but it isn't okay to run an ad about fictional bitches? It's more of the same unfortunate tendency to think of women as objects rather than as humans (fictional or otherwise) with a voice.

    Please post a follow-up if Zuckerberg and Friends get back to you!

  13. Facebook could have at least shown your title as THE B#$%HES OF BROOKLYN. I didn't realize they were such prudes.

    I think the title's brilliant and perfect for your book.

  14. Hank, NYPD Blue was certainly the first place you ever SAW an ass on TV. They pushed the boundaries clear over the edge for the times, didn't they?

    Love the opening!

  15. Rosemary,

    I took this week off from work, and when people ask what I'm doing this week, I sort of mumble that I hope to do some decluttering and/or reorganizing at home. The truth, though, is that all I want to do is READ, and that's mainly what I've been doing. The Bitches of Brooklyn is one of the books I'm reading and it is FUN! When I return to work next week, I just may tell people that I spent some time in Wellfleet!

    If I win the shirt, I'll wear it proudly. If I don't win it, I'm sure like to buy it!

  16. My first thought is similar to P.J.s about gender bias. I'd bet if "bitches" was a term used for men, Facebook wouldn't have censored it. Or if you were a famous MALE author...

    Facebook is quite annoying these days.

    I remember the first ass on NYPD Blues! Now I watch "Game of Thrones" and get to see some male you-know-whats (and how come I'm not spelling that word out?) every once in awhile. Took a bit of getting used to, but I like it. :-) (Gender equality--equal objectification for all!)

    I'm looking forward to reading about your bee-atches, Rosemary!

  17. OH! Can I have one of these cool bitching tank tops, pretty please?!

  18. My issue with the word "bitch" (unless used by a woman about herself or someone she loves), is that, like many other pejoratives, it has no male counterpart.

    Think about it. What would you call a man who kvetches, or who is a jerk, that is as derogatory as the "b" word?

  19. How funny! Face**** you are weird.
    Downloaded your book and will be reading it soon. Thanks!

  20. Diane from MissouriAugust 13, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Karen in Ohio....I know who you are! LOL. There is a male version of bitch....it's schmuck or douchebag or scumbucket but I will agree that none have quite the impact that bitch does!

  21. Karen, he would be called a d__k.

    "Think about it. What would you call a man who kvetches, or who is a jerk, that is as derogatory as the "b" word?"

    I need the shirt.