Bitch-Slap Update

Welcome, readers of the Rocky Mountain News. This afternoon, reporter Lynn Bartels quoted me in an article about the dispute between ProgressNow and Jon Caldara regarding Caldara’s on-air use of the term “bitch-slap.”

Earlier, Bartels wrote an article giving the basic facts of the case. She pointed out that Bill Menezes, editorial director of Colorado Media Matters, first complained about Caldara’s remark. That organization posted its critique of Caldara on January 22.

Last night, in my post, “Bitch-Slapping Caldara,” I pointed out that the newspapers Westword, Boulder Weekly, and Colorado Springs Independent have used the term “bitch-slap” twenty times among them.

Bartels picked up on this point in her follow-up article:

But blogger Ari Armstrong noted today that three alternative newspapers have used the term at least 20 times between them.

The phrase has been used in Westword, the Boulder Weekly and the Colorado Springs Independent in stories ranging from sports to restaurant reviews to music reviews.

“ProgressNow is clearly going after Caldara because they don’t like Caldara,” said Armstrong, who lives in Westminster. “It has nothing to do with the term.”

Moreover, Bartels called up Westword:

Westword’s editor, Patricia Calhoun, noted the newspaper appears to have used the phrase 12 times in 12 years.

“But I did add bitch slap to a story in next week’s edition,” she said, with a laugh. “Frankly, I don’t have a problem with the term. In the proper context, sometimes bitch slap is all you can say.”

[Saturday, January 26 update: Bartel’s reworked article appears in today’s Rocky.]

If ProgressNow wishes to continue its witch-hunt against Caldara, I’ve found yet another target for them: Al Franken. According to, Franken makes the following remark in his book, The Truth, With Jokes:

These attacks worked on two levels. The obvious level was the literal. If Kerry thought terrorism was just a nuisance, then he was obviously the wrong man to lead the fight against it. But there was another level. The subtext of the constant attacks on Kerry’s toughness was that the Bush team was tough and Kerry wasn’t. It’s what blogger Joshua Micah Marshall called the Republicans’ Bitch-Slap Theory of Electoral Politics. By slapping Kerry around continuously, the President was sending America the message that “Kerry is my bitch.”

Yet, even after I pointed out the hypocrisy of going after Caldara while giving left-leaners a pass, Menezes was undeterred. In a comment posted with The Denver Post,Menezes argues:

The real question is why his bosses at Clear Channel, Lee Larsen and Kris Olinger, believe that Caldara’s approach represents a responsible use of the public airwaves. Perhaps Ms. Olinger or Mr. Larsen (or even Caldara) would like to speak in person to a domestic violence prevention group and explain why the use of terms such as “bitch-slapped” when applied to a verbal attack on a female, or “fiscal date rape” when applied to a political dispute about taxes, are appropriate and responsible ways of promoting opinion in the public debate.

Perhaps Caldara’s advertisers such as Tom Shane would like to explain to his female customers why he believes it is appropriate for him to patronize a program whose host blithely promotes abusive terminology that specifically targets women.

No, the real question is, why is Bill Menezes such a hypocrite?

Menezes is wrong in claiming that “the term-bitch-slapped literally refers to how a pimp might assault a prostitute to keep her in line.” It “literally” refers to no such thing. As I pointed out, “It is clear, then, that originally the term often was used in an offensive way toward women, but it was not always so used. It is also clear that, today, the term is mostly used in a way that isn’t offensive toward women and that has nothing to do with women.” If by “literally” Menezes means “most consistent with original usage,” then the term “bitch-slap” refers to striking a female dog. But clearly the meaning has evolved over time. To take another example of a term that has changed in meaning over time, the term “gay” was once taken to be demeaning toward homosexuals, but now homosexuals tend to adopt the term with pride.

To speculate a bit, I think that one reason the term “bitch-slap” has gained wider usage is that it does not make clear who is doing the slapping. Originally, the term usually seemed to mean “slapping a bitch.” But clearly today many people think of it as a “bitch” — an aggressive person — doing the slapping. As is obvious by a trip through any T-shirt shop at the mall, many women have adopted the word “bitch” as a term of empowerment, to mean something like, “I’m a bitch, I can take care of myself, so don’t mess with me.” “Bitch-slap,” in the sense of a “bitch” slapping somebody, is supported by a secondary definition from Urban Dictionary: “a method of assualt, used by females.”

Maybe now we can be finished with this issue.

… Or maybe not. 5:15 p.m. update: An anonymous reader sent me some additional examples of left-wingers who have used the term “bitch slap.”

James Carville: “A lot of Democrats on the Hill say, look, you guys come up here, and you ask us to do this, and we do it. And then there’s nothing behind us. And everything the Republicans do, they got that — the Wall Street Journal, talk radio, et cetera. We need guys like you guys [Buzzflash] who are doing really good work to, in essence, you know, bitch slap the bitches, and say: Look, here’s what you can do, and now here are some things you can do.”

Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio: “Bush takes a bitch-slap, Backs down on wage-slavery.”

“Wilbur” from Daily Kos: “We are being bitch slapped big time… Yes, the lefty blogosphere is being bitch slapped and it is going to go on for at least the next week, and I believe it is an important moment in the development of netroots politics.”

John Marshall: “Let’s call it the Republicans’ Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics. It goes something like this. On one level, of course, the aim behind these attacks is to cast suspicion upon Kerry’s military service record and label him a liar. But that’s only part of what’s going on.”

Buckeye State Blog: “Politico gets in last minute bitch slap at Bob Latta.”

The Left Shue (An Outlet for Progressives Who Are Working for Change): “House Dems Bitch Slap Kucinich and the Majority of Americans.”

The Agonist: “The Pelosi Bitch Slap.”

Thanks, anonymous reader. The people at ProgressNowAction really have their work cut out from them, if they’re going to purge the English language of the term “bitch slap.”

Also, thanks to the crew over at, who pointed to my original blog entry on the matter. (I do have a minor correction: I’m a former writer for Boulder Weekly and a former libertarian.)

One thought on “Bitch-Slap Update”

  1. You tell them, Ari! I always read your blog, but I saw your comment on politicswest about this issue. I hope most advertisers would realize that the listeners to Caldara won’t be likely to care what progress now thinks.

    Also you misspelled Randi (left off the ‘n’).

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