Friday, February 18, 2011

Feminist Friday: The Bitch Tax

"Bitch Tax" is described on Urban Dictionary as "The price you pay for having a girlfriend or wife," which can be monetary or, I suppose, damage to your "rep." While this in itself is highly offensive, it's not the Bitch Tax I'd like to discuss today. Without a proper term, or at least one that I know, I've been calling the extra work, or considerations, a working woman in a high pressure position must undertake in order to avoid being labeled "The Bitch," and thus no longer respected as an equal, or a boss, in the workplace, as the "Bitch Tax."

This came up recently during a long car ride because my sister (The High Power Preggers) and I discussed her payment of the Bitch Tax. The HPP is frank, she is direct, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is a powerful businesswoman, the most senior woman in her company, and is being groomed to go even higher. She is a boss. She has to fire people. Fire men. Men who are older than her. She has a bottom line to reach, goals to achieve, and she is serious. Thus, she fears everyday one misstep in the eyes of her department or her male boss that might label her as a bitch. Because of this she has to be slightly more careful than her male counterparts, pick and choose when and how to give demerits or bad evaluations, she has to pay the Bitch Tax.

As a senior male executive, being a bit harsh with your team is seen as natural. It's seen as getting the job done. But when a woman is equally as assertive in the same role of power, it can make those around her feel uneasy. This can be latent, not something they are actively thinking or even know that this could be the reason they may resent her slightly. We were all raised in a society where certain pressures shaped these thoughts and feelings over time, through many sources. The HPP often responds to her boss' slight objections to her frankness, if I were a man and said/did the same thing, would you feel the same way? It's great that they have such a candid working relationship that she can pose this insightful question to him, and challenge his latent sexism.

It's not just men who label powerful women as bitches. Women did it to other women. We were put through society just like men, and similarly we may not fully understand our feelings towards other women in the office when we think, what a bitch. Next time you find yourself unhappy with the decisions or actions of a senior, female co-worker, challenge yourself by asking that same question. If she were a man and did the same thing, would you still label her a bitch?

Additionally, now that she's pregnant, the HPP finds that her Bitch Tax has doubled. She must be even more cautious, lest she express her displeasure at a team member's crappy work and he/she think, well she's just got pregnancy rage hormones. Only women can get pregnant, so only female bosses can be labeled as being upset with someone's work just because they're pregnant. And that's plain sexism.

Now, because it's Friday and that was a pretty heavy post, let's see even more heavy things with NPR's Heavy Stuff on Top of People. Seriously.


  1. OMG...I love this post, AND...the heavy stuff on top of poeple link. hehehehe...

  2. your sister just cracks me up!! but it's true. and even though i'm not a high power lady in the workforce i do need to remind people "if i were a man would you (insert something ridick here)"

  3. Fabulous post! Just found your blog from Little Miss Can't Be Wrong, and I love it! Looking forward to reading more. :)


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