“OMG, you ARE a bitch! Be-atch! No, no, in a good way. Seriously, I love you. You are the best. Want a glass of wine? I bet you like wine. Bitches love wine!”
This, I suspect, is how marketers imagine women who imbibe speak to one another. Why else would they, as The New York Times reports, name their wines things like Sassy Bitch, Jealous Bitch, Tasty Bitch, Sweet Bitch or Royal Bitch?
The story explains that the wine “bitch” craze began in 2004 when “Dan Philips of the Grateful Palate,” got “the post-feminist ball rolling with a grenache named, simply, Bitch.”
Like a slap across the face, Bitch grabbed the attention of a certain type of consumer, primarily young women en route to a bachelorette or divorce party, or looking for a special way to say, “I love you” on Mother’s Day.
Post-feminist? I don’t think so.
It’s more like pre-feminist — the old virgin/whore dichotomy, but with a twist of Kardashian. Because who drinks? Naughty girls, you know the sassy, jealous, tasty, sweet, royal bitches out there. Bitches who call one another “bitch,” that’s who.
I understand that winemakers want to, as the article explains it, shed “the chateau image and embracing a blue-collar beer aesthetic,” but did they really need to go there? In this attempt to shift from classy to saucy they have fallen into some pretty uninspired clichés about women who like cheapish wine — clichés that rival the beer commercial bros.
There is a time and a place for the word “bitch,” and it isn’t on wine bottles. The phrase was best used in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s 2008 Hillary Clinton SNL skit that gave us the instant-classic phrase “bitch is the new black.”
In that skit a bitch is a tough woman, someone who can take it, and give it right back. Nuns are bitches, Hillary Clinton is a bitch, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler say they are bitches, too — because bitches get things done. The bitches they refer to are the women who actually threaten the patriarchy by not being afraid to be strong and assertive in the company of men. The “bitches” of Bitch magazine are also tough cookies looking for a strong-armed “feminist response to pop culture.” These are the bitches I’d like to see more of — not those looking for a pink-labeled bottle of Shiraz to bring with them to “girl’s night.”
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.