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Pre-2008 Posts

Today’s Internalized Misogyny: High Maintenance Bitch, My Pussy

Sign in Wallingford, Seattle neighborhood

The women who own this shop  —  “probably the most high-end pet brand in the world” —  in the Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle, claim they are “reclaiming” the word “bitch” so that it once again applies to dogs and not women.  One can only wonder why the woman in the above sign is as prominent and as central to the message as the dog is, and why it is that the woman appears to be every bit as “high maintenance” as the dog, what with the bejeweled hands, crooked pinky finger, and wall-to-wall pink.  “High Maintenance Bitch”  offers such items as feather boas for dogs, glittery mascara, “doggie disco diamonds,” kimono stoles for dogs,  and “oversized, stained glass Mosaic Martini drinking dishes… each masterpiece unique and handcrafted” at $700 a pop. 

 Their newest venture is “My Pussy,” illustrated below in all of its nauseatingly gratuitous and offensive entirety.

mypussy_page.jpg

From my perspective, these women are pornographers.  They are participating in the most exploitive and opportunistic forms of misogyny, classism, objectification and greed, in my opinion, they are abusing their dogs and cats, and they are advancing the most destructive woman-hating stereotypes and lies about women conceivable.  They have plans to open 10 new stores, although recently they closed two of the three they currently operate, a trend I can only hope continues. 

“Bitch” is hate speech.  Yeah, yeah, I know there are women who intend to “reclaim” it; I don’t think it’s possible in this woman-hating time in history.  It’s hard for me to envision any other marginalized group creating a business like this which capitalizes on and celebrates all the ways in which its members are despised, dismissed, hated, humiliated and marginalized.  Somehow, women just cave, believing, I guess, that nothing will ever change.

Link

Heart

Discussion

52 thoughts on “Today’s Internalized Misogyny: High Maintenance Bitch, My Pussy

  1. Note how similar the style and graphics are on this site to Code Pink’s!

    Posted by womensspace | February 23, 2007, 7:28 pm
  2. I’d heard about the dog store, but not the cat stuff. Blech. They should go ahead and sell sex toys for women, since that’s what they’re marketing.

    They also need to meet my Mom’s cat. Then, the caption would read, “Get your arm clawed off by my pussy!” which is really pretty funny🙂

    Posted by Miranda | February 23, 2007, 9:59 pm
  3. Yeah, I’m sure people who encourage the world to put mascara and feather boas on their dogs are soooo concerned about women’s rights. And, of course, their advertising implies that women’s bodies are for sale and that women are willing to let anybody “play with (their) pussy.” As long as you pay, of course. Barf.

    Posted by mekhit | February 23, 2007, 10:01 pm
  4. ***Somehow, women just cave, believing, I guess, that nothing will ever change.***

    That, in a sentence, is the *reason* why nothing ever changes. Men’s game will be done the second women truly bond to other *women* and, as one, stop going along with it.

    I agree that they are pornographers, lying about women and abusing their dogs and cats.

    Thanks for posting this, Heart!

    Posted by Branjor | February 23, 2007, 10:06 pm
  5. They also need to meet my Mom’s cat. Then, the caption would read, “Get your arm clawed off by my pussy!” which is really pretty funny

    I think this demonstrates the reality of what they’re marketing versus the image they’re trying to project.

    The movement of some feminists’ (and exploitation of it by non-feminists, as in this case) to reclaim the word “bitch” gives me mixed feelings. I can see where they’re coming from and I can see the good side of their goal – once bitch is rendered impotent as a derogatory tool, women will no longer be afraid to be labeled with it… but I also see the problems with it. Instead of opposing these tools of female oppression, what we’re really doing is adapting them to our purposes. I guess the question is, by embracing that “bitch” image, are you rendering it powerless? Obviously in the case of this business you’re not.

    I don’t see how anyone could look at that ad and NOT see the sexism. Or am I alone in not wanting to buy products from an almost faceless lady in lingerie who is telling the world to “eat my pussy”?

    Posted by gingermiss | February 23, 2007, 11:56 pm
  6. You also have to love how most people only seem interested in this type of “reclamation” when they can make money off of it. Like, I’m pretty sure this store’s owners aren’t complementing their capitalist “activism” with trips to local schools telling little girls to love their bodies. (Which in their case is probably a good thing, actually….)

    Posted by mekhit | February 24, 2007, 12:34 am
  7. This whole premise is so done.

    Oh, ha-ha, double-entendre, eat my pussy, hee-hee, clever! (Barf.) Oh, you mean “bitch” in a new-political-reclaiming sort of way? Like it’s a verb, it’s a noun, it’s a state-of-mind yadda-crap-ada? Ha! (Puke.)

    Not only is the whole “play on gendered instults as marketing theme” trite, insulting, and sophomoric – it’s soooooooooo fucking booooooooooring.

    Posted by Sassafras | February 24, 2007, 1:52 am
  8. This kind of language is especially prevalent on the lesbian scene here in the UK, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Pussy’ being two of the most popular tags. However, such Pussy-themed advertising is usually accompanied by no-nonsense pictures of strong female models as opposed to submissive, degrading cartoons.

    This begs the question: is it okay for lesbian women to be sexualized by other women, for women? Are we doing the ‘feminist’ thing by keeping males out of our self-exploitation?

    Posted by morgan | February 24, 2007, 3:25 am
  9. I remember this store when it was in my hood. It made me angry on so many levels. The name, the advertising…but also the nauseating fact that people were (literally) stepping over homeless people so they could shop there, buying bejeweled dog carriers and getting manicures for their dogs. Is there really no end to this rediculousness?

    Posted by beansa | February 24, 2007, 2:40 pm
  10. This begs the question: is it okay for lesbian women to be sexualized by other women, for women? Are we doing the ‘feminist’ thing by keeping males out of our self-exploitation?

    Is it okay for lesbians to abuse their partners, so long as they are keep males out of their abuse? Is it okay for lesbians to prostitute other lesbians, so long as they keep men out of their prostitution? Is it okay for lesbians to rape other lesbians, so long as men are kept out of their violence?

    No, it’s not okay. It doesn’t matter the gender or sexual identity of those involved, any objectification and consequencial dehumanization of women is not okay and ultimately renders all women sub-human. To be fully human is to be un-objectifiable. To be fully human is to never be exploited for any reason, for your or any other’s personal gain. To be fully human is to never be referred to as a singular body part or, for pity’s sake, a dog.

    Posted by Sassafras | February 24, 2007, 3:47 pm
  11. Could the reclamation of “bitch” and “pussy” be likened to the usage of the word “nigger” by African-Americans to refer to each other?

    Posted by Anji | February 24, 2007, 3:57 pm
  12. I know the intentions of most women are good in attempting to reclaim these words– I just don’t think it works. Same thing with the N word. I’m white, and I’m speaking as a white person, but I don’t think that reclamation has been successful because there is just too damn much racism in the world. I am not exaggerating, at least two-three times per week one of my biracial daughters gets into it with some @&@%*@$^@$^@!$#^! asshole piece of shit at work or school who defends his !$^!&!%!#%!#%!#@%1 racist behaviors (like using the N-word when he is white) with the justification that black people themselves use that word. Then my daughters have to go through this entire gigantic rigamarole educating someone who doesn’t deserve the slightest iota of their energy, because if the asshole had any sense, goodwill, or interest in anti-racism issues, they’d never have used that word to begin with, then justified it!

    ARGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG!

    Same thing with “bitch.” Women using it to reclaim it just means the GIGANTIC numbers of asshole sexists who litter the world will use it and defend it because women use it. It never gets successfully reclaimed, in other words.

    My rather intense .02. 😛

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 24, 2007, 4:16 pm
  13. Julia Penelope writes at length about this reclamation-of-words project. Her argument (as I understand it) basically boils down to, you can only reclaim things that are unequivocally considered NEGATIVE in patriarchy. This is why, according to her, lesbians’ reclamation of ‘dyke’ has been successful–because, to a woman-hater, there’s absolutely nothing good about a dyke, so when we use the word to refer to each other with love and affection, there’s a cognitive disconnect in the hearer. To me, this is the point of “reclamation”–for an oppressed group to take the sting out of words that have been used to keep us down, so that when they are used against us we can go, yeah, so what? NOT that we accept the value that has been placed on the word but try to say that that value is a good thing, which is what I think is being done here–they’re not questioning the patriarchal MEANING of being a high-maintenance bitch (“rich bitch” anyone?), they’re just saying that being one is a GOOD thing, because you get the goodies, you get what you want, you get to stomp on people. It’s assimilative.

    I’m not sure if what has happened with ‘n*$$#$’ in the African-American community is that same attempt to remove the sting, and I don’t know whether that’s been successful–I defer to others with more knowledge and experience on that point. It seems to me that ‘n*%%#%’ hasn’t been used in quite the same way that ‘dyke’ has by lesbians. Not sure about that. But Penelope argues that words like “slut” and “pussy” and even “virgin”–BECAUSE they are good in patriarchy, or because they have elements of goodness, because their meaning is mixed–cannot be used to empower women.

    I would think that “bitch” would fit Penelope’s criterion for reclamation because it doesn’t seem to me that its meaning is mixed–it’s pretty unequivocally a bad thing. I think the problem is that those of us against whom it is directed have not tried to change the meaning through usage–it’s still either used as an epithet or simply as a neutral. When someone says, “Hey bitchez,” I don’t think that’s a compliment, exactly–in the way that when my girlfriend says, “Yeah, she’s a dyke,” that’s an unequivocally good, strong, powerful thing, a term of approbation for the woman in question. In the circles I move in, I never hear lesbians using “dyke” in a demeaning or insulting way, and certainly not to refer to women by stereotypes which that word has represented in the past when used by men–though I will check this out with friends to see how widespread this is outside crunchy/separatist lesbian circles. (I know there are lesbians who will be extremely offended at being called ‘dyke’ even by other dykes! Some don’t even want to be called lesbian and prefer ‘gay’ so again this usage is something that outsiders should not attempt.) In contrast, when women call another woman a “bitch” it usually does mean exactly what it means when men say it. I don’t hear women going around saying admiringly, “Wow, she’s such a bitch!”, meaning anything good about the woman in question–we still mostly use it negatively against each other, and men certainly do, and it’s something women don’t WANT men to call us. In contrast, when men call lesbians “dykes,” unless there’s a threat or possibility of violence, my response is usually to laugh.

    Certainly ‘pussy’ has been used often as an insult (mostly directed at men) but it’s also got that really strong “positive” meaning as in, “I’m gonna get some pussy tonight.” And so, it’s hard for women to use in a way that’s clear and that makes the hearer go, “Huh? What? That’s supposed to be a bad thing! What gives?” Instead, it sounds like we are just calling each other what men call us. Women don’t have a strong, shared meaning for these words that is DIFFERENT from what they mean to men, and a shared political commitment to using them differently, the way that (at least some) lesbians do with “dyke.” So using those words doesn’t challenge perception so much as muddy the water.

    Anyway, I should try to get Julia’s article up on the website, it’s really good.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | February 24, 2007, 6:03 pm
  14. Interesting, Amy! I’d like to read what Julia Penelope has to say. I do agree that “dyke” has been successfully reclaimed and I’ve thought some about that. To me it is clearly a word of admiration and honor when it is used among lesbians. I wonder why other similar words haven’t been successfully reclaimed, like “bulld*****.” I think it fits the category that there is “nothing good about it,” and yet it’s one of those words that feels wrong and derogatory whenever it’s used.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 24, 2007, 8:13 pm
  15. I’ve seen “bitch” used in a positive way – on a tee shirt proudly saying “Castrating Bitch.”

    The word was also reclaimed by Mary Daly in her Wickedary under the adjective “bitchy”, defined as “having the threatening characteristics of a female canine (a wolf, dingo, coyote, wild dog, fox) applied esp. to a woman who is active, direct, blunt, obnoxious, competent, loud mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, achieving, overwhelming, Lusty, strong minded, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, boisterous, turbulent, sprawling, strident, striding and large (physically and/or psychically).

    Canny comment:
    Bitches are good examples of how women can be strong enough to survive even the rigid, punitive socialization of our society. As youn girls it never quite penetrated their consciousness that women were supposed to be inferior to men in any but the mother/helpmate role. They asserted themselves as children and never really internalized the slave style of wheedling and cajolery which is called feminine….All Bitches refused, in mind and spirit, to conform to the idea that there were limits on what they could be and do.
    Joreen, The Bitch Manifesto

    Posted by Branjor | February 24, 2007, 10:24 pm
  16. Also creepy is the passivity of the characters, staring out vacantly into the male gaze bidding it do *whatever* to her pussy. All the actions suggested are not taken by her, but done TO her. Totally unlike the real bitch of patriarchal nightmare, this bitch is defanged; her bitchhood is merely a tease to pleasure men.

    This high maintenance bitch is not really dangerous, she’s just playing at one to entice her man as she passively sits by, offering him an array of choices for his pleasure.

    It’s like a porn menu. **shudder**

    Posted by Gaia's Muse | February 24, 2007, 10:59 pm
  17. Adult speakers of other languages who are learning English invariably assume bitch means slut or whore. I assume it’s because most slurs against women refer to sexual promiscuity. To explain the current American usage, I’ve often given the example of how a nun might be referred to as a bitch, and students are always amazed.

    Rather than “having the threatening characteristics of a female canine,” I would guess the origin of bitch comes from the indiscriminate mating habits of the female dog, why “son of a bitch” is equivalent to bastard. Historically men have been much more preoccupied with women’s sexuality than with our characters, which were a non issue until we got enough power to be loud mouthed without getting our tongues cut out. Shrews were usually beaten into submission one way or another.

    I don’t know if the term can be reclaimed or not. I don’t like the “High Maintenance” sign for many reasons (and the Code Pink similarity is scary!), but I do like the concept Branjor described behind Bitch magazine.

    Posted by roamaround | February 24, 2007, 11:34 pm
  18. Sorry, Branjor referred to “The Bitch Manifesto,” not Bitch magazine.

    Posted by roamaround | February 24, 2007, 11:40 pm
  19. Someone I thought knew me better bought me this book, thinking I would find it funny and take it as a compliment. I didn’t and don’t:

    http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=6-9781580086370-0

    Posted by Melissa | February 25, 2007, 12:24 am
  20. Yeah, Branjor, one of the most (in)famous tees ever made at my women’s college was “(name of school): One hundred years of castrating bitches.” And I wore it proudly. But still, I don’t think we’re really CHANGING anything about the word, like Daly tried to do–I think we’re still agreeing to the fact that women SHOULDN’T be proud, strong, outspoken, have opinions, disagree, etc., and that therefore women who do those things are “bitches,” in opposition to the “good, nice women.” I dunno, I guess I agree that “bitch” etc. probably can’t be reclaimed without a very concerted effort on the part of women to see ourselves as a class and to change the meaning of these things that have been applied to us. Instead, I see us saying, yeah, we really ARE all those bad things men say we are, it’s just that it’s GOOD to be that. Instead of completely reframing the way we think, and therefore talk, about strong women. Or something. Don’t know if I’m making my point here.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | February 25, 2007, 12:41 am
  21. Reclaiming an insulting word which is still used by the more powerful to insult…. I personally cannot see this working.

    It just gives the more powerful more power to use it.

    (This makes sense to me – sorry, it’s late here)

    Posted by jo22 | February 25, 2007, 1:16 am
  22. If you think bitch is a dog and a dog is just god spelled backwards, there are plently of funny things to say. We are mammals and a bitch is a female mammal and if you watch how male dogs respond to a ‘bitch’ in heat, it is funnier still. Yet a woman is not a dog which begs the question about the god/dog dictotomy and if being a bitch is a bad thing or not. Who is the judge? I suppose it depends upon the situation and what bitching is really about. In the animal world, a bitch is heat is in control whether she knows it or not. Funny how things get reversed in the human world. Then we come to the ‘manipulating bitch’ as seen by men and despised by women. Yet and there is a yet, who is judging and by what criteria? I don’t have an answer. I agree that the ads are equating women and animals and exploiting both for personal gain. Is is worse that a woman does it than a man? Who are we shaming here? If you think that the ad is conflating sex with women with sex with animals, then I think we all have a problem. It is an ad to sell products which is the patriarchal way to do it. On the other hand, lets just all go down there and burn the bitch. That should solve the problem.

    Posted by rhondda | February 25, 2007, 1:26 am
  23. Well, I’m not interested in burning anybody, but I’m also going to call internalized misogyny, and pornography, and sexism, when I see it. The stuff in these ads, in my opinion is sexist, woman-hating garbage, and it’s sexist garbage women are making money on. I think this makes it worse because it gives men more excuses for their misogyny, i.e., that since women have created this place/these ads, then these ads, this kind of sexism is okay, because women do it too. Argh.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 25, 2007, 1:36 am
  24. I didn’t say it was alright Heart. Yes, it is sexist and gives excuses for men for their misogyny. However, we do live in a society where making money is the god of being. How can one as a thinking feminist condemn a woman who has found a way to make a living? If we judge by appearances, we are doomed. Do you know her? Do you know her situation? It is fine to have high ideals and principles, but food on the table requires
    some realistic assessments. Since there is no utopia that women can run to, we make do. Yes, there are women who exploit and take advantage of others for their own selfish wants. However, which is worse; selling products by using sexual ads, or selling other women through say pornography? I know my answer to that. Maybe she doesn’t know that it is sexist to do what she is doing. Maybe she does and doesn’t give a shit. My problem is that I do not know the answer to that and therefore I will not condemn what she is doing. For me, it is the same thing as not condemning christian women for not knowing they have been dubbed by centuries of women hating dogma. Now we have the secular dogma which says the same thing, only without the god language. Yes women will be collaborators, but I have to ask why and before I condemn, I have to know more.

    Posted by rhondda | February 25, 2007, 2:32 am
  25. rhondda, I don’t think Heart’s point is to condemn any individual. She’s bringing up the bitch and pussy advertising as a subject for discussion. A few women here have said that they had seen and been distrubed by these signs or ads; we need this space to be able to check in and analyze the oppression all around us.

    As for not condemning another woman who has found a way to make a living, I can’t sign on to that. I don’t believe in condemning anyone’s soul, but I will forever condemn every war-mongering thing Condie Rice has done, just for example.

    Posted by roamaround | February 25, 2007, 3:05 am
  26. I didn’t say it was alright Heart. Yes, it is sexist and gives excuses for men for their misogyny. However, we do live in a society where making money is the god of being. How can one as a thinking feminist condemn a woman who has found a way to make a living? If we judge by appearances, we are doomed. Do you know her? Do you know her situation? It is fine to have high ideals and principles, but food on the table requires
    some realistic assessments.

    This train of thought is ridiculous. Can you condemn someone for doing something wrong? Uh, yes. May there be extenuating circumstances, or other surrounding factors, that would soften our opinion of her? Perhaps, but that doesn’t change the fact that what she is doing is fundamentally wrong. This kind of exploitation is also much more sinister because it is pervasive and almost hidden rather than being a straight forward representation of misogynistic marketing.

    That argument, the “live in the real world” argument, is always trotted out to prevent women from making any progress on feminist fronts. “We’ve got more important things to think about right now, honey, so it’s ok to let some other things that seem important slide.” These women aren’t stripping to pay for their child’s next meal. They’re not prostituting themselves so that they’ll have a place to sleep. They’re trying to get rich off of the social mindset that is fascinated by Paris Hilton and thinks that every relationship is only as good as the size of your diamond engagement ring. Sexual empowerment doesn’t translate to being a sex object – that’s just what many people want you to believe, and they have successfully made the concept so blurry that they have people defending their behavior.

    Posted by gingermiss | February 25, 2007, 4:04 am
  27. Info about “High Maintenance Bitch”:

    Start-up — $30,000 in 2002
    2003 projcted sales of approx 1 million

    Link

    The owner of High Maintenance Bitch also has a book published as follows:


    The High Maintenance Bitch (Owner’s Manual): It’s Not About Being a Dog, It’s About Being a Bitch

    Lori Pacchiano, Ryan Pacchiano

    It’s safe to say these are not people who are or were having problems putting food on the table. They were able to shell out $30,000 to start their business, which means they had credit and income sufficient that somebody loaned them $30K to start a business. The next year their projected earnings were $1 million dollars.

    This is a store that sells individually-crafted water dishes for $700 each.

    This is something that feminist should not critique? Of *course* it is something feminists *have* to critique, and not only for these reasons but for every reason other women here have offered. If we judge/analyze/evaluate/critique the things people do that hurt women, then there is no feminism.

    Would any one of us here, even if we could get our hands on $30K, which not many of us could, start a business like this? Advertise it like this, selling cat products with ads like “Eat my pussy”? “Tease my pussy”? No, we would not.

    Most women would not start this kind of business, even if they were not feminists. Leaving issues of sexism aside, the classism is also egregious. What, in a world full of women and children begging bread, someone is going to sell dog water dishes for $700 bucks? This hurts women. It also hurts poor people. It also exploits and objectifies animals. And I think we have to say that. Which does not mean I don’t care about this woman or want her liberated. I don’t have to like what you do to want you to be free; I don’t have to like you to want you to be free. At the same time, if what you do hurts women, I have to say so.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 25, 2007, 5:11 am
  28. It is fine to have high ideals and principles, but food on the table requires some realistic assessments.

    I think we are all smart enough to make distinctions between doing what a woman has to do to survive and shilling. Ann Coulter shills. Most strippers are doing what they have to do to survive. Condi Rice shills. Most prostituted women are trying to survive (or were forced into prostitution and can’t get out). Phyllis Shlafly shills. Most Christian women are trying to survive (and can’t figure a way out if they try). The High Maintenance Bitch people are shilling. There’s a whole lot of things a person can do with a $30K startup that don’t involve pandering to the lowest common denominator so far as sexism and classism are concerned.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 25, 2007, 5:18 am
  29. Then, too, if women don’t realize what they are doing hurts women, and we never say what they (or others, or we ourselves) are doing hurts women for fear of being “judgmental,” how will anybody ever begin to consider the ways women are hurt by what people do?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 25, 2007, 5:32 am
  30. Sick. No half-responsible human with any idea about animals would put ribbons, “jewels” etc. around a cat’s neck. Do you want to kill your cat? Choking/digestion hazards. And to state that “she wants to smell like flowers too”? Most cats have quite a good sense of smell and of course their tongues are perfectly adequate “baths”. They do not want to smell like flowers any more than my cunt does. Not at all. And are those beads of some sort on the heart toy? Tooth-breaking fun.

    “Eat my pussy”. Oh ha ha. At least be grammatically correct here and write “Eat, my pussy” or “feed my pussy” if you’re going to do it at all.

    Also says something that this poor cat, the creature who is supposed after all to be the reason for all this merchandising, doesn’t even change poses in any of the ads. It’s not eating, being played with, sleeping, anything. It just sits there. Who’s the real object? Oh, yeah.

    “Cats are sexy” to other cats. Period. This woman doesn’t love anything about this sick joke of a company.

    Posted by una | February 25, 2007, 10:39 am
  31. Not completely off topic, but in defense of discussing these types of issues, just this line and others like it spending time discussing this have made me more aware of how many times everyday I see similar, though not as blatant, situations.

    A Nutrisystem commercial in which a woman says her husband loves her new body and jokingly calls her his trophy wife. What??? Don’t get me started on those late night commercials! A wife using promises of sex with her husband to get what she wants. A girl learning to flirt with her dad in order to get him to favor her. Giving a special smile in a store in order to get good service, etc. etc. Same song, different verse.

    Anyway, because of discussions like this, I personally have found myself becoming much more aware of these things and I’m also more able to follow many more of the logical consequential lines which develop and apply it on a more personal level.

    I’m not yet ready to march in any demonstration, write my congressman, etc (though I see that coming soon as my middle aged anger continues to awaken🙂 ), but I am able, in whatever I’m doing, to remember that, as a woman, I can help other women by being careful to never use my femaleness in order to sell a product, idea, or anything else. It’s seems a more mundane way of looking at it, but, if I can be careful everyday to try to live my life with integrity, it might not change the world, but it might have an effect on those around me.

    Posted by Macs Grandy | February 25, 2007, 8:52 pm
  32. hi all….
    my name is kara turner and i work here at high maintenance bitch in wallingford. i just googled our store name to see what kind of reactions we have been recieving from the public. i have seen a slew of mixed reviews and heard more positve then negative thankfully. i came across this site and opened it knowing that feminists would obviously have nothing good to say about us but i was interested in seeing exactly why.

    i am a 24 year old very strong and independent female who has the highest respect for women. the other two women involved in the company, being lori and jean, do as well. they are actually the most amazing people (most amazing, smart,hard working and creative women) i have ever had the pleasure working for. the fact that all of you are sitting here and bashing lori for her company is wrong. there are so many unbelievable misjudgments made here about who she is and the concept behind her company. first off this company has nothing to do with enticing men. it’s about women pampering their dogs and themselves. how does a doggie sweater entice a man? a bitch is a female dog. a bitch is also a horrible name given to some women and society has been the one to slander a female in this way, we as whole are to blame. we are trying to correct this and use it in its proper original state. when moms come into the store to complain about their kids seeing the sign and then say that they will have to explain to them what it is about i say, “tell them it is named high maintenance bitch and that a bitch is a female dog.” what is wrong with that. if the kids say that it is a bad word they should tell their kids that it is not a bad word unless you call a human that name and that they will get in trouble if they do. most kids using that word dont even know that it has a real meaning, a female dog. as for the “my pussy” line, a pussy is a cat. it is also slang for a womans genitals. we sell cat toys and catnip. we aren’t a porn shop. where the advertising my be provocative it isnt geared towards men. its geared towards cats, pussy cats. maybe male cats, but not male humans.

    i am in no way speaking on behalf of ryan, lori, jean or high maintenance bitch. i am speaking on behalf of my feelings upon reading what you have all wrote and my involvement in the company as an employee. i am very sorry you all feel offended by the marketing and the company as a whole. but saying that high maintenance bitch is “in the most exploitive and opportunistic forms of misogyny, classism, objectification and greed, in my opinion, they are abusing their dogs and cats, and they are advancing the most destructive woman-hating stereotypes and lies about women conceivable”, you are looking WAY too deep into the cute cartoon women and dog/cat figures. if guys get turned on by cartoony figures in their underware, thats their issue. to say that we are abusing cats and dogs is such an ignorant statement, it truely shows that you know NOTHING about the company. the entire company was inspired by loris very spoiled bitch lola who is her baby. high maintenance bitch was created to celebrate dogs/cats, not to abuse them im so so sorry you have confused this with some sort of hateful misconception. i doubt that any of you have actaully looked into our corporate site but if you have you would have seen that we host benifit shows for different orginizations including the seattle humane society, seattle rottweiller rescue, gay pride parade, and seattle pug rescue just to name a few. we aren’t as “greedy” as you have stated……. i dont blame you for acting on impulse. just dont judge because we dont judge you. thank you so much for your time if you have read this entire reply. i would gladly love to hear any comments anyone reading this would have to make. here is my e-mail address: kharmatea@hotmail.com

    thank you,
    kara turner
    saleswoman, high maintenance bitch

    Posted by kara turner | February 26, 2007, 7:06 am
  33. first off this company has nothing to do with enticing men

    Kara, with respect, the advertising is sexual. “Eat my pussy” is sexual– even where there is a cat in the picture. “Tease my pussy”? Sexual. “Play with my pussy”? Sexual. The clear intent is to invoke women’s genitalia and sexuality to sell stuff, really expensive stuff. The language that is used appeals to misogynists who like opportunities to call women things like “high maintenance bitches” and then blow it off by saying they were just talking about dogs (or “pussies”). To suggest otherwise is just, well, unconvincing.

    I’m sure the owners are nice people and I am also sure you are sincere. But the advertising is what it is. I think, as I’ve explained, that it harms women. I might be persuaded otherwise if there were no women in the advertising, if it was *only* dogs or *only* cats. But the way the ads have been created, as someone else said, the dogs and cats are like accessories or ornaments; the focus is on the women depicted in the ads.

    I think it’s great that the company supports causes I believe in, like gay rights, animal rights, and so on. That’s wonderful! I just wish it supported women. I wish it was openly feminist.

    This is a feminist blog, devoted to feminist analysis of culture, society, actions, beliefs, politics, views, you name it. Your shop came across the radar; hence, this discussion. As feminists it is important to us *to* look very deeply at what we feel helps or hurts women. I do think the approach your shop takes to animals is, if not abusive, exceedingly objectifying. Animals deserve respect. Before we put glitter, boas, mascara, and scents on them, we owe it to them to attempt to learn whether this is what they want. Animals aren’t ornaments to people; they are deserving of respect in their own right. I have 11 cats, one dog, and a flock of sheep and I love them dearly and spend a lot of time with them. I try to respect them. They are not my toys, playthings, or arm decorations. They’re not props. They are living, breathing creatures I work hard to respect and understand.

    We haven’t acted on impulse here but out of our feminist perspective and principles, our of our commitment to women and animals as well.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 26, 2007, 7:53 am
  34. ” they are actually the most amazing people (most amazing, smart,hard working and creative women) i have ever had the pleasure working for.”

    What, the Gandhis and Mother Theresas of the world don’t have cash to hire people to work retail for them? Who’d have thought? Guess that inherently lowers the bar when it comes to being an amazing person when you’re a boss. Something to think about.

    I like how the dude (the brother) disappears when convenient; sort of how like those Cake parties seem to omit the husband (who ponied up the startup money and does most of the business side of things) from their woman centered claims; same with the Suicide Girls who were pegged as a woman run thing, too. All of a sudden it’s all peaches and feminism when the “happy worker” defender shows up. Which is shades of American Apparel and Dov Charney’s anti-free speech cronies.

    Posted by Rich | February 26, 2007, 11:17 am
  35. Here are my thoughts, as of now….

    Isn’t there a well known feminist magazine called Bitch? How is that working for word reclamation, anyway?

    I think the name of the store and the sign would be quite funny if the “bitch” on it were by herself, and not paired with a human female. What we have here is a regular old word that has been given negative connotations by a culture glutted with anti-female sentiment. Now human females are being offended by the word because of its popular use, even if it is not really referring to them. To look at this another way, one could argue that the people who are being offended by this and are protesting it are fueling misogyny in a way, by acknowledging this word as insulting to women, and allowing it to keep it’s power.

    And “high-maintenance” generally has negative connotations as well–O–except when members of the car culture take so much pride in primping and modifying their rides, spending exorbitant amounts of money and time doing so.

    The problem is that anything that can be associated with females in many cultures is given negative connotations. This may be silly, but i’m wondering if a sign for a stable that kept donkeys would have evoked a similar response if it had a picture of a man and a donkey on it and said something about an ass. (“Come ride my ass”) Men would probably think it was funny, but if a picture of a woman were on there, there would be all kinds of noise about how the sign is portraying her as a sex object and how it is wrong wrong wrong.

    As for the [fill-in-the-blank] My Pussy ads, ok we get it–it’s a double entendre, hardy har. But it would have been just as effective without the scantily clad cartoon woman present, given that the word and it’s meanings are so well known. Like most kinds of advertising, these ads are making the merchandise more about the person who buys it than the pet that it is supposedly bought for, but i guess that’s the whole idea–buying fancy stuff for your pets to show how well off you are. Not much different than pimping your ride or dressing up your trophy spouse. Except your cat is not going to fetch you a large prize in a drag race or verbally nag you if you don’t get it that new diamond necklace. And like one person already said–the pussy isn’t doing anything–it’s just sitting there with a label printed over it. Come on, liven it up!

    The merchandise itself is undeniably frivolous, and people who would be called “high maintenance bitches” by some probably make up a large portion of the stores customers. But we cannot condemn this store for selling unnecessary, over-priced shit unless we condemn every store that sells such things, like Spencer’s Gifts, Hallmark, those places that install every kind of entertainment device in one’s vehicle, and while we’re at it, how about those kiosks that sell nothing but cell phone accessories? Disregarding the cost difference, is accessorizing one’s cell phone to match their outfit really much more frivolous than accessorizing one’s pet?

    Posted by G.G.A. | February 26, 2007, 2:21 pm
  36. Heh.

    Thanks, Heart and R!ch.

    And R!ch, notice the no caps “I’m not threatening, I’m just so sweet and nice I don’t even capitalize words” text style.
    🙂

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | February 26, 2007, 3:29 pm
  37. Kara, while there is much to address in your comment, this is the first and main thing that stood out to me:

    “where the advertising my be provocative it isnt geared towards men. its geared towards cats, pussy cats. maybe male cats, but not male humans.”

    I have to say: Advertising is not geared toward cats. Not your advertising, not any advertising. It may be geared toward cat owners, but it isn’t geared toward cats. Cats don’t watch or look at ads and they don’t have money, much less decide where to spend it. Maybe you mistyped here?

    Posted by Laura | February 26, 2007, 4:40 pm
  38. “…one could argue that the people who are being offended by this and are protesting it are fueling misogyny in a way, by acknowledging this word as insulting to women, and allowing it to keep it’s power. ”

    Denial of misogyny won’t make it go away. Since women have embraced the label of bitch, the word hasn’t lost any power. Instead, it’s gained descriptives. Now, instead of just bitches, we’re psycho bitches, crazy bitches, ugly bitches, skanky bitches, fat bitches, old bitches, young bitches, skinny bitches…I don’t see any improvement in that.

    ” This may be silly, but i’m wondering if a sign for a stable that kept donkeys would have evoked a similar response if it had a picture of a man and a donkey on it and said something about an ass. (”Come ride my ass”) Men would probably think it was funny, but if a picture of a woman were on there, there would be all kinds of noise about how the sign is portraying her as a sex object and how it is wrong wrong wrong. ”

    You’re right, it is silly because there’s nothing in the drawing that even suggests that the man is an ass. In fact, in the drawing that you describe the man is the one who is riding the ass. So, there’d be nothing in the drawing or the tag line that should offend men. Furthermore, men would probably like it because of the use of the word “ass,” to which they could “hehehehe” like Beavis and Butthead. Besides, it would be no time until Ride My Ass’s marketing team came up with an ad campaign that centered around the hilarity of the stereotypical shrew. In the ads, the man’s wife would ride his ass (the metaphorical ass, that is, and not the literal ass) just as all wives ride their husband’s ass. As it is in advertising that use women but not as sex symbols, the advertisements would be about relations with that other type of woman, the non-sexy woman, The Wife. Maybe she’d even be that trophy wife who rides her husband’s ass for not buying her a new diamond necklace. (You proved that you’re a male by using that example, G.C.A. Well, that and using G.C.A. as your handle. So, your inability to see the misogyny in the ads is as expected.)

    The words “eat my pussy” without the image of a woman present would still have nothing to do with feeding cats. If it’s not about performing oral sex on women then it must be about dining on felines. As Una has already pointed out, it’s missing the punctuation needed for it to be otherwise.

    Finally, as for overpriced products for pets and pet owners, I don’t think anyone here has a problem with that. The problem lies with the misogynistic messages, women being once again exploited and women’s sexuality defined by men to sell a product.

    Posted by CoolAunt | February 26, 2007, 9:13 pm
  39. So, there’d be nothing in the drawing or the tag line that should offend men. Furthermore, men would probably like it because of the use of the word “ass,” to which they could “hehehehe” like Beavis and Butthead. Besides, it would be no time until Ride My Ass’s marketing team came up with an ad campaign that centered around the hilarity of the stereotypical shrew. In the ads, the man’s wife would ride his ass (the metaphorical ass, that is, and not the literal ass) just as all wives ride their husband’s ass.

    Thanks for the laugh CoolAunt.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | February 27, 2007, 12:51 am
  40. Kara –
    Thanks for taking the time to come here and try to clear up misperceptions about the store, but, you really didn’t.

    I completely agree with Heart’s post, and comments, about this store and its misogynist advertising. It’s wrong, and a complete turn-off.

    When I first saw the “Eat my pussy” ad, I immediately/instinctively interpreted it as an invitation for oral sex. It’s SO grammatically wrong without the comma, as Una pointed out, to the point where it didn’t even occur to me that it was supposed to mean, “Eat, my pussy,” until Una pointed it out. (It reminds me of this sign I used to drive by all the time, outside of a tutoring center: “Hey kids! Tell Mom I need a tutor!” The signmaker is instructing children to inform their parents that the signmaker needs a tutor! It should, of course, say, “Hey kids! Tell Mom, ‘I need a tutor’!”)

    Kara, you say:

    “we sell cat toys and catnip. we aren’t a porn shop. where the advertising my be provocative it isnt geared towards men. its geared towards cats, pussy cats. maybe male cats, but not male humans.”

    I’ll echo Laura: How many cats do you have that waltz in without human accompaniment and purchase their own catnip? (For what it’s worth, my cat, whom I love dearly and have a great relationship with, would be royally pissed off at me if I dared put her in glitter and boas! And $700 water bowls? Mine happily drinks out of a recycled tupperware container.)

    If the advertisements are supposed to be so innocent, and “just about cats,” WHY, oh WHY, do they feature porn-y, lingerie-clad women more prominently than the cats? We’re not “looking way too deep” at this; you’re not looking deeply enough, if you honestly deny that there’s anything sexual or problematic about the ads.

    Posted by britta | February 27, 2007, 2:14 am
  41. This whole thing makes me want to bleach my eyeballs. Plus, what sort of idiot puts mascara on a dog?

    Posted by Nella | February 27, 2007, 10:40 am
  42. Chasingmoshka, I admit that I like to pick out “dirty” words and laugh the Beavis and Butthead laugh. It goes something like this: He said Uranus. hehehehehe.

    Posted by CoolAunt | March 1, 2007, 3:00 am
  43. I never said anything about the man riding the ass. I imagined the sign as a man standing next to one or just the faces of a man and a donkey next to each other. Just because my suggested caption said “Come ride my ass” does not mean the man in the picture would actually be riding it. If anything, i think this could be read as gay window advertisng. Please look at my post again. By the way, you also got my initials wrong–it’s G.G.A., not G.C.A. And what exactly in those initals even suggests that i am male? Please tell me! It doesn’t even have anything to do with my name–it’s the abreviation of my clothing and jewelry line. That’s right–i’m a designer. Just because i used plain old letters and not some gendered word to suggest the shape of my genitalia or at least my gender orientation, you assume i’m male? You have read too many things into my post that were not there at all. You also say that i do not see the misogyny in the ads. No–i see it, but i might have a different opinion about it. If you think i don’t understand misogyny or sexism at all, i would like you to know that as a gender queer individual, i have experienced my share of heteronormative sexism and interactions with people who try to enforce their ideas of gender binaries on me and attack me for not adhering to what their idea of a “woman” or a “girl” is. I have also been accused of cheating when i’m as loyal as a beaten dog, used for sex by someone that i cared about, and touched in ways that i did not want even after i objected. I think i do have an understanding of misogyny.

    Posted by G.G.A. | March 6, 2007, 7:25 am
  44. Kudos for posting this site!!!

    I live in Seattle. Wrote letters to the editor (twice – they were not printed) after the newspaper ran a story on this. Several columnists pooh-poohed concerns that women would take offense — since the sign “obviously” referred to dogs. So as not to “reinvent the wheel,” here’s my letter. Quoting Pacchiano, the owner:

    “Our store (High Maintenance Bitch) is a dog store, but the concept and philosophy is directed specifically toward women.” That’s the owner. Pretty
    much sums it up.

    Today — International Women’s Day – is “the global day connecting all women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential.”

    Somehow, doggy mascara just doesn’t do it.

    Just around the corner is Earth Day – April 22nd. The “other half” of Pacchiano’s sign — “High maintenance” — deserves as much scrutiny as its final word. The earth suffers, while America’s “high maintenance” consumerism ravages the planet. Pacchiano glorifies this. Your columnist reinforces this.

    The whole phrase – high maintenance bitch — is a slur toward women, and a template of consumerism degrading to the earth. By fostering demeaning stereotypes, Pacciano does nothing to reclaim the word “bitch” from its mysogynist base. She reinforces it.

    Posted by M.L.S. | March 10, 2007, 5:42 am
  45. The presumption that name of the business is demeaning to women is obsurd. Is it possible that they have come up with a creative marketing strategy and have been able to expand on it?

    How about the new store opening at the end of Broadway called Harem? You do know that a Harem is a group of women that are enslaved to one man for sex? Or perhaps we could comment on Seattle based Madame K’s a pizza parlor that used to be a house of ill repute in the 19th century. The servers are scantily clad and the owner donates 20% of her monday profits to local charity. Go get em!

    Posted by copper | March 16, 2007, 5:18 pm
  46. Let me first say that I agree with you completely, Heart. What struck me was the freakin images of women with full thighs tiny waists in corsets and garter/garter (thigh high) stockings… these are exactly what a woman wears and what a woman should look like… Yes they certainly have “reclaimed” the term ‘bitch’ I mean look! The woman is scantilly clad but there is in fact a pussy in the pic no? (sarcasm!!!!) It is super suggestive and underhanded… yuck!!!

    ““Bitch” is hate speech. Yeah, yeah, I know there are women who intend to ”reclaim” it; I don’t think it’s possible in this woman-hating time in history. It’s hard for me to envision any other marginalized group creating a business like this which capitalizes on and celebrates all the ways in which its members are despised, dismissed, hated, humiliated and marginalized. Somehow, women just cave, believing, I guess, that nothing will ever change.”

    HMMM… Well this piece about “any other marginalized group creating a business like this which capitalizes on and celebrates all the ways in which its members are despised, dismissed, hated, humiliated and marginalized” does happen… There is a TERRIBLE site called http://www.niggaspace.com. I, along with a whole group of folks, am boycotting that site and sending the members letters and the creators letters. Do you know what is worse about this site and this store here??? It is NOT considered a hate crime because a member of said marginalized group is the creator!!!!

    GET THE F*** outta here…

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 16, 2007, 5:38 pm
  47. M.L.S right on!!!

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 16, 2007, 5:41 pm
  48. G.G.A: More power to you… I can see some strong points in CoolAunt’s post and also in your response to it… Intresting… I did misunderstand what you meant by your illustration and I was going to question you on it myself. I am glad, though perhaps inappropriately, that you have been able to explain what you meant and where you stand. It sucks that you had to do it that way, but you did.

    I would agree with all of coolaunts points, even though they show that your points were taken out of context. I have found that men come into this space and throw things off (experienced it with some imposter who was trying to create animosity in the thread) and some of the women here are a lil edgy, with good freakin reason, about it. It can be annoying and disheartening, but I understand why.

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 16, 2007, 5:54 pm
  49. Kara,

    Props to you. Despite everything being expressed on this message board there is an extreme bias here, which will not change regardless of what Kara would have post.

    While hateful language should never be tolerated we still must respect one another’s first amendment rights. It’s obvious here that “bitch” is used in relation to a female dog, rather than the hateful language used towards women. Second, it’s creative marketing. The store is obviously aimed towards a certain kind of woman and her dog, it’s not for everyone. This same creativity is seen today by large retailers such as Abercrombie and Fitch where the male models are often in store on sale days shirtless so that flocks of girls can run up and take their picture with him and post it on their myspace or what not.

    It’s simply marketing, and everyone on this message board should relax and respect the store’s ability to reinvent a hateful word into a catchy and marketable brand.

    Posted by Francisco Roark | February 19, 2008, 9:35 pm
  50. Gen X women at their business school best! Now I know how the old “Long March” Maoists must feel rolling in the graves.

    If you wouldn’t use the “N” word for this kind of marketing, you can’t justify the “B” word. This is the test —

    Even the most womanhating and racist male talk show host was afraid to have a segment that simulated Martin Luther King getting shot for the “entertainment” of his male listeners on MLK day. He did not hesitate to play “rape” scenes on the aire, however.

    It’s all about self-hatred that is the world’s worst illness women have to deal with. This kind of thing is what we are up against.

    Women have a long way to go to build up their inner lives so that we can heal from the inside as well as the outside.

    I often feel sorry for young women who just got conned by the “marketing gurus” yet again. So sad.

    Posted by Satsuma | February 19, 2008, 10:43 pm

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