Owning a Word

3 min readMar 6, 2021

11/15/2020 (posted 3/6/21)

On a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, Maya Rudolph played Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris during a mock of the Presidential debate. She came onto the stage, made “President Trump” apologize to “VP Biden” and then said, “America needs a WAP — a Woman as President.”

My husband, who is generally a good man who values education and is generally liberal in his beliefs, looked over at our 17-year-old son and said, “Do you get it, WAP?” I had to look up the reference. According to Urban Dictionary, the term is a “wet ass pussy,” which I hate to even put into writing. Clearly, this term was coined by a man. I asked my husband how he knew the reference. His answer was that he didn’t really know but that it was likely from looking at memes. This is how misogyny is perpetuated, passive sharing of objectification of women, a shared laugh about it.

But, it’s also perpetuated by the intentional decision-making of the producers and actors on SNL. Why would Maya Rudolph take part in such a joke? Are ratings so important? Why does this increase the ratings? I wonder why I can’t find the humor in this joke. I know it is for the same reason I cannot appreciate the apparently-amazing bondage and pole dancing of this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and why I cannot appreciate the use of nigga or bitch, in general.

Language choices are more important than the general public acknowledges. I do not believe that a person can take “ownership” of a word by using it to describe himself or herself. I have friends who say that they refer to themselves as bitches because it’s a description of a woman who is strong and willing to speak up. I disagree. We cannot pretend the term’s history does not exist. According to Cambridge Dictionary, bitch as a noun is defined, in this following order, as: “a female dog,” “an unkind or unpleasant woman,” “something that causes difficulties or problems, or that is unpleasant,” “the act of complaining or talking unkindly about people,” and “someone who will do everything you tell him or her to do because you have complete control over him or her.” Looking at Urban Dictionary does not improve the situation: “one of the most versatile words in the english [sic] language; it is used to express a multitude of emotions; anger, anticipation, despair, endearment, envy, excitement, fear, horror, joy, shock, surprise, warning; all achieved by one’s enunciation and intonation.” None of these definitions, which are descriptive of use rather than prescriptive…