Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Bitter"

There are 11 definitions for the word 'bitter' on dictionary.com. Not one of them describes me, yet so many people throw this term around whenever they have a negative interaction with someone who is struggling with infertility.

bit·ter /ˈbɪtər/ [bit-er] adjective, -er, -est, noun, verb, adverb
–adjective
1. having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes.
2. producing one of the four basic taste sensations; not sour, sweet, or salt.
3. hard to bear; grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow.
4. causing pain; piercing; stinging: a bitter chill.
5. characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred.
6. hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson.
7. resentful or cynical: bitter words. –noun
8. that which is bitter; bitterness: Learn to take the bitter with the sweet.
9. British . a very dry ale having a strong taste of hops.
–verb (used with object)
10. to make bitter: herbs employed to bitter vermouth.
–adverb
11. extremely; very; exceedingly: a bitter cold night.

When I look at these 11 definitions, I am trying to find the one that people are likely referring to when they say that someone is a 'bitter infertile'. Used in that context, it is an adjective which leaves me with 7 possible options. I am guessing that they are referring to definition #7 "resentful or cynical". So, I looked up those words to see if I could find a bit more clarity. Of course 'resentful' just means full of resentment, which wasn't very helpful. I had to look up resentment for further information. Resentment is defined as 'the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.' Have I ever felt resentment? Yes, I am certain that everyone has, not just women suffering from infertility. Do I feel that I am 'full' of resentment? No. So lets move on to cynical.

cyn·i·cal   /ˈsɪnɪkəl/ [sin-i-kuhl]
–adjective
1. like or characteristic of a cynic; distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.
2. showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
3. bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

Well, since the word 'bitter' is in #3, I will think a moment about that one. Am I ever distrustful or pessimistic? Sure, but isn't everyone at times? I've been thinking about this 'bitter' label for a long time now and I honestly don't think that would define myself as 'bitter'. Do I have moments where I feel resentment and cynicism? Sure, but those moments don't define me. They are not my way of life.
The reality is, when people call a women who is suffering with infertility 'bitter' they are perpetuating a stereotype. They are making a sweeping generalization about who a person is based on a single trait. This, to me, is the same as being a racist or a classist. It is ignorant and belittling and there is not a single positive thing that can come of it. I know that this post won't change the views of those who use this word, because let's face it, those people don't care about me and don't read my blog, but it felt good for me to write it.

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