ABC’s Good Christian Bitches Makes Feminists of Religious Right

By Sarah Morice Brubaker, Religion Dispatches

Attention, Internet! Good Christian Bitches, Kim Gatlin’s first book, has the word “bitch” in the title. I shall now give you a moment to compose yourself. Go find a cool compress for your fevered brow and/or relax the vicelike grip with which you surely must be clutching your pearls. “Christian” and “bitch,” right next to each other like that. The literary juxtaposition, O, it dazzles. It’s like saying… I don’t know… “four weddings and a vasectomy” or “love in the time of booger-eaters” or “the unbearable lightness of being a redacted expletive.”

Perhaps I should back up. Good Christian Bitches is evidently about some mean rich church ladies in Texas who find each other’s lives endlessly fascinating. And in this religious community, the ritualized expression of such fascination is the oratorical “prayer request,” which is actually a veiled public humiliation. It’s rich women being catty in their expensively-decorated homes and also in church. That’s the basic idea. I gather we’re meant to find the addition of “church” enough to make this a fresh concept.

(As a side note: I hereby lay claim to the idea for a Catty Rich Lady magnetic poetry set, wherein you come up with fresh new takes on the genre by rearranging wee little magnetic strips printed with phrases like “Bergdorf,” “real,” “desperate,” “[name of wealthy suburb],” “Park Avenue,” “disgruntled nanny,” “Birkin bag,” “fashion magazine,” “at a prep school,” “with a signature lady-cocktail,” “in Dubai,” and now, evidently, “at a church.”)

Well, anyway, you can read an excerpt of the book here(PDF).

Described by the New York Post’s Maureen Callahan as combining the “eerie ennui” of Desperate Housewives with the emotional maturity of Gossip GirlGood Christian Bitches is being developed into a television pilot by ABC. But this cannot stand! Or so says the ever-watchful American Family Association, which has issued an alert and is petitioning ABC to drop the show:

Disney-owned ABC has no reservations about creating hate speech against Christians, but you can be sure they would never consider a show called “Good Muslim B-tches” or “Good Jewish B-tches.”With a title like “Good Christian B-tches,” you can imagine what kind of show it will be. Even if they change the title, the content will still mock people of faith.

Okay, this is fantastic. I mean, how lovely that the AFA now believes hate speech is worth taking seriously! And how lovely that its spokespeople can run mental scenarios in which hate speech is directed at Jews and Muslims. (Gosh, wonder if they’ve heard about that guy who said that Muslims, as a group, are inbred and have low IQs?)

Not to be outdone, the Parents Television Council has gotten in on the act. You guys, did you know that “the b-word” (as they demurely say) has been used “to degrade, abuse, harass, bully and humiliate women”? It’s almost like there’s something called sexism in the world! I guess former PTC president L. Brent Bozell III has changed his mind since writing an editorial dismissing “feminist whining” about same. [see also: “Conservative Christians Get in Touch with Feminist Side in Islamophobia —ed.]

Clearly the eschaton is upon us. The American Family Association is worried about hate speech and an organization headed by Bozell is concerned about misogyny. The lion is laying down with the lamb. The messiah is due any minute. Best get right with God, folks, because it’s all Hicks paintings, angelic choirs, and vegetarianism from here on out.

Before I rise to meet the Lord in the air, though, permit me a few thoughts.

Thought one: Psst… Some feminists have been reclaiming the word “bitch” for, like, a few years now. A woman who adopts the label of “bitch” for herself, the thinking goes, subverts the stigma associated with women being forthright, assertive, and selfish.

This is not an uncontroversial claim among those who give a hoot about equal rights for women; it did not escape my notice, for example, that Yana Walton from the Women’s Media Center (love them, seriously) was quoted by Fox News as saying that “bitch” is an inappropriate word with which to describe any woman ever.

I respectfully disagree, but that’s beside the point, which is: look, this is a well-established conversation and controversy in feminist circles. So maybe those of you who are coming in late could borrow the notes from someone else in the class, and maybe the rest of us could take a broader view than just the presence of the b-word in the title (which, after all, has been changed to “GCB” as a shooting title, most likely to be renamed as the airdate approaches). Perhaps we might think instead about how the media actually portrays and affects women? Which brings me to….

Thought two: Ever heard of the Bechdel Test? A movie passes the Bechdel Test if, at any point, it contains a scene with two or more women, talking to each other, about something other than a man. The Bechdel Test was developed to expose the dearth of female friendships in movies. Will the Good Christian Bitches television show (whatever it ends up being called) pass the test? Maybe so, but the press kit for the book seems to indicate that the characters are women who have a lot of prurient interest in each other’s relationships with men. Which is both incredibly unoriginal and arguably a lot more damaging to women than the presence or absence of a PG-13 word.

Thought three: You know, I’m a Christian. And there are many Christians (yes, even “progressive” Christians) who evidently think that if someone in the church is oppressing you, what you should do, see, is you should surprise them with flowers to prove your goodwill, and then take them gently by the hand, pull them close, and tell them—in the most un-alienating way possible—that it’s not that they are bad, but that you are hurting, so would they mind please not treating you as though you are an inferior class of human being?

You know, if they remember? And have time in their busy schedules?

And then you should thank them so much for hearing you speak from the heart like this; and then you should finish by saying that you realize the really important thing is that we are one in Christ, and that you are willing to swallow and fake-smile and tooth-grind any of your anger into non-existence.

Well, fine, except that if Christianity is about being nicey-poo because oppression is preferable to overt conflict, then a) you may as well admit to having dispensed with Jesus of Nazareth entirely; and b) wow, what a snore.

So I submit that maybe there’s a real need for Good Christian Bitches. Not rich women soaking in Dead Sea mineral baths and schadenfreude, but a group of rude ladyfriends who—inspired by Jesus—roll their eyes at sanctimony and trumped-up moral panic.

Sarah Morice Brubaker is an Instructor in Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma and contributor to Religion Dispatches.

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  1. Paul says:

    Caustic Jewish Hags?

  2. Des says:

    I feel like all the outrage against this show is based purely on denial. As a Christian and a pastors daughter I can tell you that we all know these women. People that try to “out Christian” each other while Monday through Saturday live a less than pious life.,I think the only reason to be upset about gcb is because it outs those people. Face it, we all know people just like these girls and your lying to yourself if you say you don’t. I’d also like to point out that this show is only based on a few women and not all women in the church. These women depict your typical high school stuck up cheerleader who never got past school not all Christian women.

  3. R.B. says:

    But remember this: The Church is a hospital for sinners, and not a museum for it’s Saints. (I also notice that the book cover portrays a rosary–worn as jewelry–which also shows a ‘lumping’ of all christian denominations together–with (as usual) a special little stab at Catholicism, the last acceptable prejudice). Yes, I’m offended and disapprove of another deplorable television program that aims at (what?) exactly…….? Entertainment for entertainment’s sake–lowering the moral values of society just a tad more (as if it can sink much lower).