A Bitch You Can Count On
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the June 4-10, 1998 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
Call me weird (but you probably do that anyway), but if I really dislike a woman, then the term "bitch" is too good for her. To me, "bitch" is a label often used for women who aren't afraid to speak their mind or live life on their own terms. How is that bad? The most perfect comics example of that is the character Bitchy Bitch in Naughty Bits (Fantagraphics, $2.95) by Roberta Gregory.
Bitchy Bitch, a.k.a. Midge, is virtually all id. Anything and almost everything annoys her. She has no patience for fools and little patience in general. Like many people you know, she agonizes and overanalyzes almost everything in her life. But unlike your friends (I hope), BB takes things to explosive conclusions, and Gregory draws her body in various stages of distress to reflect her temper tantrums: Her hair stands on end; her mouth becomes huge with giant, pointed teeth; and if she's flipping out over something involving sex, her chest transforms to eye-gouging points Madonna would be proud of.
Bitchy Bitch gives the incredibly nice Gregory an opportunity to vent about all aspects of life. Rather than genuflecting to the sacred cows of political correctness, Gregory makes tasty, totally irreverent hamburgers of the far right, women's lib, abortion, dating, drugs and more. "I tend also to be fascinated with things you 'aren't supposed to talk about,' " she recently wrote in her letter column. "We do get a lot of our attitudes from childhood. Why do some attitudes seem easier to drop than others? Even though we know something is 'wrong,' there seems to be a sort of payoff for hanging on to these views of the world."
While Bitchy freaked when she found out her college roommate was a lesbian, she's basically cool about her best friend Barb's lesbian relationship with Lanie. Their vegetarian cooking bothers her more than their orientation. Still, within the confines of her own mind, she thinks about the things no one is supposed to discuss in polite society. For instance, while having dinner with Barb, Lanie and their daughter, Tanya, Bitchy thinks, "Wonder if they had this kid the 'normal' way or with one of those sperm banks? I mean, you still need to have a man to make a kid. Of course, nowadays, who knows what they can do. She looks normal."
Once homophobia hit close to home with Bitchy, she did reconsider some of her thoughts. But, Gregory writes, "There is so much more ground for her to cover. I haven't sworn off any topic, no matter how touchy." Which she proves in the "Hippie Bitch Gets Laid," "Hippie Bitch Got Knocked Up" and "Hippie Bitch Gets an Abortion" trilogy of issues reprinted in the trade paperback A Bitch Is Born. Besides dealing with pre-Roe v. Wade abortion in an unflinching fashion, Gregory herself steps in to explain a D&C and things like Lysol douching.
Don't assume Bitchy is always right far from it. But her rants are always entertaining and thought-provoking. Her cast of characters is just as opinionated, from her stuck-in-the-'50s, pearl-wearing mother and born-again, impure- thought-obsessed Marcie to ex-boyfriends like Kenny, who really should move out of his mom's house.
Gregory was the first woman to self-publish her own underground comic, Dynamite Damsels in 1976, and it sickens me that such a smart, funny social commentator isn't better known. So get off your butt, buy a copy of Naughty Bits and annoy the PC police.
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Naughty Bits,
Bitchy's College Daze and A Bitch is Born artwork © 1998 Roberta
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Naughty Bits, Bitchy's College Daze and A Bitch is Born artwork © 1998 Roberta Gregory.