Now, I don’t read online mags for the pretty pictures (even if they do include photos of Benedict), and this particular article got me a little hot under the collar (and no, it wasn’t just the pictures. Gutter. Mind. Out. I’ll send you a postcard from the sewer).
Benedict has a legion of fans—and if you’ve seen me hitting up my mates for my weekly fix of Cumberbatch, you’ll know I’m one of them (it’s the acting, I tell you). On Social Media his fan group call themselves “Cumberbitches”. It may be genius marketing (did I see a little fist pump there?), but I’m not comfortable with the suffix “bitches”, and neither, apparently, is Benedict:
In an interview for the Times, Benedict said: “It’s not even politeness. “I won’t allow you to be my bitches. I think it sets feminism back so many notches. You are… Cumberpeople.” He paraphrased this sentiment on the Graham Norton show (and who doesn’t love that show?) in May last year.
Hells yeah—a celebrity who stands up for his… people. The author of the Huff Post article, Victoria Sadler, however, disagreed and questioned why the Cumberbitches should have to redefine themselves simply because Benedict says so, pondering, “There is something deeply ironic about a man telling women how they should define themselves, in the name of feminism.”
Now, Victoria is entitled to her own opinion, but this is my corner of the webiverse, so here’s mine (move over, I’m about to get all “anti-feminist” on your arses)—just because Benedict is a bloke, doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
Victoria goes on to say in her article that, “How a woman defines herself is her prerogative – and hers alone.” Damn right women should be allowed to define themselves however they want to. However, like it or not, the word “bitch” has real negative connotations in our culture (unless, of course, you are referring to yourself as a female dog sniffing around Baker Street and peeing on the deerstalker). And when you tag that culturally derogative term to the end of your target of adoration’s name, you lose the right to complain about backlash from that person. It’s all very well to say, “change the connotation—we can call ourselves what we like” but it’s not how linguistics (or the world) works.
It doesn’t help that you can pervert “batch” so easily into “bitch”. Benedict projects himself as a gentleman, so it’s partly in the interests of his own personal branding not to be associated with the B-word. Hardly seems fair when other celebs’ or TV shows fan bases get the much milder “Beliebers” (Justin Bieber), “Pine Nuts” (Chris Pine) or “Whovians” (Doctor Who).
If you really are a flag-waving fan of anyone, I reckon you should have respect for that person, not send him or her into paroxysms of spluttering every time the fan-base term (that they plainly don’t like) is brought up. It’s a different proposition if the celebrity likes the fan-base name, if the name is “on-brand” (I’m thinking “Little Monsters” here) or the celebrity has given their fans the name themselves. The rule doesn’t apply in Benedict’s case.
It has less to do with Benedict being “anti-feminist” and more to do with him being a respectful individual.
And if you’re sitting on the fence about this, here is a photo by the genius that is Annie Liebowitz for your viewing pleasure—you’ll forget the debate ever existed.
Is Benedict being anti-feminist or respectful?