Thick Moral Concepts

Jessica Valenti notes that GOP consultant Alex Castellanos thinks it's sometimes "accurate" to call a woman a "bitch."

To perhaps overanalyze, the trouble here is that "bitch" is what they call a "thick moral concept" in the philosophy game. A "thin" moral concept purely expresses a judgment -- so you might say something was "good" or "bad" and that doesn't carry any descriptive content apart from the ethical evaluation. But there are also thick moral concepts like "brave." To call an act "brave" is to praise it, just like calling it "good" is, but it's not merely to praise it -- you might agree that someone has done something praiseworthy but still say "brave" is an inappropriate description because it didn't involve risk in the right kind of way.

One of the ways in which sexism in our society works is that there are several highly-gendered thick moral concepts of which "bitch" and "slut" are probably the most salient. It's true, of course, that some women do manifest the non-normative descriptive qualities associated with those terms. But the crux of the matter is that the alleged accuracy or lack thereof of such a term is besides the point, the concepts themselves are part of an inherently sexist conceptual scheme -- the terms just are the moral vocabulary of the sexist.