Friday, August 9, 2013

The "C" Word

So, I'm in the process of composing a post on the power and influence of words, and how one book, one sentence, one question, one word can impact someone so deeply that it can change their life. That post is requiring research and preparation and will be upcoming, however that subject co-inspired this post. It and something I saw on Tumblr yesterday.

While scrolling down my dash yesterday, past the abundance of perfectly filtered nature scenes and skinny girls lounging "accidentally artistically" on beds and bridges and beaches, I found it...the perfect vehicle upon which to attach the feministic political ranting I so love to do.

This was it.

Now I know there are many people who hate this word, and I've heard the many reasons why. All of them are valid, and I get it - it's become a degrading, insulting word used by men to demean women. It has a long history of being one of those really bad words, one of the ones you don't even say. It's one of the few words left in the English language that still has the power to shock when said out loud, right up there with the n-word* (see note below). I know a lot of the qualms stem from seeing the word as a vehicle for sexism, as I've heard the argument that there's no comparable insult for a man. Nothing you call a man is as degrading and offensive as calling a woman a cunt. I understand this argument, it's the one I can most agree with, but I also think that we, as women, need to stop letting ourselves feel offended. Words can really hurt, I know, but sometimes, some of them can only have as much of an impact as you let them, and I think cunt is one of those words. All of this has basically been a set up to get to my confession, so here it is:

I really like the word cunt.

Cunt. I like the very sound of it. The way it's quick and sharp to say. The way it sounds so sure, so dominant. It doesn't roll off the tongue, it springboards off of it doing a backflip into the air, launched by the sharp slap of the T. I like the hard C at the beginning, followed by the sloping U, forgotten on the way to the humming, shortly singular N, and closed by the kick of the T. It's so strong.

I have this thing with words...the sound of them is important to me, almost as important as the meaning itself. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, because I've been composing poetry for as long as I can remember (even before I could spell, and had to dictate the words to my mother), but the sound is everything, and cunt is such a fantastic sounding word. It's one hell of an auditory punch. If the sound of the word itself isn't enough to convince you of it's non-terribleness, I've got another angle for you...

Vagina. Women love the word vagina. Especially women who consider themselves feminists. We love it. We've resurrected it from the hell-pit of shameful, dirty, inappropriate words. We say it out loud. We write books about it. We perform monologues about it. We celebrate it on it's own damn day for god's sake. Yep, women love the word vagina. Why? Why have we worked so hard to decriminalize it's existence? Because what we're really doing is decriminalizing the female body. Cis-women* (see note below) have vaginas, we just do, sorry. And despite hundreds of years of a male dominated society telling us otherwise, there is nothing wrong with them, nothing dirty or shameful about them or any other part of our bodies. Women are slowly starting to embrace this on a greater scale, to realize there's nothing about women's sexuality, sex, or sex organs that needs to be hushed and hidden behind ridiculous concepts of modesty and morality. Women aren't afraid to say vagina anymore, we've reclaimed it, given it life, made it beautiful. It means so much more than "a canal in a female mammal that leads from the uterus to the external orifice of the genital canal" (sorry, too much?), rather, it represents generations of women accepting their bodies and their sexuality. And that's great. It's amazing. It's why we love the word vagina.

We took back "vagina" because we understood how harmful it was to allow the name of part of our body to be considered vulgar. With that in mind, I give you the original, anatomical definition of the word cunt.

"The female genital organs." -
"The vulva or vagina." -
"The female genital organs." - Merriam-Webster

Yep, all it is is the name of a part of our bodies, a name we're still allowing to be considered vulgar, a name most women probably find vulgar themselves. Yet it means the exact same thing as vagina...and like I said, we love vagina. I don't understand how we can justify that, justify raising vagina from the swirling sewer of vulgar, offensive words, but leaving cunt behind. It shouldn't be shameful, or dirty, or inappropriate, because nothing about the female body part it defines is shameful, or dirty, or inappropriate. It's like we're saying it's ok to associate the female body with something that's vulgar...that's wrong. And yes, I understand that the word's usage has shifted, that it's been abducted into an offensive way of referring to women...but if we stopped being so afraid of it, afraid to say it, use it, save it, then it would lose it's "vulgar" negative power. The point is, we rescued the word vagina...why can't we rescue the word cunt, too?

Ok, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

 - Drew

PS - I did reblog that picture, by the way, and added a little something too. You can check it out here.

*Disclaimer: While I'm not going to get into it in detail here, I just wanted to make a disclaimer that I do not view the word cunt and the n-word as the same. The historical and societal subtext behind them is different, and while the word cunt is aimed at insulting a group of people based on their gender, it in no way carries the prejudicial enormity of the n-word. I'm not suggesting that the two words are comparable, because I personally don't believe that they are, and the opinions I have about the word cunt do not apply to the n-word, which I don't believe is redeemable. 

*Women who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and have the anatomical body of the female sex. 


  1. Personally the word cunt just holds hate about something I don't hate so I don't use it because I feel like it expresses a subtext I don't mean. But I think that just means, as you say, we must reclaim the word cunt!!

  2. And I completely understand that, because years of repression has turned it into such a hateful word, and until it has been reclaimed, it always will have that subtext, whether or not it's meant. It's a hard cycle to break, no one wants to use it because it's understood as being hateful and vulgar, but it's only seen as hateful and vulgar because we've made it that way.

  3. Hi Drew, I Loved this post (I love your blog, actually) and I have another book you might want to read. It's called Sex and God:How Religion Distorts Sexuality by Darrel Ray. it's interesting how even if you as a person choose not to practice a religion our society has been influenced so heavily by religion that it effects everyone anyway.

  4. Thank you Lizzy, and thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely have to look into that!