Thursday, 8 March 2012

In defence of Cunt

The Millers Tale - a 14th century use of cunt
It’s quite a word isn’t it? Your reaction to reading that probably ranged somewhere between outraged and amused. Recently some people I used to be really good friends with stumbled across my blog and were apparently mortally offended by my use of the word cunt.
But it’s just a word right? What about it is so awful? I know plenty of people who say fuck every other sentence but would never drop the c bomb. Why are people so deeply offended by it? Hello. It just means vagina.

The word sounds harsh and wonderfully powerful. It is loud and brave, it makes no apologies, it is feminist and it always solicits a reaction. Germaine Greer has said we are too precious about it, that "it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock."
The origin of the word is circa 1230, from the London street Gropecunt Lane, (Gropecunt!) and was in frequent use between the middle ages until 18th century. It seems to have resurfaced into popular use on twitter, where I see it used several times a day. Everytime I use it I lose a follower or two.
The marvellous @bookcunt recently wrote a post which you can read here in response to a deeply outraged person who couldn’t understand why anyone would use ‘that word’. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran in How To Be a Woman (READ IT. NOW), not many words are really powerful when used to describe lady parts - vagina is too clinical, ‘pussy’ is horribly Ron-Jeremy-bad-porn, ‘hole’ is horrific and sounds like things might live in there, even ‘twat’ a little insulting and far too unsexy. On the other hand ‘minge’ (which according to CM sounds like a disgruntled cat), ‘foof’ (awfully fun) and ‘hoohah’ are rather more palatable. But cunt is powerful. It should be used with reverence.
‘In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing and/or weak…I love that cunt stands on its own, as the supreme, unvanquishable word…I like how shocked people are when I say cunt. It’s like I have a nuclear bomb in my pants, or a mad tiger, or a gun.’ (Caitlin Moran, How To Be a Woman)
Why is a word (that means vagina) quite so horrifying? The people I offended seem to have forgotten that they damaged my teenage mind by reading to me from Urban Dictionary such delights as Wolf Bagging, Merkins and Felching (if you don’t know don’t ask), so I am intrigued as to why they were so personally offended. A word doesn’t do anything to you. It doesn’t hurt or physically damage you.
I wouldn’t use the word cunt at work – because unless you have a very relaxed office, swearing at work is unprofessional. I wouldn’t use it in front of my parents because they would be upset and I respect them enough not to upset them. They would have no choice about hearing it. If I say cunt on twitter, nothing is making you read it. So why would purely the use of the word, non-specifically, directed at no-one, used in a mildly amusing sense, offend some people enough to actually fall out with me?
Actually this sort of attitude is a kind of lexical snobbery. People fear cunt. Claiming it offends you is a way of asserting your moral superiority over the user. A sort of “my ears are too good for your words, you inferior being. I must let you know that such words are beneath me”. A sort of profanity classism. Fuck that. I have a cunt. Its fucking lovely. You wish you had one. You wish you had the guts to say it too. I’m glad cunt still has the power to shock. It has gravity and presence. People fear it. Long may it be so.

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