When I was invited to write about my fondness for the word “cunt”, my initial reaction was to decline, because I am disinclined to justify or explain my position to anyone. However, the invitation was extended in genuine good faith and interest by a lovely woman and in relation to an excellent website (which you are now visiting); and this way, I can easily direct people to my thoughts on the matter when I am inevitably pilloried yet again for my norty, norty language.
In the late 1970s, Germaine Greer wrote a fabulous article entitled “Lady, Love Your Cunt”. I’m hardly the first feminist to embrace the word, the anatomical parts it can be used to describe, or to pay both homage – off the top of my head I can immediately think of Greer, Ani DiFranco, and “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio as examples. I recommend reading widely on the matter – knowledge is just a Google search away. In recognition of that, and to save reinventing the wheel Germaine created, I’ve shamelessly pilfered her iconic title for this piece – with a slight impertinent change. I ain’t no lady. I’m a woman.
I’m going to address some of the most repetitive outraged comments, myths, and hyperbole I’ve received due to my use of the word, and provide my answers to them.
“CUNT” IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN CALL ANYONE, ESPECIALLY A WOMAN
Really? Why? A cunt is widely understood to be a vagina (although in fact, “vagina” is a medical term referring only to a single specific part of the female genitalia – cunt is much better, as it describes the whole package – vulva, clitoris, urethra, labia, the works. I challenge you to come up with another, better word that describes the whole kit and kaboodle). Why is that offensive? Why is it vulgar? Do you hate female anatomy? Do you find female rudey bits repugnant? If so, what does that say about you? Why should people adjust their speech to fit your ill-founded hang ups which are themselves sexist and offensive?
Why should it be even worse when used to refer to a woman, who has a cunt? Is her own body the worst thing possible you can make reference to when you speak to her? Do you really think there are no worse epithets in the entire known universe than “cunt”? I can think of many worse ones. I suggest that if you can’t, you might like to think about your priorities.
OK, FINE, BUT THAT STILL DOESN’T EXPLAIN HOW YOU CAN USE “CUNT” AS A PEJORATIVE. DOESN’T THAT MEAN YOU HATE WOMEN AND THEIR BODIES?
My stance on the word is simple: I have a cunt, therefore, I can use it, and the words relating to it, as I see fit. It’s mine. I own it. I am unafraid of it. I decide how I use it, not you.
Further, I am not into putting the cunt on a pedestal. I don’t enjoy Madonna/Whore scenarios. Yes, the cunt is a beautiful phenomenal thing: aesthetically pleasing, used for pleasure, sex, creation of life, and childbirth. It is worthy of our utmost respect, and it has mine. It is also a source of mess and annoyance or even pain for many women, via menstruation and a host of other groovy little issues. I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this before, but vaginal childbirth kinda hurts, and have you ever seen a mucous plug glooping its way out of a vagina? (During my son’s birth, I flung some of my mucous plug across a room. It stuck to the tiled wall like bloody-snot silly putty.) Let’s not over sanitise our understanding of the cunt. It doesn’t have to be a sterile object to be respected. It’s sacred and profane. It’s a wonderful, human thing that attaches to great pleasure, great pain, and everything in between. That is why it’s beautiful and amazing. It’s functional.
I use the word the same way. It can mean anything I want. I can use it as a slur, or a term of affection, or just as a name for a body part I possess. And that’s ok with me, which is all that matters. It’s my body part and my word spoken by my voice. If you don’t like it, that’s cool, don’t use it.
I might also add that we don’t see public outcry every time someone calls someone a dickhead, prick, cock, or accuses them of having no balls (the latter is problematic in that it associates strength exclusively with the masculine, but that’s not the point I’m making here). Why are only women expected to delicately sashay around their anatomy, and always use it and words pertaining to it nicely? Women aren’t all nice. Fuck nice. I’m not insulting myself or womankind if I call you a cunt. I’m insulting you. Or maybe I’m letting you know I like you, if I use it interchangably with “mate” (something becoming more common in Straya).
ALRIGHT, BUT LET’S CONSIDER CONTEXT. CUNT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A HORRIBLE WORD, HISTORICALLY. HOW CAN YOU IGNORE THAT AND USE IT NOW? EVEN USING IT TO DESCRIBE DOWN THERE IS GROSS.
Firstly, let me point out that vagina comes from the Latin for sheath for a sword. In the words of Inga Muscio, “ain’t got no vagina”. So if you’re looking for a word to describe “down there”, cunt is as good as any (in fact, it’s the only one that describes every aspect as opposed to the singular). Also, please don’t say “down there”.
Secondly, you’re completely wrong about historical context of the word “cunt”. Among other associations, it is derived from the Indo-European word “Kunti”, who is a Hindu goddess still worshipped today. It has also been linked to many other cultures throughout history and always as a powerful expression of the feminine. Entire books have been written about this and I can’t fit it into this article, but if I had to pick one at-a-glance site to point you towards to get you started on the etymology, try this one: Cherish The Cunt.
The fact the word has lingered for centuries and been so aggressively and successfully demonised in patriarchal society is not because it’s a bad word for women. It’s because it’s a good one. Think about it.
WELL, IT’S A SWEAR WORD. SWEARING IS BAD.
Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were 8 years old. Do your parents know you’re reading this article?
As I tell my children (who I swear in front of), some words are experienced more powerfully than others, which is not a bad thing, but sometimes those words are best used only by adults who understand what they’re doing when they use them and can responsibly deal with the outcome. “Cunt” would be pretty low on my list of those sort of words. Racial slurs, homophobic slurs…now that’s swearing. Again…priorities.
If this doesn’t apply to you (i.e. if you’re not an adult and don’t know how to deal with powerful words), please feel free not to use them. But you understand and accept that cussing is part of the mature lexicon, right? You can choose not to, but you can’t impose that on others.
ONLY PEOPLE WITH LIMITED VOCABULARIES USE WORDS LIKE “CUNT”.
Only people who have no rational explanation for their terror of the word “cunt” cite bullshit cliched bunkum like that.
Swearing is part of a healthy vocabulary. A fluent sentence can be gifted instant punch by inserting a choice cuss word. A person’s vocabulary is a set of words within a language that are familiar to an individual. By definition, even if your entire vocabulary consisted of swear words, that would still be…a vocabulary. The more colourful and varied the swear words, the less limited the vocabulary would be. Your argument is invalid.
Further, I cite my published stories, published reviews, opinion pieces, award nominations, award wins, and my book published last year as evidence of my fairly decent vocabulary. Plus, y’know, I made this article because I can do words, so…
Let’s play Scrabble sometimes, eh? I’ve got my tiles set up already. I’ve got a C, a U, an N…
Melbourne writer Felicity Dowker is a Ditmar and Chronos Award winner and a multiple Aurealis and Australian Shadows Award finalist. Along with Alan Baxter and Andrew McKiernan, Felicity is a founder and contributing editor at Thirteen O’Clock. Felicity’s short stories have been published in Australian and international magazines and anthologies, and her debut short story collection Bread and Circuses was launched in June 2012 by Ticonderoga Publications. If you’d like a taste of the collection, its title story was podcast at Tales to Terrify and can be listened to free here. A bibliography of Felicity’s stories can be found here. Oh yeah…Felicity is a feminist, of course. Felicity can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets as @HorrorshowFlick.