Friday, February 18, 2011

Cunnilinguistics

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels."

Faith Whittlesey

I was quoted awhile back on the Friendly Atheist blog when a female commenter with the screen name of Helene objected to my use of the word "cunt" in characterising the conservative and homophobic self-appointed moral authorities of Malaysia. She said,

"...may I point out that the comment (and reprint of it) characterizing the opposition as "cunts" is misogynistic in the extreme. Especially considering that the opposition in question is almost certainly male-dominated, using “cunts” (instead of, perhaps, "dicks") is specifically meant to demean them by association with female qualities. I find it horrifying, actually, that someone supposedly acting in favor of human rights and expression would do it in such a way."

My response to that was,
"I assure you that I did not use the word cunt misogynistically or as you put it, to "specifically… demean them by association with female qualities." While I see that it’s categorically no different from calling someone a dick, a prick or a cockhead, I’ll admit that I do unconsciously assign a harsher connotation to it. Perhaps it’s simply a word which we encounter far less frequently (as suggested by Claudia) but it is not my intention to liken contemptible behaviour to vaginas – at least, not anymore than I liken dickish behaviour to my own reproductive organ. I’m sorry if my use of the word offended you, but I’m an equal opportunity expletive user."

Helene then said,

"I will totally accept your assertion that you didn't use the word cunt with misogynistic intent, and thanks for offering it. The thing is, even when the word "dick" is used, although it certainly implies that someone is being an idiot, it also implies that that idiocy results from an excess of testosterone, an excess of masculinity, if you will. Using "cunt" has no such connotation, it just implies that female parts are nasty and one doesn't want to be saddled with a reference to them. This is the case with many gender-specific epithets and I’d argue that one can't really be equal-opportunity when using them because they don’t carry the same implication. Oh, I know I'm not putting this well, but I’ve tried. I’m sorry to have cast my own aspersions on your intentions."

Being male, I definitely wouldn't claim to be an authority on what women should or should not be offended by, so I'm really curious if most women actually holds the much-maligned C-word to be as contemptible as Helene made it out to be. So, considering that pretty much 90% of my regular commenting readers here happen to have two X-chromosomes, I'd really appreciate some input, feedback, advice or chastisement on this.

Am I being a dick when I say "cunt"?



P.S. Speaking of sexism, the use of the word "female" recently became the centrepiece of a rather explosive controversy within the atheist community.



Clueless male,
k0k s3n w4i

20 comments:

ap said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Her2M_zZDEI&feature=related

awesome song

in the order of expletives cunt does seem to rule 'em all doesnt it *sick sense of superiority for me dick doesnt really carry the kind of detailed connotations specified above, its more of a better way to say asshole since it seems to imply agression while cunt is usually the recipient of. so yeah i would call someone a cunt if they iz stupide and got fucked up by a dickhead..... cos there is some degree of vulnerability...... in the world of Chinese expletives, chinese equivalents(there are a few) for cunt is most widely used, in fact no dick equivalents immediately spring to mind, instead reverential terms like ming gen zi (root of life wtf) are prevalent..... it does make one think of pre-modern era sexism carrying over into now. i think how i respond to it is that i have the same knee-jerk reaction like Helene, and find the attitudes behind using cunt to denounce the worst suspect but really language usage is a free-living bacterial colony and personal abstinence does little to change what kind of connotations it may carry.... yeah whatever lol

Michelle Chin said...

Which is rude-r? Cunt or pussy? They are the bloody same thing for many people. Both are rude. Better off stick with the word vagina. Why do people even argue over such things these days? sheesh!

I don't know what to say but i guess It's a thesaurus out there.

Ec5618 said...

You're fine. Some people in the atheist community are remarkably over-sensitive about this issue.

Have you noticed the recent uproar about the use of the word female?

Somehow, some of them believe that whenever a woman chooses to feel offended, we should defer to her, and never repeat the offence, because women are oppressed.

c3rs3i said...

I would view the use of the word cunt - first order derivative of 'vagina', second order derivative of 'female' - on a male an integration of both pejoratives whilst on a female, the latter is null (calling a guy a girl is deemed insulting but calling a girl a girl is redundant/stupid).

Unless you use traditionally male-associated expletives on females as you have used 'cunt' (conventionally, feminine) on males, you are definitely (subconsciously) prejudiced.

Whilst we're on the subject, I view the use of all foul language (expect perhaps cleverly) distasteful and unnecessary. Being such a cunning linguist, you could give going without a try unless of course you're more suited to giving fellatio instead. ;)

fevrier said...

my friends use the word 'cunt' all the time. -.- thomas doesn't agree with that and doesn't like it, but they don't use it with me at all. because i don't use dirty language they simply unconsciously/consciously follow suit

k0k s3n w4i said...

ap: i'm unfamiliar with chinese swear words so i'll refrain from commenting on that. i've never thought of cunts as being the recipients of abuse - and from my own use, i merely consider it the heavy, blunt tool of expletives which effectively expresses my outrage at whomever i'm directing it at. and "bitch" is about the worst thing i have ever described a woman with.

Michelle Chin: i have never used the word "cunt" to refer to lady bits. feels weird and unnatural to me, for some reason. this post is about using it on people - men in particular.

Ec5618: you must forgive me if i'm not reassured by your approval, considering your gender - but thanks for chiming in anyway. as men, i believe we don't get to decide what women should or should not feel offended by (which is why i find it most prudent to just ask them). and yes, i am aware of "femalegate" - which was why i mentioned it in my postscript in the first place.

c3rs3i: you are right! i never use male-associated expletives on women. never looked at it this way before, hmmm... but to be fair, i have never used "cunt" on women before either because it actually feels misogynistic in that context (i also rarely swear at women; possibly due to some ingrained psychological chivalrous machismo). so in conclusion, i should retire the c-word from my vocabulary? it seems to be misogynistic no matter which gender i apply on. and personally, i try to use "bad" words in my writing and speech as much as possible - i believe in wearing expletives out so they no longer possess whatever shock value they have.

beve: you prude. and you're not telling me if you find the word "cunt" misogynistic at all.

c3rs3i said...

Besides finding the use of rude words plain crass and unnecessary, I also find them demeaning and irresponsible and when used in my presence, I dislike that I am also thus associated.
Furthermore, most of them are utterly meaningless, sentiments and pomposity aside - Wiki describes 'dick', like 'asshole' and presumably also 'cunt' as 'an insult for someone perceived as inconsiderate'. I simply cannot see any link between netherlandish bodyparts and said undesirable characteristic (or synonyms) other than the desired.
Even if the purpose isn't effrontery, there are still better ways to express one's self especially if a person is AND/OR[well brought up, of an accountable age, educated, etc].

Some bad words are just words - careless and without malice. Other times, they could indicate, or worse still, instigate the attitude from which oppressive/discriminatory actions stem.

So no, it's not the shock factor that bugs me.

And yeah, I think you should retire the word (amongst others!) or at least the use of it in that context =)

ps: Smacking you with a few indirect insults was unavoidable but completely unintentional - I hope your ingrained psychological chivalrous machismo *hacking cough* will extend its magnanimity here. The crux of the message, however, I sustain.

fev said...

what's new? especially coming from someone who's used 'bitch' as the worst thing to a woman. i know i wasn't telling you about whether i thought the word was misogynistic or not.

L said...

I think every person who finds the use of dick and cunt to be insulting to their body parts has phailed miserably in the aspect of life called Language.

The use of cunt in your posts carry an implied meaning in your context, despite the anatomical meaning of the word. Failure to recognise that suggests that these people somehow missed the point, and in their childish rush to show off their debating skills and prove their anatomical body part is holier than the conterpart, seem to make cunts of themselves.

nis said...

everyone is a dick in its own way. so calling a person dick isn't that demeaning.
cunt sounds quite offensive even though to me it wasn't misogynistic in the manner. however, i don't really agree with the usage of the word.

Alynna said...

I don't use the c word at all. Once, I got mad at a friend for calling me that, which was followed up by him saying that I was a 'drama queen'. I stormed off. We're still friends now but frankly, I think our friendship never really recovered.

Anonymous said...

She implied that testosterone causes stupidity. Are you seriously going to let that slide?!?!!

I find that people who see sexism everywhere tend to be the most sexist ones.

k0k s3n w4i said...

c3rs3i: i'm afraid my blog isn't terribly suitable for you then if you feel that my use of expletives (for whatever purpose i see fit) indirectly demeans you - because the reason i even have this blog is for me to write things and thoughts that will never see publication on any formal media. more to the point, i'm mostly trying to find out if women find the word "cunt" to be on the same order of offense as a racial slur like "nigger". i was wondering if "cunt" is sufficiently divorced from its root gender to be a more potent (if generic) replacement noun for "asshole" or "dick" when those words fail to express my outrage - because it's rarity does lend it punch. and your unintentional indirect insults bounced right off me because the last thing i want to do is to be what is expected of my upbringing, age and education.

fev: isn't "bitch" kind of like the female equivalent of "dick"? at least that's how it's like in my head. i'm going to make it a point to call women i dislike dicks from now on. so stop being a dick and tell me if "cunt" offends you or not (when i use it on some group of people i hate).

L: if only things are that simple... the issue is that the word "cunt" has a lot of social and historical baggage associated with it. it's traditionally a disparaging term against women, much like what "nigger" was for black people. i'm wondering if i don't take offence when women use words like "dick" in a non-misandrial context, would women feel offended when i use "cunt" in a non-misogynistic manner? of course, what does not offend me does not necessarily mean it doesn't offend others. i take it you're a guy?

nis: i'd argue that everyone can be a cunt in some way or other as well (as oxford defines it as "a stupid and unpleasant person", aside from its anatomical connotation). i think the only reason swear words have any power at all is that people don't use them enough in everyday language. words like "shit" used to be vulgar in our parents' time, but now you hear it everywhere. "fuck" is going through the same process too. we used to censor those words obsessively in our media, but now they even slip right through our famously prudish malaysian censorship boards. would you believe that "bugger" was once upon a time vulgar due its reference to sodomy?

Alynna: that's a very typical guy response. if a woman reacts unfavourably to a guy's actions or words, he'd blame the woman - saying she's wrong to react the way she did. all because he wouldn't react to the same situation. the point of this post is to avoid that pitfall of male mentality. which was why i, instead of deciding that women shouldn't get offended by the word "cunt", decided to just ask women what they think. if most agree that it's offensive to women even when i use in a generic context, i'll stop doing it. so, do you mind if i call a bunch of homophobes "cunts"? do you find it misogynistic?

Anonymous: yes, i'm going to just let that slide because hey, i can be a man about it ;) and it's perhaps unfair to think sexism cut both ways. sexism has never hurt men, but throughout human civilisation, it had cut women deeply.

c3rs3i said...

I brought it up to clarify a point you made (ie I find the general use of expletives by the general public disagreeable for more reasons than just the shock factor) not to impose my views on you or ask that you change (about retiring 'cunt', you asked).

They are separate issues to me anyway - Do I like the use of bad words? No. Do I accept the use of it by others? Yeah, sure, I don't even impose my religious views on others, how could I ever hope to be a good clean-speech proselytizer?

No, you haven't directed any foul language at me personally so I haven't yet felt demeaned reading your entries(!). And if you try that someday, I just so happen to have a mind I could give you a piece off too unless I don't find the correction worth my time and energy in which case, I understand and respect that this is your space so you probably won't see me here again.

I didn't see a connection between 'cunt' and 'inconsiderate' cos how is a vagina anything but considerate? Or if vaginae aren't the way to go then why 'cunt' and not say... 'donut' or 'cucumber' or ? But 'stupid and unpleasant' makes it all make sense. *lightbulb*

Individual people can view the same thing differently it should not be assumed that we are all of the same mind or should be. In my opinion, we're all adults and if we disagree, surely we can discuss the issue amicably and resolve it without being called stupid and unpleasant or agree to disagree? I find name-calling more demeaning to the person doing it than myself - L, please take note.

nicoletta said...

To answer your query directly, the usage of "cunt" certainly possesses misogynistic connotations, which may not always be conscious on the part of the speaker. The commenter, Helene, did have a point when she mentioned the male perspective, which consciously or unconsciously considers the association of female qualities (and there is none more overt or provocative than the image of the vagina, which could also imply emasculation but let's not get into that...) with men demeaning to their inherent machismo. Calling a guy a cunt is certainly a sharp blow, but is also indirectly misogynistic because of the implications of the undesirability of aspects of the fairer sex. That’s as far as I think she is right.

"Dick" seems to be a shade less disagreeable mainly due to overuse, which has defused the word of its initial shock value. There are no sexist sentiments when a girl calls a guy a “dick”, mainly because guys themselves label each other as “dicks” time to time. However, very few girls call each other “cunts”, or even use the word, and the opposite sex employing a derogatory term on women will certainly evoke indictments of misogyny and sexism, especially after all the centuries of female subjugation in society. The racial slur, “nigger” used to be highly offensive, but certain black artists began using the word among themselves, and on themselves, thus reclaiming the word as part of their everyday vocabulary, and consequently, divesting it of its initial shock value. This is not to say that girls should go all out and call each other and everyone else cunts, just to reduce the word’s impact to an acceptable level =)

I do think that context is also quite important in determining the degree of offensiveness of the word to others. If one merely casts the C-word casually and liberally at all manner of trite affairs, it may be considerably more disagreeable with women because of the perceived intrinsic misogyny on his part. However, others might be more tempted to forgive one who has used it in an explosive emotional state over matters of great import, such as the particular issue you were discussing in your blog. Helene has probably never come across your site, or she wouldn’t have stirred such ado if she knew that your entries are saturated with (mellower) expletives, anyway.

I wasn't offended when you used that word.

fev said...

i woulda figured you of all people would know how i would take it, bitchface

c3rs3i said...

Nicoletta, that's one good nutshell (they should have like buttons on these things) =)
I'll come by your blog and say hi.

Alynna said...

Quite honestly, I don't know why the word offends me. Possibly because it just seems like the ugliest thing you can call someone?

Phoebs said...

i think i heard lindsay lohan call paris hilton a cunt on tv once o_o i thought it was hot :D

k0k s3n w4i said...

c3rs3i: it's funny that you mentioned how considerate vaginas are. there's this aphorism among obstetricians that goes something like "vaginas are volatile but ultimately very forgiving" referencing the organ's readiness to bleed copiously when injured during childbirth or surgery, but usually heals beautifully without much, if any, scarring. both characteristics are due to its rich blood supply. just an aside. anyhow, the more i explore this topic, the more i'm convinced that the c-word does display some intrinsic misogynistic connotations, regardless of what i mean to say with it. i guess i'll stop using it and find myself a replacement, but i'm sure going to miss it - it's a great word that rolls smoothly on the tongue (double entendre not intended).

nicoletta: to be perfectly clear on my intentions, i see "cunt" to be analogous to "bastard"; which has a literal meaning and a figurative meaning which has nothing to do with the literal one (because after all, there's no relation between illegitimacy and despicable behaviour). i see them as discrete, non-derivative definitions. same goes for "cunt", i see absolutely no connection between the vagina or women with being unpleasant or stupid. i absolutely cannot say that when i call a person a cunt, i am trying - consciously or unconsciously - to attribute emasculating feminine qualities to that someone. i think it's truly tragic that these words have such unpleasant histories which will ultimately limit my freedom of expression, because i'm really quite fond of them. as for "nigger", there's a phenomenon called the n-word privilege associated with it. a black person calling his homies by that is okay, but imagine george w. bush saying it. even if women adopt the c-word into their vernacular on a large-scale basis, it is still not certain that i, a man, is allowed to use it. i'm thinking of replacing "cunt" with "cock", but it just doesn't bite as hard. and there's the related problem with "twat" - another word which i really like.

fev: i can't read your mind, cockgobbler mcdickersons =d

Alynna: well, i only use it when i really want to call someone with the ugliest possible word. of course, i'm not asking if it offends you when it's used on you. i'm really asking if it bugs you if i use it on other people i really, really hate.

Phoebs: hot? i don't think so.