Is it misogynistic to use the "C-word?"
January 17, 2005 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Is it considered misogynous to use "the C-word" ? It had never even occured to me that it might be until my sister asked that I never use it as it was "so anti-women." At the right moment, it's SUCH a useful word, but I don't want to appear to be "anti-women", since I'm not . Is my sister's view unusual?
posted by bunglin jones to Human Relations (112 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My sister and I use it all the time. It depends on your social circle.
posted by interrobang at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2005


I find it offensive (and I'm an XX. )

It's not much different from using the p-word in reference to an XY, except that women have faced a long history of discrimination and men haven't.

A little indulgence about word choice is, I think, in order.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2005


It depends on your social circle.

True. Consider the audience.

But in general company? Offensive.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:49 PM on January 17, 2005


Yes, definitely.
posted by interrobang at 9:51 PM on January 17, 2005


The "c-word" was pronounced "cunt" back in the 80s in the United States.

And then something happened. I don't know what. I think it goes beyond social circle ... the Brits seem to have a particular fondness for the word ... and delves into nationalistic territory.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:51 PM on January 17, 2005


Offensive, yes. Rude? Certainly. But that's not what was asked. Misogynist? I don't think so.
Occaisionally satisfying to say? You better fucking believe it.

p-word? The only p-words I can think of aren't overly offensive?
posted by coriolisdave at 9:53 PM on January 17, 2005


right - yeah - look. I understand that it is a particularly RUDE word to use, but does its offense stem from its being misogynous? I use the word judiciously (insofar as one can), but I know a lot of people who aren't offended by something as simple as "swearing" but who WILL be offended by something that's regarded as anti-women
posted by bunglin jones at 9:54 PM on January 17, 2005


It's perhaps the #1 not-FCC-OK word. Someone out there must really hate it.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:58 PM on January 17, 2005


Offensive, yes. Rude? Certainly. But that's not what was asked. Misogynist? I don't think so.
Occaisionally satisfying to say? You better fucking believe it.

p-word? The only p-words I can think of aren't overly offensive?


Here's my piece.

Calling a guy a prick doesn't insult him as badly as calling a woman a cunt. The latter implies something more insidious. I don't really know why. Can't explain it. But I don't think I'm alone. And I do think that the gender/sex of the insultee has something to do with it.

Who knows what made it that way? It is what it is.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:05 PM on January 17, 2005


I think it's because "cunt" reeks of disdain and scorn when used as a pejorative. In contrast, "prick" suggests at least a grudging respect for someone's power, obstinacy or sheer bloodymindedness. And maybe I watch too much Brit drama, but it seems that the English are much more likely to insult a man by calling him a cunt than by using the same word to describe a woman, who's more likely to be called a cow.

Unless you really want to insult someone and are willing to look completely nasty, vulgar, and, yes, possibly misogynistic, or unless you're actively engaged in reclaiming the word as a positive term, you're probably best off avoiding the word altogether.
posted by maudlin at 10:15 PM on January 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


Saying "cunt" to strangers or using it seriously to describe someone is something I'd classify as misogynistic. I only say that because I can't think of an equivalent demeaning phrase for a male.

Sorta like "honky" and "nigger" aren't equal and saying one is mostly harmless while saying the other would be racist in my opinion.
posted by mathowie at 10:15 PM on January 17, 2005


You still haven't described how you used it, but if you directed it at her I think that's over the line. I agree with mudpuppie's comment that aiming this word at a woman seems misogynistic, moreso than a corresponding word hurled at a man. Might I suggest something more like, "Thunderation, woman, you vex me so!"
posted by planetkyoto at 10:17 PM on January 17, 2005


I've always treated the word cunt in the same manner I would say bitch. It's only mysogynistic in the sense that it's appropriate only when applied to a woman, and is usually said in derision or anger. In recent years, bitch has become standardized in the U.S.; you can even say it on network television these days, while cunt has jumped ship to England, where it's enjoying immense popularity.

The reasons prick doesn't hold its own against cunt are twofold: first, men take sexual insults better than women, most likely because men lob sexual insults at other men from early childhood on; and two, because of the commonality of the word (see: bitch).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:19 PM on January 17, 2005


I work with a very bright and highly evolved Irishman for whom "cunt" is a utility fielder when it comes to profane labels aimed at about any one who's earned a profane label. I recoiled the first six times I heard it but must say that with repition and equal appliance to men and women I no longer recoil and have in fact found it useful, though I've yet to utter it aloud in front of people.
posted by donovan at 10:19 PM on January 17, 2005


I use it, and I consider myself feminist. When employed in a certain pointed manner I think it's absolutely misogynist; in casual use, as sexual terminology for instance, I prefer it to just about any other slang word for the vulva. To me, those two uses are quite separate.

But in my experience many women cannot stand its use in ANY context, because they consider the word in and of itself about the worst there is, much worse than "bitch" or "pussy" - a hateful word towards women. In fact, I don't think there's any word you could use to describe a man that has the insulting/nasty impact that "cunt" does when you use it to describe a woman. So, yes, consider your audience.
posted by Melinika at 10:22 PM on January 17, 2005


Whenever this topic comes up I always think of the finale of Sex and the City on HBO. The ladies are sitting at dinner, and Sam says, with utmost affection: "I'm going to miss you, you cunt." to which Charlotte starts sobbing, and Miranda replies dryly: "Wow! Even 'cunt' didn't stop her!" and they all chuckle affectionately.

In other words, amongst women, as a term of affection, it can have its place. As a derogatory term applied to either a man or a woman: incredibly offensive.

Sorta how rappers can call each other the n-word and nobody gets offended. But if you call someone that as an insult, you'd be in trouble.
posted by bonheur at 10:28 PM on January 17, 2005


One longtime girlfriend of mine found "cunt" the only acceptable word to use in reference to her sexual organ. "Pussy" and "vagina" were just too icky for her to utter. Then again, another gf only ever used "pussy." I never heard her say "cunt" a single time.

I think the only thing we can all agree on is that the word "vagina" is of pretty much no value in any situation.

When employed in a certain pointed manner I think it's absolutely misogynist

I agree. It's pretty much not the word that counts, but the intent of the person using it. In this regard, I think you could say that there's nothing inherenly misogynist about the word itself, or any word, for that matter.
posted by scarabic at 10:31 PM on January 17, 2005


Just to agree with what most people are saying. It seems to be a word that the Brits and Irish use liberally, without any of the harshness that seems to surround its usage in the States.

On the other hand, Bollocks seems to be the most offensive word available on the English side of the pond, and nobody would even give you a second look here in the States.

As far a mysoginy goes, I think intent and context has a lot to do with it. The word in and of itself doesn't construe mysoginy, however many people use it because it has such a jarring effect on some women, and only use it for that purpose.
posted by stovenator at 10:31 PM on January 17, 2005


Personally, I love the word.
posted by padraigin at 10:33 PM on January 17, 2005


I heard the word slunt used today for the first time. What's the consensus on that and other derivatives?
posted by euphorb at 10:34 PM on January 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


I say "cunt" all the time. I'm classy.

In the UK and Ireland, it's so much less offensive than it is in the US, I've found. That said, one time in NYC (at band camp), I used the word "wanker" in an elevator with a colleague from the UK, and after we exited, he said "I can't believe you said 'wanker' in the lift!". So... depends on the audience.
posted by bedhead at 10:42 PM on January 17, 2005


Today's insult is tomorrow's neutral term (or endearment). It's intent that matters, not words. Hateful intent is never acceptable.
posted by rushmc at 10:48 PM on January 17, 2005


cunt has jumped ship to England, where it's enjoying immense popularity.

Lovely imagery, and very true. Especially in the North-East of England - I have a couple of Geordie and Maccam friends for whom "cunt" is used more as punctuation, a sort of verbal placeholder to seperate out clauses. The person I know who uses it most is a woman. Myself, I think it's an immensely satisfying word, probably because it's one of the few that's still taboo enough to genuinely provide an emotive release when said in anger. When used in that way, it would normally be applied to men, or possibly inanimate objects. If applied to a woman, it could still sound brutal and ugly, unless the context made it absolutely clear that no sexual meaning was implied (if, say, the woman was a very close friend, or alternatively so far removed that she was being discussed essentially in the abstract).

I suppose the added misogyny comes from the fact that, culturally, objectifying a woman as being no more than her genitals suggests both that she is completely powerless, and/or that her behaviour is profane and improper. Objectifying a man as being his genitals suggests that he is powerful, masculine, and generally all kinds of dude.

Bollocks seems to be the most offensive word available on the English side of the pond


Is it bollocks... It's a pretty tame one, actually (it's very nearly acceptable for broadcast pre-watershed, on public radio, etc, which won't be happening to cunt, fuck, or to a lesser extent shit for quite some time).
posted by flashboy at 10:48 PM on January 17, 2005


planetkyoto: i used it - as i often do - not in any REAL anger at all. the sentence was something like "there's always some cunt ringing me up at work wanting to know something completely irrelevant" or some such. I'm Australian, so I guess i subscribe to what everyone here considers the British tradition of using the word; and the ONLY TIMES i've ever heard a woman called a cunt is in american films or telly. here, you just don't call a woman that. just doesn't seem to fit, strangely enough. though i know plenty who don't mind hearing the word in casual conversation.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:50 PM on January 17, 2005


Bollocks seems to be the most offensive word available on the English side of the pond, and nobody would even give you a second look here in the States.

SlightDigressionFilter: I had a bus conductor in Norwich, England, very nearly kick me off the bus (in the rain!) for saying "bollocks" to him. I (Yank that I am) never thought it was anything other than a mild, kiddie-level bad word (basically as flashboy says above).
posted by scody at 10:57 PM on January 17, 2005


As an aside, "Bollocks" is very very far from offensive in the UK.

To say "That's Bollocks" is about on par with "That's Rubbish".

When something quite mundane happens, i.e. the lead in your pencil breaks or you drop something, "Bollocks" is quite acceptable, the more off the thing, the louder you can say it.

"The Bollocks" means rather good, "That car's the bollocks"

I've heard Bollocks and Shit on BBC Radio 4 mid-day several time, and the odd Fuck at about 9:45am (but there was a warning before the program started).

Cunt, I believe can be used misogynous fashion, but I've only ever used it as "Christ that man's a right cunt" i.e. he's not very nice. It does have the advantage that it's a very harsh sounding word to say, you can really get behind it and explode it out.


Twat means roughly the same thing, but it's difficult to say in a rough and harsh way, so it always ends up sounding kinda jolly and sing-songy, "He's a Twat"
posted by ModestyBCatt at 11:10 PM on January 17, 2005


The word makes me slightly uncomfortable as an insult. Sometimes I don't like that it does and I wish I were less bothered. Sometimes I get all political about and get on my little soapbox in my head and rant to myself about how it's like saying things are "gay" when one means they are stupid or bad or unpleasant or uninteresting or whatever - even if the person saying that isn't meaning it as a homophobic or hateful statement, the synonymization (??) of the two ideas is, or leads to, homophobia. It's the same with cunt. If someone who does something stupid is a cunt, that creates an association of negativity with the word; women have cunts, so doesn't it seem like that would create an association of negativity with women as well?
posted by librarina at 11:15 PM on January 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


I find it very odd that men can be (and mostly are) called cunts in the UK. It seems, um, willfully ignorant of anatomy? I suppose it is intended to be emasculating ("you're such a woman, and not just any woman but one who has no value other than her genitalia"), but I don't see how that's really any better.
posted by kindall at 11:18 PM on January 17, 2005


It doesn't (or wouldn't) make me uncomfortable in a sexual context, though - there, it's just a name for a part - except for the fact that it has negative associations because of being used negatively.
posted by librarina at 11:18 PM on January 17, 2005


I suppose the "bollocks" thing is that, while the word itself is mild, a bit silly, and carries no inherent offense, if you say it to somebody about them, it's insulting. So somebody who wouldn't bat an eyelid if you said to them "That Tony Blair talks a lot of bollocks, doesn't he?", could still get angry if you told them they were talking bollocks, just as if you told them they were full of shit, or talking out of their arse, or whatever.

Now. "Twat" is a synonym for "cunt", but is a far, far more acceptable word, more on a level with "asshole" or "dickhead". Hmmm. On preview: ModestyBCatt got there before me.
posted by flashboy at 11:19 PM on January 17, 2005


I've never heard Americans use it. Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail.

Is there any reason to use sexual slang? Seems just an absence of imagination to me. Can't one tailor an insult to the person's attributes or lack thereof?
posted by goofyfoot at 11:21 PM on January 17, 2005


The fact that we can even wonder whether a curse word means anything other than "I hate you" means that these words have lost their meaning to some extent. That is, if we can generalize the meaning, it doesn't strictly mean what it's supposed to mean to begin with. So, if it's lost enough of its meaning that we can start questioning how specific a concept it refers to, doesn't that mean it's also meaningless enough that it doesn't matter anyway?
posted by Hildago at 11:35 PM on January 17, 2005


Cunt is misogynistic. Come up with a new word -- bitch is approaching gender indiscriminate...
posted by theatrical matriarch at 11:49 PM on January 17, 2005


one last question - does twat rhyme with "hat" or with "what"? people here pronounce it both ways, but one has got to be...you know... proper
posted by bunglin jones at 11:58 PM on January 17, 2005


I've always heard it pronounced like "ought" or "cot".
posted by rfordh at 12:08 AM on January 18, 2005


I've never heard Americans use it. Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail.

Martyrs for political correctness are pouring cement into a yawning void of personality.
posted by ori at 12:11 AM on January 18, 2005


I'm female and I'm torn on "cunt". I do find it misogynistic. It also seems to be much angrier than "bitch". When used as an insult it carries a lot of emotional impact and is usually spit out with a sneer.

On the other hand, when applied to myself or used in a joking manner between friends I rather like the term. There is something about it that implies strength. A "bitch" is someone you ignore because she's annoying. A cunt is someone you can't ignore. I don't know why it seems that way to me. It just does. I'm such a hypocritical cunt.
posted by LeeJay at 12:12 AM on January 18, 2005


An English Literature teacher of mine encouraged us to perform an experiment comparing the number of male-orientated swear words compared to the number of female-orientated swear words. Supposedly there were more female-centric curses, which goes to prove what a misogynistic society we live in.

Now, I would never recommend using the word "cunt" in new company. Regardless of the implications for feminism, it's just too brutal.

But in English comedy, for example, it is used every now and again to good effect (see Derek and Clive). And there are enough women here in England who use it every now and again. Indeed I've known two women who apparently liked nothing more than to use the word repeatedly during sex.

Incidentally, English people pronounce twat to rhyme with "hat" and Americans pronounce twat to rhyme with "what".
posted by skylar at 12:50 AM on January 18, 2005


Oh, and Larry David has managed to turn the freedom granted him by HBO with regard to language into some brilliant, meaningful comedy: for example the "Beloved Aunt" episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
posted by skylar at 12:53 AM on January 18, 2005


Goofyy's definition: Cunt:
A person of either gender displaying negative characteristics traditionally assigned to women. Plenty of men fall into this heading. Especially applies to fanatics about rules or excessive fastidiousness. In some circles, you will find more men that are cunts than women.

COW: Such a person while operating a vehicle (cunt-on-wheels)

Is it msogynous to use the word? Only a cunt would think so!
posted by Goofyy at 2:22 AM on January 18, 2005


Does anyone ever call a woman a prick as an insult? In a world where the meanest insult you can lay on a man is that he resembles something so completely female, there is no equivalently low thing to call a woman.

As an insult, it is crude and exceptionally anti-woman. Derek and Clyde were never funny.... foulmouthed drunks. Their genius lay in timing, but their content was depressing.

Vulva is a pleasant word for describing female genitalia in public. If i hear the word :cunt", it should be in my bedroom, and we had better be VERY good friends. The word itself is fine.. old latin for "coin", i think.

I'm not a prude or a PC nut, but i heartily wish that people would learn to find better insults that really reflect the complaint they have about someone. There are days when i truly believe that most people have a vocabulary of about 200 words.

On preview.. Goofyy.. that's insulting as hell.
posted by reflecked at 2:30 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


I'm female and I'm torn on "cunt".
Ow.

For me one of the greatest moments on British TV was when Germaine Greer (of Female Enuch fame and the original instigator of Cunt Power in 1969 - 'One day the women of the world will fill their cunts with razor blades for the likes of you') managed to get Jonathon Dimbleby (one of a family of very respectable broadcasters) to say 'I have no problem saying the word cunt' during a live Sunday prime time discussion.

It's referred to in this rather handy essay all about the word cunt. I also found this piece on 'Cunt Art' on my googles...

cunt has jumped ship to England, where it's enjoying immense popularity
Bollocks. It's been here all along and in the British Isles, not just England.

I've never heard Americans use it. Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail.

Yeah, 'cos major violence trumps reasoned discussion and education everytime you fucking air-stealing, moronic piece of shit.*

In general I'd say pick your audience with care.

*I'll flag this just in case the intended irony doesn't translate well when written.
posted by i_cola at 2:57 AM on January 18, 2005


Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail. Is there any reason to use sexual slang?

Well, obviously because it provokes such a strong reaction. Isn't that what all good slangy insults aspire to? They demean and rile the object of scorn.

I hope you never do something so stupid as to deserve being called a cunt. Like breaking the head of someone guilty of nothing more than bad language.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:07 AM on January 18, 2005


Calling a woman a cunt is effectively just saying that the only thing that matters about her is her sexual organs. It is misogynistic in that it basically takes away everything that makes her an individual and a human being and reduces her to being just a hole for someone to poke.

It is however, extraordinarily effective considering that fuck has been reduced to punctuation nowadays.

And yes, it does seem to be more popular/acceptable in the UK, but then we rock at the swearing (this is not necessarily a good thing...)
posted by longbaugh at 3:32 AM on January 18, 2005


I'm in favor of using the word vagina. It's fallen so out-of-use in anything but medical and sex-ed terms that it's quite shocking to hear it uttered in casual conversation. It has no history of cussword connotation, so when you say it, it sounds like you really mean it.

E.g., "After I graduated, I became a huge vagina." Meaning, "I wear a collared shirt to work and am no longer fucking metal."
or
"My boss was being such a vagina about my hours today," where it conveys similar meaning as cunt, but with much more implied whining and slobbering.

I can't think of a more hilariously emasculating word. Vagina.
posted by breath at 3:41 AM on January 18, 2005


Oh, as another aside, I've always found "Muff" to be a rather pleasing alternative to cunt, vagina or pussy. In that it very rarely gets used in a cussing context.
posted by ModestyBCatt at 4:03 AM on January 18, 2005


Longbaugh, your point could equally apply to male insults. If you call a man a dick, a cock or a prick, you're taking away everything that makes him a human being and just turning him into a walking phallus.

I think what people get upset about with the word cunt is that it's supposedly the most offensive of all swear words. Accordingly it's mysogynistic that the most disgraceful thing we can compare someone to is the female genitalia. Hence I don't think calling someone a muff, a pussy or a vagina really improves things.
posted by skylar at 4:25 AM on January 18, 2005


my own take - cunt is one of the "stronger" words around, but is used pretty much asexually. it's a bit like dick, but (1) stronger and (2) less associated with one sex. so "what a fucking dick that arsehole is" (strong emphasis on italics) probably applies to a man, while "stupid fucking cunt" could be man or woman.
i'm english, but left country a few years ago, so may be out of date.

one last question - does twat rhyme with "hat" or with "what"?
I've always heard it pronounced like "ought" or "cot".
wtf? twat rhymes with hat (or cat, or prat).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2005


I can't think of a more hilariously emasculating word.

That would definately get a couple of seconds of "WTF?"-ness, followed by an awestruck, "Did you... just call me... a vagina?!"
andrew cooke-- it's definatley twat as in cat.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:57 AM on January 18, 2005


I've had blistering feuds develop online over the fact that someone called me a cunt, so yes, I think it's a hateful, misogynistic term. Like nigger and other hateful terms, it can be co-opted by the people who it is hateful of and used in a casual and less offensive manner, but that doesn't give the rest of the world permission. And ugh, the idea that one of the worst insults that can be hurled at a man is to describe him as a woman is, well, ugh. If you can't see the misogyny in that, you're just not trying.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:19 AM on January 18, 2005


you're putting the cart before the horse. the word has power because of sexual taboo. that's why it's offensive - not directly because you're "describing a man as a woman", but because you're breaking cultural/sexual rules. if you were right, "girly men" would have equal weight...
posted by andrew cooke at 5:32 AM on January 18, 2005


I have strong contrarian instincts so I like to use "cunt" to piss off people who get all insulted about words for the sake of being insulted. It's just a freaking word! Get some perspective. (It amuses me that people who lose it over "cunt" don't over "pussy" - and it means the same thing. Hello? Logic?)
Then again, Americans have come to some sort of consensus that this is the worst word you can use to insult a woman. In that context, I would get upset if someone called me one, not because of the word itself, but because the message is: I'm using the strongest possible insult because I hate you that much.
And yeah, it's fun to hear many people in Britain and Ireland casually using "cunt" as the equivalent of "jackass."
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:39 AM on January 18, 2005


If you call a man a dick, a cock or a prick, you're taking away everything that makes him a human being and just turning him into a walking phallus.

But see guys aspire to this.

wtf? twat rhymes with hat (or cat, or prat)

Over in the UK, yes. In the US, I've never heard it pronounced as anything other than something that rhymes with "ought". In fact, I thought the insult "silly English twat" (pronounced "hat") was a specific slur toward the English for the longest time...
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:15 AM on January 18, 2005


And yeah, it's fun to hear many people in Britain and Ireland casually using "cunt" as the equivalent of "jackass."

Not convinced it's all that cut and dried in the UK. I would suggest it is regarded as being the most offensive available word in the UK. The BBC certainly rate it as such, and a 2002 survey rated it as being the word offensive to the greatest number of Brits. Even I'm careful when I use it and I have a mouth like an open sewer.

See previous MeFi link also.
posted by biffa at 6:17 AM on January 18, 2005


I like to use 'cunt' as a generic "ah fudge" when something goes wrong. Much like "Fuck it". I would rarely use it on someone, but to me (due to the vernacular usage throughout Ireland), other than the fact that it can be synonymous to female genitalia, is never mysoginistic. It tends to be used more towards men "He's some cunt", as someone overtly malicious, and where used about a woman, is meant in the exact same contect.

Also theatrical matriarch the fact that you mention "bitch" approaching gender indiscriminate means you are aware of the mutability of language, therefore cunt cannot definitively be mysoginistic. It was also acceptable enough to be used as a street name in the past, i.e. Gropecunt Lane in London
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 6:30 AM on January 18, 2005


The word itself is fine.. old latin for "coin", i think.

No, it's not. The Matthew Hunt article linked above is also wrong on the etymology.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:33 AM on January 18, 2005


I don't know if I'd call it misogynist, but it certainly is offensive. And woe to whoever calls me that.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:34 AM on January 18, 2005


Here's an entire book on the subject. (Really).
posted by bowline at 6:35 AM on January 18, 2005


You know, in my teen and maybe college years I accepted the party line on this word -- did the full GEICO caveman reaction, "That is just wrong!," etc. Then, at some point as my maturity increased, I realized that I was using the appearance of the word to grandstand for my causes, to make a scene, to be loud, and to brandish my opinion about. In other words, overreacting in order to commandeer the conversation, and perhaps to draw attention to myself.

And so when I see people reacting strongly to this word - picking fights, drawing a line about this word as opposed to aaallll the others that have been employed in the oppression of women, I sometimes conclude that they are doing the same thing.

I have the apparatus in question, and I am a card-carrying feminist, and I'm no more afraid of this word than any other. Once I stopped turning it into an explosive argument trigger, I even grew to like it. If someone wants to oppress you, they can use the entire English language to do so. This one word can't do it all by itself.

The only power this word has to offend, in itself, lies in the minds of those who hear it. If you can sidestep the emotional reaction you can better guage the intent of the person speaking it. The more swiftly these words are defused and reclaimed as WE define them, the sooner they lose their power to denigrate -- as legions of 'queers' have demonstrated.

And if you find yourself going to the mat about this word, think hard about why it is worth so much of your energy. If you hear it used in a misogynistic way, keep in mind it is only a symptom of a much larger problem, and try addressing that.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2005 [2 favorites]


Over in the UK, yes

is this a case of americans over-correcting for english accents? if people think the word comes from england (i don't know its origins), and that we speak with funny accents where "a" becomes "augh"...? (that particular sound is from the south of england - the hard a from the north - and more "upper class". i don't know how the queen would pronounce "twat"; it might be like you say: "philip we have a corgie stuck in our twaught")
posted by andrew cooke at 6:55 AM on January 18, 2005


I am not at all offended by "cunt" and what Miko said.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:12 AM on January 18, 2005


is this a case of americans over-correcting for english accents?

No.

Though the image evoked by your last sentence had me over-correcting for coffee splurting out my nose.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:14 AM on January 18, 2005


Well I'm sorry I arrived to this vagina party late. I'm encouraged to see a discussion where people are actually talking about "vagina" without giggling uncontrollably. Or maybe everyone is giggling uncontrollably and I just can't tell because of the venue. But usually when people start talking about vagina even adults feel the need to make childish off-colour jokes. So is it the venue, or are we just an enlightened bunch? Or both?

Isn't it interesting that males generally take being reduced to a walking phallus as no big deal, or even a compliment, while women tend to take being reduced to their sexual parts as an insult? Men are supposed to be proud of their sexuality, and women ashamed. *rolls eyes* What an oudated (but enduring) concept.

Mika has it bang on. Getting up in arms over the word isn't looking very deeply into the problem. I don't object to the word per se. In fact it can be kind of fun due to its taboo-ness. But I object to the concept of female's anatomy being insulting and 'dirty'. That's a meme that could use to be broken.
posted by raedyn at 7:15 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


Applied to a woman, yeah it's misogynist.

Applied to a man, the word has a nice utility for when something stronger than "asshole," is needed.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 AM on January 18, 2005


"is this a case of americans over-correcting for english accents?"

I have my doubts. It rhymes with the similarly spelled "swat," with "wa" as in "water." I've never heard it any other way, so I'm certainly not correcting for anyone else's accent.

In any case, I think it's pretty much a given that a word like "cunt" shouldn't be used in unfamiliar company for fear of creating a misogynist impression. That said, I don't think the word itself is. But that there are a number of people who do is sufficient reason for caution.
posted by majick at 7:22 AM on January 18, 2005


is this a case of americans over-correcting for english accents?

I think it's just another difference in UK/US pronunciations. There are other words like that... eg, Immanuel Kant is pronounced with the "cat" a in england, but with the 'au' in america.

The thing is that fuck has become so unoffensive that people have had to move on. In the US cunt is still kinda offensive to a lot of people. It doesn't bother me - though I've spent a lot of time in the UK, I think it's definitely gaining ground in the US, too. When I was younger "fuck" was a power word; now professors and parents use it fairly comfortably, and it just doesn't have the same resonance. I know some people who have adopted 'cunt' to fill the void :)
posted by mdn at 7:25 AM on January 18, 2005


The Chicago Tribune was involved in a whole brouhaha over the c word in October 2004 - good coverage of the issue via On The Media.
posted by mlis at 7:26 AM on January 18, 2005


Also - on a somewhat dangerous tangent - it is becoming fairly common practice for white people to call one another "nigger" or "nigga" (to be precise) - it has been switched from a racial insult to a term of endearment amongst friends.

YMMV.
posted by longbaugh at 7:26 AM on January 18, 2005


Link to The Chicago Tribune brouhaha accessible from Language Log.
posted by mlis at 7:30 AM on January 18, 2005


According to the Etymology Dictionary entry, cunt has been generally considered to be obscene since the 1600s.

The word cunt does not offend me if used as a joke between friends, but I consider it unacceptably rude when hurled as an insult. And in fact, any person who would curse at me during an argument is also the type of person I would not want to be friends with.

I also think that a big difference between a penis and a vagina (and hence between prick and cunt) is that it's difficult to rape another person with your vagina. So the connotations tend to be quite different on an emotional level for many women.
posted by naomi at 7:31 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


The word cunt does not offend me if used as a joke between friends, but I consider it unacceptably rude when hurled as an insult.

Therein lies the rub that makes most debates about linguistic correctness pointless: if one is hurling an insult, one is trying to be unacceptably rude or offensive. So any admonishments are moot.
posted by jonmc at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2005


but if you pronounce kant like that, the philosophers drinking song doesn't rhyme!
posted by andrew cooke at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2005


I (a woman) agree with naomi. When someone calls me or another woman a cunt, I instinctively want to cross my legs. It's like this "OK, bitch, you quit your yapping or I'll show you all you REALLY are" reduction.

And I'm not trying to be hyperbolic, "It's a linguistic rape!" thing here. I just have the same reaction to "cunt," when applied to a woman, as I have to a construction worker on the street yelling at me to "come sit on his face." It's not just that it's sexual, it's that it's somehow sexually *intrusive.*

I have less problem with it being used by men, about men, or as a general expletive.
posted by occhiblu at 7:59 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


if one is hurling an insult, one is trying to be unacceptably rude or offensive. So any admonishments are moot.

Perhaps not. There is a big order of magnitude difference between calling someone a jerk and calling them a cunt, though both can be considered insulting. This is, I think, the distinction mr bunglin jones was asking "how much of an insult is it to call someone a cunt, especially to women?" In my world, it's a fairly big insult so that I probably wouldn't even toss it out in jest if I was going to be overheard by other people. It's not really in my lexicon. I know it's a much lighter insult in other countries though, so I'm not really mortally offended if someone uses it around me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:17 AM on January 18, 2005


My wife uses "cunt" when she's really mad, and seems to get great satisfaction out of it. I don't, but I enjoy her satisfaction. Obviously this is one of those things that people differ about; some women find it horrifying in all circumstances and wish it didn't exist, others don't.

Also, see Larkin's "Vagina Sonnet."*

And I'm glad to learn twat rhymes with cat in the UK; I hadn't known that. (Robert Browning, by the way, was under the impression that it denoted some part of a nun's attire.)

*That's Joan Larkin -- gotcha!
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on January 18, 2005


When someone calls me or another woman a cunt ... It's like this "OK, bitch, you quit your yapping or I'll show you all you REALLY are" reduction.

Exactly, and that's why cunt is my favorite curse word, it's sooo much more satisfying than bitch. The look on a women's face, when I (a women) use it is priceless.
posted by lola at 8:24 AM on January 18, 2005


Ah, yes...

Civil discourse between human beings: $0.
The look on her face when you call her a cunt: PRICELESS!
posted by naomi at 8:42 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


jacquilynne, I normally enjoy your contributions here, but the line "it can be co-opted by the people who it is hateful of... but that doesn't give the rest of the world permission" just boggles my mind.

The idea that I need your (or anyone else's) permission to say anything at all, to use any word in the lexicon, is a concept so very broken that I can't begin to describe it. I don't really use cunt very often, but you can be sure that I am going to say it 50 or 60 times today, just to honor your control of my vocabulary.

And, what miko said.
posted by Irontom at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2005


I don't have any control over your vocabulary, Irontom, obviously. My point is that while a group who has been marginalized by a specific word can co-opt it and reform it, it doesn't take the sting out of it when another group continues to use it. Anybody can use any word at any time, but some of them are going to offend, and sometimes the same words are going to offend more or less depending on who uses them and when and why.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:58 AM on January 18, 2005


sometimes?

and i think women were marginalized by just a tad more than the word cunt.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2005


Can you treat the disease without treating the symptoms?
posted by naomi at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2005


yes.
in fact, that's why we live longer these days. because modern medicine treats the root cause, and not the symptom. that's what's science is all about. unlike, social or gender studies, apparently.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:09 AM on January 18, 2005


Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail.

You need to seek professional help, immediately.

As I said above, complain about hateful thought-patterns and behavior (like this), don't waste your energy on phonemes.
posted by rushmc at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005


Does anyone ever call a woman a prick as an insult?

I dunno, I might. In fact, I resolve to do so in the future -- though it might be difficult, because most women who I want to insult are acting very much like women.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:15 AM on January 18, 2005


I think usage of this word is quaint..
posted by seanyboy at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2005


It's interesting that is Spain coño is considered to be nowhere near as offensive as cunt is in the UK or the States. It surely is just a word, and it's always surprised me that people (women in particular) have such a problem with four letters...
posted by benzo8 at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2005


I once came home from the pub to find a friend's handywork on the driveway: "cunt", in 18-inch block capitals, spelled out with wild daffodils. Quite lovely, really, but we made sure it was gone before the family woke up.

I don't consider the word to be evil - as if any word could be - but I'd never use it in casual conversation around those that may be offended.
posted by Monk at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2005


Before today I've never imagined that someone calling someone else a cunt is attempting to liken them to a vulva. That just seems totally spurious. Maybe there's some woman-hating going in the history of the word becoming an insult, but someone using it in anger is just not thinking that way.
posted by cillit bang at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2005


As others have said, it's all about context and your current company.

When directed at someone, I've used cunt two or three times in my life. I was very angry each and every time. I consider it the worst swear word out there and don't use it lightly.

That said, I love to use it in my swear string: shit piss damn hell prick cocksucking motherfucking cunt. It's usually directed at some sort of inanimate object. Or my computer.

A while back I had read that "bloody" was the worst of English swear words. Yea? Nay?
posted by deborah at 10:51 AM on January 18, 2005


but if you pronounce kant like that, the philosophers drinking song doesn't rhyme!

it's a problem. Perhaps some noble grad student will work out an american solution... in american slang, 'pissed' doesn't mean drunk anyway, so there are other cross-cultural confusions in the way already.
posted by mdn at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2005


bowline referred to it briefly, but I'd highly recommend the book "Cunt" by Inga Muscio. It's wonderfully written, an easy read, and great for male and female feminists alike.

In the book, among other things, Muscio invites women to take back the word cunt. Gay, bitch, dyke, etc. have had the sting removed from them as pejorative terms. I'd like to see the same thing happen with "cunt", since it does have quite a barb in there.
posted by Specklet at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2005


I'd like to see the same thing happen with "cunt", since it does have quite a barb in there.

Thank god at least something does these days.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2005




Personally I like the adjective "cunting". Since cunt isn't a verb in the first place, cunting's almost completely free of denoted meaning; it's just raw, distilled vulgarity.

As far as what to call the apparatus in intimate company, I tend to gravitate towards "crotch". Not overly sexy, but it's also not particularly rude, clinical, or childish, and it emphasizes the similarities between men and women rather than the differences or some shit.
posted by squidlarkin at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2005


To bad there's not any Google AdWords on this thread....
posted by spilon at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2005


I've also never heard "twat" as it "cat" before, only like "what". In high school (in CA) people would slip it into conversation: "Twat did you say, I cunt hear you?"
posted by brism at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2005


As a gender theory geek, I'm terribly offended by attempts to blame the endless bitching about "cunt" on gender studies and feminism. Those droning, humorless cunts who devote their lives to being serially offended shouldn't be taken as representatives of the current state of feminist thought.

To respond to the initial question: yes, it is considered misogynistic to use "cunt," at least by some significant portion of the population. No, you are not a misogynist for using it, but that won't stop sanctimonious whiners from thinking so. If you're concerned about pleasing sanctimonious whiners, avoid talking about cunts when they're around.
posted by Luther Blissett at 3:16 PM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


That's a great book, bowline. Thanks for mentioning it.
posted by *burp* at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2005


I'm amazed Americans pronounce "twat" to rhyme with "what". I can't even imagine saying that, and I'm American. This is what happens when you don't spend your education past fourth grade in the US. Can anyone think of any films where this is used? Or a clip on the Internet?

I usually think of myself as quite aware of British/American English differences, and the idea that I could have a missed a standard American pronunciation of a swear word still boggles me.

Just asked an American friend on IM, and he rhymed it with snot.

Is that closer? Because I can imagine that pronunciation.
posted by Gnatcho at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2005


FWIW, I'm American and have never ever heard twat pronounced any other way that "what."
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:33 PM on January 18, 2005


"I'm amazed Americans pronounce 'twat' to rhyme with 'what'."

We dont.

FWIW, I'm an American and "twat" doesn't rhyme with "what." That would make it "twut," which doesn't make a damn bit of sense. "Twat" rhymes with any of "hot", "spot", "swat", or "rot," and I have never ever heard it pronounced any other way.
posted by majick at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2005


There. is. no. such. thing. as. a. misogynistic. word.

Only people can hate each other. Furthermore, usage of the word is no indication that the user is misogynistic. The word cunt can be used ironically, or even in a condemnation of misogyny. Yes, you say, but those situations are different. Different, how? Intention. That's right, intention is the only thing that matters. People can have intention, but words can't. This is a stupid debate to be having.
posted by Hildago at 6:27 PM on January 18, 2005


"I'm amazed Americans pronounce 'twat' to rhyme with 'what'."

FWIW, "what" itself is pronounced differently by Americans (not sure if it's a regional thing), sometimes rhyming with "butt" and other times with "hot."

posted by PY at 7:36 PM on January 18, 2005


I've known more than a fair share of women who find "pussy" like nails on chalkboard, yet find "cunt" funny and charming. It's certainly forceful.

It all depends. Most people consider it a bad word, so don't compliment the Queen on hers when you two meet. I don't think it's inherently more hateful than any other word, but the connotation - or, at least, the general vibe - is that it's higher up the swear chain than "hoohoo" or "vag."
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:35 PM on January 18, 2005



Is that closer? Because I can imagine that pronunciation.


Yes, it rhymes with "snot," not "what."

And I've never heard an American say "what" so that it rhymed with "hot." That sounds Canadian or something.

And what Hildago said.
posted by rushmc at 9:43 PM on January 18, 2005


Skylar said: Oh, and Larry David has managed to turn the freedom granted him by HBO with regard to language into some brilliant, meaningful comedy

TOTALLY! I've never ever heard the C word as much as I've heard it in that show. I'm torn between which incident was best. The one where he was shouting it at the poker game, or the restaurant opening one where Susie Essman called Cheryl a "carwash cunt". Classics.
posted by wackybrit at 12:12 AM on January 19, 2005


thanks, all.
not that things are a whole heap clearer to me now than they were before I sparked this "stupid debate", but your contirbutions might have helped me win a future argument with my sister, so thanks for pitching in.
posted by bunglin jones at 12:28 AM on January 19, 2005


And I've never heard an American say "what" so that it rhymed with "hot."

Don't get out much, do you? I say it that way, and I'm pretty sure most of the people I know do as well. "Whut" (if that's how you say it) is a distinctly minority variant.
posted by languagehat at 6:03 AM on January 19, 2005


Uh huh. Only 42 states out of 50 so far...

:::looks at languaghat strangely, backs away slowly:::
posted by rushmc at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2005


"Whut" (if that's how you say it) is a distinctly minority variant.

If that were true, then people on movies & TV would say "wot"... I'm now going to have to watch out for this, but I've certainly never noticed it before.
posted by mdn at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2005


Hope I never do, as I'll break the user's head and have to go to jail.

I've been quoted so much in this thread, and encouraged to go to counseling etc. Fact is I engaged in hyperbole, much as someone using the work 'cunt' is. I'll choose my words more carefully in future.

I wouldn't actually break someone's head, 'cause that's against the law and I don't know how, but I'd want to, just as if someone referred to me as a wetback or a chili-choker, or just as my roommate would react to someone referring to her a nigger. That big flare of anger and a decision never to deal with person whose mouth that shit came out of.
posted by goofyfoot at 6:52 PM on January 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


Which still indicates to me some serious anger management and impulse control issues, but AskMe is not the place to hash that out. I'm glad, though, that you wouldn't actually murder someone over a word that you happen not to like.
posted by rushmc at 10:28 PM on January 20, 2005


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