Archive for July 30th, 2010


I’m outta here!

Women fed up with lads’ mags and sexist language undermining our struggle to be taken seriously and treated equally could follow the example of Guardian columnist Wendy Roby who encouraged her readers to engage in random acts of feminism. Roby argues very persuasively that “signs of female solidarity in unlikely places might prove a useful weapon in the feminist’s arsenal”. The creative schemes dreamed up by her and her legions of willing fans included placing copies of Good Housekeeping on top of the latest lads’ mags or attaching Post-it notes pre-inscribed with thought provoking comments like “Real Men Buy Books”, and speech bubbles saying, “I am somebody’s sister” to their covers. Others put fake calling cards in phone boxes helpfully including a premium rate astrology hotline at the bottom. The funniest example of all was from one reader who took pity on the blond trapped in the highest turret of a pink plastic castle in a toy shop. This enterprising woman took a tiny card from her handbag and placed the following beside the princess’s head. “Please let me out. I gotta get to work!” What dastardly schemes would Irish women come up with?

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Ah, the c-word. That’s cunt, by the way. Recently several Anti-Room contributors were discussing how they feel about this loaded word, so we decided it was time for a group post.

The Cuntpower Issue of Oz, edited by Germaine Greer in 1970. They couldn't put the c-word on the cover, though.


You’ll only hear this word from me once: cunt. And I only spell it out here in all its inglorious four-letter violence because I don’t want any confusion about which c-word I hate. Men: by all means have your own discussion about cock. If you feel degraded by its use, then I will of course stop using it.

The Vagina Monologues told women to reclaim the c-word by using it as often as possible to denude it of its power to shock. Well, fanny to that. I don’t want to get used to hearing it used as punctuation, adjective and verb.

You, my female friend who once called me a ‘lucky c***’ with alleged affection, and you, my male friend who reserves it for sports rivals, wash your mouths out. As long as someone somewhere is using it to verbally assault a woman, I don’t want to hear it.


Let me preface this by saying that I personally think we could really do without swearing on The Anti-Room at all. I think we are perfectly capable of getting our argument or opinion across with resorting to cursing.


Perhaps having gown up with an ex-army man who used it as verb, noun, adverb and adjective, I am pretty much immune to the much ballyhooed shock value of the word ‘cunt’. It’s a crass swear word to be sure, but no worse than any other the other swear words we might use in a day. I have never understood why people spell it, or write ‘the c- word’, any more than I understand people utter ‘dropped the f-bomb’. Weaselly claptrap. Either swear or don’t, but why nit pick over which swear word is acceptable and which is not? I realise not everyone is so unperturbed by its usage, but unless agreed swearing is verboten on a group blog – which is absolutely fine by me – the word cunt should no more be avoided than any other swear word. It is the venom behind a swear that makes it powerful, not the actual word itself. Swear or swear not, there is no middle ground.


In North Dublin ‘cunt’ was a term of endearment. “Go wan ye cunt ye!” usually meant: “you jammy git” and referred to someone who’d won on the horses, bagged a girl more than one man was after or won a turkey in a Christmas raffle. It was also used to mock someone, usually a young guy who’d made a fool of himself in some way. “He’s a right cunt, isn’t he!?” I didn’t particularly twig that it was a derogatory epithet or a ‘vulgarism’ re: women’s private parts. When I moved to England – and later at University – this became abundantly clear. I still hear the word used in its North Dublin form on the 13A bus regularly. Despite its ‘nasty’ connotations, Irish men seem to think it’s ‘kinky’ to use the word in bed (a lot). As do East European mafia, before they shoot someone in the head.


Despite being another northsider (June and I went to the same secondary school!), I hardly ever heard the word cunt when I was growing up. I wasn’t even aware of it until I was a teenager, and then I knew it was a taboo word, the worst thing you could ever call someone, which was why no one seemed to use it. And as I grew older, I found myself questioning why this was. Why should it be so much worse than ‘dick’? What did that say about our attitudes to women’s bodies? And would – and should – most of us ever use it as a word for that body part itself? Then, in 1998, when I was working on my MA thesis about the legendary ‘60s counterculture magazine Oz, I discovered the Cuntpower/Female Energy Issue of Oz that Germaine Greer edited in 1970. In it, the future author of The Female Eunuch proudly reclaimed the word as part of an active rather than passive female sexuality. Her no-nonsense approach to the word appealed to me, and I found myself agreeing with her desire to reclaim the c-word from misogyny.

And yet while I don’t have a problem with it in theory, I still never really use ‘cunt’, either as a word for vagina or as a swear word. Maybe it’s because I never got into the habit of using it, or because at the back of my mind I think it still retains some sort of shocking power. The last time I called someone a cunt, I was giving out about the Pope and his ability to condemn gay marriage while brushing off child rape. I was so angry with him that only the most extreme word I could think of would do. And for better or worse, that’s still cunt.

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The other day, I found myself in Hodges Figgis with a friend of mine, who was looking for “a book about anxiety; but none of that self-help shit”. He was milling around the psychology section, attempting to find something that didn’t have a punchy subtitle, in the vein of “think yourself calm!” Needless to say, he was grossly disappointed, and ended up feeling slightly more anxious, thanks, in no small part, to my reading out excerpts from the hilarious self-help books I was finding. “Feel the fear!” I shouted to his retreating back. “And do it anyway!” (He kept telling me to whisper, to which I will respond: it’s a bookshop, not a library.)

The point, of course, is that he found a book –Going Mad – and, while he was attempting to find the diamond in the rough of self-help, I was attempting to find the rough. I decided, in those 15 minutes, that I would read both The Rules and The Game, in an attempt to discover the following:

a) Why did a man I went on a date with recently tell me I was damaged, and still expect that I would be interested?

b) Why does a friend of mine insist that I shouldn’t text or call any man first? She would practically extend this to the

plumber, were it not for the urgency of that call, because she claims that “you just don’t know when you might meet the one”.

c) Why do so many of my friends insist on “playing the game”, rather than just living their lives?

I decided that the answer to these questions (and so many more!) would lie within The Rules and, to a certain extent, The Game – although now that I have started the former, I wonder if reading the latter will just confuse my brain to the point that I will then be more determined than I am now to live alone with dozens of cats and my collection of Penguin classics.

Lest I ruin the entire book by writing an epic, scathing blog post about it, this is merely an introduction, which I will give by way of the following quote (paraphrased):

It goes against nature if a woman chases a man, or sleeps with him too soon, or begs him to marry her. He may end up mistreating her [women!  Have you been mistreated? Well, you know who to blame now!]. He may resent her for trapping him and will treat her badly.


There are 52 rules, all of which I’m not going to get into because wikipedia can help you more than I care to, but I will say this: Don’t read The Rules. Take that couple of hours (which you will surely never get back) and make a delicious sandwich. Go to the museum. Go for a swim. Hell, go to the dentist, which would be more enjoyable and, without a doubt, more beneficial.

If you’re still skeptical about this hodge-podge analysis, watch this space. Coming up: why you should get a nose job, why you should never admit what you’re feeling, and how you hook a man (namely, by hiding every shred of yourself until there’s little more left than a slight resemblance to a Stepford Wife and some careful hair-tossing).

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Since reading this post on social etiquette by US blogger Maggie Mason earlier in the week, I’ve been mulling over my own social graces (or lack thereof). I’d like to think I was reared reasonably well, and parts of her list make perfect sense to me, but I can’t quite get my head around some of her advice.

For starters, I’m all for throwing my own parties, as are my friends (with the exception, lately, of hen parties). As an unemployed bum earlier this year, I didn’t particularly fancy celebrating my birthday, and would have been morto if a friend had organised something for me. Surely one should be able to choose if and when and how one celebrates?

Then there’s the question of the thank-you note. I keep a stash of thank-you cards in my desk – and use them as occasion arises – but if Maggie’s guidelines are to be followed they are, in fact, a cop-out, and I should be sticking to the Basildon Bond instead. Is there really that much of a difference? Is a pre-printed card better than no card at all?

And last, but not least, there’s the condiment situation. There’s no room in my poky apartment kitchen for anything other than my originally-packaged Heinz and Colman’s and Branston so, out on the table they go. Plus, I rather like their kitschy packaging.

So, Anti-Roomers, please tell me, for I am bewildered: am I a complete oaf? What would make it into your etiquette guide? Or, when it comes to socialising, should etiquette guides be binned entirely in favour of plain old individual common sense? Answers on a sheet of Basildon Bond, please.

Catherine Brodigan

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