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.
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.
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.