Pussy, Cunt and Other Words that Make You Uncomfortable
It’s true. My panties are in a wad, and that’s really tough ‘cause I’m wearing a thong. It’s mighty uncomfortable all up in there, and to quote Missy Elliott I’d like to, “put my thing down, flip it and reverse it.” So, I feel the need to vent. Let me bring you up to speed on how I ended up this way:
A few days ago I was randomly called a “pussy” in a convenience store when I was driving through Kansas.
Now, it should be noted I was wearing an above-the-knee dress that probably deserved a slip under it. Thus, it’s entirely possible that the fella could actually see the outline of my wonder of down under, but when one is driving cross-country the fewer layers the better. Plus, I like the wind up my skirt and that’s my prerogative.
Anyway, this guy calls me a “pussy,” with every bit of sexual innuendo you can imagine including a low growl. Yeah, like that. My initial reaction was to want to bend over flip up my skirt and say, “Yes, I do have one, thank you for noticing, and it’s gorgeous.” Instead, what happened was that I was so taken aback I said nothing. I’m normally pretty quick on the draw, but this time I walked away silent. I left feeling disempowered.
However, it wasn’t the name calling that got my thong stuck. I’ve been called a pussy or cunt oodles of times. It was the response from the public that upset me. Being me and not scared to stir the pot, I posted this transaction on Facebook around the same time I posted an article from another writer about the history of the word cunt on my page.
Shortly thereafter, a friend put up a post about not using shock words online and only using language that expresses love and compassion to the world. On my own post where I asked people what I should have said, many people replied that the guy didn’t deserve a response. A lot of friends I spoke with in person also agreed that silence was the best option. My mother said I should have just cast the look of a thousand words and walked away.
I called at least three friends I have on my feminist crisis Bat Phone’s speed dial and ranted into their answering machines ’til they called me back with their responses to the public’s reaction and the whole situation. They were a mixed bag of opinions too, but in general felt as I do—that saying something is better than nothing.
So, here’s where I’m stuck. As a devout yogini, I get the whole yogic principle of “let’s all talk about love and sunshine and rainbow-pooping unicorns.”
But does turning the other cheek actually do anything? Does not saying anything actually create change? Is everyone right that this pussy misogynist is not worth a response?
I personally feel that not saying anything insinuates that he is incapable of change, which if you think about it, is completely anti-yogic. I just don’t buy this philosophy, not to mention the fact that I walked away from the situation feeling “less than” as a person because I didn’t take a stand.
I’m a big believer in giving a voice to the voiceless, and I also believe in the power of humor to shut a situation down and create a new space for education. For instance, in my last article I talked about a guy who booty bumped his way into me in a bar. I asked him, “Do you always introduce yourself to women ass first?” What I didn’t tell you is that he was totally caught off guard and held out his hand to shake mine and said, “Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m sorry.” We proceeded to have a five-minute conversation, and I would bet you that guy will never do that to another woman again.
My friend Judy suggested that I should have gone “meow” and then hissed and shown my claws. I love that idea—that’s all kinds of crazy—and I bet it would shut the perp down fast. It’s true it may not stop him from ever calling another woman a pussy again, but at least that image of my crazy hissing would have been burnt into his brain, and probably the brain of anyone else who happened to catch it.
Education is power. Humor is power. The two together—now we’re cooking with gas.
Here’s piece two of this puzzle. I don’t believe in “shock words.” So, despite what my friend might think, I’m not using them to get a stir—they are part of my regular vernacular. Does that mean my mouth should be washed out with soap? Is it not peaceful or unladylike to use these kinds of words? Am I once again, “un-yogic?”
I actually like the words that we consider to be shock words. In fact, I love them. I believe in educating men and women to own them and use them with respect. I like them so much here’s a little personal cheer for you: Pussy, Cock, Twat, Cunt! Yell them out and join the front! Okay, it’s bad cheer—you just go ahead and try to rhyme “cunt.” Anyway.
These words serve a purpose. Not only do many of these words make boudoir talk so much easier (“Oh baby, baby I want to ‘xxx’ your cunt/cock” is just so much sexier than the same statement with the word “vagina” or “penis” inserted). Additionally, many of these words have logical roots.
Cock has been around since the seventeenth century as a term and means, “to stand upright or to strut proudly.” Yep, makes sense. Cunt has been an anatomical descriptive term since the eighteenth century. In particular, I really heart the word cunt. I have a special relationship to it. It has been used on me a number of times in a derogatory fashion by both men and women (apparently I get that a lot), so one day in the heat of an argument I decided to try it out. It felt horrible, and in that exact moment I decided to reclaim it and make it mine. Oh, and by the way, according to a friend of mine, it’s “twatting” not “tweeting.” Isn’t that just more fun to say at a dinner party? “Hold on, I need to twat this!”
No one is debating that language is powerful, but words only have power if you give them power. If you claim them as your own and treat them with respect or a touch of humor, then they are simply just words. I think cunt is beautiful and sounds like a flower. And don’t even get me started on the word clitoris—be still my heart.
I don’t think there is an easy answer to this debacle, but I think the use and power of language is a discussion we should keep having.
One of my feminist crisis hotline friends turned me onto a website called Hollaback. It deals specifically with the issue of verbal harassment as a topic. It offers space for individuals who have encountered harassment to speak out against their aggressors in both story and when possible photos. It also offers helpful tools for what to do when harassment happens. Check it out.
(Sigh) Dear reader, I feel much better since I’ve shared this rant with you. Now, time to untangle this mess from my twat.
Editor: Sara McKeown