Thursday, April 2, 2009

the c word

For a long time it was all about the b word.  Then Meredith Brooks came out with bitch and suddenly, there was an anthem. Bitch was empowering. One claimed themselves as one. Gay men joined in the fun. Soon everyone was a bitch and proud of it. Cunt is beginning to become a similarly effusive rallying cry.

Over at Nerve writer, Hugh Ryan, has written a personal essay entitled  "how my GLBT students taught me to love a forbidden word." In the essay, Hugh recounts how students had begun to appropriate the use of cunt as a compliment. You look cunt was a good day. You look Cunty was the best day. 

His students dropped the c-word every chance they could. He couldn't help his shock at the use " But my only experiences with hearing the word "cunt" aloud revolved around performance art that invoked the word to shock. I put "cunt," like "faggot," in a category of words that were "problematic" and made me revert to my most academic self, so I could talk around them without ever issuing a judgment on who "could" or "should" use them. I saw it as a good excuse to use words like "reclamation" and "subjectivity." Don't even get me started on the N-word."

I had a similar experience with the word. Our former roommate had a boyfriend who would affectionately deem anyone cunty. We began to adapt this in our house, and cunty reigned supreme.  While I find myself somewhat offended when another woman is called a cunt by most men, the word used this way, was almost fun.

Now, I actually have cunt a declaration of independence sitting on my nightstand. I bought the book because it was a) a dollar at a yard sale b) I consider myself a feminist and c) because it gives me a distinct pleasure to see people's face when they see such a title prominently displayed.

I've always felt that words have whatever meaning we infuse in them and that words can be coopted and categories defied.  Words create norms and they create others, they include and they ostracize. Words hold infinite power and I'm glad when that power is used in defiance.


  1. In addition to it being a great statement, the book is so damn colorful and decorative. :)

    The reclamation of the word cunt is important. I'm glad people are doing it. I just don't think it's my know?

  2. Twenty or more years ago my college gals and I decided to form a new sorority: Kappa Upsilon Nu Tau, or KUNT. We even had a rallying cry that went like this: K-U-N-T! Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!

    I had no idea I was so ahead of my time.

  3. "I've always felt that words have whatever meaning we infuse in them and that words can be coopted and categories defied."

    The "we" in this sentence is a bit vague, so i'm not 100% the entire meaning so maybe you were getting to this point as well: there is a historical context associated with certain words, and this context holds more weight and meaning than what you or I may place on that word.

    I've heard people use words like 'gay,' 'n*gger' 'fag' in supposedly ironic ways that just reinforce discrimination and old stereotypes, and when they're called out on it, the reply is always, "Well I didn't mean it in that way," and it's just a tired old excuse.

    I'm in the same boat with most people I think - anyone with a vagina can chose how she wants to interpret that word, but for me the mere sound 'cunt' is very negative, and I couldn't use it myself in a positive manner, but I wouldn't hold it against another woman to reclaim the word.