Despite multiple attempts to reclaim the word over the past few decades, “cunt” is still widely considered the worst thing you can call a woman. Really?
As Laurie Penny argues, “there are no other truly empowering words for the female genitalia” besides the c-word.”Cunt” isn’t scientific, it’s erotic. “Cunt” doesn’t refer to a baby cat or a treasure chest. It conveys purposeful sexual power, not submission. It’s mature. Women get called cunts when they reject sexual advances and assert themselves in the workplace; in other words, when they don’t play nice.
People who use ethnic or racial slurs propagate long-held systems of oppression. But “cunt” doesn’t have the same type of larger, disturbing historical context. Slate ran an etymology explainer post yesterday explaining how the word went from street name-suitable in the 13th century (“Gropecuntelane.” Nice.) to vulgar (Francis Grose’s1785 A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines “cunt” as “a nasty name for a nasty thing”) to scoring the #1 slot in a 2000 BBC ranking of the most offensive words of all time.
Seriously? Why do we let “cunt” retain so much negative power? The only possible explanation is because so many people still think the worst crime a woman can commit is to be unapologetically sexual.
I can understand the argument that calling a woman a “cunt” is akin to telling her that is all she is: a brainless hole that needs to be filled, etc. But since so many politicians and comedians and cops and college kids seem to think that anyway, the solution isn’t to be afraid of the word and therefore scared to admit we have cunts — and are capable of acting like cunts, if the situation calls for it.
Holy Sh*t – A Brief History of Swearing (Previous blog post based on the Slate article on the origins of swear words – contains link to full article)
(This article is in no way a defense of Adam Richman)