to think that calling anyone a cunt is always mysogynistic?

(58 Posts)
MrBloomsMarrow Wed 10-Apr-13 20:57:38

OK,I know this has been done before but it's really bugging me how anyone can believe that using the word cunt as an insult isn't misogynistic. I think it's really refreshing that swearing isn't moderated on MN so I've kind of let the liberal use of the C word wash over me but,taking some space to think about it, I do feel really uneasy about it.

Calling someone a cunt is generally considered to be the worst insult in the English language. Cunt is slang for female genitalia. therefore, the most despicable thing you can be described as is resembling female genitalia.

I have sometimes heard the "reclaiming" word used as justification. The way I understand reclaiming a word is the example of "queer" which was used for a long time as a term of abuse for gay people. Gay people then began to routinely describe themselves as queer (the biggest gay nightclub in the UK is called Queer Nation) which meant that the word then lost its power to hurt or offend. A black friend of mine has told me that there is a similar movement to "reclaim" the word Nigger ie by Black people calling themselves niggers, the word loses its power to hurt or offend.

The only time I ever see cunt used on MN is as an insult so I genuinely don't see how the "reclaimimg" argument can be used to justify equating female genitalia with being a vile person. The only argument I could possibly get is that, by using the word constantly, its shock power kind of gets diluted.

I am genuinely prepared to have my views corrected.

CajaDeLaMemoria Wed 10-Apr-13 21:02:16

I think you've already explained it.

By people using it freely, not only does it become 'normal' and lose any shock value, but it becomes a word that is used like any other expletive. It no longer refers to female genitalia.

In feminism at high school, we conducted a study (fully ethically approved and with parental permission!) on swear words. Cunt was one of them. We asked people of varying ages whether they used the word, how they responded to it, what it meant. We asked over 700 people. The results found that only around 35% of people knew that it originally referred to female genitalia. 90% of young people had no idea.

It is losing its impact, and you don't use it and actually think you are describing someone to female sexual organs. Like when you shout fuck you probably aren't thinking about sex.

While I can see both views, I think the vast majority of people who say cunt do not mean it in a misogynistic way, and that the more people use it, especially women, the less impact it will have.

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 21:02:26

Perhaps you should look up the actual history of the word?

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 21:04:11

It only became a taboo word in Victorian times, it was generally used throughout Chaucer and Shakespeare and in Egyptian means 'woman' with no derogatory inference.

IvorHughJangova Wed 10-Apr-13 21:04:45

Why aren't you getting all annoyed about people calling others dicks or knobs? Same principle, isn't it?

You've obviously never been to fife then! Tis a term of endearment there!

If y feel uneasy about seeing it used here, perhaps you need to think about whether this is the place for you.

Shallishanti Wed 10-Apr-13 21:05:57

what? it's an Egyptian word?

kinkyfuckery Wed 10-Apr-13 21:08:00

No more so than calling someone a dick, or a cock is misandristic.

wigglesrock Wed 10-Apr-13 21:08:38

cunt is used a great deal where I grew up and now live. It's used as an adjective ie the cunting car has broken down again and its also used in a more affectionate manner. I think bitch is a much much more horrible word.

elQuintoConyo Wed 10-Apr-13 21:08:47

So, how could I tell anyone I lived in Norwich on Gropecunt Lane?
I only use the word sparingly, where appropriate and where it won't offend. Not in front of parents, obviously! Not really out loud, either, like on a bus.
Words come and words go.

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 21:09:06

google tells me (I had to go and validate)

Believe it or not, calling a woman a cunt wasn’t always an insult. In ancient Egypt, an early form of the word was used as a neutrally connoted synonym for “woman.” (Egyptologists were pretty surprised to find it in the writings of Ptah-Hotep, but as writer Barbara G. Walker notes, “Its indelicacy was not in the eye of the ancient beholder, only in that of the modern scholar.”) Centuries later, Anglo-Saxons used it as a utilitarian term for female genitalia. The Oxford English Dictionary traces its earliest English usage back to 1230, when the street that made up London’s red-light district was called—not even kidding—Gropecunt Lane. And before long, the term started cropping up in English literature. Chaucer uses the Middle English variant “queynte” liberally throughout his randy Canterbury Tales, and though Shakespeare never used the word outright, he loved to use highly suggestive puns, as evidenced in Twelfth Night (“There be her very C’s, her U’s, and her T’s: and thus she makes great P’s”), as well as in Hamlet and Ophelia’s infamously entendre-crazed “country matters” exchange.

HolofernesesHead Wed 10-Apr-13 21:09:57

There are several roads in UK cities that were called 'Gropecunt Lane'. Magpie Lane in Oxford is one of them. The word cunt is also used in the Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare uses 'cut'. It's been since the Puritans that it's become such a taboo word, it was once bawdy and a bit rude but not the shocker that it is today. Maybe we should try and petition local councils to bring back Gropecunt Lane and reclaim the word properly!

HolofernesesHead Wed 10-Apr-13 21:10:51

Ah, x posted!

HappyGirlNow Wed 10-Apr-13 21:10:58

I'm also in Fife glaikit and it is indeed a term of endearment grin

YABU OP. So then if you call someone a prick/knob/dick you hate and disrespect all men?? No, not so.

I'm totally sick of this argument tbh. I think it's a knee jerk reaction from lots of women to 'hate that word!' - it's only a word. I just think 'grow up' tbh. Sorry.

Ps that's not to say a misogynist may not use the word, but the use of the word doesn't then make it definite the user is a misogynist!

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Apr-13 21:13:53

Cock, knob, dick, prick, wanker.

The whole nigger thing is another kettle of fish.

MrBloomsMarrow Wed 10-Apr-13 21:20:31

Obviously, I know that knob, dick, prick are used as insults but I don't think they're in the same league as cunt. Thanks for your replies - as I said, I am quite prepared to be corrected and, as a bit of a etymology geek, it's inspired me to go and do a bit more research.
I know it's a bit of a regional thing - I've read a few Scottish novels where practically every 3rd word was cunt. Interestingly, the Black colleague I was talking about was quite happy saying the word nigger but said that she would never use the " C bomb" (her words).

I'm across the water Happy, but work with fifers!

QueenCuntyChops Wed 10-Apr-13 21:26:47

Some of my best friends are atrocious cunts.

HappyGirlNow Wed 10-Apr-13 21:29:48

Ah glaikit , well I just moved to Fife last year. Originally from S Lanarkshire. Term of endearment there also grin

tethersend Wed 10-Apr-13 21:30:33


"Calling someone a cunt is generally considered to be the worst insult in the English language. Cunt is slang for female genitalia. therefore, the most despicable thing you can be described as is resembling female genitalia"

I disagree- you've added two and two and made five.

'Cunt' has a dual meaning- it means both a vagina, and a despicable person (usually male).

This does not mean that to call someone a cunt is to insult vaginas, just that the word is being used to mean the second definition; in the same way that nobody thinks that cricket is played with small, blind, flying rodents.

'Cunt' is not a bad word- it's the best word for a bad thing.

HappyGirlNow Wed 10-Apr-13 21:31:55

One of my extremely intelligent and highly educated friends likes to write in friends' birthday cards 'Happy Birthday Cunt!' - still does make me laugh <childish>

HappyGirlNow Wed 10-Apr-13 21:33:01

Good reply tether

Stepissue Wed 10-Apr-13 21:39:18

I don't get the cricket thing <thick> aren't they insects??

HazardLamps Wed 10-Apr-13 21:41:03

Thank you Tethersend, that surely has to win the prize for the best response on an internet forum this week.

AllyEttie Wed 10-Apr-13 21:48:21

I think finding 'cunt' the worst most offensive most vile word ever is more misogynistic.

I love the word cunt. I use it all the time. You cunt. Cunt off. Cunting 'ell!

I don't see why a slang term for my genitals is deemed so utterly shameful in a way that cock or prick is.

Bats stepissue

Stepissue Wed 10-Apr-13 22:12:19

Oh for the fucking love of God!!!!!!!!!!!!! <twats self in head with said bat>

Thank you grin

AdmiralData Thu 11-Apr-13 11:51:12

Have to agree with a previous poster. I love the word. In fact it united me with someone who I hated when I first met them. It transpired that my friend and I both love the word and affectionately refer to each other as cunts, (for example, how's life treating you my lovely cunt? etc) ... she was best woman at my wedding and is now Godmother to my DS (1 month) :D

I use the word cunt interchangeably with cock, knob or twat. Or wankbadger.

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 12:26:38

Data Your daughter isn't called Fanny is she?

My favourite use of the word cunt was in the Thick of It, when Tucker comes across an uptight mealy mouthed US senator

Malcolm Tucker at his best

OTheHugeManatee Thu 11-Apr-13 12:28:13

Chris Moyles was pulled up by the BBC board of governors for saying 'that's so gay' as it was considered offensive to gay people, even though he insisted the two meanings had no connection to one another. IIRC there is general agreement on MN that 'that's so gay' is not ok and people generally say they'd pull their own DC up for saying it.

If that's the case, then the same should go for 'cunt'.

I don't buy the premise that the two meanings are unconnected. It's pretty clear to me that in using 'gay' to mean 'lame/rubbish' people are drawing an implicit connection between homosexuality and being contemptible. I think the same goes for 'cunt': by making it a swearword it's it's inviting you to infer that a cunt is something appalling. That's pretty misogynistic, in my book.

CloudsAndTrees Thu 11-Apr-13 12:29:00

No more so than the work wanker automatically being 'man hating'. Is there a word for that?

Etymologically, in English, 'cunt' and 'quaint' have the same root. In Chaucerian English, it's a bit like saying 'my little cute thing'. It does have strong positive connotations.

I agree that as an insult, it suggests female genitalia are horrible, but there's a group of lovely women I know who refer to each other and themselves as 'atrocious cunts' on here and I've got to admit it brings a smile to my face every time. So I do like to think it can be reclaimed.

clouds - but women wank too. confused

It's more dodgy to imply only men do ... women like orgasms too, not just in Hull.

redlac Thu 11-Apr-13 12:33:22

Term of endearment where I am from too (must be a scottish thing!)

"'Cunt' is not a bad word- it's the best word for a bad thing."

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 12:39:13

But does that mean that dick, cock, nob, bellend, bawbag, scrote etc. are examples of misandry?

I'd argue that Cunt along with all the words above have passed into the category of generalised insults and largely gender blind in their application.

For example, I've complained about my sister being a 'right nob' about something and yelled 'twat' at a male motorist who nearly knocked me off my bike. If Cunt was a term used exclusively by males to denigrate females then you may have a point, but it isn' YABU.


No, I think there's too much history of gender relations behind the words for it to be easy to generalize from 'cunt' to 'dick' ... they don't have the same impact because of that history, and acting as if they're equivalent in connotations because they describe the analogous parts of the body doesn't change that.

FWIW, I also reckon no, because I don't think 'misandry' as such exists (and I don't think both could exist). I think they're dead sexist, obvs. And I don't think it is totally gender blind because I think people still find cunt more offensive than bellend or dick.

I don't see what use by males or by females has to do with it - if a woman says something like 'all single mothers are whores', that is still misogynistic, even though she's a woman saying it.

badtime Thu 11-Apr-13 12:49:28

The problem with 'cunt' is that it is misused in America - there it is generally directed at women, to mean 'you are nothing more than a vagina'. When directed at men, it usually implies wimpiness. I have seen this argument all over the internet, with Americans asserting that 'cunt' is always a gendered insult, and British people going, well, no, usages differ.

I have heard it suggested that the yanks brought this usage over during the war, and that influence is still seen in some places (although it has mostly died out among younger people).

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 13:10:17

LRD Yes I was probably a bit sloppy in my use of misandry (for the record I don't think misandry exists in the same way that misogyny does at an institutional/societal level)

I guess my post was a reflection that a word used in a variety of ways, by different speakers, in different contexts doesn't always mean the same thing and isn't de facto misogynistic.

Yeah, I was just nit-picking. Entirely, in fact.

fromparistoberlin Thu 11-Apr-13 13:12:15

I think...yabu

there are a shit loads opf rude words sourced from everywhere (though genitals have a role!)

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 13:13:49

No LRD you were right to pull me up on it!

You're very gracious.

I am being a massive pedant. I blame footnoting.

Going back to an earlier point ... I would bet Shakespeare did use 'cunt'. They just didn't print it.

There's a visual pun in The Tempest where Ariel sings a song beginning 'where the bee sucks, there suck I'. In early modern printing, you use an shape like the letter 'f' for the letter 's' at the beginning of words. He knew perfectly well how the text would look in print and how to get around the censor.

On stage I think they'd just have said 'cunt' instead of 'cut'.

hairtearing Thu 11-Apr-13 13:32:52


If someone is behaving like a c* I will tell them, that does not mean I hate the entire population and all women.

misogyny is so thrown around on here.

How do cunts behave, then?

Mine doesn't typically behave in a way that makes me reach for asterisks. I can't decide if that's bad or good.

MajaBiene Thu 11-Apr-13 13:43:33

I think holding cunt up as the most awful, terrible word that should never be spoken is misogynistic. Why should female genitals be awful, terrible?

It can be used in an insulting way, a funny way, a sexy way, a matter of fact way - just like fuck or cock. The more used it is the less power it has as female genitalia being something that must not be mentioned.

MikeOxardAndWellard Thu 11-Apr-13 13:47:48

Germaine Greer did a documentary about the word cunt and came to the opposite conclusion OP. Apparently it's feminist. To me, it's just a word. People can read whatever they want into it, but meh, we know what it means and it is used in the same way as cock etc. If people perceive it to be worse on the scale, I don't think this reflects any level of misogyny or feminism personally, I think that's reading into to it something that's not there. There are more worthy things to worry about!

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 13:50:49

Oh I am a raging pedant - I think it comes with the territory! But you were right I was describing sexism not misandry and (I was trying to be a smart arse by using high faulting words)

I hadn't picked up on the cunt reference in The Tempest but do remember giggling when the word Quim was used in Othelo and doesn't Hamlet mention Country matters to Desdamona? Mind like a Welsh Railway line (one tracked and dirty) that Shakespeare.


I do like quim as a word.

I would like to think Shakespeare was good in bed but the sad fact is he was probably one of those terribly irritating types who talk up a storm and are actually too busy posturing to find the time for a good shag.

ComposHat Thu 11-Apr-13 13:58:58

I can honestly say I have never given much serious thought to Shakespeare's prowess in the sack, but I did have a very earnest conversation about Karl Marx's abilities in the bedroom - peppered with me making infantile comments about Karl's worker rising up.

MrBloomsMarrow Thu 11-Apr-13 14:04:49

Ok, I've shifted very slightly and thanks for all the info about the origins - I'm genuinely interested in word origins and will quite happily seat leafing through a dictionary (sad I know). One thing I don't agree with is that the whole argument can be dismissed by saying "it's just a word". Words are important and, by using that logic, I'd just be being oversensitive when I get offended when people call my disabled niece a retard or a spastic because they're "only words". Anyway, if Germaine says it's OK, I'm not going to argue with her.

OhLori Thu 11-Apr-13 14:11:53

I have never used this word, ever! I loathe its liberal use on MN, though on rare occasion it works. In real life I think if anyone used that word I'd just think they were the prize idiots. Though I do get Tethersand's point that the word 'Cunt' has a dual meaning- it means both a vagina, and a despicable person (usually male).

The fact that its "losing its impact" is not a positive thing IMO. It just means people are using rude and unpleasant language more regularly. I often hear naice young middle class say this is "shit" and that is "shit". I was in M&S the other day and an educated young man shouted at the top of his voice to his friend as I passed "this pasty's fucking bullocks" shock.

The odd swear word has its uses, but I believe how people speak influences how people actually are inside. You are what you eat, so goes the saying. How about you are what you speak?



But that is very funny.

lori - ah, but he may simply have been being literal. A lot of pasties (and sausages, and ...) are bollocks.

AdmiralData Thu 11-Apr-13 14:20:47

compos my son isn't called fanny no, but we call him Cammy occasionally. Is that close enough? :p

YoniLoveCanBreakYourHeart Thu 11-Apr-13 14:36:59

It always comes out very high on the list Ofcom compiles of "most offensive words" from the consumer research it does on this from time to time. (N- is first - I would feel very uncomfortable even typing it - and fuck is, I think, third after cunt.) So I think it's very unlikely to be fully normalised any time soon. I like that - wouldn't expect to hear it on the radio or TV except where clearly flagged although I use it a lot, mainly as a swearword but also - not that this comes up a lot - as my preferred term for mine. I bend this rule at the doctor's, you will be pleased to know.

I think it is offensive if it's used to refer to "women" simply in respect of them being women - the old advertising shorthand "2 C's in a K" for ads selling floor cleaner and washing powder is an example of that. The women comparing floor shininess are in no way despicable as far as the ad execs know so as mentioned above, it's a reductive and dismissive term.

But generally, in the UK it is used for any person, and I love the more recently-heard variations like "cunting" and "cunt off". It's got a great sound and a great sweary feel in the mouth which must explain those - and they also seem to demonstrate that there was very little recognition of its other meaning when they were coined. Of course, in informal speech in parts of Glasgow and other places it has become a suffix like "one" or "body", stuck on after any-, every- and no- and can simply refer to a person.

Hmmm, longer than I thought it would be. But I think the point is, it is used differently in different registers, and people do know when to use different registers. I do not think children in the West of Scotland employ the above use in their history essays, any more than all we MNers use it in job interviews. It would be a loss to both civility and expressive language if we did.

YoniLoveCanBreakYourHeart Thu 11-Apr-13 14:38:09

when I previewed that post I saw I had originally said "in Glasgow and roundabouts" but of course, while it is the universal term for people at roundabouts, it is not value-neutral.

seeker Thu 11-Apr-13 14:39:23

I agree with the OP. but I am an unreconstructed 70's feminist, and I can remember how the word was used back then- with such hatred and venom. <shuddesa>.

It's unreclaimqble for me. I know younger women feel differently.

FruitOwl Thu 11-Apr-13 14:42:35

Hmm. I prefer 'yoni'.

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