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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.

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

Hmm. I prefer 'yoni'.

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.

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.

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.

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

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 14:15:54



But that is very funny.

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

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?

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.

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 13:53:30


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 13:50:49

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.

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!

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 13:37:03

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.

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 13:17:01

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'.

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

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

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!)

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 13:11:57

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

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.

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).

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 12:44:51


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.

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.

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."

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 11-Apr-13 12:33:13

clouds - but women wank too. confused

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

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