So this time last week I was in trouble on social media for using the c word. Simultaneously, an article I wrote about the impotence of domestic violence campaigns was reposted by a very prolific current affairs website. They printed the word ‘cunt’ in full, no asterisks, and although they’ve now replaced it with ‘imbecile’ and taken it off facebook, I was galvanised by their inclusion. All the people who called me misogynistic, hypocritical and the many more who just told anyone who’d read it how abominable the use of the word was didn’t seem to understand (or care to) as to why I used it. I’m going to do my best to explain.
Before I begin, I’d like to point out how disappointing it was to see people take one word out of an article and brandish it around in turn as a weapon against taking any responsibility for what the article was really about. You know what’s worse than the c word? People who beat their partners.
I had never thought critically about the word ‘cunt’ until I heard it being reclaimed in Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’. It was one of MANY things I learned in that show about women and vaginas, and I wholeheartedly agreed that we should use the word with more reverence and celebration. Pity of it is, I seemed to be the only one who ever carried through on my oath, and this is when I discovered something fantastic:
‘Cunt’ is the most powerful word in the English language.
Am I wrong? Can you think of any word that sparks more controversy and passion? I genuinely believe that regardless of its origins, ‘cunt’ is still a word that in spite of being reclaimed by many a staunch feminist, is still regarded with hush and uncertainty. When I wrote an article about how important it was to take any steps necessary to end domestic violence by disrupting abusers, I could think of no better tool to disrupt than the word ‘cunt’. And I was 100% right. The article has now been shared 742 times, and commented on over 100 times which is pretty impressive for a first-time-not-about-Amy-Schumer writer.
Addressing the word’s origins, legitimate are concerns that we would give negative connotations to female genitalia to abuse some of the lowest forms of human. I do concede that had I chosen a different word, perhaps the point would have had a better chance to marinate, which was my hope for the piece.
To be honest, I couldn’t think of much to be more empowering than discursively-weaponising women in this manner, by the word ‘cunt’ activating its power to defend itself against this dreadful state of affairs. I offered several alternatives to people wanting to share it or quote it, but in the end all of them stuck with ‘cunt’, no asterisks. There is no way advertisers or organisations would use the c word in their campaigns, but by reading it in my article they might think twice about just how hard they’re pushing the boundaries and holding abusers accountable. That was the point.
I am ever reminded how powerful language is, and thankful to those who could see past language and indignation to the actual purpose of the piece. I’m amazed by what lengths people will go to avoid taking action, and continue to write in hopes that I will someday disrupt even them to step away from their screens and start making history.