It has been abbreviated to 'grumble', though this abbreviation is frequently a reference to pornography, so-called because heterosexual porn includes images of vaginas 'grumble and grunts'. In this pornographic sense, 'grumble' has been extended to form 'grumbled' 'caught in the act of masturbation', a pun on 'rumbled' , 'grumblehound' 'constant seeker of porn' , 'grummer' 'porn magazines' , 'jumble grumble' and 'grumble sale' 'cheap pornography' , 'grumbleweed' 'weak from excessive masturbation' , 'grumbelows' 'sex shop' , 'grumbler' 'pornography vendor' , and 'grumbilical chord' 'connecting lead for porn TV channels', a pun on 'umbilical chord'.
It is from this that the mild insult 'berk' also 'birk', 'burk', and the Australian 'burke' is abbreviated, thus, as Jonathon Green explains, "when [people] say 'You're a right berk', what they're actually saying is 'You're a right cunt', which is much more obscene" Kerry Richardson, In this sense, 'berk' is similar to 'Charlie', as both are common, mild insults whose origins as rhyming slang for 'cunt' have been forgotten.
In a spoof article supposedly written by Boris Johnson, Private Eye defined "Berkely Hunt" a mis-spelling of either 'Berkeley Hunt' or 'Berkley Hunt' as "Darius Guppy", in a reference to Johnson's association with Guppy tarnishing his public image; the magazine also combined 'Berkeley Hunt' and 'cunning stunts' to create the headline Berkeley Stunts ; later that year, it punned on the name Anton du Beke with "Anton Du Berk" ; and it also punned on Sally Bercow's surname: "don't make your husband look like a berc!
Other Cockney rhyming slang 'cunt' euphemisms are 'all quiet' from All Quiet On The Western Front ; extended to 'all quiet on the breast an' cunt' , 'eyes front', 'Grannie Grunt', 'groan and grunt', 'gasp and grunt', 'growl and grunt', 'sharp and blunt', and 'National Front'. The Cockney pronunciation of 'cunt' was evocatively captured by Clark Collis "You cahnt! The Yorkshire equivalent is "coont" Peter Silverton, , and in Jamaican patois it is "cohnnnt" Marlon James, In backslang, 'cunt' is 'tenuc' and 'teenuc' the extra letters being added to facilitate pronunciation , and 'cunt' in pig Latin is 'untcay'.
A word with so many hard consonants in it in short a short time: un, tuh, cuh". A feminist pressure-group called 'Cunst', an anagram of 'cunts' and a pun on 'kunst' German for 'art' campaigned in against male domination of the Turner Prize. In a Top Gear episode Phil Churchward, , Jeremy Clarkson noted that there were "a lot of anagrams going on here" on various car registration plates, followed by a shot of his own plate, CTU N. The euphemism 'see you next Tuesday' utilises each letter of 'cunt' individually, with 'see you' sounding like 'c u', and 'n t' being the respective initial letters of 'next' and 'Tuesday'.
Time Out magazine created posters with the slogan 'See you next Tuesday' in See You Next Tuesday is also the title of a play adapted from the film Le Diner De Cons , thus both the play and the film have 'cunt'-related titles. Similar to 'see you next Tuesday' is "see you in Toledo" Brooke Gladstone, , though in this case the letter 'n' is provided by a contraction of 'in'.
This spoof organisation placed a classified advertisement in the Kuwait Times : "Teacher? New to Kuwait? Then you need the Kuwait Union for New Teachers. They have also printed the text onto a t-shirt. Similarly, embedded within an article by Sally Vincent is the line "Point A moved to point B to point C until" , which is arguably an intentional reference. There is no ambiguity whatsoever surrounding "-cunthorpe", a deliberate truncation of the Humberside town Scunthorpe on the back cover of a book by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie Likewise, when a knight in Thomas Heywood's Wisewomen Of Hogsdon declares, in Latin, "Nobis ut carmine dicunt", he is described as "a beastly man" to highlight the embedded obscenity.
Mrs Roberts didn't like him, but that's 'cos she's a Contaminated water can really make you sick"; Trey Parker, and 'applicant' Dominic Brigstocke, :. As John Hamilton explains in an letter quoted by Linda Mugglestone , 'cunt' has "the same syllable as a contraction of Contra". Oz made a similar pun on 'conjugal': "Oh, a cuntjugal" Nick Gomez, Matthew Parris once called 'cunt' "a word beginning with 'c', which I couldn't possibly repeat" Rod Liddle, , and in keeping with this is the commonest 'cunt' euphemism: 'the c-word' not to be confused with 'crossword', which is sometimes abbreviated to 'c-word'.
Simon Carr reports that his children confuse 'the c-word' with "the K-word" He also quotes their confusion over 'cunt' itself: "Mummy, clint! That's a rude word, isn't it? Ruth Wajnryb writes "the 'SEE'-word" , to distinguish it from the hard 'c' sound of 'cunt'. If 'cunt' can be a 'c-word', can 'cock' be one, too? A surprisingly large number of these other words beginning with 'c' have also occasionally been called 'the c-word', usually for comic effect.
The following is a representative selection. No surprise, then, that he is a fan of the c-word. In fact, not only is Musk a regular player of the computer game known as Civilization , which is all about husbanding resources to build an epic human community, but that word peppers his public utterances" BBC World Service, ; "Catholicism: the c-word. Not the c-word, a c-word" Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, ; "They definitely had the c-word: they had chemistry" Katy Takatsuki, ; "two other C-words: Conscience and Cyclothymia" Alexandra Mullen, ; "[Christopher] Nolan's script, co-authored with his brother Jonathan, never deigns to use the c-word: Catwoman" Robbie Collin, ; "non-carcinogenic [ Uh oh, the other dreaded c-word.
Cut" The Sun , ; "the c-word: 'cuts'" Victoria Derbyshire [BBC Radio 5 Live], ; "another c-word: 'contextualise'" Dymphna Flynn, [a] ; "the c-word: 'compliance'" Dymphna Flynn, [b] ; "Clunge a slang word for female genitalia is the new C-word" Liz Hoggard, ; "try to avoid mentioning the crowd [because] they hate the C-word here" Charlie Wyett, ; "he was anxious to avoid the c-word: 'corporate'" Annie Dunkinson, ; "In went the c-word - c as in crisis" Catherine Donegan, ; Yesterday In Parliament quoted David Cameron saying "Why's he so chicken when it comes to the Greens?
These are not conservatories" Jon Stock, ; "Could you make it more celebratory? Could you compromise?
The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Hey, we're all guys here, I'll say it: cuckoo-head" Pam Cooke, ; 'championship': "Stevie Craigan is running scared of an ear-bashing from John Lambie for mentioning the 'C' word" Andy Devlin, ; 'crash': "We don't mention the C-word" Tim Ross and David Gordois, ; "uttering the C word - as in "choke"" George Kimball, ; "building momentum off three c-words: crowds showing up in bigger numbers than ever before, more cash in the bank than any other GOP candidate, and a confidence in the campaign strategy of turning out conservatives in Iowa and the South" NBC Nightly News , ; "Is Caitlyn the new c-word?
Paul Casey, ; "isn't that Italian "champagne"? The "C" word" Fiona Phillips, ; 'comradely': "an exceedingly rare [Tony] Blair use of the c-word" Andrew Rawnsley and Gaby Hinsliff, ; "'There are good comrades who have fallen,' he said, an exceptional use of the c-word from [Tony Blair]" Andrew Rawnsley, ; "conservation [ Mr Clinton had charisma" Patrick Barkham, ; 'Clinton': "I have that uneasy feeling that the C word has echoed behind me in the corridors of corporate America" Kathleen Deveny, ; 'coup': "In his only public statement since Mr.
Morsi's ouster, Mr. Carter" Mark Hosenball, ; "I would include Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals other than just, you know, because the title uses the c-word" Calum Waddell, ; "I don't want to use the 'C' word, chokers, so I am not going to" Commentatorballs , ; "[He] looked like someone who didn't even know what the C-word might be. The revue show The C Word revolved around three c-words: 'comedy', 'clits', and 'cake'.
Mark Mason's novel The C Words discusses 'commitment', 'coupledom', and 'children'. Grace Chin wrote a play about commitment titled The C-Word in There was even a c-word reference in a TV commercial for Phileas Fogg crisps :. After it was reported that Donald Trump called a woman a word beginning with 'c' and ending with 't', Stephen Colbert misunderstood for comic effect: "He called her a cat?! The most frequent word, other than 'cunt', to be termed 'the c-word', is 'cancer': "The C-words Cancer and Comedy" Allen Klein, and "students talk about the Big C word. They don't mean Cancer.
They mean Commitment" John Allen Lee, A cancer-awareness comedy event titled The 'C' Word was held in Toronto in Newspaper headlines often use the phrase 'the c-word' to pun on other contentious terms beginning with that letter: "the phrase 'the c-word' is sometimes deliberately used to mean something else, while exploiting the intertextuality of the original meaning" Ruth Wajnryb, ; for example The Guardian 's headline Kick-Ass 2 Star Chloe Moretz On Carrie, Controversy And Other C-Words Andrea Hubert, , in which Moretz compared the c-word in America and the UK: "cunt is a funny word.
It's a strong word, sure, but more so in America. In England it's just like any other curse word". The most common example of this is 'Christmas', which, like 'cancer', can be seen as an alternative 'c-word'. The headline Don't Mention The C-Word , for example, is about the removal of the word 'Christmas' from secular greetings cards. In the article, Richard Littlejohn asks, rhetorically: "Who, exactly, is offended by the C-word?
How Bad Was Jezebel?
He has fun inventing phrases such as "Father C-word", "C-word Eve", and "C-word Day", all attempts to highlight the absurdity of banning the word 'Christmas'. Less festively, he also bemoans the culture of liberalism, 'political correctness', and ' Guardian istas' in other words, his usual targets , asking: "How on earth do you describe these New Scrooges?
Difficult, I know. But try the other C-word". As if that wasn't enough, Littlejohn went on to essentially repeat himself two Christmases later, in another article also headlined Don't Mention The C Word "the dreaded C Word [ Tim Rider's article C-Word Ban was also about the contentiousness of 'Christmas': "They do not want any mention of what they call the C-Word because they are worried it will offend followers of other faiths" , as was the article Merry C-Word in Los Angeles Times , which urged readers to say 'Christmas' despite its controversy.
Yet another article, headlined Just Don't Mention The C-Word also concerned the festive season: "Ditch the dreams of a white Christmas", as did Jay Nordlinger's article December's C-Word "people could not bring themselves to utter the C-word", Cricket experts were aghast at the "inappropriate use of the c-word"", in a spoof article headlined Kevin Pietersen In C-Word Drama That final example, from The Sun 's coverage of a speech by Gordon Brown, also resulted in a Sun leader column headlined C Ironically, after David Cameron goaded Brown for not saying 'cuts', when Cameron himself became Prime Minister, he used the euphemism 'difficult decisions' to avoid saying 'cuts'.
The sheer extent of the 'cunt' lexicon supports Scott Capurro's assertion that it is "plainly the most versatile word in the English language" Capurro also notes the variety of reactions provoked by the word: "the reaction can be so varied. Some people will try to be smug about it and think, "Well, that does nothing for me". And the person sitting right next to that person could be completely moved by the word, emotionally drawn to somebody who uses that word, you know. And the person sitting next to that person could be someone who's completely disgusted by it.
It's one of those great words that can get many, many different reactions from people. This ideology, which was originally termed cunt-power, sought to invert the word's injurious potential - to prevent men using it as a misogynist insult, women assertively employed it themselves: "The old cunt was patriarchal, misogynist. The new cunt would be matriarchal, feminist" Peter Silverton, The feminist Cunt-Art movement incorporated the word into paintings and performances, and several female writers have campaigned for its transvaluation. In my evaluation of the ideology of cunt-power, I discuss the extent of its practicality, popularity, and longevity.
However, words do hurt us, and they can be used as weapons. Walter Kirn has called 'cunt' "the A-bomb of the English language [ Verbal weapons cause intense emotional pain. GQ has noted that "No word is more hurtful or destructive than the C-word" Catherine MacKinnon cites numerous examples of abusive language provoking distress and resulting in litigation. Asserting that "A woman worker who was referred to by a [presumed male] co-worker as a 'cunt' could present a strong case for sexual harassment" , she quotes "Cavern Cunt", "stupid cunt", "fucking cunt", and "repeated use of the word 'cunt'" as phrases resulting in convictions for sexual harassment.
Just as 'cunt' can be a violent word, its use can also have violent repercussions: it is "a word so offensive that it would earn you a slap if you called someone it in a bar" Adam Renton, By contrast, however, a more recent case was dismissed when it was ruled that the word 'cunt' did not constitute sexual harassment: the court concluded that the word, while being "one of the most derogatory terms for a woman", could also be regarded as complementary Kevin Vaughan, A female student at Colorado University had alleged that another student called her a 'cunt'.
Hoffman was ridiculed by the press, not least because the name of her university is commonly abbreviated to 'CU': "In CU President Betsy Hoffman's world [ When men use the word 'cunt' to insult women, courts have deemed the act to be unlawful. When men use it to insult other men, as Julia Penelope demonstrates, their usage is still inherently insulting to women: "[words] used by men to insult other men, motherfucker, son-of-a-bitch, bastard, sissy, and cunt insult men because they're female words" The other male insults cited by Penelope are also tangential insults to women: to call a man a 'motherfucker' implicates both him and his mother, 'bastard' implies a man's mother is a slut, 'sissy' insults a man by likening him to a woman, and 'son-of-a-bitch' can be seen as an indirect insult to a man though a direct insult to his mother.
He calls it "the four-letter word a man can use to destroy everything with a woman [ Kirn explains the offensiveness of 'cunt' with reference to its plosive phonetics and its semantic reductionism: "The word is an ugly sonic package, as compact as a stone [ It strips away any aura of uniqueness".
A character in the Hungarian film Taxidermia also notes the ugliness of the word, or rather its Hungarian equivalent. Somewhat insensitively, Kirn feels that women over-react to the word when it is used against them: "It doesn't bruise. It doesn't leave a mark. Yet women treat its deployment as tantamount to an act of nonphysical domestic violence". He also ignores the word's feminist reclamation, stating incorrectly: "you'll never hear someone call herself a cunt, let alone call another woman one. Essentially, Kirn's article is a macho defence of what he sees as the male privilege to call women cunts: "I'm grateful for the C-bomb, and thankful that women have nothing with which to match it.
When a man has already lost the argument and his girl is headed out the door [we] have one last, lethal grenade to throw". Unsurprisingly, women wrote to GQ to take issue with Kirn's article. Kim Andrew stressed that Kirn's definition of 'cunt' as "the A-bomb of the English language" does not apply to the UK, where it is used more freely than in America: "The word cunt is only an "A-bomb" in American English. M Restrepo's reaction was that, provided 'cunt' is not used insultingly as Kirn employs it , it should not be tabooed: "What era is Walter Kirn living in?
Cunt is no longer taboo. In welcome contrast to Kirn's article, Jonathon Green criticises the inherent patriarchy of the slang lexicon: "Slang is the essence of 'man-made language', created by men and largely spoken by him too" This is a trend which has noticeably increased over time, as Germaine Greer explains: "The more body-hatred grows, so that the sexual function is hated and feared by those unable to renounce it, the more abusive terms we find in the language" [a].
Specifically, the status and deployment of 'cunt' as "The worst name anyone can be called [and] the most degrading epithet" Germaine Greer, [a] , and especially as the worst name a woman can be called, serves to reinforce the tradition of cultural patriarchy, as Jane Mills points out: "the use of 'cunt' as the worst swear word that anyone can think of says a great deal about misogyny in our society, and I think it reveals fear, disgust, and also [a] denial of female sexuality" Kerry Richardson, Joan Smith agrees: "It is impossible not to make a link, as lexicographers and feminist writers have done, between the [ Smith calls 'cunt' "the worst possible thing - much worse than ['prick'] - one human being can say to another" and Simon Carr calls it "the worst thing you can say about anyone" As Deborah Cameron notes, "taboo words tend to refer to women's bodies rather than men's.
Thus for example cunt is a more strongly tabooed word than prick, and has more tabooed synonyms" Jonathon Green concurs that "the slang terms for the vagina outstrip any rivals, and certainly those for the penis [ William Leith notes that "We may have equality of the sexes but we do not have equality of sexual organs [ I can print the words prick, cock and dick as much as I like", adding coyly: "but I know I have to be careful with the c-word" Ed Vulliamy makes the same point: "the c-word is different.
The inequality of 'prick' and 'cunt' is also explored in the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm David Steinberg, , after the central character uses 'cunt' as an insult towards another man:. So what! Pricks and cunts, they're equal. Cunt's much heavier. According to Brigid McConville and John Shearlaw, 'cunt' "reflects the deep fear and hatred of the female by the male in our culture.
It is a far nastier and more violent insult than 'prick' which tends to mean foolish rather than evil. This violent usage is a constant and disturbing reminder to women of the hatred associated with female sexuality and leaves women with few positive words to name their own organs" The 'cunt' taboo is but the most extreme example of a general taboo surrounding the lexicon of the female genitals: "Mild, non-specific [ The word 'vagina' is also subject to this taboo: "Even the word vagina has not easily entered public space". Braun and Wilkinson cite examples of the term being banned from billboards "the London Underground banned a birth control advertisement - deeming it 'offensive' for including the word 'vagina'" and theatrical posters "Promotional material for theatrical pieces whose titles contained the word vagina has been censored [ Indeed, after surveying women's own attitudes, Sophie Laws discovered that they even felt obligated to self-censor their own discourse: "[women do not] refer to their sexual and reproductive organs in any way except in the most private of interactions" Virginia Braun and Celia Kitzinger published a 'survey of surveys', revealing the extent to which 'vagina' is a tabooed word: "Many people appear to consider women's genitalia to be unmentionable.
The German equivalent is even more demeaning: 'Schamscheide' 'vagina' translates literally as 'sheath of shame'. Word-meanings are dictated by consensus and contemporary usage, thus negative meanings can be reversed when pejorative terms are systematically reappropriated: "There have been several recent instances of a particular group explicitly reclaiming a taboo word previously used against them" Susie Dent, Melinda Yuen-Ching Chen and Robin Brontsema have both described the specific reappropriation of 'queer', though they also discuss the concept of reappropriation in general.
Brontsema provides a succinct definition of the terminology: "Linguistic reclamation, also known as linguistic resignification or reappropriation, refers to the appropriation of a pejorative epithet by its target s " He views the process as a harnessing and reversal of the original invective: "[the] injurious power is the same fuel that feeds the fire of its counter-appropriation. Laying claim to the forbidden, the word as weapon is taken up and taken back by those it seeks to shackle - a self-emancipation that defies hegemonic linguistic ownership and the a buse of power".
Chen defines reclamation as "an array of theoretical and conventional interpretations of both linguistic and non-linguistic collective acts in which a derogatory sign or signifier is consciously employed by the 'original' target of the derogation, often in a positive or oppositional sense" The focus here is primarily on feminist reappropriations, specifically on feminist attempts to reclaim 'cunt' and other abusive terms: "Girls and women can thus reclaim the words in our language that have been used against us" Gloria Bertonis, The mainstream success of reappropriations, however, depend upon the consensus of the population as a whole: "you cannot demand the word ['cunt'] be used only as a hallelujah to the flower of your womanhood; like all words, its meaning had been decided through collective use" Andrew Billen, The commonest derogative term for a woman - 'bitch' - is on the road to reclamation.
A woman should be proud to declare she is a Bitch, because Bitch is Beautiful. It should be an act of affirmation by self and not negation by others" Casey Miller and Kate Smith discuss this transvaluation of 'bitch' and also cite "Groups of feminists who choose to call themselves witches [ Other formerly derogatory terms for women have also been reclaimed: "The feminist spirit has reclaimed some words with defiance and humor.
Witch, bitch, dyke, and other formerly pejorative epithets turned up in the brave names of small feminist groups" Gloria Steinem, Mary Daly has attempted to reverse the negative associations of words such as 'spinster', 'witch', 'harpy', 'hag', and 'crone'. Where she is able to demonstrate non-pejorative etymological origins of these terms, she advocates a reversal of their current definitions.
Daly does readily admit that not every modern negative term was originally positive 'crone', for example, has always implied old age , though in these cases she assert that negative connotations are a patriarchal perception: "ageism is a feature of phallic society. For women who have transvalued this, a Crone is one who should be an example of strength, courage and wisdom" In an episode of the sitcom Veep , 'crone' is confused with the c-word: "I called the president the c-word I was like, 'What an old crone!
Regularly used as a pejorative term [ As Roz Wobarsht wrote in a letter to the feminist magazine Ms : "I think a female's use of words abusive to females defuses them. Our use takes away the power of the words to damage us" Jane Mills adds that "crumpet has recently been appropriated by women to refer to men [and] women today are making a conscious attempt to reform the English language [including] the reclamation and rehabilitation of words and meanings" Maureen Dowd notes the "different coloration" of 'pimp' and charts the transition of 'girl' "from an insult in early feminist days to a word embraced by young women".
A less likely pioneer of reclamation is the self-styled 'battle-axe' Christine Hamilton, though her celebratory Book Of British Battle-Axes nevertheless marked a re-evaluation of the term. Julie Bindel cites 'bird' and 'ho' as "blatant insults [ Patrick Strudwick praises Bint Magazine for "reclaiming the term "bint" from the huge slag heap of misogynist smears and turning it into something fabulous" The offensive term 'slut' has also been reclaimed as an epithet of empowerment: Kate Spicer suggests that 'slut' is "a term of abuse that has been redefined by fashion to mean something cool [ In the s, Katharine Whitehorn famously used her column in The Observer to self-identify as a 'slut', using the term in its original sense meaning a slovenly woman.
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In , Bea Miller released the song S. In , the campaigning group SlutWalk Toronto organised a series of 'slutwalks' - demonstrations in which women marched while wearing sexually-provocative clothing and holding banners reappropriating the word 'slut'. The SlutWalk campaign provoked considerable feminist debate, with Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy arguing that the protesters were fighting a lost cause: "The organisers claim that celebrating the word "slut", and promoting sluttishness in general, will help women achieve full autonomy over their sexuality.
But the focus on "reclaiming" the word slut fails to address the real issue. The word is so saturated with the ideology that female sexual energy deserves punishment that trying to change its meaning is a waste of precious feminist resources" Germaine Greer was more enthusiastic about the SlutWalk phenomenon, though she cautioned that "It's difficult, probably impossible, to reclaim a word that has always been an insult" and she should know.
Here, the principal is the same as that pioneered by Madonna: sexual aggression, feared by men and characterised by them in disrespectful terms such as 'slut', can be redefined as an assertive and positive attribute. It is not simply the word 'slut' that is being redefined, it is the lifestyle that the word represents - the meaning of the term 'slut' has stayed the same, though the cultural acceptance of its characteristics has increased. As Chinese is a tonal language, the same word can have multiple meanings depending on its pronunciation; this has been used subversively by women to reappropriate the pejorative term 'shengnu' 'leftover women' , which can also mean 'victorious women' when pronouced with a different tone.
This "pun that turns the tables on the prejudicial description" gained popularity following the television series The Price Of Being A Victorious Woman Tatlow, [a]. It is important to note the distinction between changing a word's definition and changing its connotation. Women have sought not to change the definitions of for example 'cunt' or 'slut', but instead to alter the cultural connotations of the terms. Thus, the reclaimed word 'cunt' is still defined as 'vagina' and the reclaimed 'slut' still means 'sexual predator'.
What have been reclaimed are the social attitudes towards the concepts of vaginas and sexual predators: whereas these once attracted negative connotations, they have been transvalued into positive concepts. In a sense, this is true of a large number of terms which are regarded as positive by some yet as negative by others: for example, 'liberal' is used as an insult by conservatives, and 'conservative' is used as an insult by liberals. Salman Rushdie gives examples of older political terms which have also been reclaimed: "To turn insults into strengths, Whigs [and] Tories [both] chose to wear with pride the names they were given in scorn" Also, in Thailand, poor farmers protesting against the aristocratic political system wore t-shirts with the word 'prai' 'commoner' as a symbol of pride, in "a brilliant subversion of a word that these days has insulting connotations" Banyan, After Republicans derided Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as 'Obamacare', Obama himself began using this more concise though originally derogatory term, professing that he liked it.
Richard Herring notes the paradox that, while the vagina should be celebrated, 'cunt' is an inexplicably offensive term: "it describes quite a nice thing. If you give words the power then they are nasty. But you can turn things around and use them in a different way" Anthony Barnes, Thus, reclaiming abusive language requires a change not in meaning but in attitude. Whereas Madonna is perhaps the most significant embodiment of this transvaluation - female sexual empowerment being asserted as liberating and subversive - the theory behind it has been articulated most dramatically by Germaine Greer in her essay for Suck on the word 'whore'.
Germaine Greer - who instigated the cunt-power movement, of which more later - wrote I Am A Whore , in which she consciously identified herself with the word 'whore', attempting to show that it can be positive rather than negative: "Whore is a dirty word - so we'll call everybody whore and get people uptight; whereas really you've got to come out the other way around and make whore a sacred word like it used to be and it still can be" [b].
Greer's biographer fundamentally misjudged her suggestion, calling it "a direct betrayal of what feminism was supposed to be about [ In fact, far from identifying as a prostitute, Greer was implying that the word 'whore' could be removed from its pejorative associations. A term with similar status is the racially abusive 'nigger', which has been reclaimed or 'flipped' by African-Americans such as Richard Pryor's Supernigger , and is used in this context as a term of endearment. Jonathon Green suggests that this use "as a binding, unifying, positive word" dates from as early as the s Jennifer Higgie, Its reappropriation is not universally accepted, however: Spike Lee has criticised what he perceives as Samuel L Jackson's insensitivity towards the word's history.
Similar attempts to reclaim other racially abusive terms such as 'paki' notably the PAK1 clothing brand have been equally contentious: "even now this "flipping", as it is called, has not been totally successful" Sarfraz Manzoor, In his article A Bad Word Made Good , Andrew Clark notes the reappropriation of 'wog', formerly a term of racist abuse though later used self-referentially amongst Australia's Greek community: "the term has metamorphosed in the Antipodes. Greek[s] happily refer to themselves as wogs [ Furthermore, Todd Anten cites the increasing transvaluation of 'chink', noting that "Virtually any word that is or has been a slur can be reappropriated by the target group" Lenny Bruce made the point that the social suppression of taboo words such as 'cunt' and 'nigger' serves to perpetuate and increase their power: "the word's suppression gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness" He argued that only through repetition can we remove the abusive powers of taboo words: "If [you said] niggerniggerniggernigger [ The film's director later explained that he was consciously attempting to "take everything that's negative in the language and turn it into a positive thing" Criterion, The editor of the Jewish magazine Heeb intended its title as a transvaluation of the term, a variant of 'hebe': "We're reappropriating it, but with a twist of pride" Peg Tyre, Annie Goldflam self-identified as both a 'kike' and a 'dyke', in Queerer Than Queer : "I am both a kike and a dyke, derogatory terms for Jews and lesbians, respectively, but which I here reclaim as proud markers of my identity" The homophobic term 'queer' has also been positively - yet contentiously - reappropriated, for example by Queer Nation: "In recent years 'queer' has come to be used differently [and this] once pejorative term [is] a positive self-description [ Ratna Kapur and Tayyab Mahmud cite 'fruit' amongst other terms "appropriated by the gay community as words denoting pride, self-awareness, and self-acceptance" The gay-oriented cosmetics brand FAG: Fabulous And Gay has helped to reclaim 'fag', and Todd Anten cites the company's mission statement: "to abolish the negative connotation of the word fag and reposition it [ Larry Kramer's book Faggots began the transvaluation of another homophobic term.
Another book title, Christopher Frayling's Spaghetti Westerns , was also intended as a positive reappropriation of a negative term: "The book's title was deliberately polemical, seeking to turn what had initially been a put-down into a badge of honour" Edward Buscombe, The similar film term 'chop-socky' has also been "repurposed" David Kamp and Lawrence Levi, The various epithets used to insult mentally handicapped people represent a further lexicon of reclaimed pejoratives.
Mark Radcliffe profiles "people with mental health problems tak[ing] the sting out of stigma by reclaiming pejoratives" , citing 'Crazy Folks' and 'Mad Pride' as groups whose names "reclaim some of the stigmatising language". This consciously humorous appropriation of 'crazy' and 'mad' must, however, avoid being misinterpreted as a trivialisation of those whom it seeks to empower. The term 'punk' has become associated with a musical genre, though it also has an insulting definition, as it is used to describe men who are raped by fellow prisoners in jail. Robert Martin, who was repeatedly gang-raped in prison, has now spoken out against jail-rape while also celebrating the term 'punk': "He has taken the word "punk," which in its nonmusical context has always been a term of derision, and turned it into an emblem of honor.
He has performed the same etymological magic trick that others have done with [ Finally, we should consider 'otaku', 'geek', and 'nerd', all of which are negative terms implying anti-social obsessive behaviour. Increasingly, people are self-identifying as geeks, otakus, and nerds, using the terms proudly: a computing magazine called Otaku was launched in , David Bell cites 'geek' as "Originally a term of abuse for people overly-obsessed with computers - though now reappropriated as a badge of pride" , and 'GEEK' and 'nerd' t-shirts are on sale.
The comedy film Revenge Of The Nerds celebrated the atypical victory of nerds against jocks in an American school.
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It is clear that "The conversion of a derogatory term into a battle cry by radicals is not uncommon" Hugh Rawson, , though 'cunt' itself has yet to emerge as a fully reclaimed term. Presently, the initial stages of its reappropriation are more contentious and complex than those of the epithets dicussed above. Todd Anten categorises slurs into two types, to distinguish between words in different positions along the road to reclamation: 'close' words "which are at the end stages of reappropriation", and 'clear' words "which are at the beginning stages".
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He also notes that it is not only words that can be reclaimed: "The power of reappropriation is not limited to textual slurs; visual slurs may also be reappropriated". He cites as an example the pink triangle used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals: "[it] evolved from a mark of Nazi hatred into a symbol of gay pride". An especially intriguing aspect of reappropriation is that of trademark applications.
Aware that potentially disparaging words are denied trademark status, Todd Anten argues that such restrictions should be lifted for "self-disparaging" terms: "The reappropriation of former slurs is an integral part of the fostering of individual and group identity [ He also cites Joe Garofoli's comment that "[S]elf-labeling defuses the impact of derisive terms by making them more commonplace".
In the latter case, 'jap', Anten notes that the term "may disparage multiple groups": it was intended as a reclaimed term in a Jewish context, though it may still offend Japanese people. Reappropriation is indeed a minefield. The marginalisation of the feminine is apparent not only in relation to language but also in cultural attitudes towards the sexual organs themselves. A large penis is equated with potency and sexual prowess: 'size matters' has become a cliche, though it is still perceived as an index of masculinity by men.
Phrases such as 'well hung' maintain the male obsession with penis size, and John Holmes became one of the world's most famous porn stars thanks to his fourteen-inch erection. Size and the female reproductive organs, however, have a reversed relationship: "while men want their pivotal organ to be as big as possible, women want theirs to be small" Arusa Pisuthipan, A large vagina is seen as indicative of copious copulation, prompting accusations of prostitution or nymphomania. Or, as Germaine Greer puts it: "The best thing a cunt can be is small and unobtrusive: the anxiety about the bigness of the penis is only equalled by the anxiety about the smallness of the cunt.
No woman wants to find out that she has a twat like a horse-collar" [a]. Corrective surgery - namely a laser vaginal rejuvenation operation - is available in such circumstances, to make "the vaginal canal smaller and the opening of the vagina smaller" Nicola Black, , whereas male genital surgery serves to enlarge the organ rather than reduce it.
Crude terms such as 'big cunt', 'bushel cunt', 'bucket cunt', 'bucket fanny', 'butcher's dustbin', 'spunk dustbin', 'bargain bucket', 'billposter's bucket', 'Big Daddy's sleeping bag', 'ragman's trumpet', 'ragman's coat', 'turkey's wattle', 'raggy blart', 'pound of liver', 'club sandwich', 'ripped sofa', 'badly-packed kebab', 'stamped bat', 'wizard's sleeve', 'clown's pocket', 'Yaris fanny', 'fanny like a easyjet seat pocket', 'a fanny like Sunderland's trophy cabinet', 'cow-cunt', 'double-cunted', 'sluice-cunted', and "canyon-cunted" Jim Goad, [b] , equate dilation with repulsion: "Here, the rule is to imply the owner of the vulva is unhygienic; that it has sustained so much sex it has lost its shape" Matthew de Abaitua, Thus, alongside the linguistic suppression of 'cunt', the vagina is also physically suppressed: "The importance of [vaginal] size is evident in contexts as diverse as slang, comedy, and surgical practices to tighten the vagina" Virginia Braun and Celia Kitzinger, [b].
The penis is an external organ whereas the vagina is an internal one, therefore the penis is naturally the more visible of the two; there is, however, a cultural emphasis placed upon this difference that acts to reinforce and extend it. The bulging male groin 'lunchbox' is identified as sexually attractive, whereas women are encouraged not to emphasise their groins but to camouflage them: "the vagina is a culturally obscure little organ. Phallic references and penis jokes litter daily discourse, whereas vulval imagery is seemingly limited to pornography" Joanna Briscoe, The venerated male 'lunchbox' can be directly contrasted with the condemned female equivalent, the 'cameltoe'.
The female group Fannypack released a single called Cameltoe in which they criticised women for "grossin' people out with your cameltoe[s]" :. Similarly, the male codpiece's exaggeration of penile protrusion can be contrasted with female chastity belts that lock away the vagina. Also, excessive female pubic hair the 'bikini line' is shaved to render the area indistinguishable from any other part of the body: "If we do receive any information about the triangle between our legs, it is almost entirely negative; the [ Oliver Maitland contrasts artistic representations of the vagina with those of the penis: "For thousands of years, the vulva in art was sculpturally, graphically and pictorially erased [whereas] the male member [ The physical differences between the male and female sexual organs are central to Sigmund Freud's theory of penis envy.
This is the notion that a girl perceives her clitoris to be the result of her castration, and, faced with what Freud terms an "inferiority" , develops a desire for the visible, external symbols of virility possessed by men. Joan Smith answers this with the proposition that "it's time to start talking, pace Freud, about the terrible problems men have in overcoming their cunt envy" , a timely riposte to Freudian phallocentricity.
Germaine Greer's key feminist text is titled The Female Eunuch , though accusations of penis envy serve merely to trivialise the feminist feeling of physical and linguistic marginalisation.
The 'female eunuch' is symbolic of the desexed representation of the female sexual experience, rather than representing a literal desire for a male organ. Patriarchal marginalisation is not, therefore, a literal neutering of women, though it does generate this metaphorical effect; while the penis is exaggerated, the vagina is rendered subordinate.
This is graphically illustrated by Tom Cruise's character in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia , whose mantra is: "Respect the cock and tame the cunt" Male attempts to marginalise the vagina lexically, physically, and pictorially can be seen as symbolic attempts to suppress female sexuality. The myth of the vagina dentata discussed in more detail later is appropriate in this regard, as there are many mythological instances of toothed vaginas being blunted by male weapons: "Gruesomely, it is the removal of vaginal teeth symbolising the devouring aspect of female sexuality by brave male heroes that is a core component of many dentata stories.
A Mimbres bowl drawn by Pat Carr from a Zuni Pueblo original depicts a man's club-like penis inside a vagina dentata to illustrate a myth involving two men who meet eight women with vagina dentatas: "their grandmother warned them specifically to stay away [ They have teeth in their vaginas. They will cut you and you will die. The blood ran. When the oak members were worn out, they put them aside and took the hickory ones. By daylight the teeth of these women were all worn out" Pat Carr and Willard Gingerich, Symbolically, this male domination over female sexuality - using a tool to cut vaginal teeth - clearly represents the power of the phallus and the weakness of the vagina, or, in other words, the Magnolia mantra quoted above.
According to Pueblo mythology, the Ahaiyute would "break girls' toothed vaginas with false wooden penises" Marta Weigle, A Jicarilla Apache Indian myth describes four 'vagina girls' who swallow men with their vaginas, until a medicine administered by the male 'Killer-of-Enemies' neutralises their power: "When Killer-of-Enemies had come to them, they had had strong teeth with which they had eaten their victims. But this medicine destroyed their teeth entirely" Catherine Blackledge, In a similar example, "There was a Rakshasa's [demon's] daughter who had teeth in her vagina.
When she saw a man, she would turn into a pretty girl, seduce him, [and] cut off his penis" - the only way to neuter her was to "make an iron tube, put it into her vagina and break her teeth". Pueblo Indian artwork depicts "efforts to remove a woman's vaginal teeth with a false penis made out of oak and hickory", and this ceremony is now symbolically re-enacted: "Re-enactments of vagina tooth smashing can be found in some culture's rituals. In Venerating The Cunt-Demon-Conquering Metal Penis God , Colin B Liddell describes a similar legend, in which a metal penis is used to blunt the teeth of a vagina-demon: "According to the legend, a demon, escaping from a Buddhist priest, hid out in a young girl's vagina.
Provoked by the sudden intrusion, the demon responded by biting off the young man's pecker". The woman's "cock-chomping beaver" was subdued by an iron dildo, an object which is still celebrated on the first Sunday of every April at the Kanamara Matsuri event in Kawasaki, Japan. Our environment is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images, justified by the maxim 'sex sells'. This situation, which Brian McNair terms "The sexualization of the public sphere" , predominantly involves images of women, appealing to heterosexual male desires at the expense of heterosexual female ones.
Significantly, however, they represent a "tit-and-arse landscape" Barbara Ellen, , with the breasts and buttocks over-exposed and the genital area airbrushed away. As Germaine Greer notes, these images are "poses which minimize the genital area" and "The vagina is obliterated from the imagery of femininity" [a] : the imagery may be sexualised yet it de-emphasises the vagina as an erogenous zone. Greer returned to the subject in The Whole Woman , her sequel to The Female Eunuch : "Male genitals are drawn on every wall, female genitals only on doctor's blotters [ Catherine Blackledge ascribes this prejudice to Christian misogyny: "the emphasis in the western world post the advent of Christianity has mainly been on hiding or veiling the vagina, rather than revealing or celebrating it" Albert Ellis explains that our culture's obsessive interest in breasts and buttocks and disinterest in the vagina is the result of subconscious displacement: "Males in our culture are so afraid of direct contact with female genitalia, and are even afraid of referring to these genitalia themselves; they largely displace their feelings to the accessory sex organs - the hips, legs, breasts, buttocks, etc.
Germaine Greer's explanation is more direct: she blames the linguistic and cultural marginalisation of the vagina on "centuries of womb-fear" [a]. She has actually incorporated a drawing of female ovaries into her signature, in a personal attempt to increase their visual representation. Germaine Greer's term 'womb-fear' highlights the underlying reason for both the cultural suppression of the vagina and the linguistic suppression of 'cunt'. At the heart of the abusive impact of 'cunt', and the paranoid marginalisation of the vagina, is the implication that the female genitals are disgusting and fearsome: Mark Morton describes the vagina as "a part of the female body that has traditionally been considered shameful or menacing" Andrea Dworkin writes despairingly of the "repulsion for women [ Indeed, such is the level of disgust with the "monstrous female genitals" that, as Eric Partridge notes, the abusive term 'cunt face' is "even more insulting than the synonymous shit face" - the vagina is regarded as even more disgusting than excrement.
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The clinical sterility of tampon advertising, for example, paradoxically demonstrates a profound disgust for the vagina: "The conception of women's genitals as dirty - indeed untouchable - is reinforced by tampon advertisements which advocate an 'applicator' on the basis that fingers do not need to touch the vagina" Virginia Braun and Sue Wilkinson, In their paper Socio-Cultural Representations Of The Vagina , Virginia Braun and Sue Wilkinson identify several "persistent negative representations of the vagina", dividing them into categories such as The Vagina As Disgusting "The vagina is often represented as part of the female body that is shameful, unclean, disgusting" and The Vagina As Dangerous "The Western construction of women's bodies as a source of horror, fear, and danger [ After many conversations with women, Betty Dodson reported that a great number of them viewed their own genitals in negative terms: "[women] feel that their genitals are ugly, funny looking, disgusting, smelly, and not at all desirable" This attitude is instilled during childhood, as David Delvin notes: "many women are brought up to believe that the vagina is "nasty", "dirty" or "not nice"" Jane Ussher describes the cyclical process whereby childhood confusion leads to cultural phobia: "girls mainly develop a sense of shame, disgust and humiliation about [their vaginas].
In this way, social stereotypes which define women's genitals as unpleasant, [mal]odorous and unattractive, are internalized by the female child" Judith Seifer suggests that the prejudice is actively instilled at a very early age: "girl babies are given a constant message of contamination, that what you have down there is dark, it's dirty" Nancy Friday, Even a scientific programme on the Discovery Channel demonstrates cultural womb-fear: their Human Mutants series included an episode about foetal cyclopia titled The Dangerous Womb , though cyclopia is a genetic condition unrelated to the womb itself.
The reductive usage of 'cunt' as a term of unparalleled abuse reflects both a fear of the vagina and a misogynist hatred of it. This hatred manifests itself in ingrained cultural representations of the vagina as an abject organ: "Given representations of the vagina as smelly, dirty, and potentially diseased, it is not surprising that women's genitals are a source of shame or embarrassment [and are] a part of their bodies many women can't bear to even look at" Virginia Braun and Sue Wilkinson, The t-shirt slogan 'salty yoni sweet dick' unfavourably contrasts the tastes of the vagina and penis.
The slang terms 'site box', 'fanny like a rabid dog', 'gorilla's armpit' and, especially, 'gorilla autopsy', present the vagina as an abject organ. The slang phrase 'smells like a pile of dead fannies' is used as a simile for something malodorous, and the barrack-room ballad The Ballad Of Lupe also known as Down In Cunt Valley is equally unpleasant in its imagery:. Also, compare this monologue by Jim Goad, from his morally ambiguous and provocative zine Answer Me! Cunt, fucking cunt. Filthy fucking cunt, rotten diseased fucking cunt".
The issue of Answer Me! It was felt that many of the articles in Goad's zine condoned and even encouraged the rape of women. More poetic than Answer Me! He also, perhaps less convincingly, finds further pejorative references to the vagina in the play, including "the female genitals as a place of [ Furthermore, he cites a play by George Wilkins, apparently inspired by Lear , in which another scholar has detected a genital allusion: Wilkins's line "in hope shee can open her teeth" , inspired by Shakespeare's "face between her Forkes" from Lear , has been interpreted by Frank Whigham as a vaginal reference "vagina dentata, the fiendish face between her forks", John Weir divides attitudes towards the vagina into two opposing viewpoints: "It's smelly, it's bottomless, it's devouring; or it's mystic, it's divine, it's nirvana" It is the former of Weir's two categories that is reflected in slang terms such as 'nasty', 'stink', 'stinkhole', 'stench trench', 'smelly cunt', 'smelly pussy', 'slime hole', 'smell-hole', 'stinky cunt', 'stink-pit', 'something crawled in and died', 'dirty cunt', 'rotten crotch', and 'scabby cunt'.
These words and phrases all equate the vagina with filth and dirt: "Inescapably, a woman's body incarnates shame, her genitals especially signifying dirt and death" Andrea Dworkin, One of the interviewees in Shere Hite's sex survey described how her male partner "thinks the vulva area smells ghastly", and Oliver Maitland even cites a female comment that vaginas are "Dirty, smelly things" Boyd Rice cites a quotation usually attributed to the Latin writer Tertullian which defines 'woman' as "a temple A scene in the film The Shawshank Redemption , in which a man emerges from a sewage pipe, has been interpreted as a metaphorical rebirth, with the sewage pipe symbolising a birth canal: "going through the sewage pipe [represents] a new birth" Andrew Abbott, In On Mrs Willis , John Wilmot wrote of the eponymous prostitute that "her cunt [is] a common shore" It is this viewpoint that seemingly inspired many traditional limericks, drawing their imagery from "[the] filth down there, between the legs, in the hole" Boyd Rice, :.
Comic strips such as It's Jemima And Her Smelly Vagina in Gutter , and Dirty Annie And Her Smelly Fanny in The Trout , position the vagina as an organ of abjection, an attitude exemplified by the slang phrase 'Billingsgate box', which compares the vagina's odour with that of a fishmarket. Similar terms include 'ling' 'vagina' , 'fish' 'vagina' , 'fish-market' 'vagina' , 'bit of fish' 'vagina' , 'fishpond' 'vagina' , 'fishtank' 'vagina' , 'tench' 'vagina' , 'trout' 'vagina' , 'tuna' 'vagina' , 'fish-cunt' 'woman' , 'fish-fanny' 'woman' , 'tuna taco' 'cunnilingus' , 'ling-grappling' 'sex' , 'have a bit of fish on a fork' 'sex' , 'fish fingers!
This long-standing belief, that "the vagina resembles a fish because like a fish it stinks", is the commonest example of what was described in as the "historical cultural connection between women's genitals and filth and disease" Celia Roberts, Susan Kippax, Mary Spongberg, and June Crawford. The connection is evoked in these song lyrics:. Ughhhhhhh" XXX Maniak, In a slight variation, Jim Goad smeared a dead squid over his magazine Chocolate Impulse : "we "stink-wrapped" each copy, allegedly with Faith Impulse's acrid vaginal juices.
She states that clients of compassionate escorts are inclined to reflect their kind nature. And that most escorts haven't been forced. They literally embody the torturous collision of human rights and women's rights issues, and Phoenix explains it with a staggering fusion of knowledge and poignant revelation. This creative nonfiction manifesto was originally launched as two books. Now it's more conveniently one. Two books rendered into one imply a hefty price, but such is not the case. Phoenix wants everything she has to say inexpensively accessed.
That way her message of compassion may be much more widely spread, as well as her sex-positive viewpoint and her groundbreaking visions for sex work. Norma Jean Almodovar, famous for her activism for sex workers' rights, criticized Phoenix in an email for making her title a question. She said: "We know that sex workers are bad girls AND brilliant She figures most of the people attracted to her book will be puzzled fence-riders and truth-seekers.
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