Dropping the C-bomb

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It’s one of the oldest idioms that inevitably the majority of us have heard as a youth on a playground: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Unfortunately, this old phrase isn’t entirely true—it doesn’t define which words are hurtful, the context they are used in, or its historical context. In fact, words can be powerful. There are a number of words in language, that are both negative and offensive, that have been used to oppress a specific group. Their history has produced such a negative symbolic power and creates such a stigma, that they possess the ability to harm or injure. “Cunt” is such a word.

The word “cunt” used in modern language carries a heavy offensive potency in just one syllable. Saying phrases such as “You’re a cunt!” “Stop being such a cunt” or “You fucking cunt” for those with more gusto for its use, reveals the misogyny that the word possesses. After all, “cunt” is another, albeit derogatory, word for vagina and (most) females have a vagina; and the vagina is the central powerful symbol for femininity. What does it mean then to essentially be a “vagina” (read cunt)? Furthermore, as a woman, what does it mean to have such a pejorative word aimed towards you with the intent to offend, harm, and essentially oppress one’s own femininity? Yet, as British journalist Zoe Williams states, the word “vagina” is not used to insult women; however, cunt” is. To be called a “cunt,” then, suggests that the offender is attempting to dishonor this very symbol of womanhood, by scandalizing the word in attempt to claim and perpetuate its pejorative power, thus diminishing the woman, and inadvertently her power.

Attitudes towards the usage of the word “cunt” reveal its pejorative power and the ...

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Hunt, Matthew. "Cunt: Etymology." The Works of Matthew Hunt. Web. Dec. 2010. .

Muscio, Igna. "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence." Share Book Recommendations With Your Friends, Join Book Clubs, Answer Trivia. Web. Dec. 2010. .

"TV's Most Offensive Words | Media | MediaGuardian." Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian.co.uk. 25 Nov. 2005. Web. Dec. 2010. .

"Zoe Williams: The Feminist Mistake | Comment Is Free | The Guardian." Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian.co.uk. 14 June 2006. Web. Dec. 2010. .

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