Are You Offended By The C-Word?

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, singer Rob Thomas says c**t is his favorite word, explaining, “I say it only around men, but I love it. C**t is in Chaucer, in Shakespeare! I say, Let’s bring it back!”

In “The Great List Of Super Offensive Controversial Words,” c**t is probably in the top five. (Look, I can’t even write it in full here.) In fact, I would venture to say that for many people, it is number one. It’s in my top five, but not on the same list. C**t is one of my favorite swear words ever, though I use it fairly sparingly, and am always aware of my audience. (In other words, not in front of my mom.) I just like the way it sounds. However, my inclination is to be bothered by Thomas’ use, mainly because he’s a man. But why is that a problem? Women call men “dicks” all the time. So what’s the big deal with dudes using the c-word, and is it better or worse to use it only around other guys? I analyze this to death, after the jump…First, let’s look at the definition.

–noun Slang: Vulgar.

  1. the vulva or vagina.
  2. Disparaging and Offensive.
    • a woman.
    • a contemptible person.
  3. sexual intercourse with a woman.

So, according to the dictionary, c**t is both a vulgar term for the vagina, an offensive insult for both a man and a woman, and another word for sexual intercourse (though I’ve never heard it used that way.) However, as Thomas pointed out, it has the Bard’s endorsement.

Using c**t as an insult implies there’s something negative about being a vagina, but the same goes for calling someone an a**hole (though, both men and women have those, so it’s not a gender specific insult), or a d**k. So why does c**t hold SO MUCH POWER? It IS just a word, but unlike the n-word or the f-word (f*g not f**k — so many stars up in this post!), it is not deeply rooted in some form of oppression, though some would certainly argue with me, given that it can have misogynistic undertones. John Ayto, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Slang, wrote:

Ethnic slurs are regarded as the taboo … N****r is far more taboo than f**k or even c**t. I think if a politician were to be heard off-camera saying f**k, it would be trivial, but if he said n****r, that would be the end of his career.

While Kate Allen at The F Word, wrote:

When used as a swearword, ‘c**t’ seems to convey profoundly misogynist connotations — that the ‘nastiest’ ‘dirtiest’ word someone could come up with was the word for a woman’s vagina shows a deep fear of women’s sexuality, argue those who object to its use.

So, for some, c**t is as low a blow as you can go. But for others it’s not. When Perez Hilton was trying to think of the right word to really insult from the Black Eyed Peas, he went with f*ggot, despite the irony that he’s a gay man and Will is straight. He certainly got his share of s**t, from us included. Both the n-word and f*ggot have been “reclaimed” by some members of the Black and gay communities. The problem with Hilton’s use in particular though, was that he was still using f*ggot as an insult, which seemingly negates any reclaiming. I suspect we would have been even more up in arms if he had called him the n-word, because as a non-African American, that word should never, ever come out of his mouth, especially as an insult.

any women, including some feminists, have reclaimed c**t, and it was the subject of an essay in Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues.” But just like Hilton wouldn’t be able to use the n-word in ANY context without catching hell, is it okay for guys to “reclaim” (or “bring back,” as Thomas says) the c-word? Is it okay because he just says it around dudes — clearly aware of his audience — and thus there are no women in his company to offend (though announcing it as his fave word in a national magazine kind of negates that)? Or do you think words shouldn’t have so much power and we should all learn to lighten up a bit?