My friend looked like she had been punched in the face.
It had begun as a standard debate about relationships, equality, etc etc.
But that evening, one of us had crossed a line.
So long ago now that I don’t even recall the specifics. What I do remember is that the talk got heated, and before we knew it, people were yelling at each other, and mild abuses had begun to fly. “Asshole” was one word that kept floating around.
Until one guy called one girl a cunt.
I remember the silence. I remember my friend’s face – the hurt and bewilderment on it. I remember exchanging glances with the other girls in the room – confused and angry.
Since that evening, my friend has never spoken to that guy unless she absolutely had to.
While there was certainly damage done that night, there was also food for thought.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting with another friend – let’s call her Annie, shall we? – and we got to talking about how we really need to use better language, because we’re getting too old to be swearing like sailors all the time.
And in the course of that conversation, we talking about our favourite curse words. Traded some seriously funny ones. And confessed which ones went beyond regular yelling and actually, truly, hurt.
For both of us, it was the word “cunt.”
I’ve been called a cunt before.
So has Annie.
We’re both pretty strong-willed, and open about our lives. When we give an opinion, we give it proudly.
So yeah, we’ve found ourselves up against pissed-off guys more than once.
We’ve been called things like bitch, asshole, jerk, dick, moron, asshat, fuckface – among others, but the only word that has stopped us in our tracks is “cunt.”
Why does this word hurt so much?
I’ll confess that no woman has ever called me a cunt. Only men.
Only men, who, I realized in the aftermath, felt like I was maybe laughing at them, or not taking them seriously enough, or just plain didn’t like my opinions in a given situation.
And in the heat of the moment, the only way those guys thought to get back at me, was to turn my gender into an insult.
I’ll place a caveat here – I’m aware that we use various synonyms of penis all the time as curse words. I don’t know how a guy feels about being called a dick, or a prick.
I do know, however, how he feels about being called a pussy, or a cunt. In both cases, even for guys, the abuse that comes from a focus on female anatomy is considered worse – and I wonder, why?
Is it because to the common mind, being compared to being a woman is somehow derogatory?
Is it because for some reason, despite the fact that a guy will double up in pain if you kick him in the crotch, whereas a woman endures unimaginable pain to push a baby out of her vagina – calling someone a pussy for being scared is considered acceptable?
Or it just one example of the everyday misogyny with which we women live, and which we maybe internalise, to some degree?
Because if you look at it objectively, being called a cunt shouldn’t hurt me any more than being called a dick or an asshole does. But it DOES hurt. Because I don’t see my gender as anything I need to be ashamed of.
And I don’t like the implications that having a cunt – makes me one too.
Image credit: Casula Powerhouse