**WARNING*** There will be strong language in this post, and I assume any following discussion.

This morning on our local radio station there was an interesting discussion about the usage, intent and impact of swearing.

It was sparked by a satirical TV show, Dirty Laundry Live, using strong language to discuss Charles Saatchi, soon to be ex husband of Nigela Lawson. During the shows opening monologue the host Lawrence Mooney described him as a cunt.

To put it in context the comment was shown live to air although it was scripted. Mooney has stated they did have a strong discussion on whether to use it or not but he contends that it was both justified and effective.

The discussion it sparked was centered around the appropriateness or not of using that language on live to air television.

From a personal perspective I have no problem with the use of the word. Words are just words, some have more impact than others. Its the values you ascribe to that word, and the context they are use that matters.

In this particular instance I think calling the man a cunt was an effective and appropriate usage. Its not wording i would use around my children but again its not a show children should be watching.

The interesting part of the debate and what I was interested in discussing here was the contention that using the word contributed to violence against women. I can't say I agree with that argument.

As I said before words are just words. I'm sure that the word cunt CAN be used to denigrate women, but in the context it was used I don't think it does.

Is calling someone a prick, a cock head or a dick demeaning to men? Sure they aren't words with as much impact but they are all negative words associated with male genitalia.

If I use those words to purposefully denigrate a group then I should be condemned. But is that what has happened here?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

MB

Tags: profanity, sexism

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The only problem with your first statement is that it demands that someone has a right not to be offended. Sorry I don't hold for that.

You are responsible for how you react not me. I think Eleanor Roosevelt's quote "No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent" is apt here.

If you spend your life being offended by what people say then you are going to be offended a lot.

I think the belief that you can go through life with everyone being nice to you is not only foolish. Its dangerous. This thinking has led to laws here in Australia where people can sue just because you offend them. Not that what you said did real harm, or even is untrue. Just that it upset them.

Context is the key. If I use actively denigrate someone then I should be condemned for it. However if you take something out of the context in which I meant it then it should not be my problem.

I'll agree that you cant always know the context in which i am saying something, communication is too complex for that. However that doesn't mean I am a bad person if you take offense to something out of its context.

As to your point about swearing is lazy and showing a lack of creativity. Says who? That's your standard. A well used profanity can distill a paragraphs worth of description to one word.

You say that calling someone a cunt doesn't tell you anything except the fact I don't like them. Guess what? Sometimes all I want to tell you is that I don't like them. Using one word to show that is effective communication is it not?

In most cases I should go on and explain why I think they are a cunt, but even if I don't that doesn't mean I can't call them that.

And i don't give a knee if that offends you.

MB

I, for one, am not talking about any "right not to be offended".  Nor would I want any interference with freedom of speech, but that which courtesy may provide.  I say that "cunt" is a word that demeans women.  I did not say you could not use it whenever you wish. 

Dogly, I'm with you on this.

In the above context, when Man A calls Man B a cunt,

1) Man A is saying little or nothing about Man B, and

2) Man A is saying he has a problem with women, perhaps a well-founded problem with an abusive mother.

Two points:

1) Eleanor Roosevelt's quote "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Her words are indeed apt. Having read of her childhood, I believe she intended those words to help her recover from what was done to her. She did recover and our world is the better for it.

2) ...here in Australia where people can sue just because you offend them.

They can sue, but can they win their lawsuit? If they lose, do they pay the winner's costs?

The US of A is said to be a "litigious society". We are, and while being sued can be a traumatic experience, here in California the person who sues and loses usually has to pay the winner's costs.

I think, that words only have the power you allow them to have. There are about two words that I refuse to use myself, but I don't get offended if others use them, I just don't like to say them. It's just letters joined together to make a sound. Like the middle finger, for some reason it is taken as offensive, yet it is made of the exact same thing all your other fingers are made of.

Personally I have no problem with profanity, and I can and do use it with the best of them. I cuss like a sailor in my daily life, unless I'm in the company of Christian friends or children. The word profanity is closely related to the word profane, which is principally defined as irreverence for God or sacred principles or things. Profane is also synonymous with the word irreligious, and I am in no way or manner a religious person, being a full fledged atheist. I do, however, believe in morality, and do not believe that God or religion or sacred scriptures are the source of morality. Just read the Old Testament or the Quran. They read like a combination horror and porno story, full of blood lust, genocide, and copious sex with captured young virginal female slaves.

Morality evolved by necessity for the good of the human species. And morality is not found only among the human species. Many so called lower animals exhibit many moral traits for the same reason that humans do...out of necessity.

Words can wound when they are used in certain situations, but the wounds are not physical, although psychological wounds can be as mentally damaging to the mind. I try to not call people derogatory names, unless I am really boiling angry at an individual. But, as far as I'm concerned, using profane or irreligious language in simple casual conversation (such as, "man, that G** D**ned sun is hotter than hell today"; or "Damn dude, did you see that f**cking crazy ass movie ?!") is harmless, except, like I said, around children or Christian friends. But as far as behavior is involved, I follow what the late great Christopher Reeve said. To paraphrase: "Even though I don't believe in the Lord, I try to live my life as if he were watching".

I've known some sailors who don't curse nearly as much as I do.....

Also some christians who cursed so much the paint curled off their cars.

OK not that much, but close.

Also some christians who cursed so much the paint curled off their cars.

A new paranormal ability, to be tested in the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge.

I think words have power. For example, tell a person he/she is bad, ugly, fat, skinny, and some individuals believe the word and fail to understand his or her value and worth, and accepts, without question whatever the word states.
Another example is the man or woman, adult, who hears put-downs, discounts, trivializations, and demonization. Some feel squashed, "hang-tail" kinds of self-loathing. The words do not cause the squashiness or hang-tail feelings, however, the effect is to feed feelings of self-worth.
Often, people use cunt, bitch, whore, prostitute when in fact the individual so named is a timid virgin who feels embarrassed and shamed. The words don't state fact, they say more about the person using the words.
Sometimes a person uses derogatory name-calling and the listener or reader has no useful information. I sometimes ask or write them to clarify their meaning. Having limited vocabulary is not a sign of intelligence, or discernment.
Using cuss words offers an emotional outlet for one's frustration and I value the practice. I so it all the time. If my intent is to be effective and efficient, cussing usually doesn't work so well. Being clear, descriptive, honest, explicit, definitive, verifiable and specific leaves no doubt as to what I am thinking. They provide a solid foundation upon which to build a conversation. If I call you a motherfucker, where does that leave you?

Well said, Joan, as always.!

In some cultures calling someone a motherfucker is a term of endearment. I don't think this is an American thing but certainly British and my own Australian culture you can say the most awful things about a person in a sort of ironic tone when you are certainly not intending to insult them.

This is my point about context. It cannot be ignored when discussing profanity. What to one person is always denigrating to a race, group or gender is just language to another.

I agree that words have power, but its the individual hearing the words that give them the power, not the person saying them.

Your point about someone who is continually put down can lead to feelings of self loathing is true to a point. But imagine that same individual who is brought up to disregard those external opinions, to become immune to them. For me that is the ideal situation we should be aiming for rather than allowing the language of others to define our self worth.

We will probably never be able to achieve a society of individuals like that, but if we keep telling people that certain words denigrate others and have power over them, regardless of the context they are delivered in then we will never get there.

That is why I wrote my original post. The description of that man was an effective and succinct description entirely appropriate at the time. The complaints of misogyny leveled at the presenter ignore the context and turn every woman into a victim.

MB

"Certain words denigrate others" -- this can and should affect our decisions about whether to use them and whether they're acceptable in civilized discourse. The fact that context can matter a great deal, that the most demeaning putdowns can sometimes be used as endearments or "in-group" assertions instead, doesn't change that.

"...and have power over them" -- the people we're addressing didn't get to choose how they were brought up. They didn't get to choose to grow up in an environment where "you're such a cunt" is as innocuously silly as "you're such a knee."

Further, I'm one of many who'd like to see civilized people, by their choice of language, disavow those hurtful and misogynistic ideas that women are "less than" men, and that sex and genitals are somehow nasty, or linked to domination rather than egalitarian pleasure.

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