**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.
"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.
Grinning Cat I'd like to draw a comparison to the reaction to a local KFC ad here is Australia few years ago. I'm sure I've seen it referred to here before but I'll set the scene anyway.
KFC were a major sponsor of a series of Cricket matched between Australia and the West Indies (composite team of West Indian island nations). The ad showed a Australian supporter (white guy) sitting in the midst of a group of West Indian supporters (black people). The West Indians where being loud, having brought drums etc to the game (which they do), but the Aussie guy was having difficult watching the game because of it. He then goes and buys KFC and gives it to the West Indian supporters who are immediately quiet.
The reaction when this ad was put on YouTube and shown to US audiences was an uproar. How dare a major corporation be so racist to play on the well known trope of Black people and Fried Chicken. Australia should be ashamed.
The problem is that in Australia that whole Black and Fried Chicken trope was virtually unknown. In our cultural context there was no such message and as an Aussie who is/was active on many US and international forums it was frustrating to see US specific cultural references applied where they shouldn't have.
The point of that story is to highlights that again the importance of the context something is said. I'd say "Certain words denigrate others" only applies if they are used in a context where they are meant to denigrate.
You say using a word like Cunt denigrates women. I say that while it can be used I would argue that in the overwhelmingly majority cases where it is used that is not the intent.
Its not a word I would use often but if I did it would be more because of its linguistic properties rather than its meaning. Short sharp words with hard consonants like cunt, fuck etc are satisfying as an invective and to my mind at least are divorced from any literal meanings.
The crux of why I raised this originally and why I have put more than my two cents into this discussion is not because I am defending those who want to denigrate using language its to defend those whose by their language are being accused of racism and misogyny unfairly.
Related also is a desire to stop groups being told they are victims of language when they should be being given the tools to ignore the language, never mind the intent.
Thanks, Grinning Cat, you made my point, and stated it better. To simply say that those we hurt should be less sensitive when we insult them, seems rather callous.
That is why I wrote my original post. The description of that man was an effective and succinct description entirely appropriate at the time.
Yeah, MB, but if you bed down with women (rather than with men) and your wife or girlfriend hears you, where will you be sleeping for at least one night?
Joan, I've said this before at length:
Words only have power to the degree that We Let Them Have Power. If we choose to react to the insults aimed at us, we empower both the words and the one delivering them. If on the other hand we are sufficiently at home with ourselves that insults and epithets and derisive comments are met with a shrug or a "who do you think YOU'RE kidding?" kind of attitude, the words have exactly NO POWER, any more than the speaker does, and the effect and associated attempt to dominate fall flat on its face.
Granted that this requires a certain degree of strength on the part of the person to whom such words are aimed, and without that strength and sense of self-possession, yes, words CAN hurt. Again, I have to emphasize, the hurt comes not from the words, but the capitulation on the part of the one hearing them.
Anyone who cares to call me anything from a motherfucker to a cocksucker to who-knows-what won't get my time of day. Anyone who, frustrated with my lack of response, decides to escalate matters will discover how fast I can put them in a hospital ... and if they rush me ... in a MORGUE.
Very much like your post Loren.
That is an idealized conception of human beings, your idea about how you think other people operate, and in reality it often doesn't work that way.
Similarly, marketers know that people are influenced by advertising and what they are influenced by. That's why the huge advertising budgets.
Yet many people don't want to believe this. They insist that they make their own buying decisions.
Luara, I used to be victimized by every cruel word someone aimed at me. Now I'm not. That change took a lot of time and work and introspection on my part, but I achieved it and my life is much the better as a result.
It may not be how everyone operates, but I see no reason why people can't recognize their own buttons being pushed by mere words and refuse to grant power to the button-pushers.
That's a tough lesson to learn, and absolutely necessary if one has strong opinions. A tough skin, a sense of humor, and the ability to think through the muck and mire of conflict to state a position, offers the best defense against such on slots.
...will discover how fast I can put them in a hospital ... and if they rush me ... in a MORGUE.
Interesting, Loren. I'm sure you know that putting a name caller in a hospital or a morgue will attract the attention of your local district attorney.
You're a rational guy; I suppose you're wanting the DA's attention.
Well ... am I allowed to defend myself if someone "decides to escalate matters" (as I previously stated) beyond the venue of words, or am I supposed to sit and take it? Trust me, I won't.
I may not throw the first punch ... but I will do what I can to make certain I throw the last one.
I swear like a sailor unless I'm in an obvious situation where it's not acceptable to do so. Swearing has very little to do with morality. Maybe nothing at all.