14: That’s A Bad Word


Here’s how I feel when I say the word cunt:

I. Bad.

Not bad bad. Badass bad.

Bad in the way one word can have multiple, opposite meanings.

Bad in the way empowerment manifests itself differently through different people surviving the same struggle.

I avoided this word for so long. Kept its power at a distance in an effort to snuff it out. Stop its manipulativeness, its ability to shut down a conversation because it put into the air, like a strangle of smoke that never dissipates, the idea that even if you were right, you were still a woman.

The more men said it and I didn’t, the higher and hotter its flames grew. The more its condescension turned to condensation rotting in my gut. The more afraid of it I became.

The more distance I placed between me and my own cunt.

That’s what those who used it wanted, after all.

II. Powerful.

Though its intent is more subjective than almost any other word, it’s exacting. A perfect four-letter combination with the power to slice and surprise as fast as a hummingbird’s wing.

I use it carefully. It’s not like “bitch” or “slut”, words with a similar original purpose that can be repurposed for affection among a group of same-souled women.

I use cunt when someone’s terrible for play. “Cunt” is a word weapon against a man like that. Because man can be a cunt just as much as woman.

That’s not to say I’m proud to use it in this way. But are we ever really proud of our defenses? They’re still a part of everyone’s truth. Defensiveness usually beget the cuntiness in the first place.

“Cunt” is as unexpected and vicious as one word can be. And there aren’t many like those left.

III. Righteous.

I’m more offended by other words. Safe words.

“Safe” words.

Like when you say you want to give our country back to “red blooded Americans” as if that isn’t code for “white.” As if the most red blood spilled in this country hasn’t belonged to people black and brown.

Or when you use “Freedom of Speech” as an excuse for abuse. A term bastardized to perpetuate violence appropriate to your reading of the system.

Or your phrase “Original Sin.” As if a child carries into this world more than tissue and vein and ache and love absolute.

Or you who say using the word “cunt” is me “not understanding my own oppression.” (This is a special irony only an Other can know: When we try to pull each other up, we can stomp each other down.)

As if I don’t know, haven’t been mangled under the weight that word has always carried and the original sins the world has placed on us simply for having secret wet spots, mysterious and threatening.

As if I am not as familiar with this injustice as I am with the curve of my own hip.

I know that to some I was born into a sisterhood of lesser-thans, even if they don’t use those exact words.

And they will not use Cunt as a threat against me.

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