It’s a provocative word. It’s an ugly word. It’s an angry and hate-filled word for female anatomy that is not acceptable in public discourse, especially political discourse, and yet I am encountering it more and more frequently as this political campaign progresses. Today a coworker showed me an email she received from her 55-year-old proudly Republican mom. It was a rebus puzzle with an image of an eye, a heart, Hillary Clinton, a tree, and musical notes. At the bottom of the message was the solution for those of you who have not yet figured it out yet: ‘I love country music’. How droll. How clever. Such a nice joke for a mom to send to her daughter. Across the land people who supposedly decry the prevalence of profanity and the degeneration of Western Civilizationare giggling like dirtyminded schoolboys at that joke. It is so unfair that conservatives have a reputation for being humorless when what they actually are is unfunny. There’s plenty of things that will make conservatives chuckle, like dirty words or mocking the disabled and the different. The human body is an endless supply of both horror and humor to these folks, what with it’s unclean functions and forbidden areas, to say nothing of the hilarious variety of forms God created for our amusement. To be fair, conservatives also enjoy mocking their opponents, which is something everyone does and obviously someone like myself is going to be less inclined to find politically conservative humor funny. It is also true that vile insults and slander have a long and rich history in American politics. However, it is the year 2008 and the ‘Family Values’ party is calling a former First Lady, Senator, and Presidential candidate a ‘c*nt’. 
Good manners are not about formality, costume or etiquette. Ceremony, pomp, and holding one’s pinky in the proper position while sipping tea have nothing to do with manners. Having good manners means making sure that everyone in your presence is as comfortable as possible while putting aside your own petty wants and desires. We carry our civilization within ourselves and it only lives in our actions and behavior. Civilization is not our technologies or cultural achievements, though these both support and are the fruits of our civilization. Civilization is more basic than paintings and roads. Civilization is not in a book or a temple because it came before both of these things existed and made them possible. Civilization is not science or opera or masses marching in unison as has been repeatedly proven by failed civilizations across time. Civilizations can fail and fall apart when the individuals who comprise them cease acting in a civilized manner. Has it become good manners in our civilization for the self-proclaimed guardians of our American Family Values to walk around in public with the word ‘c*nt’ plastered across their chests?
Freedom of expression is in arguably an essential human right. By no means am I arguing that these expressions of political thought should be banned or suppressed in any way-I am in fact trying to draw attention to them by writing about them. I have produced my own share of provocative imagesand don’t believe that simply looking at a picture or reading words can hurt anyone. Provocative ideas are good because they provoke thinking. However, this does not mean that all provocative thoughts should be expressed to everyone all the time, or that all provocative ideas and images are inherently productive. Taking responsibility for one’s words and works is an essential quality of a civilized person.
Folks like Limbaugh, Coulter and O’Reilley are notorious for spitting out whatever bile they happen to cough up and never having the courtesy to wipe up after themselves. Dick Cheney hasn’t come up with any curses that are new to me, but I’ve never had the opportunity to hurl them at a US Senator on the floor of the US Senate. Of course, those on the left can be incredibly offensive in their expression of their beliefs as well; I would advise anyone who doesn’t consider what they say out loud that it can be incredibly unpleasant to have to eat your words when you talk a lot of shit.   

*In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that I voted for Hillary Clinton in the recent Super Tuesday primary. I find her or Obama (and Edwards, for that matter) to be excellent and acceptable candidates, but worry that Obama is a bit young and naive and could prove to be Carteresque if he became President this year. The deciding factor is that I agree with my darling Kali in Glasgow that Hillary is the grown up version of Lisa Simpson and that’s really what this country actually needs right now: a really smart bossy square who can get things done. I could write an entirely different column about the race-baiting that’s coming from the right towards Obama (Limbaugh’s ‘Halfrican-American’ witticism springs to mind as a good start) but I figure if he wins the nomination we’ll have plenty of fresh material from them this summer.     

3 Responses to “c*nt”

  1. I like Hilary too… but didn’t vote for her because a) she’s kind of a humanistic misanthrope (great programs, ideas but not so good with the real thing) b) I don’t think she can beat McCain and c) Karl Rove wanted her to run REAL bad. The latter is the most troublesome.

  2. vote lisa 2008 Says:

    It’s funny how you call the c-word hate-filled and ugly. Sometimes I think this is to do with the hard ‘t’ on the end of the word, so it’s almost impossible to say it pleasantly – but of course it’s really because of continued fear and mistrust of women, the jealousy that women can create life and the very sad fact that despite huge advances in the public and private life of women over the last 40 years or so, it’s still apparently acceptable to call a potential presidential candidate a c*nt, because she’s smarter than the people doing the name calling and happens to have a vagina.

    Strangely, colourful euphemisms for male genitalia aren’t quite as bad. At worst they can be used jovially, or to describe someone a bit silly – unless you stick another swear word in front. ‘oh! he’s a bit of a prick’ or ‘what a cock!’ still seems quite fond. What a fucking prick!’ sounds a bit worse. Maybe c*nt is SO bad that it needs no additional qualification…although, dear Lord a ‘f*cking c*nt’ is so heinous that I had trouble typing it, even with the ‘*’s’

    Of course, when you disagree with someone and know that you’re just not going to win the argument, it’s best just to call them a name and retreat, giggling at your splendid wit. ‘hahah! Boy, I showed that Hillary Clinton! I called her a cnut!’

  3. I generally don’t feel that way about words. Philosophically I don’t believe in forbidden words-words are tools of expression that we use to convey pretty much everything. Unlike other tools, however, they are not inherently neutral. By their very nature they convey messages, meanings, motives, and more; but to believe that their very utterances or printings should be banned is to convey upon them magical powers they do not have. Hearing a word will not drive you mad or make you ill. Reading words will not rob you of your mind and will. Unless, that is, you are already sick.
    However, because words convey meanings and images there are inevitably going to be a few which are incredibly provocative, to say the least. If there is not a word for a hated person, the hater will invent one, if necessary. For example, in diners and shops over here you can hear white staff refer to black customers as ‘Canadians’ (as in, ‘Great. I’ve got two tables of Canadians’. This clever linguistic development emerged in the years when it became no longer socially acceptable to call these people ‘n*ggers’ and suchlike when they came to spend money at your establishment.
    I would never presume to tell people how to talk in their own private company. But the public square, specifically the political aspect of it, is a different matter entirely. To use the word ‘c*nt’ against a woman in a political contest is the equivalent of using the word ‘n*gger’ against a black person in a political contest. It is an unacceptable lowering of our standards being made by the very people who endlessly claim to be the guardians of those standards; and I don’t just mean the vermin who started these vile viral campaigns, but the giggling vessels who wear the shirts, display the stickers and forward on the emails.

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