Friday, April 08, 2005

Rhymes with Blunt
Thanks to Mighty Girl and Smitten, I just had to pick up this month's GQ. Please note that I said "pick up", not "buy". Why? Because the rants Walter Kim's cover story on "The Forbidden Word" inspired made me think I absolutely had to find out if this poor guy was as damaged as these two dear ladies made him out to be. The answer? Not quite.

Here's the background: The forbidden word the article's written around is "cunt", and the author really seems to believe it's forbidden, since he paraphrases whenever possible. His thesis is that calling a woman a cunt is a sort of nuclear option, that doing so will end the relationship completely, and that there is never a good reason to call a woman a cunt, but that he's done it a couple of times himself because he's an insecure bastard, and he's not particularly proud of it. In between, there's a bit of nonsense about emasculating things women have said to him, something about his mother and feminism, and a lot of putting women up on a pedestal, then complaining about how they behave once he's put them there. My best guess? He doesn't actually know any women, but he's slept with a fair number of girls.

Let's make one thing clear: I was born in the midwest in 1970, so I was, at least theoretically, one of those guys who got to see the before and after of feminism. As I understand it, this is supposed to have damaged me in some way, but I don't get it. Because both my parents worked, I was exposed to a broader range of professional possibilities, from computer programmer for the steel industry to ... computer programmer for the insurance industry. I grew up self-sufficient, and knew from a pretty early age how to iron, cook and do laundry, all of which helped a great deal when it came to the girls and women my age, most of whom couldn't do any of those things. Except ironing. They can all iron, though they won't do my ironing, so what good is that?

So, anyway, feminism = good. Period.

But what about that word? Obviously, it's carries a powerful emotional load, or else Kim's article wouldn't have triggered as strong a reaction as it did. But not to all women, or else Christie wouldn't have shrugged and said, "What's the big deal?" And I know he's wrong when he says, "You'll never hear a woman use that word to describe herself" Maybe I just hung with a salty crowd in my younger days, but I can't count the number of times I heard, "I am such a cunt!" over a beer at the Du-Kum Inn. Or maybe that was just Jen. It's certainly possible.

No, I don't use it in public. But in certain circumstances, when you want to call a thing by its name, and you're not being medical, I happen to think it's the best of all the available options. It's got roots, roots that go back thousands of years, and it has cousins in every Indo-European language. It's precise. It doesn't refer to a cat, container, silk purse, sow's ear, or anything other than what it is. It doesn't sound like something made up by third graders. So, while you'll probably never hear me say it, it's one of my favorite words.

While we're on the topic, I've got to mention my least favorite: pudenda. Sure, it's medical, but it's Latin for "that which must shame". That's fucked up.

Oh, and as far as Walter Kim's essay, I'd like to introduce him to a new word: synecdoche, and explain that the problem was probably less the word he was using than it was the feelings behind it.

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