I still have difficulty saying that word aloud.
When my partner says it as a slur aimed at a man, I cringe on the inside. When he says it as a slur aimed at a woman, I feel violated.
This happens rarely. And even though I know the true origin of the word cunt, I can’t seem to escape the new narrative it has been given as the most offensive word ever.
In Ireland, cunt seems to have become a term of endearment while laughing and joking within certain groups of friends, “ah, ya old cunt!”
In England, while still very offensive, we like to curse a lot, which means some people have made cunt a part of their everyday language. The somewhat comical acronym “C U Next Tuesday” is also used by those wanting to say cunt without actually saying it.
In America, it still appears to literally be the most vile, unspeakable word.
Like so many words we think we know, the word cunt did not mean what it means today.
“‘Cunt’ is related to words from India, China, Ireland, Rome, and Egypt. Such words were either titles of respect for women, priestesses, and witches or derivatives of the names of various goddesses… Negative reactions to ‘cunt’ resonate from a learned fear of ancient yet contemporary, inherent yet lost, reviled yet redemptive cuntpower.”
—Inga Muscio, author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.
Cunt was also used to describe women’s genitalia (in a neutral, non-derogatory way). It’s interchangeable with vagina and yoni.
Cunt used to be a positive, powerful word for women.
So, how did it go from here and become the most obscene word anyone can speak?
Through the rise of Christianity (patriarchy in disguise), women and women’s sexuality were labeled uncontrollable and evil. Women were said to be linked to the devil. This is how the witch hunts began and continued from the 14th to the 17th century, where millions of women were tortured and executed.
For being women.
For being sexually wild human beings. For having a deep connection to the earth and the moon with our sacred cycle. For bleeding once a month. For being the only living creature on the planet created to experience sexual pleasure simply for pleasure’s sake and not to procreate (men and animals are not made this way). For being able to make healing medicine out of herbs. For being able to guide a woman through pregnancy and labor. For being a great threat to patriarchy and the church’s values.
We’re still living with the effects of this today in our blood and our bones.
Patriarchy oppresses us all from birth. There is a lingering undertone that we are inferior, worthless, less than because of what lies between our legs. We struggle to understand and embrace our sexuality. Heterosexual sex has become a performance, mostly focused on a man’s pleasure. Women are an accessory, an object, a lifeless shell.
We still feel shame and discomfort using words to describe the female sex organs. There are a thousand acceptable names for the penis. Yet, we struggle to use anything other than the medical names for the vagina, clitoris, ovaries, and uterus. Even the medical terms are a stretch for some. The few terms that are used end up being derogatory terms, like pussy, a word interchangeable between a woman’s vagina and a coward.
Language is powerful. Unfortunately, a small, narrow group of mostly white men have shaped the language that we know and use today in the West. There was a clear agenda: man = good and powerful, woman = evil and worthless.
Other powerful words that have been stolen from women, twisted, and given new meaning include virgin, witch, hag, crone, and bitch.
These were all positive, powerful words for strong, independent, liberated women.
What do they mean now?
Sexually inexperienced. Innocent. Naive. Crazy. Old. Haggard. Nasty. Evil.
It really is time to reclaim all of these words, along with the word cunt.
But I understand if you’re not ready yet.
Words are powerful, and these words have been loaded with disparaging connotations for centuries. This cannot be undone overnight. It takes time, subtle shifts, generations of little steps forward.
But even if you’re not ready to say it, know the truth when you hear the word cunt spoken.
Remember that this word has been stolen from us.
Remember, there is a lot that is not what it appears to be.
Remember, and reclaim your power.
Your cunt power.