Warning for VERY STRONG language.
I unfollowed someone on Twitter this morning, because they used the word cunt. It’s become a new rule with me. It’s my Cunt Rule.
It’s easy to forget that social networking (I so wish someone would think of a better name for it) is a very new beast indeed. I skip around Twitter so freely and happily that it is as if it has always been there. But it’s only about two minutes old, and the rules of etiquette are still unfolding. I try to be oddly polite on both Facebook and Twitter. I think it’s important. Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean there is no call for manners. Perhaps there is more call.
I still get muddled over small things. When conversations start up, it’s quite hard sometimes to end them without sounding abrupt, or just stopping, leaving a howling vacancy. I find this particularly tricky with Facebook messaging. We need an equivalent of there’s something on the stove/someone at the door/the house is on fire, which is the accepted telephonic finish.
The cunt thing is new. (I really hope that sentence does not get taken out of context.) I’m no Mary Whitehouse. I love a good swear. A judicious bugger or fuck or bastard can enliven writing, and speech, and be used for excellent emphasis or comical effect. But cunt is just a bridge too far.
It’s because it’s a lady part. Why is it that a piece of my anatomy is still the ugliest, most shocking, nastiest swearword? I can’t help it, I see it as rampant etymological sexism.
When I was younger and groovier, I tried to get into the swing, and rehabilitate the word. A lot of women were doing it, in the same way that black people reclaimed nigger, and gay people took back queer. But I’ve never really bought that theory. It might work for rappers and activists, but I really don’t think that Colin Powell or Barack Obama or Denzel Washington skip about happily referring to themselves as niggers. I don’t imagine that Graham Norton or Elton John run about gleefully talking about queers. They are still hideous words, freighted with a history of anger and bigotry.
Cunt is such a word, for me. It has undertones of fear and loathing. It holds the echoes of old ideas about women somehow being unclean. There is even a whiff of the ancient terror of vagina dentata. In my own private book, it will not stand.
It’s creeping into the social networks, flung about with increasing carelessness. I can’t look at it without feeling sad and uncomfortable. So, in the end, a rule was called for.
I’ve made one exception to my new rule. He’s a nice fellow who knows a lot about racing, and I really do want to know about what he thinks will win the Triumph Hurdle. He does not use the word in an angry, threatening way, but in a loose, easy manner, as if it is a simple part of vocabulary. It may be a generational thing; he is years younger than I, and the young ones seem to see nothing wrong in it. I bridle, auntishly, and turn my eyes away from the offence, hoping this one nice man will grow out of it.
But, apart from that, the new rule holds. I am making a stand. No one will care or notice; all the windmills are being tilted at. But I love a good windmill and I love a good tilt. I am riding my very own Rocinante in the privacy of my very own head, with my very own Sancho by my side.
The happy herd:
Red the Mare:
Myfanwy the Pony:
Autumn the Filly:
Stanley the Dog: