Monday, December 3, 2012

The "C" Word


I got this from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1680s, from L. vagina "sheath, scabbard" (pl. vaginae), from PIE *wag-ina- (cf. Lith. voziu "to cover with a hollow thing"), from root *wag- "to break, split, bite." Probably the ancient notion is of a sheath made from a split piece of wood.

Aristotle comes to mind.

As Inga Muscio says, “I ain’t got no vagina.” 

Inga, the authoress of Cunt:  A Declaration of Independence, touches on the idea that other words, such as “bitch” and “whore,” while once had “positive associations about women,” are now words with ugly connotations.  She suggests that it is a religious (read: Catholic) and patriarchal fear of women that has caused the change. 


When it comes to words with ugly connotations, there’s one word that makes people cringe when they hear it.

According to Inga, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets, by Barbara G. Walker says the word “cunt” is “related to words from India, China, Ireland, Rome & Egypt.  Such words were either titles of respect for women, priestesses & witches, or derivatives of the names of various goddesses.”

What a cunt.

Inga Muscio’s book is a manifesto on the reconciliation between a woman and her cunt – the empowerment that occurs when you refuse to allow any man or organization to control you in any way.  We bleed, we have orgasms, we give birth – it is a source of power and pain and we must not fear it anymore even if the rest of the world does and wants us to, as well.

The book is meant to help us to understand ourselves better through a brief history of our ancestors’ foreign cultures and our treatment because of just being a woman.  Through reeducation, reconciliation and myth dispelling Inga hopes to help “empower and unite all women.” 

I plan on reviewing and discussing this book chapter by chapter, so stay tuned!

9 comments:

  1. So, the question I’d like to raise is this: does it matter what a word’s linguistic roots are, when usage and cultural context have altered the way that the word is used in contemporary society?

    Obviously, the negative connotations associated with the word “cunt” are a bad thing. There is an innate misogyny about the use of a word describing a part of the female anatomy as an expletive or an insult (similarly problematic, of course, is the use of words describing male anatomy, like “dick,” in the same way; calling someone a “dick” isn’t an insult to the individual so much as an insult to an entire sex by association).

    But you also include a quote from the book’s author in which she rejects the word “vagina,” apparently on the grounds of its root meaning, “sheath.” And, yeah, if we define that part of the female anatomy as a sheath, then we are defining the female strictly in terms of its relationship to – and utility for – the male. And that, of course, is wrong – sexist, if not misogynistic. But, to modern English-speaking ears, the word “vagina” does not mean “sheath.” It refers strictly to the female body part.

    So, do we damn the modern word because its roots are problematic? To what end?

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    1. Ugh, I used the word "used" redundantly in my first sentence. I'm sorry. No disrespect was intended to you or your readers.

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    2. I didn't even notice, and I doubt anyone else would, either.

      As for your final question - no. We couldn't possibly. That would be like swatting the nose of a puppy today when he took a shit on your pillow last week. But, people should be educated and know the foundation of their ideas instead of just blindly following cultural norms.

      I'm halfway through the book right now and there hasn't been any other mention of the use of classical misogynistic words to describe women. That's not the only point of the book.

      Good question, though!

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    3. We need to change the way that women are viewed and treated. In order to accomplish that people need to know why women are viewed and treated the way that they are - this means getting down to the root of the problem, our cunts... and to get that education we must begin with the beginning. The root of words matters because words have spread the poison that has condemned women since Ancient Babylon.

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    4. I must also mention that I do not condone the swatting of any animal.

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  2. Hi Jennifer! Love this post! And I love the book! Yes to the word "cunt"!

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    1. Hello and welcome! Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  3. This is problematic for me, first because the word does make me cringe, but more because I have to come up with terms to teach my boys. Right now the whole general area is referred to as "mommy bits" if it's pointed out in the shower. (The girls are referred to as "mom noms" since my littlest is still nursing). Can we come up with some new non-misogynist, empowering but toddler-friendly terminology?

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    1. First let me say, you are so totally adorable. Secondly - I don't mean to imply that I think everyone should stop saying "vagina" and start saying "cunt," and that's not what the book is about. I personally call it vagina or cunt depending on my mood. Sometimes even cooch. I have always felt that people should at least know why they do and say the things they do (and say) so that they can make more educated (and therefore more rational) choices. This concept is something I take away from the book, "Cunt." Use the issue with terminology more as a metaphor than a rule.

      Misinformation and ignorance has put women in a little box and has pitted men against us and us against ourselves. I for one want to break out.

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I will not censor anyone, but please, in the spirit of open communication and respect for others - don't be a douche bag, or else I will rip you a new one.