Notice: SO MUCH profanity here. Seriously- a whole mess of it.
“It’s think it’s sort of vulgar,” she said delicately. Even talking about it over the phone seemed to make her uncomfortable.
Apparently I was having a conversation with my mother about my excessive use of the word “fuck” in my writing (and my use of profanity in general). I had asked her about a recent piece I’d written a few days prior and she was being sort of cagey. I was presently trying to tease it out of her- and I knew there was something bothering her when she started off by saying, “Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings…”
She carefully continued after I needled her some more.
“Oh… well, you use bad words a lot in your writing. It’s something that your grandmother, an English Literature major, might have said was ‘in poor taste’ but she always held writing as an elevated, somewhat superior form of communication.” (At this point we both agreed that my grandmother would probably also not be reading my blog in the first place considering the profanity on the front page.)
My mom admitted to me that whenever she reads the word “fuck,” she tends to feel alienated, pushed away, and her brain automatically jumps to the most scandalous definition of the word: to penetrate someone with a penis/phallus (typically without emotion or care for the person being penetrated).
“Huh. That’s funny,” I say.
For my mom to admit to me she finds the word vulgar, well that made me rethink why and how often I use the word myself. In fact, because I say “fuck” so frequently, and almost never in the way that my mother was describing, I often don’t even realize I’m saying it. For me, it’s an emphasis, a way to emotionally punctuate my thoughts and ideas.
For example, the way I use the word is typically as an adjective or exclamation. Like, “I hate my fucking commute so much” or “FUCK! I hate my commute so much.” Occasionally I’ll use it in verb form: “Fuck you, I-5 corridor. FUCK you, you fucking douchebag interstate that sucks so fucking much. If you were a person I would fucking punch you in your fucking face.”
I do not speak this way all the time. As a general rule I do not use the word “fuck” in the following situations:
- Parent teacher conferences
- During business meetings (mostly)
- When speaking to individuals over the age of 60 (ok, maybe more like 70?)
- At other people’s kid’s birthday parties (they’re SO stuffy!)
- During job interviews
- When making dental or medical appointments When talking to strangers over the phone.
However – I want to be aggressively alienating sometimes. And “uncouth” and “inappropriate” when I feel it’s necessary.
I’ve been chastised for my language in the past by well-meaning people who probably believed I was going to end up hooking on the streets for crack:
- “You’re supposed to be ladylike”
- “You should speak politely and not raise your voice”
- “Women should be more civilized than men”
“Supposed to,” “ought to,” and “should” are enemies of truth.
Who says I’m a lady, and why should I act like one (however it is all “ladies” act)? And if I do “act like a lady”, what’s in it for me? NOTHING. A whole lotta the same-same bull shit.
And polite is just another word for passive.
I am civil and I respect other people’s boundaries. That is probably a good rule of thumb for most people (not just the “ladies”).
I think another part of why I’m so liberal with my profanity is an individual effort to offset the violent and negative ways words are often used to hurt others online. Much of this vitriol is targeted toward women who choose to speak against the status quo in the public sphere. Nasty words and rape threats are flung at women journalists, authors, and activists in the comment threads where anonymous commenters use fear and hate-fueled expletives to put these women back in their place. If When women do something to threaten the worldview of these faceless commenters, the jerk-faces strike back! They call women “fucking whores” “fat bitches” or “stupid cunts” or some other equally graphic epithet reducing women to objects (genitals or otherwise).They call these women names.
Big. Fucking. Deal.
To call someone a “cunt” is the worst, yeah? Well, what if we say it isn’t. Graphic words such as “fuck” and “bitch” “whore” and “cunt” carry weight because of the value we assign them.
We all gasp (-gasp-) when we see “inappropriate” comments; those words hit home, am I right? It’s a punch in the gut the first time someone calls us a cunt – because we are taught to think that the person doing the name-calling matters and that because being called a cunt is the absolute worst thing someone can say to a woman, we must have done something really bad to deserve it. And we are supposed to be afraid.
Well, I’m appropriating all your inappropriate words, jerk-faces.
Name-calling and anonymous threats of rape are a last ditch effort, a desperate grasping at the power the anonymous commenter believes is slipping away from him. A. Guess what, it’s not going anywhere- women are simply recouping the equal share we were supposed to have all along- thanks for keeping it warm, and B. Stop being a big fucking baby.
I am not advocating that people go out and start calling each other cunts and bitches, Fuck yeah! No I am not.
Please continue to report instances of hate speech and threats of violence when you see them. There are still millions of kids out there who internalize the hateful, hurtful words they encounter online and it’s important that they know we do NOT approve and that it is completely unacceptable. Hopefully we can get to a place where even the nastiest words are considered weak and childish in the future- (like “jerk-face”).