Reclaiming ‘cunt’ with kids

I remember being with a group of feminist friends talking about the names we use for our vulvas. (Yes, such conversations really do happen among feminists, we’re that cliché). A radical feminist in the group, most of us were, explained that knowing the history and meaning of the various terms she’d chosen to reclaim ‘cunt’. She had some persuasive arguments for reclaiming it. Do you use it with your doctors, I asked. Yes she did. Hmm.. but you don’t have kids, I wonder how this would play out with kids, I said.

With difficulty.

Here’s a father, a pro-feminist man, trying to reclaim ‘cunt’ for his daughter. Matthue Roth at Raising Kvell with The C-Word. Both the post and the discussion that follows are well worth a read.

I really never thought this would happen. I had a vision that I was going to be able to raise my kids differently than anyone ever had, that they’d grow up free of racial prejudice and television and only wearing pink and all the other bad stuff that’s wandered into the head of any other kid, ever.

Sadly, that is not always the situation. Case study #1: Language.

In college I read Inga Muscio‘s amazing book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. (I was a feminist! I was the only guy in Womyn’s Issues Now! I could do anything!) Essentially, the point of that book was that the word “cunt” used to be an honorific term for the female ruler of a country, whereas the word “vagina” is an Old English Latin word meaning “sheath for a sword.” And, in the earliest days of changing nappies and learning how female people wipe, I was quick to teach my gurgling baby proto-feminist girl to say “cunt!” instead of “vagina” — or instead of whatever other term you’d use.

No matter what anyone else said, or how they looked at me when I said it. In fact, because of how they looked at me when I said it.

Soon, my older daughter joined a playgroup.

It fascinates me, as feminist parents, which values we sacrifice along the way in our parenting practices and which we hold on to no matter the resistance. Outside the mainstream, none of this is easy is it?

(Cross-posted at blue milk).

Categories: gender & feminism, history, language, parenting

Tags: ,

3 replies

  1. We use an Aboriginal word “mootcha” (being that my daughter is Aboriginal). She does know vulva and vagina and labia etc but mootcha is the word we use most often. Naturally I have had to explain this to her day carers and doctor but that’s fine.

  2. I have a friend who read Muscio. We discussed “cunt” one night and I wound up a convert to the cause despite my initial distaste for the word. For the next 18 or so months, I was “corrected” when I used the term by every liberal friend I had — save her. I finally conceded defeat and fell back on “vagina”. Some words might well be lost causes.

  3. Heh. My big sister used that word around me all the time as I was growing up. I never really used it to insult people. It was either an exclamation or a positive descriptive term.
    Now-a-days my sister and I have an on-going in-joke. When anyone mentions a smell, “Hmm, what’s that smell?” (in either positive or the negative), we pull a silly face and say, “It’s my cunt.” Or “It’s your cunt” directed at my sister, as she’s the one that came up with the joke.
    OOT jokes aside, I had the word around me a lot in my childhood, and I’m really not offended by the word. I really love it, in fact. I think, teaching kids that the world at large isn’t happy with the word as we are is important, if only to protect them from corrective punishment.
    I think it’s a word that can be reclaimed, one just has to be careful about it so that they don’t slip into misogynistic narratives.


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