Let’s Talk About “Cunt” – In Defense Of A Troubled Word

It’s funny, but I think that there has been an acceptance of vulgar language in our society. People routinely drop words like “bitch” or “asshole” as if those words are no big deal. Even fuck” and “motherfucker” are common enough to have lost a lot of the impact they might once have had.

But there is one word that still seems to elicit shock when it is uttered.

CUNT.

For reasons I do not understand, the C-word is apparently one of the last profanities that still freaks people out. It’s the verbal equivalent of an atom bomb, and can silence a room when it is used to refer to a women.

I’m a man, so some will question my right to assess the hurtfulness of a word, but I’ve given this a lot of consideration simply because it seems that the outrage over being called a cunt often exceeds that of other similar profanities. It’s as if people just decided that it’s somehow worse than other vulgar words.

There is understandable anger over the use of vulgar words for female genitalia. Sexism is alive and well in our culture, and women have been and still are oppressed because of their gender. I can understand the anger that many women have when they hear a word like “pussy” used to indicate a state of weakness.

But there’s a difference with the word “cunt.” When a woman is called a cunt, it usually seems to be because she is powerful.

The following is from a very good article on this subject from the website Jezebel by Katie J.M. Baker:

“As Laurie Penny argues, “there are no other truly empowering words for the female genitalia” besides the c-word. “Cunt” isn’t scientific, it’s erotic. “Cunt” doesn’t refer to a baby cat or a treasure chest. It conveys purposeful sexual power, not submission. It’s mature. Women get called cunts when they reject sexual advances and assert themselves in the workplace; in other words, when they don’t play nice.

People who use ethnic or racial slurs propagate long-held systems of oppression. But “cunt” doesn’t have the same type of larger, disturbing historical context. Slate ran an etymology explainer post yesterday explaining how the word went from street name-suitable in the 13th century (“Gropecuntelane.” Nice.) to vulgar (Francis Grose’s 1785 A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines “cunt” as “a nasty name for a nasty thing”) to scoring the #1 slot in a 2000 BBC ranking of the most offensive words of all time.

Seriously? Why do we let “cunt” retain so much negative power? The only possible explanation is because so many people still think the worst crime a woman can commit is to be unapologetically sexual.

I can understand the argument that calling a woman a “cunt” is akin to telling her that is all she is: a brainless hole that needs to be filled, etc. But since so many politicians and comedians and cops and college kids seem to think that anyway, the solution isn’t to be afraid of the word and therefore scared to admit we have cunts — and are capable of acting like cunts, if the situation calls for it.”

At one point, use of the word seemed rare in America, and “bitch” was generally used more commonly. But now, “bitch” has been assimilated into popular culture and speech to the point of it losing most impact. Seeing some middle classed mom wearing a “Super Bitch” shirt at Walmart illustrates its fall from power as both a curse word, and as an indicator of a female that doesn’t submit to any old authority. It’s basically the equivalent of some elderly man in a “Grumpy Old Fart” shirt these days, and since men are often referred to as “bitches” now, it’s not exclusively aimed at women. The same can be said for “cunt” really.

But when used derogatorily towards a woman or group of women, “cunt” still feels like an indicator of power, not weakness, to me. I think that by embracing that attachment as a power word, women would rob the creeps that use it to insult them of a lot of their power. You know what scares sexist men? Women that don’t back down and don’t let things like unmentionable words upset them.

I also considered the other commonly used slang terms for female genitalia, many of which are used as insults. “Twat,” “pussy” and “snatch” all sound worse than “cunt” to me. One indicates a small cat, the others just sound gross. Cunt sounds warm and pleasant by comparison. Even “vagina” sounds horrible to my ears. It’s just an ugly sounding word. It’s also Roman slang for a sword sheath. Sort of the equivalent of “pussy” somehow becoming the preferred scientific term for lady parts after a couple of thousand years.

I’m sure I’m getting written off of some of my female friend’s Christmas card lists for writing this, because as a man how dare I take a position on the use of a bad word for female genitalia? But all I’m saying is that allowing the word to have such negative power really just arms the sexist assholes that are most likely to use it to try to “put a woman in her place.”

Besides, I kind of relish the idea of seeing middle aged women wearing “Bitchy Cunt” t-shirts at the local mall in a few years without the cops getting called on them.

The Jezebel article I quoted:

http://jezebel.com/5987317/cunt-should-not-be-a-bad-word

20140227-201642.jpg

Couldn’t think of a good photo to use for this article, so here’s a picture of mt beloved dog Bitsy… Who really wants to reclaim “Bitch” for her canine crowd

Rolling Heavy in the SuperVan.

Supervan (1977)

I’m going to call it – 1977 was the year of the van movie. I’m guessing that 1977 was about the height of the short-lived custom van craze, because both “The Van” and “Supervan” were released during that year.

“Supervan” begins with the hero Clint, a small town guy who owns a custom van, cutting out of town so he can attend a Van “Freak Out” gathering, where he hopes to win $5,000 in a van competition. His father, the owner of the auto repair shop where Clint works, is none too pleased by this development, but begrudgingly lets Clint go with his blessing. They must have a pretty weird idea of adulthood, because the actor playing Clint (Mark Schneider) looks like he’s at least 30 in this film.

Soon after hitting the road, Clint hears what sounds like a sexual assault in progress over his trusty CB radio, and heads to the rescue, jumping a group of would be rapist bikers trying to have their way with a woman in a junkyard.

Clint manages to beat the bikers, but his van is destroyed in the yard’s car crusher for his troubles. He escapes the junkyard with his new companion Karen (Katie Saylor) who seems to have a fairly casual attitude about the close call with gang rape, even making jokes about it. I guess the 1970’s were just a weird decade.

The two journey to Clint’s friend Bosley’s workshop, a huge high tech place, where he’s been secretly developing a SuperVan called “Vandora” instead of designing a new gas guzzling vehicle for his boss, the evil oilman and owner of Mid American Motors, T.B. Trenton.

It’s obvious that Trenton is evil the moment we’re introduced to him, and he’s the kind of guy that smokes big cigars and sets up trysts with much younger women that have a thing for whipped cream.

The plot essentially boils down to Clint, Boz, and Karen getting the super high-tech Vandora to the Freak Out Fest, and besting T.B. and his henchmen. It’s one of those films where a lot of stuff happens, but not much of it seems to really be connected. There are lots of admittedly awesome custom vans throughout, and some scenes look like they may have been shot at an actual gathering of van enthusiasts. It’s also all very 70’s, peppered with lots of crude sexual humor and casual drug use, but no actual nudity. It was a kinder gentler decade, where a wet t-shirt contest with kids watching, and a creepyImage cameo by Charles Bukowski was just good clean fun. I’m not sure that anything can get more quintessentially 1970’s than the shenanigans on display in this film.

Anyway, Trenton is worried that when Vandora is discovered by the press, he’ll be ruined. Vandora is a high-tech wonder – it’s solar powered, and has inboard computers and lasers. Yes, lasers. The van was designed by legendary car builder George Barris, and it’s pretty dumb looking. The more traditional custom vans it’s supposed to be better than, are way cooler. It also makes an irritating sound, sort of a constant UFO sound instead of the regular engine noises that a typical van would make. That gets old pretty fast. Inside, the sound is accompanied by bleeping computer noises as well.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that Clint and company eventually best Trenton and his toadies, and manage to win the $5,000 in prize money. How that happens involves a lot of not very exciting chase footage, and a drugged out 1970’s van party that’s probably the best part of the film. There are some ridiculous moments in “SuperVan,” although that’s probably to be expected. For instance, we discover that Vandora has a laser gun capable of blowing up a car, but that’s never used to try to disable the cops who are chasing SuperVan for much of the film.

There’s something about this movie that rides a line between two worlds. On one hand, there’s plenty of references to sex and over the top characters. A van full of gay stereotypes comes to mind, as well as scenes involving drug use, but the film almost feels like a late 70’s television movie. Contrast that with “The Van” from the same year, which had ample nude scenes scattered throughout its equally rambling story, and “SuperVan” almost seems innocent in comparison. And let’s face it, that’s weird, because it’s pretty obvious that most people with these custom vans had them outfitted as rolling orgy rooms.

I should point out that I discovered that there are more than one print of “The Van” in circulation, and one has almost all nudity excised from it, really rendering the film pointless. That’s just the kind of film it is. So it’s possible that there’s a sleazier cut of “SuperVan” floating around out there. As it is, the film could have been an ABC Movie of the Week if they cut a few lines of dialogue and some drug use. With the exception of that pervasive 70s era casual treatment of sex and drugs, SuperVan almost seems like the PG kid friendly film companion to “The Van”s R rated horny teenagers.

So did I like “SuperVan?” It’s an interesting look at 70’s-era fads in much the same way a film like “Roller Boogie” is. We know people liked custom vans and roller disco, so it’s cool to see movies trying to exploit interest in those things, but in the case of “SuperVan,” the  plot is taken to an almost Sci-Fi extreme, since no vehicle like the high-tech van ever existed.

On the other hand, I kept finding myself not caring about the plot, or the SuperVan itself, but wanting to see more footage of the Van gathering and the actual custom vans used throughout the film.

So it’s fun to see as a study of 1970’s custom van culture, but the actual film is pretty silly. Without more exploitative material, nudity or whatever, it’s hard to see why anyone would watch this movie today unless they’re interested in old vans, or the weirder aspects of 70’s culture. I’m interested in both of those things however, so if I gave out ratings, which I don’t, I’d give “SuperVan” 5 van lasers out of 10.

The uncut version of “The Van” is still a more sleazy and entertaining van movie though.