“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As so many of us are, I was raised on this popular adage. I used it as more of a retort than a deeply felt mantra. Had I actually believed these words, they would have done wonders for my psychological health.
In the last year, I have thought a lot about words. The sway so many words have over so many people. How groups want to “reclaim” words. What certain words have meant to me and how those meanings have morphed.
Let’s focus on cunt. When I was in my early twenties, this was (what I was led to believe) the WORST possible insult for a woman to be called. A nasty, demeaning insult. It was the name my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend screamed at me as he knocked over my dresser on his way out of our apartment.
My next notable encounter with cunt was in college. I discovered the Vagina Monologues! What a glorious play wherein there is an act entitled “Reclaiming Cunt.” The actress exclaims, “cunt!!!” over and over and we (women) are encouraged to think about taking cunt back as a positive word.
My most recent encounters with cunt have been in friendly, loving environments. You see, my friends call each other cunts. “Ya fekkin cunt!” can be heard, most days, bellowed from one friend to another. The first time I heard them talk as such, I cringed. How could someone use such a derogatory term so lightly? Like it didn’t even matter.
It didn’t matter. As I thought more and more about words, it really didn’t matter. Did I want to be the type of person who everytime some word came up, I’d holler that I was offended? Or did I want to be the type of person who laughed at the absurdity of it all? I’ll take the latter. Because words are just words. The only power they hold, is the power we give them.
What matters is how things are said, what the intent is behind it. There have been times when seemingly innocuous words have been flung around as insults: yellow, mouth-breather, turkey, cow, brown-noser, the list goes on. But why care?
Let us pretend. With all the vehemence you can muster, you scream at me that I’m a stupid little cunt. Ok, I know I’m not stupid. I do happen to be pretty little. And you’ve called me an archaic word for vagina. So what? My blood pressure doesn’t rise; I don’t retaliate; the situation doesn’t escalate. Perhaps you’re having a bad day. Perhaps you’re hangry and you need some chow.
There are a million factors that could go into why you yelled at me. The point is, I choose not to be offended. You can choose to walk around getting upset everytime certain “trigger words” pop up. Or you can choose to carry on. And not give a fuck. Cause why would you want to let words hurt you?