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The word that begins with the letter "c." March 24, 2010 6:59 PM   Subscribe

The use of the "c word". When is it okay? When is it not okay? Is there a better word, than the "c" word to describe reprehensible public figures calling for violence?

So, I made the mistake of calling the moose-lady from Alaska, the very naughty, and very harsh "c-word" in the thread about growing right wing violence. Her troublesome irresponsible statement, and I must confess, my own deep loathing of the woman, caused me to get carried away. Ha!

So, when is the "c-word," okay to use? Is there ever a time when its usage, might be acceptable? Is there be an alternative that packs the same wallop? Can we call other mefites, the "c-word" in fun or jest, Such as: Hey Brandon Blatcher, you excellent "c-word" how's it hangin'?" Or should one avoid it at altogether, lest he mods unleash the fury of the DeleteHammer on ones comment. Who knows perhaps it wasn't even the "c-word" that caused my commentary to be deleted, in which case I hope the mods can clarify.
posted by Skygazer to Etiquette/Policy at 6:59 PM (656 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

So, when is the "c-word," okay to use?

If your British passport says you're Malcolm Tucker, maybe. Or you're an Israeli with a fake British passport that says you're Malcolm Tucker.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:02 PM on March 24, 2010 [18 favorites]


God. Again?
posted by rtha at 7:03 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


We'd appreciate if you didn't use it on the site. We're aware that it's not as harsh an epithet in the UK as it is in the US but there's a long troublesome history of people using the word as a really shitty slur against women [which we've talked about at length on the site before] and it's just flat out not okay, just like racial epithets [which are used occasionally in the "I'm quoting someone" or an "I'm pretending to be a horrible racist" [not so great actually] way, but otherwise not okay here].

We'll be decent with people from the UK who may not be aware of this, there's no penalty other than having to rewrite/repost your comment. But yeah, not okay. Sorry.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:03 PM on March 24, 2010 [25 favorites]


In the US, "cunt" is not ok to call a person, when you're in the company of anything but close friends. On Mefi, one should avoid its use altogether.

Please enjoy some substitutes:

Jackass. Jerk-face.
Shit-head. Poopypants.
Sorry excuse for a ____.
Idiot. Dummy. Dope.
Prettified antiintellectual fascist.
Backward ass monkey.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]




The c-word is incredibly dismissive and not a constructive way to have a conversation, at least in the US. It reduces any legitimate complaints you might have to a useless anatomical reference which conflates centuries of oppression against women with whatever political differences you might have with Palin.
posted by null terminated at 7:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


i love the word. i think it's a wonderful word. i think cunt is so much sexier than vulva (or the often misused, vagina). however, it's been used as a terrible word, one that maligns women (or "sissifies men" thus maligning women) and shouldn't be used in massive online communities, especially as an insult of a woman, no matter how odious she is.

there are too many personalities and personal baggage and people you don't know to throw around words like that. they don't help the discourse. they don't make you look good. and they make life harder on the mods. we've had this discussion about using the word fag ironically. end result is the same, it doesn't help.
posted by nadawi at 7:05 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Please don't use that word. In the U.S., it is incredibly offensive. I know that we Americans are big babies but it is a small, simple request to please just choose another non-sexual epithet. Thank you!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:06 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'd like to petition for "Loopy Cunt" as the explicitly approved, endorsed c-word usage.
posted by floam at 7:07 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


So, um, we're talking about cunt, right?

Because, like, yeah.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 PM on March 24, 2010


Or should one avoid it at altogether, lest he mods unleash the fury of the DeleteHammer on ones comment.

This.

You should also avoid the use of the phrase "how's it hangin'" unless you are a character on Porky's or another early-eighties teen titty flick.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:08 PM on March 24, 2010


"sissifies men"

If it does, you're doing it wrong. Cunt != pussy.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:09 PM on March 24, 2010


So are "cocksucker," "motherfucker," "asshole," "bitch," and "dick" out too then? I never realized "the c-word" was in its own class as hate speech, more akin to racial slurs than the expletive class I always associated it with. Is it like "retarded"? And how about "spastic" or "spazz"?

Anyone care to help me understand this?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:10 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get why it is offensive.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 7:11 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]



If it does, you're doing it wrong. Cunt != pussy.

your anatomy teacher lied to you.
posted by nadawi at 7:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like when people pronounce it "Koont".
posted by ColdChef at 7:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't get why it is offensive.

Then you're just going to have to trust us.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:15 PM on March 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is is really offensive when the person really is a cunt.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 7:17 PM on March 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't get why it is offensive.

I understand. It's just like an argument I had with a friend from the UK about the word 'bugger.' I care a load of dingo's kidneys about the word, but he got frothing mad when I'd use it in online conversation. Said it was highly offensive.

Now, I understand. I honestly wasn't aware that the c-word was so much less offensive in the UK.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:17 PM on March 24, 2010


'motherfucker' and 'asshole' are fine.
'cocksucker' and 'bitch' are out.
I think 'dick' is fine but tend to use 'ass' or 'jerk' instead.

In the US, 'cunt' is something you would only say to a woman that you intended to denigrate for being a woman (or a slut or some other "bad" category of woman). It's a *much* stronger insult and curse than it is in the UK. I say 'fuck' etc with abandon, but I never use the word 'cunt.' I don't think we have the casual slagging-another-guy use of the word in the US.

(My sense is Americans would use "pussy" for that. But don't use pussy at Mefi either, because it kind of sucks since it equates being a woman with being bad or uncool.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:17 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I never realized "the c-word" was in its own class as hate speech, more akin to racial slurs than the expletive class I always associated it with.

To quote Shipwreck, Duke and the boys: Now you know. And knowing's half the battle.
posted by shmegegge at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


your anatomy teacher lied to you.

Yeah. No, I meant when applied as an insult, a cunt and a pussy are two totally different dudes. Whereas pussy questions a man's masculinity, cunt just means he is very unpleasant.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's never alright to be "Canadian". Just ask hulu.
posted by Decimask at 7:19 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joseph Gurl:

It's much stronger than any of the examples you give, to the degree where it makes many people cringe. On a visceral level, it's beyond "retarded" or "spastic." It's really in the same class as (to quote the Huffington Post) "fa**ot" and "ni**er."

Or was your question rhetorical?
posted by argybarg at 7:20 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


i think it's totally okay if we stop referring to people as cunts ... as long as we don't refer to people as dicks, either.
posted by lester at 7:20 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Whereas pussy questions a man's masculinity, cunt just means he is very unpleasant.

Your linguistics teacher lied to you.
posted by shmegegge at 7:20 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


more akin to racial slurs than the expletive class I always associated it with.

In the US, for many people, this is the case. I'm not much of a fuddy-duddy about language generally, but the feedback that we've gotten from people over the past half-decade or so is that there is a large contingent of people for whom the word cunt is more or less like the word spic or kike; you'd never say it in polite company and you'd never say it without really trying to say something nasty about the person you were referring to [as opposed to, say, nigger which has a bunch of hip-hop connotations or even fag which has been reclaimed somewhat, cunt has more or less not been reclaimed except by maybe a few individual people on the site]. On the scale of "shitty things you can say to a woman" it tops the list which is sort of funny because as I understand it, it's more or less like saying ... dumbass, or asshole in the UK?

So, our basic feeling is that we're more comfortable saying to the few people for whom it's a habit "hey could you please try not to say that?" than ask a few thousand people "hey could you just learn to interpret this word differently than you're used to?" We're aware that nobody's perfect and as I said above there's no real penalty, but it's a concession we feel okay in asking for, so that we can all get along on this giant international site. It's right up there with rape jokes and posting people's home addresses and other things that are Generally Not Okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Word of warning, then. Out there they call them fanny packs. Cause fanny means your arse over there... not your minge.
posted by Babblesort at 7:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jessamyn: We'd appreciate if you didn't use it on the site. We're aware that it's not as harsh an epithet in the UK as it is in the US but there's a long troublesome history of people using the word as a really shitty slur against women [which we've talked about at length on the site before] and it's just flat out not okay, just like racial epithets [which are used occasionally in the "I'm quoting someone" or an "I'm pretending to be a horrible racist" [not so great actually] way, but otherwise not okay here].

We'll be decent with people from the UK who may not be aware of this, there's no penalty other than having to rewrite/repost your comment. But yeah, not okay. Sorry.


Just to clarify where I'm coming from in my approach to the word. I'm not British, it's a word that I can literally count on my fingers the time I've ever used in passing, and have almost never said it directly to anyone.

But, I have to say it's troublesome that it's automatically discounted like that, as being the voice of the oppressor, so it be avoided at all costs. Men, use it much more and with greater effect on each other. Also as one of Carlin's "seven words," it seems excessive that it be completely off the table without question.
posted by Skygazer at 7:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pick a better way of expressing your distaste for Palin.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:24 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Men, use it much more and with greater effect on each other.
That's interesting. I've never heard an American man use it about another man. In the U.S., unlike in Britain and Ireland, I've only heard men use it to express violent contempt for women.
posted by craichead at 7:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


We're aware that it's not as harsh an epithet in the UK as it is in the US

I noticed claims by some of my British compatriots that the c-word wasn't particularly offensive in the UK the last time we reheated this topic.

I'm sorry, but they're wrong. It is the most offensive swear word we have. Perhaps in certain more youthful circles than those I travel in it might be fairly mild, but to most of us it's the worst word there is and isn't to be bandied around lightly. I personally hardly ever say it (except when talking about female Alaskan politicians, at least one former US president and 2 British Prime Ministers, of course).

Seriously though, I'm not usually too bothered by strong language - catch me on a bad day and I'd make a sailor blush with some of things I come out with - but I find "cunt" to be too course and too much, most of the time.
posted by idiomatika at 7:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, I don't want to seem out of line here, but could someone post a link to a picture of a cunt? I just want to see what it looks like, is all.
posted by hincandenza at 7:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


So, I made the mistake of calling the moose-lady from Alaska, the very naughty, and very harsh "c-word"

Don't do that. It's low class and brings the argument against her down to a level where she's comfortable. There are any number of line of argument to attack Sarah Palin with, strive for the high road. Respect her as a human being.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:27 PM on March 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


I honestly wasn't aware that the c-word was so much less offensive in the UK.

It's not. LobsterMitten's "not OK to call a person" guideline still applies.

(British, now living in the US, FWIW.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


ahem - too coarse, of course
posted by idiomatika at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2010


Whereas pussy questions a man's masculinity, cunt just means he is very unpleasant.

maybe that's how you specifically use it. but i've mostly (US-centric!) heard it used as "not only are you a sissy, but you're a bitchy mean sissy". so, really, it's worse than pussy in that regard.

-----

i'm all for reclaiming (and i disagree that it's just a few individuals, i mean, there's the book Cunt out there), but again, to use it against a woman who you really, really hate isn't reclaiming in any sense of the word.

and in the spirit of reclaiming - i give you B*tch singing pussy manifesto.
posted by nadawi at 7:29 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Men, use it much more and with greater effect on each other.

And just to clarify, I'm not saying you're improperly using language in a general sense in your personal life, but I am saying it's pretty well off the table for here for the reasons many people have explicated above.

We make an effort to have this site not seem exclusionary, clubby or cliquish and we've made great strides in the past several years having the place not seem like a boyzone while at the same time trying to be a place where both men and women, gay and straight and in-between, feel comfortable discussing tricky issues without people casually dismissing them. Most of this is just the community deciding what is important to it and moving in that direction on its own, but a few guidelines are a little more prescriptive.

cortex is out eating dinner, but he's actually the one who deleted your comment, but I happen to be the one who is around at the moment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:29 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: We'd appreciate if you didn't use it on the site. We're aware that it's not as harsh an epithet in the UK as it is in the US but there's a long troublesome history of people using the word as a really shitty slur against women [which we've talked about at length on the site before] and it's just flat out not okay, just like racial epithets [which are used occasionally in the "I'm quoting someone" or an "I'm pretending to be a horrible racist" [not so great actually] way, but otherwise not okay here].

I sure have noticed a certain other word that is commonly referred to by its initial consonant posted quite a bit lately.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2010


Your linguistics teacher lied to you.

Well, now you're just being a dick.

cunt : A contemptible person.
pussy : A man regarded as weak, timid, or unmanly.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best cartoon ever.
posted by unSane at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is is really offensive when the person really is a cunt.

Nobody is really a cunt. Regardless of what you might have seen in some dusty bestiary depicting the inhabitants of mysterious faraway isles, there are no bipedal cunts walking around carrying things in their prehensile labia.
posted by CKmtl at 7:31 PM on March 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Not only is it among the worst words in the US, it's just in a different ballpark... which may be why it's hard for some people to grasp how offensive some might find it.

To illustrate: my group of college friends is not at all uptight, conservative, or PC. One night one of the guys used the c-word and another friend (he wasn't referring to her) slapped him in the face.

An overreaction, but not that over-the-top. It's just really something you don't want to throw out there, ever, pretty much.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:32 PM on March 24, 2010


the word cunt is more or less like the word spic or kike; you'd never say it in polite company and you'd never say it without really trying to say something nasty about the person you were referring

He was specifically refering to Coulter. The application of the epiphet was exactly correct.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on March 24, 2010


It's not okay even if it's Coulter. Guess who I have to clean up the "she should be raped to death" comments about? It's NOT OKAY.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:33 PM on March 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


ut, I have to say it's troublesome that it's automatically discounted like that, as being the voice of the oppressor, so it be avoided at all costs. Men, use it much more and with greater effect on each other. Also as one of Carlin's "seven words," it seems excessive that it be completely off the table without question.

what are you talking about? maybe the typos are muddling what you're trying to say, but you seem to be saying that men use it a lot so it should be ok on the site? or something? "greater effect?" what?

also, let's not drag carlin into every discussion of language on the site. george carlin is not the white knight of anti-censorship or whatever that will come to rescue you from having to be considerate of other people's feelings on the internet. you are free, however, to use whatever word you want when you perform stand up comedy. another of his 7 words was "cocksucker" and I've used it here in anger, had someone tell me that's not cool and apologized for it. it's not censorship, or eliminating the word for decorum's sake. it's just a really loaded term in the context we're talking about, with vile connotations and sexist history and baggage. find another word.
posted by shmegegge at 7:33 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


He was specifically refering to Coulter. The application of the epiphet was exactly correct.

No, it's actually like kike or spic in that using it not only denigrates the person you're talking about, but by association everyone who is like them. That's how it's more like a slur than just a bad word.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:33 PM on March 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's so loaded, and so easy to avoid. There are so many other choices of things to say. It has such a history of being used by more powerful people to take women down a peg by reducing them to their genitalia. Sure there are some contexts and some understandings among people and some personal stances in which it can be used without objection, but MeFi really isn't one of those places. A lot of us might use the word in our personal lives, but things seem to go better when we don't have to encounter it, and the baggage it may or may not be carrying, here.
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, now you're just being a dick.

nah, I'm just playing around. sorry if it bothered you. but for real, cunt is also emasculating, at least in the US. see: that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
posted by shmegegge at 7:34 PM on March 24, 2010

Perhaps in certain more youthful circles than those I travel in it might be fairly mild, but to most of us it's the worst word there is and isn't to be bandied around lightly. I personally hardly ever say it (except when talking about female Alaskan politicians, at least one former US president and 2 British Prime Ministers, of course).
I hear this a lot from British people, and I actually don't think it's right. In Britain, it's very rude and coarse and people don't often say it. In America, it's not just rude and coarse: it's generally used as hate speech. I assume that a British man who uses it is rude and coarse, which may or may not be a problem as far as I'm concerned. When an American man uses it, I assume there's a pretty good chance he really hates women.
posted by craichead at 7:34 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sorry, it was Palin. Seems a bit strong, then, yah. Coulter should know better. Palin is just plain pig-ignorant.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on March 24, 2010


cortex is out eating dinner, but he's actually the one who deleted your comment, but I happen to be the one who is around at the moment.
posted by jessamyn at 10:29 PM on March 24 [+] [!]


Thanks!
posted by Skygazer at 7:37 PM on March 24, 2010


Our gender studies prof is wondering if everyone is going to turn in their papers-- she knows that Bill Clinton just got elected and things are new and exciting, but reminds us that our educations come first.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


but for real, cunt is also emasculating, at least in the US. see: that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Huh. I guess Canadian really is a different language.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2010


Another quick note: the fact that some men might use the word against other men doesn't make it not a putdown, not hurtful, and not denigrating to women. In fact, it is denigrating in part because it likens the men to women using an extremely demeaning term for women, who are, in that construction, obviously assumed to be worthless.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


People like Palin and Coulter FEED on being attacked. It is their bread and butter, the source of their life force. Profane ad hominem attacks are like caviar --- nay --- like heavenly ambrosia to them and their careers. Even if it were acceptable to verbally degrade them, it is unconscionable, because it supports them, puts wind in their wings.

Like mold to sun, the only way to rid ourselves of them is persistent, unflappable politeness, charm, and class. That brand of rhetoric withers and dies in the face of intelligent self-control.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


It is common knowledge that it is not the acceptable Standard to refer to a woman as a term for a woman's genitalia (cunt, pussy, etc.).

It is common knowledge that it is the acceptable Standard to refer to a man as a term for a man's genitalia (dick, cock, etc.).

So these rules comprise not just one Standard, but actually two times one Standard. Someone should coin a phrase to describe such a perplexing situation.
posted by flarbuse at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


also wanted to add to the linguistic survey - as a resident of the NE USA, I have never heard "cunt" applied to a man, only as a particularly vicious insult for women.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:42 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the book "Cunt" has it right. I think it's a great, lucious sound of a word. Full of musky potential. Too good to waste on an expletive.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


So these rules comprise not just one Standard, but actually two times one Standard. Someone should coin a phrase to describe such a perplexing situation.

this is the baggage of being the privileged oppressor for millenia, dude. when a people spend countless generations using language to subjugate women, language becomes a pretty important part of correcting that subjugation. I'm not a fan of the word "dick" either, but it's not a hill I'll die on just yet because no one has sat around an office refusing to hire me, promote me or give me a raise because I'm a man and using the word "dick" to drive the point home.
posted by shmegegge at 7:48 PM on March 24, 2010 [29 favorites]


John Lithgow says it
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 7:48 PM on March 24, 2010


I've never quite understood the super negative reaction my fellow USians have to that word (versus other words that may, in various contexts, have the same connotation), but I recognize that it IS super offensive to the majority of people here so I avoid it. Unless we're pretending to be British gangsters who say "fookin coont" all the time. Then it's ok.

As an aside, a good all-purpose expletive was created by my friend Leila: "shitcock bitchfucker." I mention Leila by name because she's very proud of it, and has insisted that she be given credit wherever possible. She is also very insistent about the placing of the space. "Shitcock" is a single word that modifies the word "bitchfucker." It should always be used like this.

Never use it for evil.
posted by brundlefly at 7:49 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can't refrain from using the "C-word", then you must be a real twat. Twat.
posted by ColdChef at 7:49 PM on March 24, 2010


Someone should coin a phrase to describe such a perplexing situation.

Patriarchy?

I know it's weird huh? I mean the two genders are otherwise equal and have been treated equally throughout all of history.

I mean both cortex and I get email threatening to "spank" us when users are mad at us, right? And people comment on cortex's hair every time he puts a video up on YouTube, right? And he gets mail from people talking about strip searches, with SASEs from people just curious about what he thinks, right? Because men and women have always been treated similarly, on the basis of their abilities and their ideas, not on their gender, right?

Language is the least of my problems, honestly. It's just one of the ones that's easiest to attempt to repair.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 PM on March 24, 2010 [114 favorites]


Or was your question rhetorical?

Absolutely not.

the feedback that we've gotten from people over the past half-decade or so is that there is a large contingent of people for whom the word cunt is more or less like the word spic or kike; you'd never say it in polite company and you'd never say it without really trying to say something nasty about the person you were referring to [as opposed to, say, nigger which has a bunch of hip-hop connotations or even fag which has been reclaimed somewhat, cunt has more or less not been reclaimed except by maybe a few individual people on the site]. On the scale of "shitty things you can say to a woman" it tops the list

I get that--it comes down to a sort of majority rule. That's not at all unreasonable. Thanks.

We make an effort to have this site not seem exclusionary, clubby or cliquish and we've made great strides in the past several years having the place not seem like a boyzone while at the same time trying to be a place where both men and women, gay and straight and in-between, feel comfortable discussing tricky issues without people casually dismissing them.

This is a very good reason and a direction I couldn't support more wholeheartedly. But then what about "retard" and "gay"? (Or, again, "spaz" or "spastic"? And if "pussy" is off the table, how about "wuss"?) I'm not seeing a substantive difference here other than the regional swear-word pecking order. Now that pecking order may be enough, but the anti-boyzone rationale is a little muddled.

Reeaaaallly not trying to stir shit up or be a jerk. Just trying to help hash this out a little, honest.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:50 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate that word. I can think of about two I hate more.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:50 PM on March 24, 2010


shmegegge: , but you seem to be saying that men use it a lot so it should be ok on the site? or something? "greater effect?" what?

I thought I was writing English...any other language that might be better for you?

The word is used by men against each other all the time perhaps that might be my impression from watching lots of Brit films or whatever, so therefore I don't see it as specifically sexist or denigrating, if it's used against a woman.

Once men use it on each other, it would seem to me the "don't ever use it, it's sexist and oppressive" goes out the window, English isn't my first language, but I've been speaking it 90% of my lifetime so I'm willing to concede I may not be understanding that right.

How about the Brits out there? Is as okay to use that word with women as it is with men?
posted by Skygazer at 7:50 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


here ya go hinkandenza
posted by lester at 7:53 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


But then what about "retard" and "gay"?

the first i can't be sure of, but i know the second one has been discussed. i'm not sure if it's an immediate deletion, but i know it's heavily frowned upon.


Once men use it on each other, it would seem to me the "don't ever use it, it's sexist and oppressive" goes out the window

i could almost get on board with this if the word in question wasn't slag for female genitalia. but, ya know, it is. so, to use female genitalia, literally a representation of the thing that makes her different, and then to use it as an insult - as i said way, way up thread - either it's used to malign women, or it's used to liken a man unto a woman negatively, thus maligning women in the process.
posted by nadawi at 7:54 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


slag=slang, but in the context, slag works just as well, i suppose.
posted by nadawi at 7:55 PM on March 24, 2010


Also, 'dick' is just a much weaker insult in the US than 'cunt' is.
It's not a word I use, as I said above, but I think that given US norms of language as I understand them, you could use it in most company and not offend anyone, whereas using 'cunt' is going to be pretty heavy-duty offensive in the same company.

(Maybe an equivalent-force word to 'dick' would be 'douche'? Although I'm tired as hell of that one too, so don't use it. But it is a weaker, vulgar but not horribly offensive, word.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2010


I thought I was writing English...any other language that might be better for you?

oh for fuck's sake. I'm responding to you in good faith, dude. there's not a whole lot of reason to get all attacky about it.

anyway:

Once men use it on each other, it would seem to me the "don't ever use it, it's sexist and oppressive" goes out the window, English isn't my first language, but I've been speaking it 90% of my lifetime so I'm willing to concede I may not be understanding that right.

the idea is that men using it on each other, offensively, are insulting each other by saying "you are like a woman, and that is bad." the implication that woman=bad is the problem with calling someone a cunt. it's not just "it's an insult when you call a woman that," though that is part of it. it's also the implication.
posted by shmegegge at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: Don't do that. It's low class and brings the argument against her down to a level where she's comfortable. There are any number of line of argument to attack Sarah Palin with, strive for the high road. Respect her as a human being.

Even if her intelligence is ludicrous and her ambition and irresponsibility is repellent? Also, how is that different from a caricature, which of course is how I intended it?
posted by Skygazer at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2010

The word is used by men against each other all the time perhaps that might be my impression from watching lots of Brit films or whatever, so therefore I don't see it as specifically sexist or denigrating, if it's used against a woman.
That will be really relevant when you find yourself living in a British film. But your profile says you live in Brooklyn, and in the U.S., it's a word that has some pretty nasty misogynistic connotations. It's up to you whether you care or not, but you should realize that if you use it about any woman, a lot of people are going to get the impression that you've got some issues with women.
posted by craichead at 7:57 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sexist and oppressive language should definitely not be okay here. I'm 100% on board with that. I'm also 100% on board with the fact that "honky" or "dick" aren't the same as the n-word and the c-word--all things are not equal and words don't exist apart from history and social context. But outlawing the words themselves does little to solve that problem, imo.

Note that I'm not at all against outlawing the use in question ("Sarah Palin is a c-word") since it's obviously gender-based and carries at least implied sexism. But isn't that sexism the issue, not the word? Can't the use of the word be the determining factor or is it really so loaded and taboo that the association is unbreakable?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2010


Consensus here was that retard isn't okay either. Obviously, I don't like seeing it used as an epithet.
posted by rtha at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, come, surely "gay" is not a word that's reason for deletion.

Really, what matters most is not the word, but the intent. Saying you have a gay friend is fine. Saying you are going to curb a gay is not.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 PM on March 24, 2010


"Douche" should be in this discussion as well. It seems to have gained currency in the US as an okay insult, but it carries deeply misogynist implications.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:01 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't the use of the word be the determining factor or is it really so loaded and taboo that the association is unbreakable?

The site's gotten so large that you can't really depend on people to get your meaning if you're using really loaded epithets in ironic ways. Calling Sarah Palin a cunt, at a quick glance to me, says that you think Sarah Palin is so totally worthless and bad and female that you think she should be the target of sexual violence of some sort.

I mean, it's not that exactly, but it's the same sort of throwaway line and most women I know who have heard people say this to them have heard it in this sort of context. So, yeah, it's too bad that the word can't somehow magically be divorced from the fact that it's been used by centuries worth of rapists, harassers and other people with issues with women, but if that will happen it won't happen quickly and it hasn't happened yet.

This is just my issue with it vis-a-vis MetaFilter. I have different responses and reactions if people use it in real life around me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Patriarchy?

I know it's weird huh? I mean the two genders are otherwise equal and have been treated equally throughout all of history.

I mean both cortex and I get email threatening to "spank" us when users are mad at us, right? And people comment on cortex's hair every time he puts a video up on YouTube, right? And he gets mail from people talking about strip searches, with SASEs from people just curious about what he thinks, right? Because men and women have always been treated similarly, on the basis of their abilities and their ideas, not on their gender, right?

Language is the least of my problems, honestly. It's just one of the ones that's easiest to attempt to repair.


Words have only the power we give them. I can't think of a way to make a word more powerful than to ban it.

What is so magical about shit that we can't say it, but we can say feces? They are synonyms. What about penis and cock? They have the same meaning. They are just different sounds.

You seem to be focusing on the non-genitalia meaning of cunt. You seem to be suggesting that it is a word that carries with it connotations of sexism at its worst. Okay. Would you ban a comment that read, "I think that men are stronger mentally and physically then women. I think that women are too emotional to be allowed to vote. I think that until women are the one's winning wars, they ought not get to choose to do with their bodies what they want." I suspect you would not ban the user or delete the quote. Rather, people would be alerted to some opinions that are rather irrational and would be free to ignore or refute such proclamations. But if someone uses the word "cunt," apparently you don't think people can ignore or rebuke someone for using the word in that context.

Again, words have only the power we allow them to have. I see no need to give this word anymore power than it already has.
posted by flarbuse at 8:06 PM on March 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


People really don't understand what's wrong with using a gendered insult to dismiss a woman? Dismiss her for her actual failings, not her genitalia. This isn't rocket science.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:06 PM on March 24, 2010 [20 favorites]


"Douche" should be in this discussion as well. It seems to have gained currency in the US as an okay insult, but it carries deeply misogynist implications.

No, because douches are an outdated and bad for you. Everyone can get behind hate for them!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:07 PM on March 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


Again, words have only the power we allow them to have. I see no need to give this word anymore power than it already has.

Then you should have no trouble with using other, better, more accurate and appropriate words.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


Still waiting to hear why words beginning with a C are insta-deleted, while words beginning with N needn't be.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


But then what about "retard" and "gay"? (Or, again, "spaz" or "spastic"? And if "pussy" is off the table, how about "wuss"?)

We've discussed both 'retard' and 'gay' here, and they're no-gos for the obvious reasons. Frowned on and sometimes (usually?) deleted. There are other Meta threads on this if you want to explore them. The connotation of these to me is usually, I'm trying to be ironic and I don't care if I hurt people's feelings in my quest. There are better choices to make here to convey disdain.

'Wuss' is fine, to my ear - it carries no connotation of insulting woman or gay men. I tend to use "wimp" or "wimpy" in that context, which I think has been stripped of any association like that over time.

'Pussy' is not ok for company that's not your close friends, since it does carry that denigrating connotation; though to my ear it has a toehold at the playground insult level, which cunt does NOT. I could read someone calling someone else a pussy and think 'well, he's trying to be ironic and doesn't realize quite how shitty that sounds', but if someone calls someone a cunt, I usually think 'he's not being ironic and he knows exactly how shitty that sounds'.

'Spaz' and 'spastic' just aren't things I ever hear people say. People said 'spaz' when I was a kid, but only as a synonym for 'hyper'. I don't think I've ever heard 'spastic' used as a term for epilepsy except in UK sources; it's not a word I hear in the US at all.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, that's awesome for you, flarbuse. But that still doesn't mean you can use it on Metafilter.

As to douche/douchebag: I've never seen it as misogynist, because a douche is something that is harmful and unnecessary. It's something that women were told we needed, because we are dirty and smell. So calling someone a douche is saying that they are harmful, unnecessary, and/or lying.
posted by rtha at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Also, 'dick' is just a much weaker insult in the US than 'cunt' is."

actually prick would be a better word to compare to cunt then dick.
posted by lester at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2010


When is it not okay?

The grade-A number one time when it's not okay is when it's being used as an epithet against a woman. We haven't banned the word from the site, but it's one of the very most tricky ones to use in an okay way here and is a lot more likely to be problematic and hence get a comment deleted than most other things.

It's a very complicated word, and like with most epithets there's no satisfyingly clinical, rational explanation for why it's problematic; the history of its use and its continued place in, particularly, US culture makes it an extremely poor choice of insult in any conversation that is not explicitly aiming for some kind of misogynistic frisson.

This is something some folks are more aware of than others, and as its not etched in stone any more than any other usage issue it's something that folks are bound to disagree with to some degree on a case-by-case basis; but in a context where the role of the word is to convey that Woman X Is Awful, it's really pretty much not okay. There's no "but he's really One Of Those" excuse for calling someone a kike or a nigger, either. That we can talk about the word and how it is used sometimes in a civil fashion does not mean it's okay to hurl it at someone around here. That someone is an awful person does not make it okay either.

And the word has it's own very specific baggage and history that's not really reducible to "man parts = okay, woman parts = forbidden", so it would be nice not to have to go through yet another round of implications that social justice requires that it be okay to call a woman a cunt. Life and language are not that cut-and-dried.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:10 PM on March 24, 2010 [22 favorites]


I have a feeling more men proudly self-apply "prick" than women do "cunt."

Hey, Larry, so I'm a bit of a prick, but you always know where you stand with me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:11 PM on March 24, 2010


But then what about ... "gay"?

I'm pretty confident that if anyone were to drop a middleschool-ish "that's/he's so gay" comment, they'd be laughed off the site quicker than their comment could be deleted.
posted by CKmtl at 8:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brundlefly: Shitcock bitchfucker

That certainly has possibility: Shitcock Bitchfucker*


© 2010 Laila (Brundlefly's friend). All RIghts Reserved.
posted by Skygazer at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2010


I feel sorry for the mods right now, with the double threads. Dear Mods: I regret any dickish behavior I had in the past and I hope the rest of the evening is all candy canes and handjobs cause damn.
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's kind of funny that cunt and other words for female genitalia are used to connote weakness, and "he's got balls" means someone is brave and strong, considering that people frequently shove entire human beings out of the former with no ill effects, while a simple light punch to the latter will result in screaming and curling up on the ground in complete debilitation.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 8:33 PM on March 24, 2010 [55 favorites]


Words have only the power we give them. I can't think of a way to make a word more powerful than to ban it.

I wholeheartedly agree.

There are several Bad Words mentioned specifically in this thread that are in the flux stage of becoming dissociated from the Bad Old Days Definition. "Retard" is one of them, and apparently "douche" is another (I thought that ship had sailed long ago.)

It seems that "cunt" has not achieved the same stage of death as other Bad Words. Which I think is a crying shame, because I think it should be worshipped.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, I don't want to seem out of line here, but could someone post a link to a picture of a cunt? I just want to see what it looks like, is all.
posted by hincandenza at 7:26 PM on March 24


Here you go.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:40 PM on March 24, 2010


a simple light punch to the latter will result in screaming and curling up on the ground in complete debilitation

Which is why "he's got balls" works: s/he's got the bravery-stupidity to do [that thing] despite the risk of excruciating, life-changing, agonizing consequences.

I can't think of any other body part that implies the same vulnerability and mortal consequence. Snap your Achilles Heel and you're not gonna win the race — but break your balls, and you ain't gonna have any progeny. There's little else of comparable circumstance on the average body.

I wonder why the strongest epithets are associated with genitalia and procreation. To me, it'd make more sense for shit to be The Ultimate Bad.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2010


Bitch is another loaded word that carries a huge load of gendered inequality and I don't see how anyone can claim that 'bitchfucker' is in any way neutral or 'okay' to use.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's just a lump of flesh at that point, mr gorilla. it's what you put into 'em after they come out that turns them into human beings ... like teaching them not call women cunts.
posted by lester at 8:44 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're all asshats cause they ware thier ass as a hat.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 PM on March 24, 2010


Ms. Gorilla. And I mean, I think they can be called human beings once they're out and breathing, but my point was just basically to consider the size of the things.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 8:48 PM on March 24, 2010


I never liked FUCK YOU. Fucking is nice. I like it. Seems odd to shout it at someone you dislike. maybe UN-FUCK YOU. You get a fuck taken back. ERASED. That's much worse.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


actually prick would be a better word to compare to cunt then dick.

To my ear, 'prick' and 'dick' are very similar in their level of intensity/offense/how vulgar they are. With either one, I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone say 'he's kind of a dick'/'he's kind of a prick' in somewhat mixed company. Do you really think 'prick' is a nuclear-grade insult the way 'cunt' is? (I'm thinking about US usage here)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 PM on March 24, 2010


I like go fuck yourself because it's sorta like the modern GOOD DAY, SIR. You don't really want them to go masturbate enjoyably, you just want them to go away and you're trying to be nice about it! :) :)

I don't like "dick" either as an insult because I am such a fan of them :) :)

Also calling people cunts is silly as an insult because it makes you look creepy and also cunts are nice :) I am a fan of them too :) :)

Liz Phair can say it in that one song. She gets grandmothered in.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:58 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think a "dick" is just a silly annoying man, whereas a "prick" is not an silly man, cos he's an "asshole."
posted by Skygazer at 8:59 PM on March 24, 2010


Gods, there's nothing like a geek to deliver a plate of beans. Good on you, St.9.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:00 PM on March 24, 2010


maybe we should borrow from the labor movement. You sir or madam, are a dirty scab.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is, in fact, entirely the wrong thread in which to post that. I shall now slam the rest of my drink and *STOP* both drinking and posting. You are welcome in advance.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:01 PM on March 24, 2010


Cunt and cocksucker are two epithets that totally mystify me, given that I hold both subjects in such high esteem. I mean I understand why people are offended by them now - I understand the historical baggage. I just can't understand how they ever came to be used as epithets in the first place. If I had been raised by wolves, just now learning your ways, I would assume that cunt and cocksucker were honorifics, bestowed on royalty, elected officials, or pagent winners. They would have their own stars on Cuntway and Cocksucker Avenue. Disney would have an entire line of movies and toys devoted to Cunts and Cocksuckers. This would be my assumption. Of course, if I had been raised by wolves, I'd also probably be prone to sniffing people's assholes as a simple greeting, so the occasional inappropriate epithet would undoubtedly be the least of my crimes.

In the meantime, I avoid using the terms because I understand that while the subjects of my ire probably couldn't give a shit what I call them, most others exposed to my diatribes are almost guaranteed to be offended. Which kind of defeats the entire purpose of trying to prove how much better I am than the subjects of my ire. Who are, almost certainly, poopyheads.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:02 PM on March 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think a "dick" is just a silly annoying man

What about the newly-popular "that's a dick move"? Isn't a 'dick move' something that would be done by an asshole, not just someone who's silly?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:03 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of my best friends are cocksuckers.
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 PM on March 24, 2010


I am not sure that I have ever heard anyone other than Al Swearengen call anyone a cocksucker.
posted by craichead at 9:09 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regarding the word "douche" as an aruagably sexist insult, I thought clavicle said it well:
... I was initially troubled by the douchebag resurgence (hurf) too, but at least among my feminist-leaning social network, I believe it's been reclaimed as a feminist insult. When I call a guy a douchebag, douchelord, or douchenozzle, I'm saying he is dumb, bad for women, does not do what he is supposed to, and (especially) not going anywhere near my vagina.
posted by juliplease at 9:13 PM on March 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


If you're OK with calling men dicks or pricks, you should be totally OK with calling women cunts.

Except Sarah Palin isn't a woman. She's more like a fembot.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:13 PM on March 24, 2010


lobsterhands, i don't consider cunt to be nuclear. but in thinking about it, i realized that a lot of male slang (cock, dick, prick, etc) all could be used in other ways, but not so much the c-word. so maybe that adds a kiloton or two.

but then again, the word is actually useful because it's so strong. had skygazer said 'bitch' it would have been a notch lower. but he felt passionate to upgrade his language.

it was certainly rude to ms. palin, and to some of the readers here who are offended by such language, but then he's an adult, and paid his $5 just like the rest of us. There's no promise that your senses aren't going to be offended when you log on to this site, either. we practice free speech around here. just because it's free doesn't mean it always smells good.
posted by lester at 9:16 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm getting pretty tired of the nannying that is MeFi. I call people cunts, they call me a cunt. Women I know call each other cunts. Some of them live in North America. The meaning of it is highly inflection-dependent. "You silly cunt" is said differently from "He's a complete cunt". None of us are hipsters. And whoever it was who said someone had slapped someone for using it upthread really needs to have his/her friends get out more.
posted by unSane at 9:16 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


People use curse words and foul language because they feel insecure and wish to project power they feel they don't actually possess.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:17 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


lester: "we practice free speech around here. "

not really

also if we were being nannyed (nannied?) there would be a lot more snacks and a lot more time outs but they would be really short. And jessamyn and cortex would play candyland with us and help us put our shoes on.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:20 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


the more I think about it the more that sounds like a really good website
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


And whoever it was who said someone had slapped someone for using it upthread really needs to have his/her friends get out more.

That was me, actually. Thanks for the judgment, guy, but I'm pretty cool with my friends not calling one another cunts.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Words have only the power we give them. I can't think of a way to make a word more powerful than to ban it.

Self-linking and linking to hates sites is also not okay here. It's not a free-for-all. It's a site that has rules, not many, and Very Strong Suggestions, a few more of those.

Call people cunts all you like. But not on metafilter. If that's you're biggest problem, then maybe you need to get out more, too.
posted by rtha at 9:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


i said practice. didn't mean we always get it right.
posted by lester at 9:22 PM on March 24, 2010


If your woman likes it when you talk dirty to her during sex I think it's an OK word to use, otherwise no. This is not a word that is used in my house under any circumstances. It's very misogynistic, in my opinion.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:22 PM on March 24, 2010


but then again, the word is actually useful because it's so strong. had skygazer said 'bitch' it would have been a notch lower. but he felt passionate to upgrade his language.


The same reasoning would mean it's okey-doke to use 'kike', 'spic', etc if you really feel passionate and want to insult someone. But, well, if you do that people will think you're ACTUALLY really racist -- because in the world many of us live in, some words are reserved for the racists and the misogynists. Using those words has predictable results. It offends people. It drives people away. Metafilter has had a lot of long discussions over the last few years about how offending people and driving them away, for the sake of being able to make rape jokes or keep using a few contested terms, isn't worth it.

I can "upgrade my language" to a point where it will peel paint right off you (assuming that you have paint on you). That won't mean I'm making my point better, it will mean I'm being pointlessly offensive.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:29 PM on March 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you're OK with calling men dicks or pricks, you should be totally OK with calling women cunts.

In some magical, simple world where things just work like that because symmetry is law, sure. In the real world, it's not nearly that simple, and pretending otherwise only leads to extra hurt where there doesn't need to be any.

I call people cunts, they call me a cunt. Women I know call each other cunts. Some of them live in North America.

Good for you and good for them. It is still a deeply offensive term to a whole lot of people. See above re: pretending otherwise. This is not actually a lot to ask. If you desperately need a line in the sand to be able to cross, have at it, but don't expect to be treated like a crusader for freedom or any goddam thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:30 PM on March 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


Christ on a crutch: your. Not you're.
posted by rtha at 9:31 PM on March 24, 2010


If I had been raised by wolves, just now learning your ways, I would assume that cunt and cocksucker were honorifics, bestowed on royalty, elected officials, or pagent winners.

So in your world, Palin is 2 out 3 for that honor...
posted by 445supermag at 9:33 PM on March 24, 2010




also wanted to add to the linguistic survey - as a resident of the NE USA, I have never heard "cunt" applied to a man, only as a particularly vicious insult for women.

I've heard young (early 20's) gay men in NYC say it to each other, and to women. I've always felt it was a sign of severe immaturity.
posted by zarq at 9:42 PM on March 24, 2010


If your woman likes it when you talk dirty to her during sex I think it's an OK word to use, otherwise no. This is not a word that is used in my house under any circumstances. It's very misogynistic, in my opinion.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:22 AM on March 25 [+] [!]


I would never use it with a woman I liked, let alone loved. Honestly I wouldn't even use it with a woman I hated. Directly or not.

But the loathing Palin inspires, has nothing to do with her sexuality and everything to do with her dangerous and frightening manipulative predatory narcissism.

That to me is worthy of the doomsday word, and there's only one word I know with that firepower..
posted by Skygazer at 9:44 PM on March 24, 2010


If I had been raised by wolves, just now learning your ways, I would assume that cunt and cocksucker were honorifics, bestowed on royalty, elected officials, or pagent winners.

So in your world, Palin is 2 out 3 for that honor...


In my world, Palin shot my mother from a helicopter before I was ever born, so it's a moot point.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:44 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's funny about cocksucker, at least in the sense of obsequiousness, is its 'tame' substitutes: ass-kisser, brown-noser, etc. Why is fellatio so taboo in everyday conversation while rimming gets a free pass?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:45 PM on March 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


also if we were being nannyed (nannied?) there would be a lot more snacks and a lot more time outs but they would be really short. And jessamyn and cortex would play candyland with us and help us put our shoes on.

I could go for regular mid-afternoon naps... Oooh, and play time in the park.

At this point, I'd just like to be able to sleep through a night without hearing "Dada? Mommy? Hello? Good morning?" from two little ones during the wee hours of the morning. :P
posted by zarq at 9:45 PM on March 24, 2010


But the loathing Palin inspires, has nothing to do with her sexuality and everything to do with her dangerous and frightening manipulative predatory narcissism.

That to me is worthy of the doomsday word, and there's only one word I know with that firepower..


Interesting that you use the phrase "doomsday word". Because like a doomsday device, it doesn't just attack its target, Palin, it hurts everyone. So if you're okay with attacking all the women in your life, go ahead and try to use it. But don't be surprised when someone tries to stop you setting off a doomsday device in your space.

(Gonna stop before I drag this metaphor out even more...)
posted by shaun uh at 9:50 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Errr, their space. Not your space. Blow your space all to hell, I don't think anyone cares.
posted by shaun uh at 9:52 PM on March 24, 2010


I really don't understand, Skygazer. If Palin's faults have nothing to do with her sexuality, why use a gendered insult? Unless you're trying to say she's dangerous, frightening, manipulative and predatory because she's a woman. Otherwise those descriptions would stand on their own, and there would be no need to bring 'cunt' into the conversation.

...especially since so many in this community have said they find it sexist and offensive.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:54 PM on March 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Still waiting to hear why words beginning with a C are insta-deleted, while words beginning with N needn't be.

paisley henosis, I've noticed that too, but I think I can explain why you might have seen an uptick in the use of "nigger" rather than "the n-word" or "n***er", and it's related to this comment in the "Bitter tea" thread, as well as this followup with a quote from Louis CK:
To me, the thing that offends me the most is every time that I hear the n-word. Not "nigger," by the way -- I mean "the n-word." Literally, whenever a white lady on CNN with nice hair says "the n-word"? That's just white people getting away with saying "nigger," that's all that is. They found a way to say "nigger": "n-word!" It's bullshit 'cause when you say "the n-word" you put the word "nigger" in the listener's head. That's what saying a word is. You say "the n-word" and I go, "Oh, she means 'nigger'" -- you're makin' me say it, in my head! Why don't you fuckin' say it instead and take responsibility for the shitty words you wanna say?
posted by jokeefe at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


By the way everyone, face slapping can easily physically injure someone. If you want to register your disgust safely, and you are disease-free, I guess you could spit on them.

Either way is not very nice and I don't recommend. But I don't recommend face slapping more.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:56 PM on March 24, 2010


This thread is kind of hilarious. We're all aware that the word has different meanings in different countries, and even some differences within those countries. Yet, knowing that, we keep trying to convince people from other countries that our definition is right.

How about this- in the US, it's generally NOT OKAY because using a term for female genitalia to describe someone you don't like is insinuating that there's something wrong or weak or bad about women. Elsewhere, the term has NOTHING TO DO with female genitalia, which is why my mechanic can say 'can you hold that cunt for me' referring to a spanner, and the general manager of my company can come into a meeting and say 'look sharp, ya pack of cunts'.

Since we're on Metafilter and sharing a common space here, however, we try to understand that people have different ways of interpreting our language, and should adjust our language accordingly. I think 'cunt' is a spectacular word, when used properly, but I don't use it here because there are plenty of alternatives that do the job without ending in MeTa threads.

tl;dr: The c-bomb is fine, but on Metafilter there are just some things you cunt say.
posted by twirlypen at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Still waiting to hear why words beginning with a C are insta-deleted, while words beginning with N needn't be.

If someone dropped a "so and so is a fucking nigger" comment, that would be deleted posthaste, have no doubt. The fact is, folks around here don't seem to pretty much ever decide that that's an okay thing to say, so it doesn't really come up.

What folks do do sometimes around here is (a) talk about other people's use of fraught language, which is always tricky territory but fundamentally okay to do in good faith and good sense, and (b) mock/parody/subvert actual problematic use of such language, which honestly I think often is more shitty and less effective than it is intended to be and sometimes verges into no-thanks-we'll-delete-that territory.

For whatever complicated set of reasons, "cunt" is one of those words where folks sometimes choose to use it in a way there they wouldn't use any of the handful of similarly heavy-hitting pejoratives folks have brought up. And so we have conversations like this every once in a while, on what I can only hope will be a decreasingly frequent basis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:08 PM on March 24, 2010


How about the Brits out there? Is as okay to use that word with women as it is with men?

Just a data point (and to counter a couple of Brits upthread), the word is clearly not taken to be as offensive in the UK as in the US, in general. Also, growing up in scotland, I have honestly never heard it used with special effect towards women. It is used all the time, and mostly towards men (with no suggestion of emasculating them).

It's genuinely interesting to hear that in the US it is in the same class as racial slurs. And I'm happy for the ground rules in Metafilter to prohibit its use. But I think a few people here have been unfair in refusing to accept that the word might be used in a different context to the US. Honestly, in the UK, or at least large parts of the UK, it is neither used nor interpreted like that.
posted by theyexpectresults at 10:09 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're a lefty and you're using that word, and especially if you're using that word about a woman, you're a pretty shitty lefty.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:12 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The subjective history of the word from a New Zealander's perspective : Evil women were 'bitches' and evil men were 'bastards'. Then 'bastard' changed its meaning and came to have a positive, even admirable, slant. A new word was called into service, evil men became "cunts". If it is used on women, then it is misogynistic and ironically makes you a bit of a cunt. Weird and confusing. I agree with Metafilter's policy in avoiding such confusion.
posted by meech at 10:12 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah bollocks, third to last sentence was meant to read:

If the term is applied to women [and you are male], then it is misogynistic and ironically makes you a bit of a cunt
posted by meech at 10:15 PM on March 24, 2010


Third time I've posted this routine in a week, but hey, the topic keeps coming up:
There are a lot of words that are... they're not bad words, no words are bad, but some people start using 'em a lot to hurt other people, and then they become bad, they become hard to use. There's words that I love that I can't use 'cause other people use 'em wrong, to hurt other people.

Like the word "cunt" is... a beautiful word. To me, there's just beauty in that word, and I don't... I mean aesthetically. It's like chocolatey and round on the ends. I just like the... "cunt"... I just like the way it sounds.

And I don't use it as an insult. I'm alone in the laundry and I'm like "Cunt cunt!" I just like sayin' it!

I would never call a woman a cunt (except for my mom 'cause she likes it for some weird reason). But... it's a very misused word.

It's supposed to mean "vagina," which I don't think works at all, because vaginas are so sweet! They're little pretty things with little flower petal-y lips and... I hear a piccolo in my head every time I see a vagina.

Even "vagina" is too harsh, they should be called like a "falalalalala... haaaaaaa..." There should be a butterfly fluttering around every vagina all the time, just all the time, a little butterfly. When you go to the doctor he's like, "Well, the butterfly looks good, so we're in good shape. Good color to the butterfly..."

How do you look at something that pretty and say, "That's a cunt!" That doesn't fit at all. Maybe if it was a giant vagina and it was attacking a town and throwin' buses around and knockin' over telephone poles. Then you could say, "Hey, somebody shoot that cunt with a bazooka! It's gonna step on the candy store!"
posted by Rhaomi at 10:17 PM on March 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Seriously? My female friends and I (a female) use it as a term of endearment for each other, often with a fun signifier. Longtime favorite: Maladjusted cunt. Sometimes: Cunty McTwatterface. Recent: Cunt wind.

Phone conversations often go like this:
*Ring*
Me: Cuntbucket!
Friend: Bastardhats!
Me: I miss you, you asstard!
Friend: I miss you too, bitchtitties!
Me: What the fuck are you up to?
Friend: Oh you know, dickin' around, listening to a This American Life podcast and getting ready to go to the farmers' market...

And so on and so on.
posted by greta simone at 10:21 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty: If you're a lefty and you're using that word, and especially if you're using that word about a woman, you're a pretty shitty lefty.

That's perhaps the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

And I'm as lefty, a cunt as you'll ever meet.
posted by Skygazer at 10:24 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


um, no offense etc...
posted by Skygazer at 10:25 PM on March 24, 2010


We can still say "bucket of cocks," right? Bc if not well, that wouldn't be cool.
posted by nevercalm at 10:28 PM on March 24, 2010


Words have only the power we give them. I can't think of a way to make a word more powerful than to ban it.

Oh, I can think of a few ways.... like if you say "niggers aren't really people" and then backing it up by actually selling them as property, depriving them of basic human rights, and hanging them from trees when they try and refute your hypothesis. Repeat this for a few hundred years.

I'm supposed to "reclaim" that just cause some white guy doesn't like "rules"?

Let's call a woman a cunt for doing things that men are praised for, and then use that as justification for keeping them as second class citizens for pretty much all of recorded history.

We can really erase all that with a little semantic trickery?

If you really want to get into the whole topic of reclaiming words, let's look at the N-word again. It's often stated as fact that it's "ok" when black people use it, because of reclamation, and in-group privilege. This is not as true as it's held up to be. Put simply, Jay-Z may use the word 100 times on his latest album, but I'll bet you a crisp hundred dollar bill he doesn't talk that way when Oprah's in the room. Or his mom, or really any Black person older than him, or any White person, unless a camera is rolling. Because he knows it's offensive. If it wasn't offensive, it wouldn't make him sound like a badass. And it's really important for young (and not so young) Black men to come off as being badasses all the time.

It's important, and pathological, and dysfunctional and downright sad sometimes the lengths that we'll go to prove to others and ourselves that we're not hurt or afraid or weak. Don't believe the hype. It's like people who cut themselves. They don't do it because it doesn't hurt. The hurt is the whole point of it.

I'm not saying I don't understand your point about the power of words vs. the power of censorship. However, this is not the same as concerned moms boosting the sales of Grand Theft Auto by trying to ban it. Be careful what hills you plant your flag on, because some hills have hosted bloodier battles than others.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:31 PM on March 24, 2010 [39 favorites]


That's hilarious, greta simone, but - context... which is the point I think a lot of people are trying to make here.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:35 PM on March 24, 2010


my "some white guy" comment may have been a bit much. apologies.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:38 PM on March 24, 2010


Word of warning, then. Out there they call them fanny packs. Cause fanny means your arse over there... not your minge.
posted by Babblesort at 2:21 AM on March 25 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


The first time I became aware of the "fanny=bum in USA" thing I was about 9 or 10. Some sort of daytime US soap/sitom was on (unusual in the UK in the 80s). A kindly-looking lady admonished a (female) child, "something-something-something, or I will spank your fanny".

I was literally shocked and upset. I've never spoken of that since until now!


How about the Brits out there? Is as okay to use that word with women as it is with men?
posted by Skygazer at 2:50 AM


It's really impolite to use it anytime really, but between close friends it isn't especially incendiary. Wouldn't dream of using it in front of strangers. Regionally it's different though.
Slight derail, but where I live, "twat" is fairly normative and mild. "He was being a bit of a twat" would refer to, someone being a bit too drunk making a fool of himself.

"He was being a bit of a cunt" would be more, he had too much to drink and started acting obnoxiously. Men and women use both terms equally, but again, only in close circles. Shouting in the street would be considered inappropriate and embarrassing.


Drink is often involved come to think.

Oh and to echo a comment above, "cunt" in England is in no way emasculating. It would more likely refer to a scary thick-necked skinhead than a skinny gay boy.
posted by blue funk at 10:46 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I go to a party with strangers, and I hear someone call someone else a cunt, I'll probably think, depending on the context, "I don't really want to hang out with that guy" and I'll move on. If I hear people calling others cunts with any regularity, I will probably leave the party, unless the hosts step up and politely remind their guests that the word has some pretty nasty, misogynist connotations and that this party isn't a great venue for using that word with regularity. I like coming to the metafillter party in part because I can trust that it's the kind of party where the hosts will remind people when their words are, intentionally or not, causing hurt.

I don't experience this issue as being about nannying. Nannies protect babies from harming themselves. The "ask a lawyer not metafilter" meme betrays a nannying instinct, where we fear that by asking for help on metafilter, a user could harm themself, and so some of us want to prevent this by disalowing law related questions. But the cunt issue isn't about nannying. I personally don't care if you want to alienate potential friends by calling people cunts. I don't need anyone to protect you from yourself. But I do care if you call people cunts while I'm trying to hang out here. And I do apreciate the community guidelines that facilitate an environment that feels safe and respectful to the majority of participants.
posted by serazin at 10:47 PM on March 24, 2010


Space Kitty: I really don't understand, Skygazer. If Palin's faults have nothing to do with her sexuality, why use a gendered insult?


I'm all too conscious of the gendered aspect of it and how off the charts inappropriate it can be to use in anger towards a woman 99.99% of the time, but the word can be separated from the gendered aspect, just by it's hyperbolic off-the-charts quality (especially in the states), so the very extreme nature of using it, becomes the meaning.


Would be great to hear from Languagehat on this. Can someone shine the Languagehat bat-signal.
posted by Skygazer at 10:50 PM on March 24, 2010


No. If you call Sara Palin stupid, you're saying she's not smart. If you call Sara Palin a stupid cunt, you're saying she's stupid BECAUSE she's a woman; being a woman - she can't help but be stupid. Hyperbole is another question entirely.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:56 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I guess there is no behavior that is natively, by definition, and unavoidably hateful to women that some people won't defend. What a wonder you are, you defenders of free speech. What a better world this is that the most powerful word we can think of to try and destroy a woman we despise it to shout the most hurtful phrase we can imagine that describes her genitalia. Fucking awesome.

And it wasn't being used, in this instance, in the way Brits use it. But I don't think we have to just assume that there are no problems at all with the way Brits use it. They have some pretty hateful history too, especially where women are concerned.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blue Funk: Slight derail, but where I live, "twat" is fairly normative and mild.

I think "twat," is an excellent fantastic word and almost as high caliber an elephant gun-like as the "c-word." Nice feel, good heft, well made. Saying Sarah Palin is a twat, works beautifully and effectively. Point made without giving up all important "lefty" credibility.

But what do I know. I've probably insulted half the people here and made an ass of myself, again.
posted by Skygazer at 10:58 PM on March 24, 2010


Yes you have.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, Astro Zombie, here's a favorite. You earned it.
posted by Skygazer at 11:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ on a crutch

Huh. I didn't expect that of one who metas about offensive language.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:06 PM on March 24, 2010


also wanted to add to the linguistic survey - as a resident of the NE USA, I have never heard "cunt" applied to a man, only as a particularly vicious insult for women.

Grew up in New England and was going to say the same. To me, this word aimed at a male would sound out of place. Aimed at a female, it would sound shocking.
posted by zippy at 11:09 PM on March 24, 2010


Astro Zombie: I guess there is no behavior that is natively, by definition, and unavoidably hateful to women that some people won't defend. What a wonder you are, you defenders of free speech. What a better world this is that the most powerful word we can think of to try and destroy a woman we despise it to shout the most hurtful phrase we can imagine that describes her genitalia.

AZ, I envisioned you beating your breast, a tear in your eye whilst you wrote composed that.
posted by Skygazer at 11:15 PM on March 24, 2010


AZ I doubt any "Brit" *twitch* would argue the high-ground on this one - at least some of the misogyny/xenophobia/homophobia in America is an old gift from this side of the pond, sadly.

I think any word can be offensive to anyone and am personally reluctant to excise any words from my or anyone else's vocabulary. However, manners are important; everyone being aware of what they're saying and how that is perceived by other people is important too so I actually appreciate debates like this.

But what do I know. I've probably insulted half the people here and made an ass of myself, again.
posted by Skygazer at 5:58 AM


cf. example i)
;)
posted by blue funk at 11:15 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think any word can be offensive to anyone and am personally reluctant to excise any words from my or anyone else's vocabulary.

But you do recognize that there is a difference between somebody who is offended by the word "water," which has no established negative connotations, and the word "cunt," which is historically a crass reference to a woman's anatomy, and has a long, terrible history of being used as a slur against women, yes?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 PM on March 24, 2010


Okay that's it, I'm off home - see you next Tuesday.
posted by tellurian at 11:25 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I was drowning and someone said the word "water" to me. I'd be pissed* aa all hell.

*For the Brits, pissed in American English usage means angry., as opposed to drunk, although if I was drowning I'd probably also be properly well pissed in the British meaning of that word as well.
posted by Skygazer at 11:27 PM on March 24, 2010


Astro Zombie: Well yeah. I'm not after an argument, in fact I thought I was careful to be balanced by also writing, However, manners are important; everyone being aware of what they're saying and how that is perceived by other people is important too so I actually appreciate debates like this. as the next sentence.

I'm very aware of the issues involved here. (I did also mention historically we were crap on this side of the pond in terms of bigotry.) To me, the value of objecting to language that people use, is not in that any particular word is beyond the pale. It's about getting people used to the process of thinking about what they mean. The bit you quoted of me was a modifier for the next part.

Would you also agree that context changes the "rules"? I'm not defending the use of any word, as a slur or otherwise. It just seems too extreme to say NO-ONE CAN EVER USE $WORD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER. I don't like the idea of ruling anything out comprehensively, 100%. I'm not usually 100% sure about anything.
posted by blue funk at 11:35 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


My attorney has advised me not to post anything further in this thread until the beer wears off.
posted by nevercalm at 11:37 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Words have only the power we give them. I can't think of a way to make a word more powerful than to ban it.

This argument rankles me far more than it should, because someone very near and dear to me used to think it was a good argument. But it's not. This is a bad argument.

No one person gets to decide how the words they use work. Words exist only in a culture, a society, a group of people. The meanings and connotations of words are bigger than any one individual of us. We cannot, wholly on our own, control them. It's great if you think a particular word shouldn't have a particular amount of power, but you going off and using that word willy-nilly is going to do absolutely nothing to change the power that word has.

We're not living in some pre-society, setting out to decide what words our future society will use, how these words will relate to the different groups within society, and what emotional power certain words will have. We're not that lucky: society is already here, and the power and meanings of words have been bred out of histories far longer than your solitary life.

I'm not saying that it is impossible for the connotations of a word to change with time. That's obviously false. Culture is a rippling thing, and words certainly do change. What I am, however, saying, is that it is futile and ridiculous to think that you, one individual, using a word that holds significant emotional power within a society will in any way help make that word less powerful. Even if every active Mefite took up the cause, we'd still do nothing. You can't change language just by an act of will.

So if you really care about making these words less powerful, what should you do? Change the cultural circumstances surrounding them. If you think it is a bad thing that the c-word holds such emotional power, then work to help change the conditions and attitudes facing women in our society. The c-word has its power not because we ban it, but because of its relationship to the sexism and inequalities in our culture. If you want to make the c-word less powerful, do what you can to help eradicate sexism and inequality in our culture. But, for heaven's sake, certainly do not go around shouting out offensive words like a white knight come to save us. You won't be saving us, you'll just be a jerk.

In short, I guess: banning the word is the symptom, not the cause, and you can't do anything useful by attacking just the symptom.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:38 PM on March 24, 2010 [23 favorites]


Cunt belongs to that extra Bosendoerfer octave down in the bass of our language, unpleasant but completely indispensable for a certain few songs. Garth Ennis? Sure; dude's like the Franz Liszt of English. Political screed-by-number? Nah, played out.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:40 PM on March 24, 2010


I would not say there is no circumstance where the word cunt can be used. But as a way of insulting a woman? I can't think of a single circumstance where that's not eggregiously cruel and uneccessary.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:45 PM on March 24, 2010


Just a two cents thing: to me, and how I was brought up, the c-word is pretty much the worst word you can use in American English without getting into racial epithets. It's pretty much an automatic fighting word. Someone calls someone else that, fists fly. Maybe things have relaxed a bit while I've been away, but I remember actually being a bit shocked the first time I heard it said aloud (which might well have been Trainspotting, come to think about it). On the other hand, working and living alongside a mixture of Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and the like, I've heard it enough here that it doesn't bother me, but I don't use it (unless someone decides that me being on a bicycle makes it okay for them to endanger my life with their car, but hey, at that point, I'm ready to start punching anyway).

Short version: it's not for use in civil company. MeFi is, for the most part, pretty civil (we're not, say, /b), so why not find some other way to say what you mean?
posted by Ghidorah at 11:55 PM on March 24, 2010


AZ: I would not say there is no circumstance where the word cunt can be used. But as a way of insulting a woman? I can't think of a single circumstance where that's not eggregiously cruel and uneccessary.

What if a woman kicked you square in the nuts with combat boots?
posted by Skygazer at 11:56 PM on March 24, 2010


Skygazer, is there any particular reason why you seem to keep wanting to find a loophole where someone will say to you, "Yes, you *can* call a woman a cunt under those circumstances."?
posted by Salieri at 12:01 AM on March 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


AZ - Well, fair enough. I don't think we disagree really. I think you feel more strongly about it than I do, but I don't think we disagree. It's an important part of a process but it doesn't get me hot. I do strongly believe we're responsible for our own actions and our own reactions - my view was never "it's all just words" because words are how we give a piece of ourselves to other people and that's powerful juju. Look, I fall under ~2 "minorities" and one in particular has really shaped who I am - society's view of me, their words, have all had power over me. Ive been subjected to that. Even by well meaning people who care about me. But the best you can hope for is getting them to think about how they project into the world, not by closing down diaogue with "deal breakers" because all they'll think is, Oh I can't talk about $word with $person. Nothing changes then except maybe they think you're hysterical or they cry that they're being oppressed. Possibly babbling now sorry but I think my general intent is here @ least.

On preview: Skygazer I thought the reaction against you was a bit OTT so I chipped in. But you might want to stop now, maybe. No offence. To anyone!
posted by blue funk at 12:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skygazer, is there any particular reason why you seem to keep wanting to find a loophole where someone will say to you, "Yes, you *can* call a woman a cunt under those circumstances."?
posted by Salieri at 3:01 AM on March 25 [+] [!]


No, it's not that. It's the silly, self-righteous, absolutism of some of the comments.

Blue Funk: But you might want to stop now, maybe.

Yep. Done.
posted by Skygazer at 12:21 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm getting pretty tired of the nannying that is MeFi.

I'm getting pretty tired of people pulling petulant shit-fits and trying to pass off insipid whining as enlightened support of free expression coupled with a mistrust of capricious and petty authority because they can't or won't comprehend that as comfortable a place as MetaFilter may be, there are some things that are deemed innapropriate regardless of whether or not their friends and neighbors are cool with it, but what can you do?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


I noticed claims by some of my British compatriots that the c-word wasn't particularly offensive in the UK the last time we reheated this topic.

I'm sorry, but they're wrong. It is the most offensive swear word we have. Perhaps in certain more youthful circles than those I travel in it might be fairly mild, but to most of us it's the worst word there is and isn't to be bandied around lightly.


I agree that it's the most offensive word you can use as an insult, but I also think that the general force of the word is less. When I drop something or stub my toe, I often shout "cunts" in displeasure - I've heard plenty of people do the same.

Also, I had a lecture last year about Kant, and during the introduction the lecturer wanted to make sure we were all pronouncing his name properly, and not as "cunt". He actually said the word too, in a lecture of maybe 100 students, "please don't call him cunt, he was a nice guy." It raised a titter, but not a shock.


How about the Brits out there? Is as okay to use that word with women as it is with men?

Yeah, I think so, as an insult. But it's heard a lot less than "bitch" or "cow". If somebody did use it against a woman in that way, it wouldn't have any special connotations.


But you do recognize that there is a difference between somebody who is offended by the word "water," which has no established negative connotations, and the word "cunt," which is historically a crass reference to a woman's anatomy, and has a long, terrible history of being used as a slur against women, yes?


It depends how you mean. Further to above, you could describe a woman as "a nice bit of cunt" (kinda DH Lawrence), which wouldn't be an insult as such, but obviously very sexist and demeaning in describing a woman's value sexually.

I think an illustration of the general meaning of the word in British English - at least to my mind - would be hearing somebody describe another as "a bleeding cunt". The reaction would be "well, you must really dislike him", and not "ewww", as both words lack the strong connection with what they describe, and just don't conjure up imagery like that.
posted by Sova at 1:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think craichead made the essential distinction between US and UK usage way back upthread - exactly how acceptable/profane it's seen as does vary by region and class in the UK and Ireland but by and large saying the word doesn't automatically mark you out as a misogynist, while the reverse seems to be true in the US: by and large it's used in a way that betrays a real problem with the speaker's attitude to women.
Would 'shitehawk' be a useful substitute? Or maybe something slightly dated like 'tosspot'? That could be due a comeback; if flares can have one, anything's possible.
posted by Abiezer at 1:28 AM on March 25, 2010


I live in the Midwest US and I can, at times, curse a blue streak that would make a chief petty officer blush.

When I hear the word "cunt", it either conjures an image a really nasty, smelly and dirty vagina or a loudmouth bitch who doesn't know her place, depending on context.

Cunt is an epithet. It carries the same wallop for me as words like nigger, faggot, sand-nigger / towelhead, etc.

As I've heard it used, it always refers to a woman or part of a woman. I have never heard it applied towards a man. Hearing it applied to a man still sounds jarringly wrong, sort of like calling a black person a kike.

I didn't become aware of the British/Commonwealth usage until I saw Nil By Mouth. I've become used to this usage somewhat, just as I've come to accept that they'll never spell certain words right and they will always refer to a person as "in hospital" as if "hospital" were a state of being, rather than "in the hospital", which describes where the person is. That still drives me nuts when I hear it on the BBC World Service, but I digress.

I had a slightly unflattering post about Sarah Palin deleted. Cunt is a word that easily flies into the imagination when thinking about her, but there are better words. How about: clueless, evil, manipulative, scheming, petty, quitter, wrong, foul, liar, poor choice for any elected position (including dogcatcher) or fake? All of these are appropriate and accurate descriptions of her yet none of them raise the issue of her gender, which is really besides the point.

I wouldn't suggest saying this word while in bed on a gal from around here or your lovemaking session may end abruptly and possibly painfully.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:39 AM on March 25, 2010


Time was, we just always called each other asshats, and it was good enough for us.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:11 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Regardless of what you might have seen in some dusty bestiary depicting the inhabitants of mysterious faraway isles, there are no bipedal cunts walking around carrying things in their prehensile labia.

Just great. Now I have that image to contend with for the rest of my life.

FWIW, there's a difference between public speech and private speech, I think, and it's one I'm trying personally to get better at navigating because at forty, I think it would be nice if I didn't let fly with words like 'douchebag' or 'shithead' or 'asshole' in front of my child or on conference calls. In front of Mr. Llama, it's okay, but then it gets so habitual that I'll be telling him we're out of fucking coffee at the supermarket.

I think I've used those words as some kind of pseudo-democratizing currency when speaking in the past, or some horseshit (see????) I picked up at fourteen to show how rock n' fucking roll I was, but in a grown person it just seems like I don't have a decent vocabulary.

It seems like it's easy enough to give up words that hurt people's feelings, which I have more tolerance for than 'I'm offended!' It is for this reason that I have recently given up 'retard' although that's been the gold standard for my expression of 'really fucking stupid' for my entire life, and now, not only have I given up 'retard' I'm also trying to give up 'really fucking stupid.' And oh, how I long for the free-wheeling days of 'fucking retarded.'

I don't feel unfairly pressed to do either of these things, I just think it's probably good to make some progress in terms of modulating how you express things over the course of your life and on behalf of the person you're talking to if word choice gets in the way of delivering meaning, which is supposed to be the goal. In other words, I could say 'fuck' in the presence of my mother a lot less, there's a certain passive-aggressiveness if I say 'fuck' in front of mom, who is horrified by my casual use of the word.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:44 AM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Even if her intelligence is ludicrous and her ambition and irresponsibility is repellent?

Yes. Because the woman went from being a stay at home mom, to mayor then Governor, then VP candidate and now a major player in US politics. By using the c-word and other derogatives, you're not respecting her accomplishments or the power she wields. You're seriously underestimating her, which could cause her to gain more power.

I'm very serious here. Sarah Palin is a force to be reckoned with and anyone who can't or won't recognize that needs to just not say anything about her. The woman shouldn't be allowed anywhere near powerful position, her own record proves it. Yet a lot people still love her and what she does. Calling her names, attacking her over smaller points just feeds her and them.


Also, how is that different from a caricature, which of course is how I intended it?

You need to be aware of how the word comes off. The c-word (which I'm actually ok with in some instances) is not welcomed in the Metafilter community. By using it, you stir up a hornets nest about its usage, which distracts from any points you're trying to make. Focus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


refer to a person as "in hospital" as if "hospital" were a state of being, rather than "in the hospital", which describes where the person is. That still drives me nuts when I hear it on the BBC World Service, but I digress.

So you must also be driven nuts when someone says, "He called while I was in class," or, "We met in church," or, "The sailors were at sea for three months," or, "I learned a new word in school today," or, "They threw him in jail," or, "She made it at camp," or, "Work on this at home," or, "You'll save money by living on campus," or "It is not admissible in court," or "He can come out on site for an additional fee," or "His head was out of frame," or "I waited on shore while they went fishing," or "I'm on break right now," or "The scene looked different on film," or "Stay on point during the interview," or "We decided to put her in daycare," or "At this rate we're on target to meet our goal," or "I'll be in town for another three days," or "He did the strangest thing in bed," or "Turn off your phone while in session," or "She came alive on stage," or ...
posted by Rhomboid at 5:16 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dear Mods: I regret any dickish behavior I had in the past ...

Yeah, me too. I've whelked around before and it awful and I promised to cut down on any future whelking.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:17 AM on March 25, 2010


I get that--it comes down to a sort of majority rule.

No, it comes down to community consensus with ongoing episodic review. I'm also worn out on the "nanny" complaints. This isn't an authoritarian situation. What happens here is not that a small cadre of moderators determine some words or ideas verboten and slap them off the site without brooking controversy. Instead, it's that the site's user community establishes and evolves its community standards in constant discussion, over time, and with a fair amount of earnestness and angst and dedication to making its important points understood. In response to that evolution, and informed by certain core values of the site leadership, the moderators support those standards as they evolve, and impose the parameters that allow the user community to converse without a proliferation of derailments or the loss of many users due to exclusion or harassment.

This is part of that evolution. As annoying as it is to discuss yet again why much of the user community would prefer not to confront gendered insults when they log in to take part in the conversation, it does say a lot for this process that it's a sub-200 comment thread, rather than a 1000-comment thread. The site has mostly moved on, except for these occasional moments of review about 'this is why we're at this point.'
posted by Miko at 5:30 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is never acceptable.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:32 AM on March 25, 2010


I didn't become aware of the British/Commonwealth usage until I saw Nil By Mouth. I've become used to this usage somewhat, just as I've come to accept that they'll never spell certain words right

*splutter*

That's fighting talk, I'll have you know!
posted by idiomatika at 5:46 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Try reading this thread with American exceptionalism in mind and it becomes kind of amusing.

This kills me about the US. People love to pontificate endlessly about 'free speech' and lecture you on how 'free speech' makes the US superior. Words can't hurt, people should be allowed to say whatever they want, best it's out in the open, and so on and so on.

But not when it comes to cunt, obviously.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:56 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Douche" should be in this discussion as well. It seems to have gained currency in the US as an okay insult, but it carries deeply misogynist implications.

Enema would be better. It's grosser AND gender neutral. Unfortunately the word "enema" just doesn't have the same ring to it. "Douchenozzle" just rolls off the tongue. "Enema bag" - not so much. Even "enema truck" doesn't really work.

Seriously, I think the word "enema" would be a much better insult if only the word sounded better.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:01 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rhomboid, those are all perfectly acceptable forms of American English. We're in class, we're at work, but we're on the toilet, at the airport, and in the hospital.

A Japanese English teacher came out with a book to explain a/an/the to Japanese learners of English. It covered, if I recall correctly, the 287 different rules involving articles. I personally tell my students to imagine a small town in the middle of nowhere. If a town that size would have only one of n, then we usually say "the n." If the town would have more than one n, then we don't use the, we use a, until, of course, the n has become the topic of conversation, in which case we use the.

I was in a store when I got a phone call from my friend who was in the hospital. He needed my help, so I left the store immediately.

Then I tell my students to not worry so much, and try to get them to practice the be verb instead.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


bah, missed again you big bag of potato chips
posted by infini at 6:19 AM on March 25, 2010


Of course they're valid, that's my whole point. It's hypocritical to moan about how dropping 'the' in this one particular case makes no sense when there are dozens and dozens of other examples where that's precisely what we do. It's like, "those wacky Brits, they do this thing for these 89 nouns but we only do it for these 87 nouns, how insane is that."
posted by Rhomboid at 6:22 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

This kills me about the US. People love to pontificate endlessly about 'free speech' and lecture you on how 'free speech' makes the US superior. Words can't hurt, people should be allowed to say whatever they want, best it's out in the open, and so on and so on.
You're a little confused about how free speech works. "Free speech" means that people should be able to say whatever they want without the government putting them in jail. It doesn't mean that you get to say whatever you want and people can't think you're a jerk. It also doesn't mean that I can't kick someone who uses a racial slur out of my living room.

Free speech doesn't mean that words can't hurt. It means that the solution for the hurt that words can do is for other people to point out and condemn the bad speech, rather than for the government to outlaw it.
posted by craichead at 6:28 AM on March 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


flarbuse: Again, words have only the power we allow them to have. I see no need to give this word anymore power than it already has.

If the word didn't have any power, you wouldn't use it.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:34 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're a little confused about how free speech works... It means that the solution for the hurt that words can do is for other people to point out and condemn the bad speech, rather than for the government to outlaw it.

Hmmm. No, I think I understand how free speech works just fine.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:48 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am really freaked out by people who think an insult transcends its gendered or bigoted roots by becoming commonplace or being applied to the other gender or to inanimate objects or what-have-you. It must be nice to experience that kind of privilege in your life.

When you say something, you have all the power in the world to control exactly what it is you say, which includes taking into consideration things like context and etymology. In fact, paying attention to these details is part of how a truly witty or cogent persona is projected.

Even then there is a margin of error, because you can't control how your words are received with 100% accuracy. Which is why many of these swears should be avoided -- they increase the odds of your sentiment being misinterpreted or turned back against you.
posted by hermitosis at 6:49 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


email threatening to "spank" us

Wait, what? Has this happened more than once? That's pretty weird.

I would assume that cunt and cocksucker were honorifics, bestowed on royalty, elected officials, or pageant winners

It's Raining Florence Henderson, you're my hero.
posted by theredpen at 6:56 AM on March 25, 2010


I think "twat," is an excellent fantastic word and almost as high caliber an elephant gun-like as the "c-word." Nice feel, good heft, well made. Saying Sarah Palin is a twat, works beautifully and effectively. Point made without giving up all important "lefty" credibility.

I don't know what you mean by "lefty credibility." But all the "lefties" I know would be pretty horrified by someone who rhapsodizes over how excellent and fantastic the words twat and cunt are, and admiringly likens their use to "elephant guns."

If you really do think, as you said, that those words are so violent, hurtful, and destructive that using them would be like using an elephant gun against someone ... have you ever stopped for a moment to try to figure out why that is?
posted by Ashley801 at 7:01 AM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


you know what, this thread has given me the sense of empowerment to come right out and say it out loud, omg i'm one of india's untouchables... oopsie don't touch this or
posted by infini at 7:02 AM on March 25, 2010


beav- You mean vagina?
posted by Scoo at 7:08 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taint much logic behind strong reactions to some words and not to others. Certain people are freaked out by certain words. Cunt makes Americans freak, and the majority of the people here are Americans. This is not Scunthorpe.
posted by pracowity at 7:12 AM on March 25, 2010


Fuckhead.

No gender connotations, or denigration based on the supposed inferiority of another group (other than those fucked in the head).

And unlike the r-word, it does not refer to those with developmental disabilities. You wouldn't call Trig Palin a fuckhead (unless you yourself were a giant fuckhead), but Trig's mom would qualify. It doesn't mean uneducated - plenty of fuckheads with Ph.D.'s out there.

So I suggest that as we see people referring to otherwise-truly-worthy-of-derision individuals as cunts, dicks, retards, douchenozzles, etc., we gently suggest a more appropriate yet still powerful term: fuckhead.

Fuckhead. It's time.
posted by hangashore at 7:17 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


wait a minute, come back after dark
posted by infini at 7:18 AM on March 25, 2010


I have no problem abiding by this rule, even though I think the rule is utter horseshit. People elsewhere use the word in their own culture and it's meaning isn't as harsh as it is in the U.S. Too bad, can't use it. On Metafilter apparently some people can't see it beyond their own context so it means only one thing, the apparent U.S. meaning. Is it in the rules?
posted by juiceCake at 7:22 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


On Metafilter apparently some people can't see it beyond their own context so it means only one thing, the apparent U.S. meaning. Is it in the rules?

No, it's not in the rules, because that's not actually the rules, and a careful review of where and how the word does stand in use on the site should make it clear that it's not nearly that simple. There is zero ambiguity here about how Skygazer was using the word or why, and it had nothing to do with some notional cross-cultural misunderstanding.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:25 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I remember in an early comment of mine on MeFi (rhymes with Meat Pie, because both are delicious), I made a comment about going down to the local packy to buy a six pack of beer. Someone responded, offended that I would use a slur to demean a Pakistani shopkeeper, but I, living in New England, had actually meant package store.

The misunderstanding was corrected quickly and politely all round, but I remember my initial hackles up reaction to being reprimanded. How dare they think I'm a horrible person when I was using innocent slang! They are Wrong! I am Right! Grar! (Lucky for me I only saw that reaction comment some time after I posted the comment.)

After that initial reaction passed, I felt bad and apologized. Slang can have different meanings, origins, and nuances and you never know how a word you thought was perfectly innocent might mean something else to someone else somewhere else.

I guess the trick is not being a jerk about it and letting that initial 'How dare they!' feeling pass without comment. It gets harder for me, though, when I see a growing list of words that should not be said, and the ensuing discussion as to why, ramp up in a thread. I'm not talking about 'cunt' here (that one's never on), but 'douche,' 'dick,' 'cock,' and so on mentioned above. Something about that trips a similar switch and I have to take a breath so as not to become one of those wild-eyed 'Political Correctness run amok!' types.

I'm willing to accept that some of the language I use is thoughtless and I'm willing to change (training myself not to call myself 'retarded' has been a struggle). But there comes a point where I end up hyper-sensitive to what I'm saying/typing that my brain locks up and I'm unable to get my point across without beanplating every word choice, which is really, really frustrating. I don't want to piss (tick?) anyone off, but I also don't want to spend an hour writing a comment!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:25 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


People elsewhere use the word in their own culture and it's meaning isn't as harsh as it is in the U.S.

Except, in this particular case, the person calling Palin a cunt wasn't joshing around with his best friend Sarah in a playful (or British) way. He was using it in the American sense of the word.
posted by Orb at 7:26 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enema would be better.

*sigh* Really, the rectal route of administration is already unfairly stigmatized in the US. It can be quite useful in certain clinical situations, such as when a patient is vomiting.

How about "chancre"? Chancre sounds as nasty as it is, is satisfying to say, and may affect all varieties of genitalia as well as assholes. (And mouths.) It is easily treated, so nobody can say "I have a chancre and I am offended!", unless perhaps they are posting from the waiting room at the clinic. Surely we can come to a multicultural agreement that the syph is bad.
posted by little e at 7:29 AM on March 25, 2010


Chancre sounds as nasty as it is, is satisfying to say, and may affect all varieties of genitalia as well as assholes. (And mouths.)

I am too afraid to Google this. Please do not elaborate.
posted by theredpen at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading through this thread there is plainly a huge difference between the meaning of the c-word in the UK and the meaning in the US.

I'm from the UK and the word is emphatically not ever intended to be an emasculating insult when used over here.

When someone in the UK calls you a c***, what they are saying is that they think you are an utter utter bastard / complete dickhead / totally horrible fuckwit. An illustrative example I can think of off the top of my head is from the Guy Ritchie film Snatch. In it, the character Bricktop says "I am an 'orrible c***" What he means by this is " I would kill you as soon as look at you", not "I have no male genitalia".

On the other hand, calling someone a pussy in the UK is definitely intended to be emasculating and therefore seems closer to the US use of c***.
posted by jonnyploy at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not talking about 'cunt' here (that one's never on), but 'douche,' 'dick,' 'cock,' and so on mentioned above. Something about that trips a similar switch and I have to take a breath so as not to become one of those wild-eyed 'Political Correctness run amok!' types.

If it makes you feel better, most of the arguments I've seen here about "dick" and "cock" aren't so much overly-PC as they are scrambling for a way to balance out some inherent unfairness they perceive in being called to task for using misogynistic slang.

As long as we occupy a landscape where being colloquially deemed an "irritating and/or dumb man" is preferable to being called an "irritating and/or dumb woman" (in addition to the many more insidious examples of inequality), then these people will just have to bear with us. In the meantime, you don't get to pick which words are offensive or why, you just take note and then decide for yourself how big of a jerk you'd like to seem at any given moment.
posted by hermitosis at 7:54 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


there comes a point where I end up hyper-sensitive to what I'm saying/typing that my brain locks up and I'm unable to get my point across without beanplating every word choice, which is really, really frustrating. I don't want to piss (tick?) anyone off, but I also don't want to spend an hour writing a comment!

I don't know - is it really that hard to try and be a little more civil? Most people can vary their tone based on the social environment they're in at the time. Most people speak differently around a holiday family dinner table and around a pub table with their friends. Most people speak differently in a classroom and in a boardroom, at a sports game or in a meeting with your boss. Most people are adept at switching their style of talk based on the context, so they can be heard for their ideas rather than causing distracting reactions with their tone or word choice. How would you write a newspaper article? A letter to the editor that you wanted to be published? An email to your SO? A comment on TripAdvisor?

There's sometimes a disconnect that crops up here between people who want more of a civil-discussion set of standards to apply, and those who wish the site were more of a pub-table-with-friends environment where the occasional off-color remark could be greeted with ironic chuckles and enjoyed. (For the record, I apply different standards to the use of the word 'cunt' in person amongst friends than I do in public discourse, where it's not at all as easy to read or presume intent). Sure, it would be easier to comment if you never had to think about how it would be received by others, not all of whom you know well enough to predict their reaction. But that's not the social environment we're in at MeFi. There are enough people who want to avoid the distraction of a language-use derail that it seems, in general, there's a widespread consensus on the avoidance of certain words in certain contexts. It's an agreement, not an edict. But I don't actually think it's more difficult to comment without using hot-button words. It just means code-switching sometimes. My sense is that occasionally people would rather be asked not to switch codes, because they'd like the site culture to more resemble their own social culture, conversation with friends usually being more relaxing because there is so much more shared understanding. But the site is a different kind of conversation - friendly, but with not as much shared agreement or perspective on social mores as a tightly-knit group of like-minded friends would share.
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


*pretty impressed with the the breadth and civility of this discussion, nice job mefi*
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


He was using it in the American sense of the word.

Exactly. Which takes it from the "Hey, I've been misunderstood!" camp to the "I should be able to call a woman I perceive as evil a cunt because she's really really horrible" which, to my read, is arguing that you should be able to call people kikes on the site. You can't. It's not okay. You heard it, it's the "doomsday word." There is no worse word to call Sarah Palin according to Skygazer who brought this up originally.

If you want to debate the larger issue of what words are or are not okay in what sort of company, that's totally fine and probably a good idea. But I think it's a safe bet that no one, ever, on the site would defend their right to call some truly hateful black person a nigger [on the site, not in their private heart of hearts, not among their own friends]. And yes I'd argue that we've reached some sort of equality when the entire idea of racial- gender- nationality- or sexual preferece-oriented slurs seems quaint and outdated and we can still hate who we hate and love who we love and express that using the words of our choosing.

But we're not there yet. And we don't get there by defending our right to use hateful words in hateful ways and back up our usage with personal anecdotal evidence that ignores the additional and plentiful historical data of how the word has been used, and used recently [we're not talking about outdated or archaic slurs like darkie or poofter]. Unless someone wants to make an argument for allowing other racial epithets of similar "firepower" I'm still pretty okay saying that cunt is not okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


right kids!
posted by the cuban at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2010


I don't know - is it really that hard to try and be a little more civil?

It's not, which makes it tricky for people who aim to be civil but are aware that due to regional slang, the history of a given word, etc that what they might consider civil might not be civil to others, so they end up putting more time in just to make sure they're not going to offend.

This is a beanplatey quibble and obviously does not extend to folks who know exactly what they're saying might tick people off.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2010


I am really tired of the constant complaining that the desire for civility on MetaFilter is a rejection of free speech or an embrace of censorship or whatever. We've had several threads in MetaTalk over the last few weeks/months about where the line should be drawn in terms of civil discourse, what is and isn't acceptable for maintaining a healthy community, and every single time someone trots out that 'oh but free speech means blah blah how come the mods believe in censorship' and it is so. stupid.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


juiceCake : People elsewhere use the word in their own culture and it's meaning isn't as harsh as it is in the U.S. Too bad, can't use it.

But then, there are lots of other things that are considered acceptable in other cultures that are not socially ok here. We also generally don't do racial epithets, despite their being common currency all over the rest of the internet and real world.

On Metafilter apparently some people can't see it beyond their own context so it means only one thing, the apparent U.S. meaning.

The thing is, communication is actually harder than most people think. You say one thing, and I read another. This is because we come from different places, or generations, or educational levels or whatever. We have different senses of irony and what is satirical, and what might be obvious to you could be completely opaque to me.

Shortly before my great-uncle died, he was telling me a story about his time in World War II; he was describing some of the people he fought with, and when referring to black service men, he occasionally used terms like "spook" and "spade". It was a painful conversation for many of us, because we find those words to be completely unacceptable. But he wasn't meaning them that way, in fact, he was talking about people who had saved his life, people he was indebted to and respected greatly, but he was from a time where those ways of describing people were more permissible, and he seemingly never learned that times had changed.

Devoid of context, someone hearing an ancient white guy calling black people "spooks" would naturally and incorrectly assume he was terribly racist. And that's something as sophisticated as speaking, where cues like vocal tone and facial expression help to convey the message. When dealing with the written word, on a place like Metafilter, where comments in a thread from a single user can range from sincere, to comedic snark, to sarcastic rant, it's criminally easy to misinterpret meaning.

So you might come from a culture where the word "Fag" is acceptable, because you are gay, all your friends are gay, and you use the word to describe yourself in an empowering way. But you come into a thread, and call a politician a "faggot" and expect anyone to not be upset because they "can't see beyond their own context" is to woefully misunderstand the way people's minds work.

Or shorter; Cunt is a word that the community here has, more or less, collectively decided is unacceptable. The mods enforce this. This is the way it is and the site is better for it.
posted by quin at 9:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: Why is fellatio so taboo in everyday conversation while rimming gets a free pass?

I think it's because a lot of people like oral sex and therefore the insult "cocksucker" seems either pointless- "of course I do, so what?" or homophobic.

On the other hand (unless you're in a porno- and even then there's exceptions) asses have poop come out of them, so licking someone's butt is generally considered a pretty disgusting thing that you wouldn't want to do.
I think that's why it's considered fair for use as an insult in common parlance- when saying "brown-noser" you might as well be saying "That person would eat poop to make themselves liked". And almost nobody likes poop.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:07 AM on March 25, 2010


Where "you" is a hypothetical "you" or "someone", not "you" as in the user juiceCake.
posted by quin at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2010


Why is fellatio so taboo in everyday conversation while rimming gets a free pass?

Also I think the origin of 'cocksucker' as an insult is in homophobic implications, i.e. 'I am insinuating that you are a homosexual, which is undesirable, and also I am doing so with a graphic image.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The word 'cunt' has special status because we let it have special status, and I think that's really all there is to it. I suspect that giving it special snowflake stature here will reinforce that, too.

I don't use it as an insult, myself, mainly because random Americans might freak the hell out. Which is really quite silly when you think about it: every reason listed above for its forbidden status could be applied to other words that are subject to far less scorn. Almost any (valid) argument for banning it could also be used to ban about sixty other words. Conversations might be better as a result of that, too. Or not. It depends how loose you like to play with your threads, I suppose.

(For example, threads about Deadwood are going to sound a lot more empty in future, I fear.)
posted by rokusan at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why is fellatio so taboo in everyday conversation while rimming gets a free pass?

Free? Is there some sort of signup page?
posted by rokusan at 9:32 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another timeless MeTa chestnut. This stuff never gets old. Sigh.
posted by fixedgear at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2010


Christ on a crutch.

We're all adults here, we shouldn't be policing adults' speech, and we shouldn't expect the internet will be cleaned up of anything that will offend us. Because that'll quickly become lowest common denominator, where we can't discuss anything but cotton candy (oh wait, might offend black and diabetics with that) and fluffy bunnies.

Different people, different cultures have different standards. I'd like to celebrate that diversity. I don't want to see "cunt" deleted to appease haters of boyzone, I don't want to see "God" edited to "G-d" to please the Orthodox Jews, I don't want to see "(pbuh)" added after any mention of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to please the Muslims, I don't want to see "Democrat Party" amended to "Democratic Party" to appease me.

I want to see people writing as themselves, not for a timid or trigger happy audience offended or enraged by words on a page.
posted by orthogonality at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


Requesting people to be civil is not policing adults' speech.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


Different people, different cultures have different standards.

And MetaFilter has a cultural standard. And we have explained what it is and why it exists. I don't think your slippery slope/lowest common denominator argument holds any water whatsoever. The site has been around over ten years and there is a short list of "things we'd prefer you did not say" which has changed very little in that amount of time.

If I am writing as myself, I am writing to be understood and writing to not piss off other people with whom I am trying to communicate. That is me, that is writing as myself. It is important that I understand not only what words mean to me but also what words mean to them in order to be properly understood.

The site is still, present debate nonwithstanding, incredibly lightly moderated. People who think it is overmoderated are welcome to go to other sites with less moderation and see if they like it better. Please come back and let us know what you think. We try to strike a balance here. This is not going to become an unmoderated site and it's unlikely to become a less-moderated site. You are welcome to do what you wish with that information.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


crunchland should never be used as a word.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2010


I am happy he is back too.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2010


For non-gendered slurs, I'm a big fan of pigfucker, from the South Park movie, and still use it frequently. Advocating violence against duly elected public officials? You, sir, are a pigfucker.

At the same time, I wholeheartedly agree with the "let's be a bit more civil" folks. This thread? Surprisingly civil, even for MeTa.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing is, there are plenty of situations where "cunt" would be acceptable. No one's going to freak out about a woman referring to her cunt; no one's going to freak out about this comment discussing cunt word use. Likely, few people would freak out about cunt being used positively—a "righteous cunt" is a compliment that I've seen. But to not get the negative connotations and general reasons for taboo, especially after having them spelled out so many times in this thread and others, is to fail at reading comprehension and language usage.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: We're all adults here, we shouldn't be policing adults' speech, and we shouldn't expect the internet will be cleaned up of anything that will offend us ... I'd like to ... I don't want to see ... I don't want to see ... I don't want to see "... I don't want to see ... I want to see ...

Funny thing is, nobody who doesn't want to see "cunt" here, on Metafilter specifically, has suggested that the entire internet be made the way we like it.

It's ironic that you are the only one suggesting that the entire internet should conform to your preferences.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


By the way everyone, face slapping can easily physically injure someone. If you want to register your disgust safely, and you are disease-free, I guess you could spit on them.

I know you made this comment waaaay up page, but I just wanted to note that I don't think slapping is an okay response either. I just used it as an example of what kind of waters you're wading into by throwing the word around, that some people find it seeeriously offensive.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:16 AM on March 25, 2010


It's not so much that I want to police language, it's that if MetaFilter becomes a site where people refer to Democratic candities and Democrat candidates, and toss words like cunt and kike around, I will head somewhere where there isn't such an agglomeration of spanwhengles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:17 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does anyone really want metafilter to be an unmoderated free-for-all, where anyone can call black people niggers to their little heart's content?

Because if you do, you should swing by 4Chan to see what kind of community that gets you. Presumably even if you think us feminists are silly cunts, it's nice having a community that's not mostly made up of ignorant, privileged young men. Why do you think 4chan is like that? Because that's what you get when you set 0 standards. You drive away everyone else who is interested in any kind of discourse.

And that gets you some really funny internet memes and in-jokes, but I do think metafilter is worth more than that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:22 AM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


I want to see people writing as themselves, not for a timid or trigger happy audience offended or enraged by words on a page.

I want to see people writing with an eye towards the fact that an infelicitous choice of words can derail the discussion and turn it from the ideas they are proposing to the words they used. This is not good or effective communication. If a mefite in a discussion about, say, TARP regulations starts talking about the kikes on Wall Street, I think you have to admit that the discussion would promptly go from arguing about TARP to shouting about what an asshole the mefite who used the word kike is.

Again, the internet is a big place, and in much of it you can use whatever terms you like and read whatever terms other people feel free to use. But not here.

For real, ortho: you'd be fine with a metafilter where people can use pejoratives like nigger and faggot and kike as long as they're "writing as themselves"?
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Or what Solon and Thanks said.
posted by rtha at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2010


The problem with policing language is it gets all alpha tango foxtrot 'driver is IC1 male' and I don't know what.
posted by Abiezer at 10:33 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm a huge believer in free speech. Of course, every right carries with it the right not to exercise it fully.

So -- would we criticize Palin -- whom I despise beyond words -- with the n word if she were African American? Would we use the k word for her if she were Jewish? Would we call her the w word or the s word if she were Hispanic?

"Cunt" and "twat" are hate speech toward women. There are lots of excellent reasons to loathe Palin, but her gender isn't a legitimate one in my view.
posted by bearwife at 10:43 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you are offended by that word, please never visit Glasgow. You'll hear it about 20 times a day here.

Also, 'in the hospital', 'at the school', etc, are all Scots formations, not English.
posted by meosl at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


KEEPIN' IT REAL
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:59 AM on March 25, 2010


There is zero ambiguity here about how Skygazer was using the word or why, and it had nothing to do with some notional cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Sure it does. It has everything to do with that, in fact.

For me the meaning of the word is a hybridization of the British and American that sheds, or should I say mutes, the misogynist, historical aspects or at least sublimates them to new usage, mixes in one part hyperbole to get the shock effect at the use of the word, (ergo, it's "elephant gun/doomsday like" aspects Jessamyn), One part Scottish and British cantankerousness and wicked dry sense of humor, and one part incredulous disgust (with a sprinkling of BS on the top.)

I'm amazed at how insulated the two senses (U.K. and U.S) are from one another. This thread has been eye-opening. I don't understand the need to get stuck on the misogynist aspects of it. Language is morphing and growing all the time and I would bet money that in the next decade, the word is probably, going to begin to have more of the UK meaning or intent in the U.S. It's just too good a word for certain situations.

And I see little connection between the words "Nigger" or "kike." Which are never okay to use, I mean there is no English usage Brit, American, Aussie or whatever that uses that word in anything but the more reprehensible manner.
posted by Skygazer at 11:06 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope it's clear at this point, Skygazer, that what the meaning of the word is for you has pretty much nothing at all to do with what it is for the rest of the world.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:09 AM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yes, that's just delicious. Now that you've made your case, I see that it wasn't a gendered insult directed at a woman that was exclusively rooted in a derogatory word that diminishes women down to their genitalia, but instead a multinational lark, a poetic play on language that might have tickled even Oscar Wilde. Such pith! Such wit! All contained in four letters!

Yes, it was our bad to interpret the word as it is generally used, even in the British Isles, when speaking contemptuously of a woman! We should have known what you meant!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:10 AM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't understand the need to get stuck on the misogynist aspects of it.

In the US, it's used primarily as hate speech against women. There is not ambiguity in what the word means in the US. This is not me or the other people in this thread being "stuck" on anything. This is saying "In the US, using this word is like calling someone who is Jewish a kike. It's saying someone is nasty and subhuman because of this one aspect of their person." The only reason I even know the UK meaning is because of British movies [I don't hear it on British tv, and I don't hear it in most mainstream British movies that are not about gangsters] and the folks from the UK who I interact with here on MetaFilter.

You can argue there are other interpretations, but I think what we're debating is what the dominant interpretation is, and who is or is not responsible for being understood or misunderstood given the dominant interpretation of the word in a specific social context.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:15 AM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sure it does. It has everything to do with that, in fact.

I read you as asserting that you were fully aware that it was an awful thing to say about a woman, and that that was largely why you chose to say it about someone you see as being indeed an awful, awful woman, and that you were not ignorant of the nuclear-level baggage that hurling that word at a woman carries for a whole lot of people.

If I misunderstood you—if you're saying that you didn't realize that it's widely considered a really awful, echoes-of-open-misogyny gendered insult—then I apologize for misrepresenting your awareness of your use of it, and I'm glad this thread is giving you some of that much-needed context.

And I see little connection between the words "Nigger" or "kike."

The connection is very much there for the general American public. This stuff is, again, very complicated, and the difference in dialects and the existence of reclamation offshoots (or the lack thereof, to my knowledge, in the case of "kike") does not make a word somehow not incredibly charged in its original problematic context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:15 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it really so amazing that casually denigrating 50% of the human race for the sake of a lazy rhetorical punchline is a problem here?
posted by Space Kitty at 11:17 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Language is morphing and growing all the time... I see little connection between the words "Nigger" or "kike." Which are never okay to use, I mean there is no English usage Brit, American, Aussie or whatever that uses that word in anything but the more reprehensible manner

those two sentiments seem at odds with one another, and are more than a little wrong, to boot. According to this guy by way of Wikipedia, kike was used as a term of affection within the Jewish community for a time.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:17 AM on March 25, 2010


With all due respect: everybody gets your point, Skygazer. Most people who care enough to wade through an epic MeTa seems to disagree with you. Who are you trying to convince? We get it. We disagree.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:19 AM on March 25, 2010


For non-gendered slurs, I'm a big fan of pigfucker, from the South Park movie, and still use it frequently. Advocating violence against duly elected public officials? You, sir, are a pigfucker.

At the same time, I wholeheartedly agree with the "let's be a bit more civil" folks. This thread? Surprisingly civil, even for MeTa
.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:54 AM on March 25 [+] [!]

I thought pigfucker originated with Hunter S. Thompson relating a story about LBJ.
posted by Sailormom at 11:23 AM on March 25, 2010


You seem to be arguing both sides of the aisle, here, Skygazer. On the one hand, you want us to believe that you're somehow amazed that we're all stuck on taking the word only in the worst possible context, and then you also repeatedly claim that your whole argument for usage is based on how great the word is to use precisely because it is so incendiary. I'm having a hard time figuring out whether you're just blindly grasping for excuses and therefore can't seem to see how inconsistent you're being, or whether you don't really believe anything you're saying. Either way: You're convincing nobody.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


And I see little connection between the words "Nigger" or "kike." Which are never okay to use, I mean there is no English usage Brit, American, Aussie or whatever that uses that word in anything but the more reprehensible manner.

It is not unheard of for one black person in America to say to another "What's my nigga?"

Not being Jewish, I can't speak to whatever they hell they do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on March 25, 2010


Mostly just glare disapprovingly. So if you glare disapprovingly at one of us and we're all "you can't do that. Only we can do that," you know why.
posted by shmegegge at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Restless_Nomad: I hope it's clear at this point, Skygazer, that what the meaning of the word is for you has pretty much nothing at all to do with what it is for the rest of the world.

It seems mostly the U.S. Mefites that are completely zero tolerance when it comes to that word, with a bit more tolerance of it on the U.K. side.

Barret caulk: Most people who care enough to wade through an epic MeTa seems to disagree with you. Who are you trying to convince? We get it. We disagree.

I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I'm trying to get some clarification on what a word means to people and to adjust accordingly. And this is just a general discussion, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's found this eye-opening and good towards establishing a better tenor of conversation or commentary, or whatever on the site.

Just generally, here's something else, that has become somewhat annoyingly apparent, I think after you've been tooling around a community site fon and off for a decade or s, there's a false sense that you're known to some extent. That you can say certain things, as you would around friends and your meaning will be understood. And it's truly something to be aware of, that while there may be a dozen or two people who "know you" here there's like a 100,000+ others who don't. I hope that doesn't undermine the level of friendliness and understanding and community, but an increasingly public forum, necessitates more formal behavior. It'll be interesting to see how it changes things moving forward..
posted by Skygazer at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah but they glare disapprovingly at everything.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, kike started as more of an in-group term [i.e. Jews called other Jews this] and then it developed into more of a slur. Yid is probably more of the nigger equivalent, as is JAP.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2010


I've never heard Jews refer to each other as Kikes the way Irish-Americans sometimes call each other micks or paddys. I actually think kike has mostly disappeared from contemporary usage -- the one context where I actually heard it being used to refer to me (in reference to my Jewish-Irish heritage, calling me "Mike McKike"), is rang so strange on my ears that I didn't really know what to make of it. And that's probably for the best.

"Sheeny" also seems to have lost popularity in referring to Jews. Heeb might be the only word that still has some currency, but, then, that's mostly because New York hipsters decided to reclaim it.

Hymie popped up quite a few years ago when Jesse Jackson called New York Hymietown, which he took a lot of heat for, although even by then that word had become really dated, a bit like calling black people Spooks. Who does that anymore? One hopes that the increasing obscurity of epithets diminish their power, which is why I don't really mind when they are discouraged.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2010


IRFH: you're just blindly grasping for excuses and therefore can't seem to see how inconsistent you're being, or whether you don't really believe anything you're saying.

WTF. GMAB.
posted by Skygazer at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2010


I've never heard Jews refer to each other as Kikes the way Irish-Americans sometimes call each other micks or paddys. I actually think kike has mostly disappeared from contemporary usage -- the one context where I actually heard it being used to refer to me (in reference to my Jewish-Irish heritage, calling me "Mike McKike"), is rang so strange on my ears that I didn't really know what to make of it. And that's probably for the best.

For context... my grandfather was busted a full rank while serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII for slugging a superior officer who called him a "dirty kike." The word has been considered an epithet for a long time.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2010


Didja hear about the new Italian snow tires?
posted by fixedgear at 11:53 AM on March 25, 2010


Sailormom : I thought pigfucker originated with Hunter S. Thompson relating a story about LBJ.

I can't speak to that part of it, but I can absolutely guarantee that it predates the South Park movie. It was a preferred pejorative used by my friends and I in college in the early '90s. I can't honestly say where we got it from though.

posted by quin at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2010


OED has a 1939 cite for "pigfucker" as American coarse slang, but cites Thompson for "pigfucking".
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Skygazer, I'm not saying that your definition doesn't match some other regional definition somewhere. I'm saying that just because you think your usage "sheds, or should I say mutes, the misogynist, historical aspects or at least sublimates them to new usage" doesn't mean that anyone else is going to read it that way. Astro Zombie put it rather better than I did, although more sarcastically.

Basically, if you think you're being a poet, odds are everyone else is just going to think you're an asshole. Particularly in a conversation on the internet, where people pretty much try to use words in ways that other people are likely to understand.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:00 PM on March 25, 2010


I'm not trying to be an ass, Skygazer. Your behavior in this thread is seriously puzzling to me. You sincerely seem to be arguing two opposing things, with either no awareness or at least no mention of how they conflict. On the one hand, you argue that sometimes use of "the doomsday word" seems warranted for the absolute worst people. On the other hand, you insist that you're surprised people found the usage so offensive. You want to use it because it's so offensive, yet you're surprised people find it so offensive? Can you honestly not see how these two arguments seem to conflict with one another?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:05 PM on March 25, 2010


I was a bit too sarcastic. I apologize. Sometimes my blood gets het up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, me too. Too sarcastic, I mean. Het up blood. And also, I apologize.

I'd still like an explanation for the conflicting arguments, though. Which is it? Is it the nuclear option, or is it simply misunderstood?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:11 PM on March 25, 2010


*buys fanny pack, travels to Britain*

Why the fuck is everyone laughing at me?
posted by Skot at 12:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Skygazer:

IRFH: you're just blindly grasping for excuses and therefore can't seem to see how inconsistent you're being, or whether you don't really believe anything you're saying.

WTF. GMAB.


You honestly don't see what's inconsistent about what you've been saying?

You say that you meant to use the word in a way that "mutes, the misogynist, historical aspects."

But then you also say that you want to mix in " one part hyperbole to get the shock effect at the use of the word,."

What do you think the shock effect of the word is if not its misogynistic and historical aspects? Where do you think the shock effect of the word comes from if not its misogynistic and historical aspects?

Furthermore, as was said above: how is using the word, as you did, to describe a contemptible, disgusting, loathesome female "sublimat[ing] it to new usage"?? What exactly is the "new usage" you were going for there?

I don't understand the need to get stuck on the misogynist aspects of it.

Maybe that's because you're not in the group who would be hurt by it.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


My distaste for the 'c-word' runs deeper than for any other swearing, possibly because seeing it and even thinking it makes me feel personally implicated in an all-pervasive woman-hating that coats everything in our culture like gritty and noisome soot from a centuries old underground coal fire that almost everyone refuses to acknowledge the existence of, despite the fact that the smoke is often so thick you can barely breathe.

But if we had our way, wouldn't it pass out of use only to be replaced by something else equally woman-hating?
posted by jamjam at 12:22 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad: Basically, if you think you're being a poet, odds are everyone else is just going to think you're an asshole. Particularly in a conversation on the internet, where people pretty much try to use words in ways that other people are likely to understand.

Yes, you are entirely correct and have found me out. Hark, I cometh to Metafilter to be a poet, a wordsmith, a purveyor of polysyllabic and monosyllabic piffle paffle!
posted by Skygazer at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2010


Ashley801: You say that you meant to use the word in a way that "mutes, the misogynist, historical aspects."

But then you also say that you want to mix in " one part hyperbole to get the shock effect at the use of the word,."

What do you think the shock effect of the word is if not its misogynistic and historical aspects? Where do you think the shock effect of the word comes from if not its misogynistic and historical aspects?


If Cortex feels kind enough to put up the c-word comment that was scrubbed and it can be seen used in context, perhaps that might help. (It was an aside and I can't remember it precisely.)

But this is sorta getting circular it seems.

Also, since I'm a "poet," I don't feel a need to explain what I wrote. That's for critics. "Poets," such as myself use a whole different side of our brains and can't be expected to clarify for the masses the mult-varied, mult-toned and hued complexity of our "writing."
posted by Skygazer at 12:32 PM on March 25, 2010


ja ja ja btw nanaji says i love you
posted by infini at 12:34 PM on March 25, 2010


"Poets," such as myself use a whole different side of our brains and can't be expected to clarify for the masses the mult-varied, mult-toned and hued complexity of our "writing."
Wasn't sure before, but now I know you're taking the piss. Thank God for that; the way MeTa is there was a slim possibility you wrote all that bollocks in all seriousness.
posted by Abiezer at 12:39 PM on March 25, 2010


Skygazer, I've been reading here and not commenting because everyone else is making my points quite eloquently, but I feel compelled to let you know that nothing you're saying is making you come off like less of an ass. Seems to me like Ashley801 has raised a very cogent point here, and your artsy-fartsy dismissal of it isn't doing you any favors.
posted by KathrynT at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't read this thread and not think of the woman on my campus who drew "I <3>
Cunt is a weird word. I kind of love it, just how it sounds. But yea, I'm glad to see that it was deleted when it was used in a derogatory manner.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2010


piffle paffle is exactly the kind gendered insult I think we can all get behind. Or in front of. Or both. In fact, an unbroken daisy chain of piffle paffle is our snarkright as mefites.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worst thing about metafilter: You can't properly do a "less than 3" :(

It was I "heart" my cunt in the comment above.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2010


Just as long as we can still say Cnut.
posted by everichon at 12:43 PM on March 25, 2010


Skygazer:

Ashley801: You say that you meant to use the word in a way that "mutes, the misogynist, historical aspects."

But then you also say that you want to mix in " one part hyperbole to get the shock effect at the use of the word,."

What do you think the shock effect of the word is if not its misogynistic and historical aspects? Where do you think the shock effect of the word comes from if not its misogynistic and historical aspects?

If Cortex feels kind enough to put up the c-word comment that was scrubbed and it can be seen used in context, perhaps that might help. (It was an aside and I can't remember it precisely.)


Skygazer, *you* saw that comment. You know what it said. You wrote about your rationale for using that word and what it meant to you. I'll take you on your word that you're right about what the rationale was behind your own comment.

I was only asking about the inconsistency between those two parts of your rationale that I quoted.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:43 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just as long as we can still say Cnut.
Don't expect the tide to turn on that one. Argh, groan, etc.
posted by Abiezer at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Worst thing about metafilter: You can't properly do a "less than 3" :(

Use a named entity: &lt; becomes < and doesn't break html.

<3 <3 <3
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:49 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Side note: I was interested in the word "yid" when I read Yiddish Policeman's Union, as I thought Michael Chabon was attempting a sort of reclamation with that derogatory term. Turns out:

Throughout the novel, the offensive word "yid" is used among Jews without anyone taking exception. "I have no misgivings," says Chabon. "In Yiddish, yid means Jew. So when you say the greeting 'Vos macht a yid?' it means 'How's it going?' When spoken between Jews 'yid' has intimacy - and that's why I used it. It demarcates the fact that you belong to the group. So in my novel, which is set in a big ghetto, everyone is a yid."
posted by theredpen at 12:52 PM on March 25, 2010


Yeah, another British person chiming in to say that to me "cunt" is not a mild term. It's one people -- especially where I'm from, seemingly -- use not infrequently. But that doesn't stop it being extremely rude, off-limits language to a ton of people. It's not something I'd say in front of my grandmother, or at work, or when I was around people I don't know very well, and couldn't be sure they'd understand it in the same way as me.

On a personal level, as a non-insult, like nadawi above I quite like it, but in a public interaction it's not appropriate.

I would be very surprised to hear it in any situation apart from talking with close friends, and hearing a man refer to a woman as a cunt is something I have always found shocking. The amount of scorn it carries is like a slap in the face. When strangers have called me a cunt, it felt to me like they did it to put me in my place as worthless and female.

But even if I didn't find it personally offensive, there's no guaranteeing how other people would understand it. As an aside: I used to use this word quite a lot when I was younger -- as did my friends -- until one day saying it around a male acquaintance of mine seemed to signify to him that I was okay with any taboo-crossing language and jokes. This started a barrage of rape and racist jokes that I was definitely not okay with, and I had the queasy feeling I'd enabled somehow. It made me reflect about the signals that the language I used sent about the things I consider acceptable or not.

Posting on Metafilter is in a way participating in public discourse, and as Miko mentioned above, Metafilter doesn't operate as a conversation between friends would. While someone may reason that they wrote the word "cunt" because of an extreme situation which merits strong language, you can't control how somebody else will see it. It might be perceived as a sign that as a community MeFites are down with testing the waters with what's offensive or not (as well as making it a less friendly place for the majority of users who find this an offensive term).

tl; dr, it's not difficult to avoid saying, and swearing at someone doesn't add much to criticism of them, anyway.

Time to take a walk.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 12:55 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's nasty, which is why I save it for special occasions and never use it in mixed company.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:03 PM on March 25, 2010


Why would it be okay to use in non-mixed company, but not mixed company?
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:16 PM on March 25, 2010


prehensile labia would make an excellent name for a rock band.
posted by Kimberly at 1:19 PM on March 25, 2010


Why is it so hard to understand that MetaFilter is not your living room or front porch? Just because it would be OK with your circle of friends does not mean it's appropriate for this setting. There are very few things that we say "Not in this community" about, and this is one of them. Gendered and racial epitaphs are not cool here. Just because your circle of friends has some shared history that makes them OK in context doesn't mean they're OK in the context of this site. This is not your living room, and you don't get to decide what's OK here. You're part of a community that decides, and the community has decided pretty firmly.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:19 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mixed company is just shorthand for "people who are like you and people who are not like you" not just "people who are like you" There's a sense in which certain jokes may be amusing if properly contextualized within a certain group of friends where you know each other, you know each others' history and baggage and associations and can make a pretty good guess at how something you say will be received.

So, as a shorthand example, people like to make Idiocracy jokes/comments here sometimes. One of the lines from that movie is "Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded." It's funny [to many people] if you know the movie and know exactly how that line is delivered and are in a group that you can reasonably assume knows these things. If you don't know it's a quote from a movie and you think someone on MeFi may be calling you a fag in a disparaging way, it's a lot less funny and in fact it's pretty annoying.

This happened I think yesterday? I deleted the comment [actually I may have deleted the larger thread and mentioned something about Idiocracy because of a flagged comment that had said that] and had a nice exchange with the person leaving the comment along the line of "oh right, not everyone on MeFi gets my jokes" No big deal, I think from either of our perspectives, but I think that's what people mean when they talk about mixed company.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:20 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


See the problem here is that everything you're saying can be applied to many, many other words.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2010


See,
posted by stinkycheese at 1:40 PM on March 25, 2010


See the problem here is that everything you're saying can be applied to many, many other words.

So, serious question. Why do you think it isn't?
posted by KathrynT at 1:42 PM on March 25, 2010


I can only speak for myself - but, even though it's not a word I use in conversation, it troubles me to see it stricken from the site's vocabulary. It has been used on the blue up until recently, and there is very often in-thread comment and criticism upon its appearance (as well as a couple of previous Meta threads of course), but it has been used.

It's one thing to say the use of cunt as a gendered insult is verboten, but to say the use of the word at all is forbidden is indeed a precedent, and it speaks to the site's ongoing US-centricity.

That's the answer to your question, by the way, KathrynT. It offends American sensibilities.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:48 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


When you consider just how foul that hate-laden, cretinous, pathetic assemblage of vomit and bile is, sparing it just four letters, especially four letters that don't even describe why it is so deserving of our loathing and contempt, is laziness of high order. If you really despise something, for goodness sake don't simply dash off a trite little epithet and run away. That seething, scheming, wretched, odious, toad-eating vermin is reprehensible to the utmost and deserves everyone's best effort of earnest deploration. So, next time don't just phone it in, put your back into it!
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's one thing to say the use of cunt as a gendered insult is verboten, but to say the use of the word at all is forbidden is indeed a precedent, and it speaks to the site's ongoing US-centricity.

But we're not saying that. We're saying that using it a a gendered insult is fucked up and not okay, and that using it in general outside of that context needs to be done with care.

That the word used as a gendered insult offends a whole lot of Americans, and that a bulk of the sites membership is American, are practical facts of life, not things intentionally designed into the site or embodied in some mission statement we're pursuing. And as much as I'd love to see a bigger international userbase on mefi, granting carte blanche on "cunt" does not seem like the answer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


arguing the usage of cunt that got this thread started as being a misunderstanding about language and different countries is like me trying to defend calling someone a faggot by saying, "no, i didn't mean that he is lesser because he is romantically attracted to guys, i meant that he is a bundle of sticks!" the context and meaning were crystal clear, which even the poster agrees to when he's not trapping himself in some weird circular argument.

and for those yelling that this is a US-centric problem, and that cunt doesn't have the weight other places - i have to wonder - if a woman asked you to lick her cunt, would you be confused? think she's asking you to lick her bastard, skinhead, tough necked friend?

i understand that among friends, among shared histories, certain words can be divorced from their actual meaning and that participating in this doesn't make you a misogynist, but in public discourse, in civil discourse, in a room filled with thousands of people, proudly proclaiming your right to refer to a woman you hate with a word that insults her femininity seems like to worst of internet debating.
posted by nadawi at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's the answer to your question, by the way, KathrynT. It offends American sensibilities.

OK, and?

Look, I love that MeFi isn't exclusively American. I wish it was less so. But allowing people to use a word in a way that is powerfully repellent to the majority of users without comment or censure doesn't seem to be same thing as striking up the Internationale, you know?
posted by KathrynT at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to say the use of cunt as a gendered insult is verboten, but to say the use of the word at all is forbidden is indeed a precedent, and it speaks to the site's ongoing US-centricity.

Clearly the use of the word at all is not forbidden, as it is used many times in this very thread.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:57 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to say the use of cunt as a gendered insult is verboten, but to say the use of the word at all is forbidden is indeed a precedent, and it speaks to the site's ongoing US-centricity.

Who said that where?
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2010


jessamyn: "So, as a shorthand example, people like to make Idiocracy jokes/comments here sometimes. One of the lines from that movie is "Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded." It's funny [to many people] if you know the movie and know exactly how that line is delivered and are in a group that you can reasonably assume knows these things. If you don't know it's a quote from a movie and you think someone on MeFi may be calling you a fag in a disparaging way, it's a lot less funny and in fact it's pretty annoying."

I see that quote as a really poorly executed dogwhistle...one where the surface read (for those who don't have common ground knowledge of the inside-baseball meaning of the phrase...the movie reference) gives people pause (i.e. makes them go, "huh? This doesn't sound like something this person would say, and it contains all sorts of offensive words; what's that all about?") But they don't get to know, because they're not on the inside; they only get to know the petty sting of somebody excluding them in a dumb way for a cheap joke.

Basically, you get the speaker trying to make an inside joke to a bunch of people, but the wink-wink factor of it is sort of accidental and incidental...its existence only revealed because the literal read of the content is offensive. Very much like that hipster thread a while back referenced 'my Asian girlfriend' in the title, or when George Bush referred to the 3,000 dead soldiers of the Iraq war as 'just a comma' in God's plan. Sometimes the offense or exclusion is not intentional, but regardless, it's careless speech, easily misunderstood and often insensitive to alternate interpretations by others with less common ground knowledge than the speaker. The results from that often suck. And it is why forms of veiled speech like this are damaging. And confusing to unpack. It creates cognitive dissonance and an attempt at creating social hierarchy (maybe not intentionally so, but it's what often happens or how it's perceived)...especially lame in an environment where equality is of high value, and a more flattened and wide culture, rather than a tall, hierarchical one is the community goal.

Even though I'm only 5', I have no issues with tall things. Carry on and loom away!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to say the use of cunt as a gendered insult is verboten, but to say the use of the word at all is forbidden is indeed a precedent, and it speaks to the site's ongoing US-centricity.


But we're not saying that. We're saying that using it a a gendered insult is fucked up and not okay, and that using it in general outside of that context needs to be done with care.


Thanks for the clarification then. I have no problem with any of that.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2010


it troubles me to see it stricken from the site's vocabulary.

But it hasn't been. For instance, if I were to put together a post on the origins of profanity, and I included it in there among other words, as long as that post didn't violate other rules of the site I would expect it to stand.

Similarly, if I were to quote the excellent scene from Shaun of the Dead, where they introduce Ed with him delivering the line "Can I get... any of you cunts... a drink?" to instantly provide context for why the other characters would be irritated with him, I would be surprised at its deletion.

It's all about context.
posted by quin at 2:08 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And that kids, is why you should preview.
posted by quin at 2:10 PM on March 25, 2010


I was getting the distinct impression context was not important in this case.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2010


when both cortex and jessamyn have used the word cunt in this thread, how were you given that impression?
posted by nadawi at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2010


OK, and?

And it also offends people from Great Britain, who feel that there are few, limited contexts where it isn't utterly boorish, as friends from the UK have expressed several time in this thread. In fact, when looking for someone to defend the use of the word specifically as an insult to a woman, I am hard-pressed to find anybody in the thread, minus the original poster, who really defends it. Some people have complained about constraints on speech, but I'm not seeing people saying it's an awesome word that we desperately need to effectively communicate.

And the truth is, this is one of the few times I have seen the word used on MetaFilter at all. We certainly don't have Brits actually popping in all the time and saying SO HOW ARE YOU CUNTS DOING.

So maybe we shouldn't discuss that usage of it, unless it starts becoming common. Let's, instead, simply address the poster's usage of it, which was a gendered slut to women. If the less formal, breezier, pals taking the piss at the pub usage starts popping up, perhaps that's when the discussion of hat usage will be necessary; at this moment, it's academic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just to be clear, that wasn't meant as a rebuttal to KathrynT; just jumping off from what she was saying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:22 PM on March 25, 2010


But I did mean "hat usage." It's an important subject that we don't discuss enough on MetaFilter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bowlerdash!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Get rid of the Seaward."
"I'll leave when I'm good and ready."
posted by pxe2000 at 2:30 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"hat usage."

I prefer a nice all cotton BDU hat. They have a short brim which I like, and once they've gotten wet and shrunk a little, they conform to the head really nicely.

And now, weirdly, they are back "in style" and I see people all over wearing fancy distressed ones that probably cost more than $30, which is hilarious when you can go to any surplus shop and get one for about $5.

Also, in winter, you can use the ones with hidden fold down ear flaps, and that's just awesome.
posted by quin at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2010


Man they just put in a Goorin Bros. a block from my apartment and it is bad news for my wallet. On the plus side, my wife got me a hat box for my birthday so am still pretty sure she is the best person ever.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on March 25, 2010


But I did mean "hat usage." It's an important subject that we don't discuss enough on MetaFilter.

How quickly we forget the Great MetaTalk Fedora War.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie, you bring up hat usage but you leave "gendered slut to women" alone? ;)
posted by nadawi at 2:51 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nadawi: arguing the usage of cunt that got this thread started as being a misunderstanding about language and different countries is like me trying to defend calling someone a faggot by saying, "no, i didn't mean that he is lesser because he is romantically attracted to guys, i meant that he is a bundle of sticks!"


The word Faggot is to the word Cunt : As checkers is to chess.


(That's just more absolutist judgmental PC silliness. It's don't worry though, you're in good company.)
posted by Skygazer at 3:07 PM on March 25, 2010


> Would be great to hear from Languagehat on this. Can someone shine the Languagehat bat-signal.

"Cunt" is a nasty, sexist insult that I do not use, and I think less of anyone (any American) I hear using it. I recognize that the situation is different outside the US, but we Americans can't magically transform ourselves into Brits or Aussies and say "Oh, it's OK because that person isn't American." I also recognize that Brits or Aussies can't magically transform themselves into Yanks and in general have a hard time understanding why it's such an incendiary word over here, but that's how it goes in this variegated world of ours. MeFi, like it or not, is a US-based site, the mods are American, and it's in the nature of things that American sensibilities are taken account of. If I started hanging out on a UK-based website, I would obviously have to have to get used to hearing "cunt" and "twat" thrown around casually, and I would do so; I certainly wouldn't post self-righteous screeds about how "you shouldn't use that awful word," because when in Rome etc. But by the same token if I discovered that the people on that hypothetical website were very offended by my use of some word that I thought was fairly innocuous, I wouldn't post self-righteous screeds about how they should get over it, because it's just a word. I'd try to train myself to stop using it on that site, because that's how people should behave with each other.

> I don't understand the need to get stuck on the misogynist aspects of it.

Something tells me you're not female.

I should add that I'm only talking about the word's use as an insult. As a woman's term for her own anatomy, it's fine, obviously. (I long ago quoted Joan Larkin's wonderful sonnet on that theme.)

I can't believe we're doing this again.
posted by languagehat at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


skygazer - every time you type you make less sense.
posted by nadawi at 3:14 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the word "enema" would be a much better insult if only the word sounded better.

More enematapoetic?
posted by zippy at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


skygazer - every time you type you make less sense.
posted by nadawi at 6:14 PM on March 25 [+] [!]


That's probably because you can't conceive of an argument on certain subjects, without having to make a personal judgement.
posted by Skygazer at 3:27 PM on March 25, 2010


Which argument are you refering to, Skygazer? The one where you're so astonished at how everyone was so offended by your little word, or the one where the word Faggot is to the word Cunt : As checkers is to chess?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:32 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's probably because you can't conceive of an argument on certain subjects, without having to make a personal judgement.

i've said many times in this thread that there are uses and times for cunt and that it's not a black and white issue. you must be confusing me with someone else. the reason i said you make less and less sense is because you participate in contradictory, circular arguments of "i meant to be overtly offensive"/"i was just being witty!" and nonsensical responses, such as cheese to checkers.
posted by nadawi at 3:32 PM on March 25, 2010


I think we may have crossed into the trollzone, if we weren't there at the beginning.
posted by Miko at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2010


I don't think he's trolling, he's just trying to argue with everyone, although very few (if any) of the participants here are undecided. Continuing to poke him is a bit pointless and will soon veer into needless unkindness.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:37 PM on March 25, 2010


Not me. I'm poking with needles unkindness.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:41 PM on March 25, 2010


Is everything really so either/or and black and white in your world? Can you really not see a comment being composed of any number of impulses ?

Comparing the word faggot and cunt, is a false dichotomy and not in good faith. It's more about a dismissive superficial understanding of the matter, then anything else. and adding nonsense like "your argument is circular," is just antagonizing.

When I said that above it was referring to the same arguments being brought up by people again and again, with little progress to that I could discern from it and a certain thickness and inability for people to understand that the word means something in different cultures.

But the shitty troublesome aspect has been being greeted by such closed minds with absolute, zero-tolerance, simply attributing a question to misogynistic tendencies, just by broaching a subject. And there's a lot less goodwill than I thought here.
posted by Skygazer at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2010


I think we may have crossed into the trollzone, if we weren't there at the beginning.
posted by Miko at 6:33 PM on March 25 [+] [!]


This is exactly what I mean. What the hell are you even talking about?
posted by Skygazer at 3:52 PM on March 25, 2010


6:50 is for Nadawi.
posted by Skygazer at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2010


Comparing the word faggot and cunt, is a false dichotomy and not in good faith.

...

When I said that above it was referring to the same arguments being brought up by people again and again, with little progress to that I could discern from it and a certain thickness and inability for people to understand that the word means something in different cultures.

Everybody in this thread has unanimously agreed that the word means something different in different cultures.

You said that's the case for you, that you were trying to use that word in a new way. I asked you how you figured that using that word as a weapon against a woman you found despicable was a new usage.

You were also the one who said you were using the word for shock effect. If you were using the word in a different way than how we were taking it, I asked you where you thought the shock effect of the word came from, if not its misogyny.

Your reply to me was essentially that you couldn't remember what you had said.

You are the one who is not operating in good faith here.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skygazer, I'm not sure what the issue is. To my reading, every point in your initial question was addressed, for the most part thoughtfully and openly. Beyond that, it sounds like you would like us to join together and say "no, your post shouldn't have been deleted." That, or you enjoy arguing.

I don't think either path is a fruitful one. I apologize if I'm misreading your intent, but that's how you come across to me in this discussion.
posted by zippy at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect they mean that you don't actually seem to be interested in discussing this in good faith -- it seems like you are either ignoring or mocking people are trying to have a reasonable discussion, particularly the people who have repeatedly pointed out that you seem to be making two contradictory arguments -- that "cunt" is the atom bomb of words and that's it's value, and that it's a word whose shock value is mediated by the fact that the British use it casually among friends. As far as I am able to tell, you haven't responded to this, and that kind of suggests you weren't really interested in figuring out why your comment was deleted when you started this MeTa thread, but instead started it merely to complain, make your points, and become weirdly gleeful at the outraged reactions you get.

It may not be deliberate trolling, but it winds up having about the same effect.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


So that's three people who have functionally said the same thing. Do you need more?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2010


Comparing the word faggot and cunt, is a false dichotomy and not in good faith.

Not when you specifically said that you knew you were using cunt in the nuclear-bomb sense, and not in the "Hey you cunts who's turn is it to stand me a drink?" sense. You were aware that it has an extremely offensive connotation on this side of the pond and you used it anyway.
posted by rtha at 4:06 PM on March 25, 2010


Comparing the word faggot and cunt, is a false dichotomy and not in good faith.

Can you break down for me how that works? Because to me, it seems like an absolutely valid comparison in excellent faith.
posted by KathrynT at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2010


But the shitty troublesome aspect has been being greeted by such closed minds with absolute, zero-tolerance, simply attributing a question to misogynistic tendencies, just by broaching a subject.

I don't think people are saying "you are a misogynist", I think we're responding to your original question -- is there a time when it's okay to use this word, and in particular what are the rules of the road on Mefi? The answer is "American readers of this site who don't know you - which is just about all of them - have no context for understanding your use of that word in the way you want. It will understandably strike them as offensive, because -- as outlined extensively above -- it's an offensive word to most Americans. That's why it gets deleted here at Mefi."

Just saying "but I don't want it to provoke that response" is neither here nor there. You asked for facts about what response it in fact provokes; the decision about deletion is based on what response it in fact provokes.

Is there some further good-faith question you want to raise about this?
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:08 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


So when nearly everyone in a 300+ thread tells you you're clearly wrong, we're thick, and you're still just misunderstood? You have no impulse towards self reflection? No questioning your own motivations, conclusions, or communication skills?

with little progress to that I could discern from it and a certain thickness and inability for people to understand that the word means something in different cultures.

Almost everyone you have engaged with (including both mods, on multiple occasions) has said repeatedly that, "Yes, we understand that it means something else in other cultures." However, since you aren't a member of those cultures and since you actually said that wasn't why you used the term in the first place (and since you completely ignore those responses), that reasoning doesn't seem to lead to much of an understanding. On your part. You refered to cunt as, and I quote: "the doomsday word, and there's only one word I know with that firepower." So yeah. It seems to everyone here that you understood how what you were saying would be read when you said it. Because you told us you did.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:11 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think I would just rather that, if your comment will nothing to offer other than the nastiest insult you can think of, you hold your tongue no matter which word you were planning to use.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:15 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Zippy: It sounds like you would like us to join together and say "no, your post shouldn't have been deleted."

Nah, not at all. I don't need for everyone to agree with me.

I know I'm right.

~wink~

Thanks everyone.

Have a great evening or night.

*or morning
posted by Skygazer at 4:23 PM on March 25, 2010


Too late. I slept like crap last night, and all day with this stinking headache... Oh. You don't really care? Okay. Good night.

~wink~
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on March 25, 2010


Fuck it, I can't humor this anymore after that accusation of bad faith. It's time to call a spade a spade.

You used the word cunt out of your "own deep loathing of the woman."
A woman you found "repellent."
You wanted to use a word against her that would pack "a wallop"
A "doomsday word"
The "only one word [you] know with that firepower."
A word that would be "elephant gun-like."

You were most decidedly using the word in the American sense. Your meaning was not ambiguous or unclear. You were not misunderstood by anyone.

You wanted to "wallop" a woman you loathe with the most violent word you could think of.

I was totally willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on the misogyny front until now, but it's become clear exactly why you use the word, and that you're simply looking for excuses to do so.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:27 PM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


*this stinking headache not refering to this thread, BTW - it's a literal headache (but a metaphorical stink)*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:27 PM on March 25, 2010


This discussion just slays me. I can't imagine, as a white person, participating in a parallel conversation by high-handedly stating that racist slurs were officially no longer offensive, because, you know, Dr. Dre created a rap group called the Niggaz With Attitude, my elderly relatives always spoke kindly of colored people in so many words, and Jim Crow laws have all been overturned. Ergo, the painful terms have been "reclaimed," I come from a subculture that thinks nothing of them, and the official bastions of racism have all been torn down. Racist slurs are therefore now morally neutral! Right, my nigga?

And if I ever were drunk or brain-damaged enough to attempt such a stance, how well-received would it be? Would the Black folk see my side, build a bridge, and get the hell over themselves? Would they set aside their lifelong, firsthand experience with racism in favor of the white lady's nuanced stance? Sure, that's a reasonable expectation. My arguments are so persuasive!

A ridiculous hypothetical scenario. And yet! Men have no problem shouldering their way into the "cunt" debate and boorishly mansplaining to all of us little ladies that Inga Muscio titled her book Cunt, their friends use the term joshingly, and sexism has been totally eradicated. I mean, with Title XI and shit like that. Eradicated! And now that the playing field has been thoroughly leveled, what better way to celebrate than by calling prominent women cunts? The proof is in the pudding!

So what is up with our shrill, hysterical reaction? Why are our panties in a bunch? Are we all on the rag? Why do we have sand in our vaginas? Golly, look at all the gendered terminology we have in common parlance for "overreacting." I'm sure that's just a co-inky-dink and has naught to do with the fact that women's opinions are routinely dismissed. That's because estrogen is a stupid hormone that is responsible for stupid stuff like hurt feelings, whereas testosterone is an awesome hormone responsible for awesome stuff like guns.

Look, racism and sexism are a lot alike. Both -isms concern groups that have been historically disenfranchised and subjugated. Although that disenfrancisement/subjugation is no longer, for the most part, institutionalized, the people who kept that machinery going still walk among us--or at the very least, the children and grandchildren they reared and indoctrinated do. The headstones have been moved, but the bodies are still there. When my father was a kid, my grandmother took him to visit relatives in Farmington, Missouri, where he saw segregated drinking fountains. When my mother went hunting for her first job, the help-wanted classifieds were still broken into "Men" and "Women" sections.

This is within living memory, guys. These slurs you keep asserting your right to use on MeFi (as guaranteed by the Eleventeenth Amendment, I believe) are part and parcel of the bodies that haven't yet been moved. You don't get to say sexism is over with. Not only is that determination not your purview, it's just plain wrong. Wage gap? Second shift? Beauty terror? Any of this ringing a bell? If not, maybe you should start listening to women instead of just staring at them. Just a thought!
posted by cirocco at 4:29 PM on March 25, 2010 [73 favorites]


Nah, not at all. I don't need for everyone to agree with me.

Then why post the MeTa?
posted by KathrynT at 4:31 PM on March 25, 2010


> Nah, not at all. I don't need for everyone to agree with me.

I know I'm right.

~wink~

Thanks everyone.

Have a great evening or night.


Yup, troll. Somehow I'm disappointed.
posted by languagehat at 4:40 PM on March 25, 2010


cirocco - i would favorite your comment a million trillion times.
posted by nadawi at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2010


Men have no problem shouldering their way into the "cunt" debate and boorishly mansplaining to all of us little ladies that Inga Muscio titled her book Cunt, their friends use the term joshingly, and sexism has been totally eradicated.

YES. There it is. In a nutshell.

Adds "mansplaining" to list of favorite words.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:54 PM on March 25, 2010


<3<3<3! Thank you cortex!
posted by The Devil Tesla at 5:02 PM on March 25, 2010


All this fuss about the word 'crap?'

Sheesh.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just a little reaction to the upthread bandying of 'kike' as an example, to use as my own example: Kike is my only fighting word. I have a friend, who is essentially an asshole. I don't hang out with him much because he likes to make racist comments, but claims he's not racist. If he would just drop it, and realize it's fucking not funny, maybe we'd be better friends, but he's got friends that love it, so...

Anyway, one day, he started going off on Jews, and started using different words. I stopped him, and explained to him that, to me, hebe, hooknose, and the like? Fine, whatever, you're an ass. Kike? I will punch you in the face. If said in the right situation, I won't stop punching until someone pulls me off. It's a hateful, ugly word, and it should not be used. To which he responded, "Sure thing, kike."

I know I set myself up for it, but punching him in the face felt great, and really took him by surprise.

Anyway, just a little plea, can people stop bandying it around? Both that, and the n-word (which I'm sorry, I find so repulsive I won't say it, type it, or sing it when it comes up in a rap song at karaoke) trigger some pretty unpleasant responses in me, just as cunt does for many other members of the site. Seeing them here, repeatedly, really chips away at the comfort level I have with Metafilter.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:22 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nah, not at all. I don't need for everyone to agree with me.

I know I'm right.

~wink~


Classy.

Ghidorah, I apologize for my using the k-word above. I'm pretty sure you realize that I and other folks here were using it as an example and not as a thing directed at someone, but I totally grok the feeling of discomfort and triggering of WTF!!! So, yeah, I'm sorry.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on March 25, 2010


Also? I'm not generally one for "Yay, violence!" but I'm glad you punched him in the face. I grok that too.
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on March 25, 2010


To my ears, criticizing the use of the word cunt because of its misogyny while embracing the use of the word dick is hypocritical and any defense is spiteful and rings hollow.

I found even typing the c-word painful, yet I still believe the above is correct.
posted by belvidere at 5:57 PM on March 25, 2010


To my ears, criticizing the use of the word cunt because of its misogyny while embracing the use of the word dick is hypocritical and any defense is spiteful and rings hollow.

See here
posted by shakespeherian at 5:58 PM on March 25, 2010


rtha, I do realize that it was for the sake of example, and it was effective, and makes me much less likely to use a lot of words we've been discussing from here on out. It just sets off bad responses in me. As for Yay, violence, I'm not a violent person. That was the second person I've punched in my life, first since fourth grade. I think that he said it not believing I would follow through.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quick bit of context here - although the c-word doesn't have the same misogynistic baggage here in the UK as it does in the US (I honestly had no idea of it until I saw this thread), it is still definitely shocking. You never hear it on TV shows, and rarely in films; even in shows where the f-word gets bandied about happily, people steer clear of the c-word. That's why it's the "nuclear option".

As you can probably tell by my reluctance to even quote the word in question, I'm perfectly happy not to see it on this site. Just wanted to point out that Skygazer's statements that he wanted a shocking word, but was unaware of the anti-women aspects of it, isn't necessarily him being disingenuous - he may simply have wanted a very strong generic insult.

Thanks for filling me in on the word's extra cultural meaning - in the very unlikely event that I'm ever tempted to use the word in a US-dominated community, I'll now know not to!
posted by ZsigE at 6:12 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ashley801: I was totally willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on the misogyny front until now, but it's become clear exactly why you use the word, and that you're simply looking for excuses to do so.

Wow, well that's a fucked up accusation. You are so barking up the wrong tree.

Flagged.
posted by Skygazer at 6:16 PM on March 25, 2010


can people stop bandying it around?

Yup, sorry about that. It was the only word I could think of that I could apply to myself so it was the only one I was comfortable using and I probably overused it. I know it's touchy and yet it's hard to explain what's bad about a word without dragging other bad words in to be all "see, like this bad word."

[see how easy apologizing is? rtha and I both did it.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:22 PM on March 25, 2010


You are so barking up the wrong tree.

Flagged.


Where is this 'I stridently disagree with this' flag? It isn't showing in my browser. Chome 4.1.249.1042.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I thought Skygazer had winked and flounced out.
posted by jokeefe at 6:27 PM on March 25, 2010


Sorry for calling Skygazer a troll above—that's clearly not the case, and I was overcome by the general GRAR quotient of this wretched thread.
posted by languagehat at 6:27 PM on March 25, 2010


Way upthread:
IIt is for this reason that I have recently given up 'retard' although that's been the gold standard for my expression of 'really fucking stupid' for my entire life, and now, not only have I given up 'retard' I'm also trying to give up 'really fucking stupid.' And oh, how I long for the free-wheeling days of 'fucking retarded.'

I like Dan Savage's neologism best - "leotarded". Manages to be mocking without being nasty. Don't mix up "retarded" and "stupid" though - we're all stupid sometimes. Really intelligent people are often stupid. Stupid's something you do periodically. Retarded is something you are, have no choice over and that's the only reason it's an offensive term. "Stupid" is a good-faith word.

The only reason I commented originally was not that I think "cunt" should be used throughout the site, or even to defend Skygazer specifically but because the reaction to Skygazer's original comment was immediate, absolute and imperative. I'm a new member here but I've been a regular visitor of the site for the best part of a decade.

As far as I can tell, "we" don't tell people how to act or what they can say. I've always assumed that we would engage someone on "bad behaviour" of any kind and the person would be made to think for themselves what they had done to merit the response. They would then have the option of changing or maybe deciding to leave. It would all be done within the realms of discourse, likely heated, but as open-minded as possible on both sides.

Saying that someone who used that word against one woman == he hates all women is stupid. It's also closing down any dialogue with that person just because the dialogue make you uncomfortable. Congratulations! You've cowed one person. But changed nothing.

How about "Hey, that's really inappropriate! I'm really surprised. I'm going to presume you're not a horrible person as we've never met and we only have these little squiggles to communicate with - but how about you walk me through the reasoning there?"

A reasonable person is going to feel embarrassed apologise and possibly explain. They will have been given something to think about and may realise a few things.

A huge pile on, presuming the worst, is going to make anyone feel defensive. Defensive people don't usually have great reasoning, and have no motive to anymore.

I know my point's been undermined somewhat by how Skygazer ended up acting but hey.
posted by blue funk at 6:29 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


When my mother went hunting for her first job, the help-wanted classifieds were still broken into "Men" and "Women" sections.

For some reason, this particular detail really resonated with me, and I can't quite decide whether I remember having seen examples of this first hand, or if I'm just remembering something I was exposed to later (in a historical context). I wonder how long it's really been since this practice was discontinued?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:46 PM on March 25, 2010


It was still done in the mid-1970s in my small midwestern city.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:48 PM on March 25, 2010


I started reading the paper in about 1981, 1982 in NJ, and there was still a "Help Wanted - Female" section.
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, as well as a "Women's" section of the paper. It contained the kind of content you would today find in the "Food," "Lifestyle," and "Arts and Culture" sections.
posted by Miko at 6:52 PM on March 25, 2010


Inga Muscio wrote about "cunt-loving" for women to stop hating their own, not so much to make it ok to call people one because you hate them. For the "omg reclaimed! crowd", please realize that you can't reclaim something if you're still using it in the same tired old pejorative way. We can talk ABOUT my cunt but I don't really want to hear who you think IS a cunt. My cunt is better than that, and certainly more charismatic than Sarah Palin.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 6:55 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this would have been in the 70s in the Puget Sound area. I'm guessing it's a real memory, then, and that's why I had such a strong reaction to it. Amazing the things we can forget from our youth, and yet how vivid they seem when brought back to light. Thanks, cirocco, for such a well written comment.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:56 PM on March 25, 2010


I was just in a professional development workshop recently, and we were talking about some HR issues, and the woman delivering the workshop - an HR consultant with her own firm now - talked about what a great job she had with AT&T in the late 70s, 12 years' service , seniority, leadership level and everything, her own division -- and when she got pregnant, they made her quit.

She didn't even fight it. She was like "Of course! I'm so sorry."
posted by Miko at 7:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Classified ads segregated by gender and the fight against them were actually one of the National Organization for Women's initial big wins, in their fight with the EEOC. I am reading a fascinating article about this that I found in the journal Social Problems. I'll email it to anyone who wants to email [not MeMail] me for it. This is from a footnote, but it outlines the timeframe...
Despite the EEOC's policy reversal, the legal battle over sex-segregated ads continued into the 1970s. Technically, the EEOC ruling on help-wanted ads did not have the force of law. Unlike other agencies, the EEOC was not authorized to issue formal administrative regulations, but could issue interpretive guidelines, subject to judicial review. Immediately after the EEOC's ruling, the ANPA and the Washington Star sued the EEOC in federal court to enjoin enforcement of the help-wanted guidelines (American Newspaper Publishers Association v. Alexander 294 F. Supp. 1100 [1968]). Although the district court ruled in favor of the EEOC, the publishing industry continued its legal campaign against the agency's guidelines. As late as 1975, the issue had still not been completely resolved (see Freeman 1975:77- 9). Nonetheless, by the early-to-mid-1970s, many of the nations' newspapers had desegregated their help-wanted ads "partially because of local regulations prohibiting separate listing of want ads and partly because of feminist pressure" (Freeman 1975:79)
Or, if you have JSTOR, here's a cite

Help Wanted NOW: Legal Resources, the Women's Movement, and the Battle over Sex-Segregated Job Advertisements
Author(s): Nicholas Pedriana
Source: Social Problems, Vol. 51, No. 2 (May, 2004), pp. 182-201
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4148730

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just for fun, I checked the Chicago Tribune, which has the full-text online. They ran an announcement on Feb. 28, 1972 saying that they were getting rid of the separate categories and that all ads would be listed under "help wanted-men and women" from then on out.
posted by craichead at 7:07 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Palm Beach Post. September 27, 1981.

Obviously, the changing requirements of a culture increasingly willing to assign human rights to all people weren't easy for everyone to adapt to.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


People use curse words and foul language because they feel insecure and wish to project power they feel they don't actually possess.

The meek shall inherit the fucking earth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:36 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also remember that a good many of the clerical help wanted ads in our local paper in the late 60s and early 70s began "Wanted: Girl Friday" because I had to ask my mother what a GF was.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:41 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I totally remember Girl Friday, too. In fact, until the Craigslist ascendancy, it had morphed to "Guy/Gal Friday" in the local paper.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on March 25, 2010


Ashley801: I was totally willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on the misogyny front until now, but it's become clear exactly why you use the word, and that you're simply looking for excuses to do so.

Wow, well that's a fucked up accusation. You are so barking up the wrong tree.

Flagged.

Wait ... so speech should be removed from this site for no other reason than that some people (in this case, you) consider it to be fucked up? :-o

A person who uses hate speech to try to hurt a woman is engaging in misogynistic behavior.

In its American hate speech usage, "cunt" is a violent word of derision against a woman, and you SAID you wanted to use the word as a shocking, violent weapon, against a woman.

So, you said yourself that you intended it as hate speech.

Despite that, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, at first, that you didn't intend your use of the word cunt to be hate speech. I asked you several times how that word could be, as you said, a shocking weapon, and yet NOT hate speech --- since the entire shock value comes from its being hate speech.

Your response was to first ignore me, then tell me you didn't remember what you said, and then blew me off with a joke.

I was totally open to the idea that the word "cunt" could be shocking, could hurt someone, for some other reason that I didn't know about. If there really was such a reason, why didn't you say so? Because there is no such reason, and you're too dishonest to simply admit it.

Honestly, you might actually come off better if you'd just own up to it. "Yeah, I think some women deserve to be called cunts. Deal with it!" Then you'd just be a simple misogynist. Instead of being dishonest and disingenuous in addition to being a misogynist.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:12 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah, cirocco, your excellent comment does trigger memories.

When I first read the job ads as a kid, they were segregated by sex. The sections for men would run a few pages; the section for women might be a single column. It seemed totally unfair to me.

In my early job-hunting days, it was common when being interviewed for a job for the employer to ask about my plans for marriage and children and it wasn't illegal to do so then. One employer said, "Well, we don't usually like to hire young women of your age because they generally want to have babies within a year or two." When I said I wasn't married and didn't want to have babies, he said "That's what you say now but wait until you meet the right guy!" I was turned down for one job because "A cute young girl like you, how do I know you won't be running off and getting married right after I hire you?" Another employer told me that I wouldn't earn as much as a man if I were hired for the job because a man had to support a family. These types of things weren't all that unusual.

When I first got on the pill, it was illegal for single women to be on the pill. Your husband was supposed to give permission. It was breaking the law to get on the pill and there weren't all that many doctors willing to do that. I sat in a waiting room with a group of pregnant women who were all talking about their pregnancies and asked me about mine, and it is amusing and pathetic to recall my reaction now, but I lied and pretended it was my first pregnancy because I was too embarrassed to tell them I was there to get birth control - plus, a little paranoid because it was illegal. Thank God for Planned Parenthood.

Single women couldn't get credit cards.

Teachers regularly lost their jobs when they became pregnant. This happened with other jobs, too.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:15 PM on March 25, 2010 [28 favorites]


You never hear it on TV shows

"Underarms clean? Cunts braided?"
Al Swearingen, Deadwood.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:31 PM on March 25, 2010


See here

shakespeherian: The better argument is a richer vocabulary.
posted by belvidere at 8:38 PM on March 25, 2010


Al Swearingen, Deadwood.

Hairsplit. That's cable, not broadcast. That line would never be read on a production by a major network with local affiliates. Broadcast standards are not cable standards. Cable exists in no small part so that a program like Deadwood could be seen by consenting adults.
posted by y2karl at 8:51 PM on March 25, 2010


About thirty years ago my mother (English) fell down the stairs. As she fell, she yelled "HELL BUGGER DAMN SHIT CUNT AMEN". It was the only time I've ever heard her swear.

If my mother can deal with it, so can you.
posted by unSane at 9:04 PM on March 25, 2010


MJJJ is exactly right. Add to that the constant background barrage of casual misogyny in the form of women-driver jokes, mother in law jokes, Take my wife please jokes, the ridicule of "women's lib", that whole thing about how menstrual cramps were all in your head because you were "rejecting your femininity", etc., as well as the absolute lack of interesting female characters on television, especially television geared for children. Being a kid during the 60s, I can attest to the longing I felt for a heroic female character of any kind. (Emma Peel, bless her, was one of the very few, and she was gone far too quickly.)
posted by jokeefe at 9:06 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


A huge pile on, presuming the worst, is going to make anyone feel defensive. Defensive people don't usually have great reasoning, and have no motive to anymore.

blue funk, Skygazer was the person who initiated this Meta; he wasn't dragged in here kicking and screaming, but chose to make an issue of the comment deletion. The whole thing could have been dealt with through Memail or an apology, but instead we are here, having this argument all over again.
posted by jokeefe at 9:09 PM on March 25, 2010


Ashley801: Honestly, you might actually come off better if you'd just own up to it. "Yeah, I think some women deserve to be called cunts. Deal with it!"

The way I read this comment from Skygazer, it seems to be there's at least .01% of the time he thinks it is appropriate to use the word cunt in anger directed at a woman.

I'm all too conscious of the gendered aspect of it and how off the charts inappropriate it can be to use in anger towards a woman 99.99% of the time...
posted by Orb at 9:46 PM on March 25, 2010


Use a named entity [Bunch of messy stuff that would probably break after I copied and pasted it]

Pfft. This is how we do it in the pros.

MetaFilter: Just Like When My Mother (English) Fell Down The Stairs Thirty Years Ago
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:47 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


blue funk, Skygazer was the person who initiated this Meta; he wasn't dragged in here kicking and screaming, but chose to make an issue of the comment deletion. The whole thing could have been dealt with through Memail or an apology, but instead we are here, having this argument all over again.
posted by jokeefe


The one doesn't really have anything to do with the other there. I might well reply that no-one was dragged kicking and screaming in here to post replies either, but it's not really relevant to anything is it.

I'm not sure how I got myself into this really but here I am... so I'll say, mainly I was defending a general principle which I think is really crucial. But my whiskers did twitch at the instant attitude that fell on Skygazer. I know nothing about him, but from his actual words it seemed too quick and ill-thought out to me, like people had skimmed for buzzwords and piled on. It even happened to me - a fairly short (unlike the rest sorry, heh) post I wrote was sort of skimmed and returned to me as if I'd said the opposite of what I'd actually said.

Apart from the rambly nature I'm really happy with what I've written here. It was in good faith and I considered each post before I hit Post Comment. I also read carefully even when there were hot-button phrases or topics being raised and tried to honestly convey what I meant rather than trying to "win". Not you personally but quite a few others, I think, didn't bother to do that (for whatever reason). You say it could've been sorted in private or "with an apology and yet here we are having this argument again" - have you had it with Skygazer before? I don't know. If you have and you're tired, fair enough so don't argue. If not, why not engage/educate? Because you've heard it all before and are tired of it? So why argue? (Not "you" personally. "One") That was my point.
posted by blue funk at 10:26 PM on March 25, 2010


why not engage/educate?

This thread has an awful lot of civil, careful explanations, discussion about connotations of the word in different places, etc. When people have challenged Skygazer (for example about his apparently contradictory 'I meant it to be an awful insult' vs. 'I don't understand why people think it's so awful, really it's harmless'), for the most part they've done so extremely civilly.

There is a familiar move in these debates, where someone will say "why is x bad?" and then people explain why they think it's bad, and then the person for whatever reason rejects those explanations and says "if you think something's the matter with x, it's up to you to educate people about it." (I'm not saying that's what you're doing here; I think you're sticking up for someone you think is getting piled on and that's a fine thing to do. BUT be aware that this talk about "why not educate?" sometimes serves as a frustrating way of moving the goalposts - no matter how much you explain and educate, the goalpost-mover is never satisfied.)

Because you've heard it all before and are tired of it?

Over the last few years there have been a succession of long agonizing MetaTalk threads on this topic and related issues about comments (such as rape jokes, etc) that a lot of people felt created a "boyzone" atmosphere -- which tended to discourage women from participating at the site, even if the people making the jokes didn't mean them to have that effect. Ditto for certain kinds of comments about race, sexuality, etc.

Those discussions have been really helpful, and I think have changed the tone here so that we really don't have nearly as much boyzone stuff as we did. (And this site was never among the really awful sites, which is why there were enough women and anti-boyzone men around in the first place to say "hey this kind of sucks, we can do better". )

So, even if you don't realize it, you're stepping into the middle of an ongoing set of discussions over this. That's why people sometimes take a tone of "oh brother, not this again."
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


No I do realise that. Really. I actually had some my own moments of satori from some of those threads (long time reader of the site, new member). That "Because you've heard it all before and are tired of it?" quoted on its own there, looks awfully stark and confrontational. I didn't mean it like that, I actually meant it in relation to those threads you've mentioned (not to mention real life in general) when I said "heard it all before". It is tiring and dispiriting. As to an ongoing set of discussions - that's all I'm after. It's absolutely the only way forward. Legislating helps a tiny tiny bit, but if people remain unaware/unconvinced, you end up with (amongst other things) the people enforcing those laws not really agreeing with you, just as the world at large doesn't really agree. Then it's like those laws aren't there anyway. I'm sure you can think of examples of this.

And you know what, not Skygazer specifically, but if anyone blunders in their language or actions, it really is up to people who have become conscious of these issues to explain. That's really unfair if you've been at the shitty end, but there we are. The only other option is to withdraw (I sense some users who have strong views on this haven't even commented here this time) and let it become a fight. The sad thing is, if you do withdraw and nothing changes or it changes too slowly, you've contributed to that problem.

Personally, I do withdraw sometimes because internet argybargy isn't worth a nervous breakdown :) and IRL I do withdraw sometimes. We're all under the weight of what, 5,000 years of organised bigotry? It's not right but it is normal. Unless someone has specifically felt that weight they'll remain unaware. So you have to be prepared to assume someone isn't purposefully bigoted. Very few people are.
*babblerant*

These new accounts do get hot don't they. *flaps collar*
posted by blue funk at 12:38 AM on March 26, 2010


this is why we can't have nice things like occhiblu.
posted by Trapped Vector at 12:55 AM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fred Strebeigh's Equal: Women Reshape American Law has a chapter on the battle to make it illegal to fire women on grounds of pregnancy. Months after reading it, I still marvel at the convoluted "pregnant persons vs nonpregnant persons" dodge that a male judge came up with to explain why such firings didn't constitute sexual discrimination.

IIRC, the book goes into gender-specific job ads too. Table of contents is here. I knew about the broad outlines of these battles, but coming face to face with the details brought home the almost Sisyphean nature of the task these lawyers and judges set themselves. When I start feeling discouraged, I remind myself that they managed to win big successes in my lifetime, stuff like making "sexual harassment" an everyday term and concept, rather than something for assholes to chuckle over and wink at, and wonder with benign condescension why the wimmin were kicking up a fuss over being "complimented." Of course, the same issues keep coming back in subtler forms, so...onward and upward!
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:56 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm rapidly getting tired of this drive to remove offensive words from the english language. You know why we use them. Because they *are* offensive. They're either offensive to you, or the prudes down the road or they're offensive to a minority. But the point is, they're offensive. We say them because they tickle the part of our brain that knows we should not say them. THAT'S THE POINT.

We don't use some of them, because there's a consensus that they do more harm than is intended. You drop the N-Bomb, and you're really doing damage. If you don't believe me, then give it a go, and see just how much you hurt someone.

If you say Cunt, you cause hurt (sure), but it's not harm and the reaction that you get is mostly one of prudishness. This may be followed by a bit of stumbling towards a feminist reaction, but it's not the first thing you think, and me hinting that your genitalia is the same as a nasty person is a mile away from me reminding someone about the slavery their ancestors went through.

It's doesn't even have to be taken in a way that is sexist. I know I'm male, and I don't understand, but the main point of it's use is WE ARE TALKING ABOUT NAUGHTY BITS. The fact that it's a worse swear than prick or cock should be more cause for concern. Not the actual use of it in swearing.

And yes, I realise that you weird puritanical Septics (That's an offensive word we use when we want to belittle Americans) have more of a hangup about it than the rest of the world. That's fine. I'd just like to put forward the notion that it's more offensive to you, not for noble reasons, but because your country is full of crazy backwards religious nutjobs.

I know I'm not going to change policy here, but Jesus fucking Mohammed on a retard bike. I had to get that off my cocking chest.
posted by seanyboy at 1:32 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hairsplit. That's cable, not broadcast.

OK, I'll raise your Deadwood and give you Chaucer. From the Wife of Bath's Prologue.

What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?

Translation:

What ails you that you grumble thus and groan?
Is it because you'd have my cunt alone?

I've no idea about the USA, but we *still* read the Canterbury Tales for O Level in UK schools. A quick Google shows that you teach it in US schools as well.

Do you have an expurgated version that you expect your kids to read or something?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:44 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]




No seriously, don't be such lazy weak fuckers, you men and women both: instead of trying to prevent people from using a word that makes you trembly and sad, instead of trying to mold the world to your needs and sensitivities, couldn't you reclaim it instead? Or defend the right of people to say things that offend you as assiduously as you defend your own 'right' to be unoffended?

I'm kinda tired of people telling me all the words I can't use, even if I wasn't inclined to use them anyway. I'm awfully tired of lame idiotic 'a-word' and 'b-word' and 'c-word' and 'x-word' dodges and artifice and avoidance: makes me want to punch throats.

That said: I think that the fact that the word 'cunt' is used so freely in the UK, so often as a comedy punctuation in their television programs, that that's evidence that the United Kingdom is deep into a cultural toilet spiral sewer-ward from which they cannot escape as dire as America's, and they similarly deserve nothing but contempt for how far they have let the quality of their public discourse decline. I do not for a second defend use of words loaded with such freight of hate in practice.

But, in principle, I have uncertainty.

The ragged beautiful hole from which each and every one of us come. A racist epithet for people who have skin of a certain range of colors. Words used to hurt and denigrate by people that any of us -- ANY OF US OF THE THOUSANDS HERE RIGHT NOW -- think of as primitive and stupid and wrong and hurtful. Cunt, nigger.

And all the rest of the forbidden words. The more we enshrine and encyst the words, embue them with power by avoiding and fearing and electrifying them, the more power they gain. Aren't we better than that, just from first, unspoken principles?

Words do not have intrinsic power. Power comes only from the way they are used, and even more, significantly, from the way they are heard.

I understand and am OK with the policies that Metafilter moderators have woven around these things, because thousands of people are inevitably stupider and more evil than individuals and small groups. And there are always the freaks and the idiots and the bad seeds, and unculled, their malign influence can spread.

But I beg you all not to let the lowest common denominator dictate, the 'Christians' and their wingmen and -women, the wobbling meaty mass of the easily offended: pay them the respect that they deserve as people, but don't take their bleats of fear and alarm to be worth more than they actually are, and don't be afraid to express yourself using the words you feel you carefully choose. The times to use strong, redolent and surely offensive-to-many words like 'cunt' are few, and the words you use are the words you own, and if you're too goddamn stupid to realize that, then it doesn't matter what you say or how you say it. Smart people -- people who are unoffended by mere vocabulary -- should realize that.

Crass and stupid people use crass and stupid words in crass and stupid ways. But no word is forbidden, ever, and not all of us are crass and stupid. If a word is used in the service of more understanding, it is just a word, and if you are offended by the fact that it is used rather than by the way in which it is used: I say that you are wrong.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:38 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Do you have an expurgated version that you expect your kids to read or something?
No. At least, we didn't. What we did do was talk a lot about the development of the English language, including that words can have different connotations in different times and places. I take it they don't teach this to you when you read it for O levels, because this seems to be too subtle an observation for many English people.
posted by craichead at 5:06 AM on March 26, 2010


stavros, as a non-christian, and I'm pretty sure a non-christian wingman, I don't, as I said, like the word kike. I don't want to reclaim it, I don't want to take ownership of it. It's an ugly word. It's a slur. It has no redeeming qualities as a word. I'm not going to say it's a word we need to ban. At the same time, if someone uses the word around me, I'm not going to want to associate with them, and will distance myself from them. If its use is directed at me, it creates a violent rage that I can't always supress.

Why in god's name would I be remotely interested in "owning" that word?

Forbidden words? Power? Yeah, for kids hiding under the blankets at night, looking up "shit" in the dictionary. I'm sorry, but I don't get a giddy rush whenever I say fuck. And I say fuck a lot. More than most, actually. At the same time, I know where not to use it, and I don't use it there. I think what most people are asking in this thread, given that the preponderance of people on the site are American, and the word has such negative weight here, is that we just don't use it here. Don't use it because you know its use will offend someone who otherwise might want to call you a friend. Instead, use your mind and come up with another way to say it. Knowing most MeFites, the average substitute for cunt is going to be a hell of a lot better/more entertaining than just saying "X is a cunt."
posted by Ghidorah at 5:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think what most people are asking in this thread, given that the preponderance of people on the site are American, and the word has such negative weight here, is that we just don't use it here.
I don't think anyone is saying that, actually. What they are saying is that you shouldn't use it about a woman because you really, really hate that woman, and you think that cunt is the absolute worst thing you can call a woman. If you do that, you are using it in the deeply misogynistic sense in which it is typically used in America, and misogyny isn't cool on this site.
posted by craichead at 5:23 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


seanyboy, if you're not a black woman, you don't get to decide on the relative harm or hurt caused by saying 'nigger' or 'cunt'. You're heading into mansplaining territory here, and I've enjoyed your previous posts so I hope you can rethink this.

I'm an Aussie atheist and I find it pretty fucking offensive. But then again, I'm a woman, so I've actually had the word shouted at me along with a rape threat. Don't tell me how much harm or hurt or offense it caused me, and don't tell me that my reaction is driven by prudishness. You've got no idea.

No-one's trying to remove the word from everywhere. You're free to say it to your friends and loved ones, and on many other websites. But the majority of the Metafilter community is saying that if you use it here, it'd be best if you were making an anatomical reference or inviting your British mates to the pub, rather than flinging hate-speech at women the way Skygazer did.
posted by harriet vane at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


White people don't get to tell non-whites to reclaim racial slurs, men don't get to tell women to reclaim gendered slurs, and straights don't get to tell everyone else to reclaim heterosexist slurs.

Fellow straight white men: equality is not about our feelings.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:47 AM on March 26, 2010 [21 favorites]


Or defend the right of people to say things that offend you as assiduously as you defend your own 'right' to be unoffended?

They have the right to say offensive things. I have the right to think that they're misogynistic and hateful, and to say so in our shared community. No-one's gone all trembly or weak - we're vigorously expressing our dislike of gendered slurs.

Like Gidorah said, I'm not under any obligation to reclaim a word. And again, I don't think it's up to the straight white males to decide which slurs women and minority groups should be okay with.
posted by harriet vane at 5:56 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Man I'm always amazed at how often these things take the form of:

A: [something racist/sexist/otherwise wildly inappropriate]
B: Whoa, nellie! That's wildly inappropriate
A: Waaaaaaah! You can't tell me what to say! You're a meanie for calling me inappropriate. You have no right to call me that!

So, basically, it's ok to be an asshat, but not ok to call someone out for being an asshat.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:58 AM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


I am a slow typist :) What Pope Guilty said.
posted by harriet vane at 5:58 AM on March 26, 2010


Cracking; now we've got that sorted, any of youse ... lovely people ... up for a pie and a pint?
posted by Abiezer at 6:04 AM on March 26, 2010


You poor fragile fuckers who are so so hurt, damaged and offended by being asked to not use a few specific words on one particular website! Oh, you defenders of the English language, without whom we would be forced to only use the Twelve Approved words! You, who are so worried that offensive terms everywhere will go unreclaimed! It's a true fucking tragedy that no one will listen to you, when you are the ones who know which words are *really* offensive and should not be used and which ones people should not be offended by. Thank fucking god for those of you who are here to tell us which ones are sexist and which ones are not!

Jesus fuck get over yourselves. Enough with the goddamn whining about censorship or whatever the fuck.

Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest.
posted by rtha at 6:05 AM on March 26, 2010 [22 favorites]


craichead, let me rephrase a touch then. It's such a loaded, ugly word in American English, one that brings about the responses seen in this thread, that it's not widely used in America. It's popping up more often recently (thanks, Guy Ritchie) but it's something that most people don't say loudly in a bar. Like I mentioned upthread, I'd argue that cunt is a fighting word. I feel it's a word you say when you're willing to get punched in the face in response, or expecting such a response. As such, does it need to be on this site?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:26 AM on March 26, 2010


Is this the hyperbole contest? Someone told me this is where I'd find the hyperbole contest.
posted by vapidave at 6:49 AM on March 26, 2010


Jesus fuck get over yourselves.

I've noticed that you say "Jesus!" and "Christ!" a lot. Like a whole lot. It's quite offensive to a lot of people. You should stop saying that. It's just a couple of words.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:55 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my fucking god it must be so hard to find the hyperbole contest. Well boo-fucking-hoo, vapidave, looks like you'll just have to start your own because you're so fucking lost and scared that you're not in your cuddly-wuddly fucking little bungalow of hyperbole.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Legislating helps a tiny tiny bit, but if people remain unaware/unconvinced, you end up with (amongst other things) the people enforcing those laws not really agreeing with you

For the record, it's clear that's this scenario is not what's happening here right now. So as a general caveat, sure, but we're in a situation in which a vocal majority of a web community has arrived at a consensus that a small handful of extreme terms used as hate speech are not welcome.

It's really not that hard.

And it's pretty obnoxious to suggest to people who have been on the receiving end of this particularly egregious style of hateful insult at a few points in their that they're just getting their panties in a bunch. Really surprising, too, actually, coming from these quarters; and sad, and ill-informed about others' experiences. But mostly just obnoxious.
posted by Miko at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's quite offensive to a lot of people. You should stop saying that. It's just a couple of words.

The difference? There is no history of several years of community development of norms on this phrase through an agonized and lengthy process of discussion and debate. You're welcome to begin it at any time and good luck with that.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken:

I'm kinda tired of people telling me all the words I can't use, even if I wasn't inclined to use them anyway. I'm awfully tired of lame idiotic 'a-word' and 'b-word' and 'c-word' and 'x-word' dodges and artifice and avoidance: makes me want to punch throats.

Wait ... so if you're tired of something people say, and it makes you want to punch throats, that means they should stop saying it? That it's perfectly fine for you to try to convince them not to say it? That it's okay for you to try to "mold the world to your needs and sensitivities?" I mean, why don't you defend our right to say those things as assiduously as you defend your right to be unoffended? Are you being a "lazy weak fucker?" Why don't you just reclaim our words? :-o

Could it be that our speech can have consequences for your life?


Words do not have intrinsic power. Power comes only from the way they are used, and even more, significantly, from the way they are heard.


I agree. So ...

The times to use strong, redolent and surely offensive-to-many words like 'cunt' are few.

Here's this contradiction again. Let's see if *you* will make a good-faith effort to explain it.

1. Why is the word so "strong, redolent, [and] offensive" as compared to say, the word "dick," "cock," or any other "vulgar" word for male genitalia? Where does the strength and offensiveness of the word come from if not its loaded hate-speech history?

You spent a lot of time explaining to us how words get their power, so tell me where the difference comes from, please.

2. How does using a word for it strength, redolence, and offensiveness reduce its strength, redolence, and offensiveness? Power of a word comes from how it's used, right? How does using a word for the strength it gets from being hate speech reduce its strength as hate speech?

I mean, why don't you defend our right to say those things as assiduously as you defend your right to be unoffended?

You misunderstand the concept of a right to free speech. Any notion of a free speech right that has been codified into law is a right against the government, i.e. the government is restricted from hampering your speech. You boss, for example, is not restricted from doing that. And even your free speech right against the government has quite a few limitations on it. You have no right, for example in the U.S., to use your speech endanger the public peace. You really have no unlimited free speech right.

posted by Ashley801 at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


You should stop saying that. It's just a couple of words.

Not to be all Cardinal Richelieu here but what we're talking about is how people express themselves on the site. The general bar is not "what bothers a single person" but much more "what bothers people enough that they have spoken up about it frequently and would like to see a change" Cunt falls into this category, Jesus does not [to my recollection]. If people want to pretend that we're having a different discussion than we are, you can, but I'd just like to remind you: no one cares, pretty much at all, what you say or don't say when you're not on MeFi [except maybe at meetups?] but we're telling you that we care what you say here.

While I'm of the opinion that it's good to not give bad words power over you, we're all a different distance down that path. Until we get there, this is what we want. You can do what you like with that information.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:04 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


You should stop saying that. It's just a couple of words.

You first!
posted by rtha at 7:05 AM on March 26, 2010


The difference? There is no history of several years of community development of norms on this phrase through an agonized and lengthy process of discussion and debate.

There's been "no history of several years of community development of norms on" cunt either. There's been quite some talk about creating an atmosphere that doesn't feel exclusionary to women, and about exactly what that means, but I don't recall more than a thread or two about that specific word.

Correspondingly there's also been a lot of talk here creating an atmosphere that doesn't feel exclusionary to Christians. The civil thing to do would be to just drop the taking the Lord's name in vain thing. If it's so easy to change one's normal speech patterns to adapt to the larger community, it shouldn't be a big deal.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:17 AM on March 26, 2010


Not to be all Cardinal Richelieu

You should rethink this. Specifically, when some really nasty behavior breaks out on the site, you should have a button mods can press that changes the background color in that thread to dark red, and tints all the other colors some shade of red. Then the word RICHELIEU should be emblazoned diagonally across the browser screen.

If you do this, I will mint coins in your honor.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's been "no history of several years of community development of norms on" cunt either.

Ann Coulter threads have inspired extensive discussion.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2010


and hosted from Uranus:

You're comparing a word that many people use as a hate-speech against one group, to the practice of not following the religious teachings of another group.

Why not compare the same thing to the same thing? The use of hate-speech slurs to the use of hate-speech slurs?

If there wer some kind of slur like that, that was frequently used by people as they were raping or killing Christians, and only Christians, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it would not be allowed on this site. Is there doubt in yours?

Forget slurs, if someone even said "Christians are scum" I don't think that would stay up either.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2010


Correspondingly there's also been a lot of talk here creating an atmosphere that doesn't feel exclusionary to Christians. The civil thing to do would be to just drop the taking the Lord's name in vain thing. If it's so easy to change one's normal speech patterns to adapt to the larger community, it shouldn't be a big deal.

I guess I'm just not entirely sure why people are so adamantly in favor of retaining the freedom to call women cunts on the site?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:28 AM on March 26, 2010


I guess I'm just not entirely sure why people are so adamantly in favor of retaining the freedom to call women cunts on the site?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:28 AM on March 26


People are in favor of retaining freedom. That includes the freedom to use that word against anyone. Especially babies.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:33 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Any freedom to use any word specifically within the context of MetaFilter? Maybe I'm naive, but I am having a hard time imagining such uproar over the freedom to call people niggers.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


because this seems to be too subtle an observation for many English people.

It's more to do with the fact that because Americans are offended by something, the rest of the world is expected to kow tow before jumping into line.

Unless an American decides to use the word, in which case it then becomes great comedy (a la George Carlin) or great television drama (a la Deadwood.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm just not entirely sure why people are so adamantly in favor of retaining the freedom to call women cunts on the site?

Word.

we're all a different distance down that path

In fairness, I'm not sure we're all even on such a path - it sort of implies a point of more enlightement vs. less enlightenment to think about it that way, and I'm not sure humanity's future is going to ever see that kind of progress. Language is, and I suspect always will be, both a product of and tool of oppression. The groups oppressed, and the degree of vehemence to which they are oppressed, may vary; but at the end of the day, words are intended to mean something. Otherwise fish mahabharata snowjob timetable. And when the toolsof language are used in ways that reinforce social systems of oppression, then I expect there will always be objection, though of course the terms will also vary over time.
posted by Miko at 7:39 AM on March 26, 2010


The civil thing to do would be to just drop the taking the Lord's name in vain thing. If it's so easy to change one's normal speech patterns to adapt to the larger community, it shouldn't be a big deal.

If you are proposing that, because this is something that personally makes you feel bad, please bring it up in a separate thread and we can see if other people feel that way.

We don't take these mod statements at all lightly and we don't make the sort of efforts you see us making just in case someone somewhere might feel bad [see the discussion we have about gypped from time to time, and occasionally retard]. We're concerned with our community. There is no lord, in my universe, so there is no vaintaking to be hand with his name. Your example is a little off; religion is a preference, gender is not. We have been clear about the things people can and can not expect w/r/t religion on this site and we do our best to set expectations properly around that and moderate when it becomes necessary.

We delete really nasty shit-talking about Christians on this site when we see it, most of the time. I think we're being consistent. As a separate example, there are people who come to the site [less now, but we saw this previously] who complained about the swearing. We have said that if swearing offends them, they may not be very happy here. We're willing to say "if you want to defend your right to say 'cunt' as an epithet against women, you may not be very happy here"

There's been "no history of several years of community development of norms on" cunt either.

This is not actually true. The fact that we've only had a few MeTa threads that are specifically devoted to talking about it doesn't mean that when it comes up we don't deal with email, flags and occasional sidebar discussions in other longer threads about how this site approaches women who are noxious public figures. You can look around MeTa for words like Coulter, rape joke, Palin and dig around some if you don't recall these.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


And besides, what precisely was it that Chaucer was using the word to refer to if *not* female genitalia? Your point might have some validity if the meaning had changed at all since the 14th century. As far as I can tell, it hasn't at all. Common people still use it to refer to the same thing as they always did, while those who think them their betters like to get all offended by its use.

Maybe in another 700 years, we'll have learned to deal with it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:42 AM on March 26, 2010


It's more to do with the fact that because Americans are offended by something, the rest of the world is expected to kow tow before jumping into line.

This doesn't seem unreasonable on an American-owned, housed, and moderated site. I'm not sure what some equally inflammatory words would be in other cultures, but I would entirely understand if someone said "Hey, that word has a really lousy meaning and usage history over here, please avoid it" - or what languagehat said. I really don't think this has much to do with what America expects of the world. It's to do with cross-cultural communication and having enough cultural competency to adapt to the norms of a given setting when they're made known to you.

Unless an American decides to use the word, in which case it then becomes great comedy (a la George Carlin) or great television drama (a la Deadwood.)

To assert this is to willfully overlook the points jessamyn made about the context of the word. In this case, the context of the word as insult was quite clear, even clarified in great detail by the user. She and others made it clear that the word is used elsewhere on the site, in different contexts, and where it is understood to carry a meaning that's not an insult directed at females, it's not usually deleted.
posted by Miko at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Common people still use it to refer to the same thing as they always did, while those who think them their betters like to get all offended by its use.

I and others pointed out that we might use it in other contexts to refer to it, as Chaucer did, as part of anatomy. I don't know whether you would think that makes me "common," but I do know it doesn't belong in civil discussions of female public figures as a way of belittling them and reducing them to a single part of that anatomy.
posted by Miko at 7:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never been fond of the "Well, if you don't want me to say this, then stop saying this, because a guy in Tennessee and a certain breed of poodle find it offensive" argument. And I think I'm not fond of it because it's just reductio ad absurdum horseshit.

There is a difference between "Jesus Christ" and "cunt." Specifically: "Jesus Christ" doesn't have any history of being used as an expression intended to mock and minimize a distinct group of people. If your linguistic skills aren't up to par enough to be able to see that there is a fundamental difference between something that offends people and something is intended to hurt and minimize somebody on the basis of their gender, then this might be the sort of discussion that your mocking barbs will not help.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2010

It's more to do with the fact that because Americans are offended by something, the rest of the world is expected to kow tow before jumping into line.
As has been pointed out many, many times in this discussion, the person who used the word is in America, and he used the word in its misogynistic American sense. I am not objecting to any use of the word by anyone. I am objecting to people using a word that, in their culture, expresses hatred of and contempt for women in order to express hatred of and contempt for a woman.

I truly don't know why that's so difficult to understand.
Unless an American decides to use the word, in which case it then becomes great comedy (a la George Carlin) or great television drama (a la Deadwood.)
It seems entirely in character for Al Swearengen to use the word cunt, so I don't have a problem with it. I don't think I'd want to hang out with Al Swearengen, though.
posted by craichead at 8:01 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


To follow up what theyexpectresults said, I've worked in Glasgow engineering works where the word means no more than "person": 'Any of youse ____s gaun tae the chip van?'
posted by scruss at 8:03 AM on March 26, 2010


I've never understood why this need to stand up for offensive words on Metafilter is so strong. I mean, context is everything.

Saying "cock" at my grandmother's dinner table makes you a crass jerk in that context. It's probably ok to call me a cock when we're out at the bar.

Yelling "fuck" at the museum makes you a crass jerk in that context. It's probably OK at, like, a drunken baseball game or something.

Saying "cunt" on Metafilter makes you a crass jerk in that context. It's probably OK at a bar in Glasgow.

Why do people seem to want to be a jerk on Metafilter? It's a weird hill to plant a flag on.
posted by generichuman at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

To follow up what theyexpectresults said, I've worked in Glasgow engineering works where the word means no more than "person": 'Any of youse ____s gaun tae the chip van?'
That's great! If people want to use it in that sense, it's fine by me. But we know, because he said so, that it's not the sense in which skygazer was using it. He called Sarah Palin a cunt because he really hates Sarah Palin, and that's the nuclear weapon of insults against women in the U.S. "Sarah Palin is a person" doesn't have the same force, no?
posted by craichead at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless an American decides to use the word, in which case it then becomes great comedy (a la George Carlin) or great television drama (a la Deadwood.)

Nobody in this thread has said that the word itself is off limits, only a particular usage of the word, one that is known throughout the English-speaking parts of the world and is considered beyond the pale in public conversation in many places.

When George Carlin said "cunt," he referred either to the word itself or the body part it identifies. Fine. When Al Swearengen said, "Cunts all braided?" he was referring to the body part (or actually pubic hair). Fine.

We're talking here about the specific use of this term (usually by men) to express loathing toward a particular woman or women in general. When someone says, "Sarah Palin is a cunt," it's in that usage. And we all know it, and several people from various English-speaking regions have shown up to say that that usage is not considered appropriate public discourse in their land, either.

If English-speaking people from Tahiti happen to call a screwdriver a "wog," and in intimate settings call their friends "a bunch of wogs" and use "wog" as a slang name for bellybutton, fine. That doesn't make it socially acceptable for them or anyone else to call a person "wog" as a denigrating term in a public conversation.

"Cunt" is not especially problematic for Americans because we're all a lot of Puritanical sissy prudes. It's a problem because by and large, that word is used almost entirely by men about women, and very, very often in situations of threat and/or violence. If I hear someone say "you cunt" or "what a cunt" to me or anybody in my vicinity, it's likely that there's a blow or an arm-grab or some threats or a stream of abuse about just what that cunt deserves to follow.

Typing on the Internet isn't a high-risk situation, but in person, "cunt," like "nigger," is often a signal of imminent harm, of a shift in the tone of a confrontation from angry and disrespectful into DANGER DANGER someone's going to get hurt, so it's no wonder that people react to it with fight-or-flight even in a safely disembodied circumstance like this one.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


People are in favor of retaining freedom.

Indeed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:25 AM on March 26, 2010


Jeez, I'm glad the Dutch can still use our variant as a word to shout when we accidentally erase that document we've been working on for the last few hours.
posted by HFSH at 8:26 AM on March 26, 2010


Nah, not at all. I don't need for everyone to agree with me.

I know I'm right.

~wink~

posted by quantumetric at 8:32 AM on March 26, 2010


Common people still use it to refer to the same thing as they always did, while those who think them their betters like to get all offended by its use.

Fuck that, this is not a class issue, and this is yet another example of someone who's doing a shitty thing trying to paint themselves as heroic victims. The word doesn't have an existence outside of a vulgarity, and it's a vulgarity which is specifically a part of the female anatomy and which is mostly used as a weapon against women.

Pretending that this is about class and "betters" is ridiculous; it's about misogyny, both mainstreamed and not, and a growing desire to have less of it on Metafilter.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:33 AM on March 26, 2010


Why do people seem to want to be a jerk on Metafilter? It's a weird hill to plant a flag on.

We've been over this before, and a lot of people specifically require the ability to be a jerk on MetaFilter because everyone else is a whiny little baby with delicate puritanical sensibilities and persecution complexes. (Did I do that right?)
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 AM on March 26, 2010


seanyboy, if you're not a black woman, you don't get to decide on the relative harm or hurt caused by saying '[n-word]' or 'cunt'.
But I get a fucking vote. Like it or not, I get to say what I think on the matter. "Mansplaining" is a lovely term, and I applaud whoever for thinking of it, but you don't get to decide on the relative merits of my argument based on my sex. (even though deciding on things based on sex is rampant in our society)

don't tell me that my reaction is driven by prudishness. You've got no idea.
You know, I do have an idea. Because I'm a normal human being who listens to other human beings and who (like most human beings) is imbued with this thing we like to call empathy. Now, you can argue that I don't understand on a "deep" level, and I have some sympathy towards that, but when you get down to it, the whole "you wouldn't understand" thing is a bullshit argument meant primarily as a way of removing someone from the arena. But then, you wouldn't understand that - You're not a parent.

It's more to do with the fact that because Americans are offended by something, the rest of the world is expected to kow tow
I am offended by the use of the phrase "kow tow" here. Please remove.

There is a difference between "Jesus Christ" and "cunt."
Wait and see how that one goes for you. As far as I can tell, America is only a breath away from sending death threats to Danish Cartoonists.

I'm sorry, but I don't get a giddy rush whenever I say fuck.
Science disagrees.

Going back to the general argument. I guess that the difference here is cultural, and I'm happy to not use the word in question. I was not aware (though I should have picked that up by now) that it's used in the US, primarily as an insult towards women. I do come from an environment where anybody can be a cunt. It's not a sexist phrase.

However, I do think that we need to be careful about how we limit ourselves w.r.t. swearing. This isn't a freedom of speech thing for me, I'm just concerned about stifling the language and stifling thought. And I am deeply worried that we mistake hurt for harm. I'm all for limiting freedoms when it stops damage. Causing upset or hurt - I'm not so worried about that, and to be honest - I'm stumped when I try and think of any sentence which couldn't hurt or upset somebody. (And I say that without prejudice to anyone who's ever lost a limb)
posted by seanyboy at 8:41 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait and see how that one goes for you. As far as I can tell, America is only a breath away from sending death threats to Danish Cartoonists.

That is neither here nor there when it comes to the use of a derogatory word for a female on MetaFilter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is what I would consider a perfectly acceptable use of the subject word.
posted by vapidave at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2010


generichuman: You need to square that circle... Here - I'll help you out.
It's probably OK at a bar in Glasgow.

Being English at a bar in Glasgow makes you a crass jerk in that context. It's probably okay at your grandmother's dinner table.
posted by seanyboy at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2010


Let's just call jerky women dicks and pricks and assholes and jerks.

PROBLEM SOLVED, AMERICA!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 AM on March 26, 2010


That is neither here nor there when it comes to the use of a derogatory word for a female on MetaFilter.
Why?
posted by seanyboy at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2010


Well, perhaps you can make the connection. In what way does the fact that a small group of Christians who are offended by the use of the word Jesus relate to the social norm that has evolved at MetaFilter where you don't use derogatory language in referring to a member specific social group?

It's seems like a derail to me, unless your the opinion that what's being discussed here is banning every word that offends anybody ever.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2010


What about the c word in user profiles, how does the community and mods feel about that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2010


We try not to say cunt on here because it's offensive, particularly if used in the American fashion. If you call a woman a cunt because you think she's being a fucking bitch then people will become offended. That's Metafilter and I like it just the way it is.

The good thing about this site is that the majority of people on here are able to tell by your other words what your intent is and will accept or reject accordingly (and usually with good reasons why). The bad thing about this site is that sometimes lots of the good people on here just see a word or something that they don't take into context and then get all shitfuck on your arse. If you can back up what you've said with logic and/or justification you'll be fine.

In this case, it's fairly obvious that Skygazer, as much as he might want to deny it, crossed the line. Sorry dude, you don't get to call Sarah Palin a cunt. Shithead is a good one, always makes me feel better when I say it.
posted by h00py at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


On MetaFilter it's the hurtful idioms that is competing with the site's community standards, the idioms though, don't they split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, I do think that we need to be careful about how we limit ourselves w.r.t. swearing.

I think this is what a few people are bumping up against here, so I'd like to clarify where I (and I believe many others) am coming from on this: My objection to the specific use of the word 'cunt' as Skygazer used it is not that it's a bad word, or that it's an offensive word. My objection is that it was employed as hate speech, as a slur against a class of people in exactly the same way that a racial epithet would be. This has nothing to do with swearing and everything to do with hate speech. To my American ears, 'cunt' is bad for exactly the same reason that 'nigger' and 'faggot' are, despite the fact that these words are not offensive in certain contexts. Anyone who wishes to defend this type of usage of 'cunt' on MetaFilter needs to explain why and how they differentiate it from these words rather than liken it to 'Jesus Christ' or etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:10 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


When Al Swearengen said, "Cunts all braided?" he was referring to the body part (or actually pubic hair). Fine.

This is the wrong tack to take in this argument. It's immaterial if Al Swearengen uses a word in a sexist manner or not. He's a huge misogynist ... I mean, he's a pimp, for crying out loud. One of my favorite lines of dialog in Deadwood is an incredible piece of misogyny: "Don't even tell me there's no such thing as a good woman until you've seen one with maggots in her eyes." But who cares? It's fiction. We're adults here, we can enjoy any type of art we like. If someone said something like the above line here on MetaFilter, I wouldn't admire the poetry of it. I can laugh when Pauly Walnuts tells someone, "Don't get cunty, I'm breaking your balls," and still not feel that it's okay to call a woman a cunt on MetaFilter. There's no double standard here: I also enjoy it when Swearengen or Pauly kill someone, and I think we all agree that's bad in real life.

I've written fiction in which the narrator used a word that I frankly think is more offensive to women than "cunt," and if anyone tries to tell me I can't do that, they can go to hell. But MetaFilter isn't fiction, its a community.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:14 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


However, I do think that we need to be careful about how we limit ourselves w.r.t. swearing.

I would see this as a more meaningful statement if there had been anything remotely resembling a consensus here that incautiously blacklisting swearing in general was a good idea. No one from team mod has gone there. Even folks specifically and vocally bothered by a few specific words in specific context have not gone there.

We are, in fact, being very careful about it. "Don't use 'cunt' as hate speech against women on metafilter" is a pretty constrained request.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


seanyboy : Why?

Because, as has been stated repeatedly in the last 400+ comments, this is not about Americans taking offense to the word from some sort of puritanical aesthetic. It is singularly about the fact that this word has been traditionally used as a form of aggression against women and in this capacity, we don't want it used on this site.

If you want to refer to what your thinking of naming your parakeet, or your favorite Brick Top line from Snatch, I don't care, but let's agree to stop using it as an expression against women we find objectionable.
posted by quin at 9:24 AM on March 26, 2010


"you're thinking". Damn it. Why do I never catch that until I've hit Post Comment?
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on March 26, 2010


But who cares? It's fiction.

Absolutely. That comment of mine was already way too long without getting into the "all bets are off in works of literature/art/entertainment" issue you addressed.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:42 AM on March 26, 2010


What about the c word in user profiles, how does the community and mods feel about that?

With the exception of a user who signed up with the name "cunt" [who, I believe, we asked to change it] and a user who used his profile page to make gross comments about other MeFites [and me personally] we pretty much stay away from people's profile pages unless they have a NSFW profile image or something pretty out there. I don't think it's ever happened that someone has done something with their profile pages offensive enough for us to even care, with those two exceptions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do think that we need to be careful about how we limit ourselves w.r.t. swearing.

We are careful. We carefully protect almost all swearing as totally and completely allowed and defend such swearing against people who object to it nearly constantly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


FUCK THAT.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:58 AM on March 26, 2010


Yeah. I can say "I am so fucking tired of this" and that's fine and allowed and won't be deleted. But if I say "Fuck off and die" to someone here, or call them a fucking jerk, that will likely get flagged and deleted and should be. All phrases contain swearwords, yet all phrases are not equally objectionable and deletable on Metafilter.
posted by rtha at 9:58 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


FUCK YOU!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:00 AM on March 26, 2010


Sorry. I retract that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:00 AM on March 26, 2010


All phrases contain swearwords,

If you're me they do.

Except this one, that is.
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2010


FUCK YOU!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:00 PM on March 26 [+] [!]

Who wants bumper stickers?
posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:23 AM on March 26, 2010


Is it wrong that I'm thinking of bundt cake now? 'Cause it doesn't feel wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:33 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "Fellow straight white men: equality is not about our feelings."

Thank god.

There is a thing that always sticks in my craw about men and their fucking whining about reverse sexism and their insistence on not being censored.

Here's my problem. As a feminist man, I am often told by men who are not feminists or are unfriendly to the idea of my being feminist (or, as in this discussion, uninclined to be nicely cooperative about other folks' clearly stated requests about language usage) that I am weak or weakened or even made effeminate by my allegiance to the feminist political position.

These kinds of words and phrases are often bandied around by folks who would attempt to correct my distasteful political position, and they are often applied as well to women who are my allies in this general political position.

When we get to situations like this where there are men who want to have freedom of expression at the expensive of the comfort of other people in the community (as represented here by what cortex and jessamyn have said about the comments they get), I often perceive those men's complaints as whiny, selfish and mean-spirited.

What really gets to me about this dynamic is that the words and concepts I positively associate with manliness are:
- strength / self-reliance / protectiveness / reassurance / will-power
- honor / duty / self-sacrifice
- politeness / courtesy / gentlemanliness

Note that carefully that the act of calling people or women in general or specific women cunts is not one of the positive aspects of manliness I have listed.

My picture of my place in the world as a man is that for purposes of this discussion and my future behavior on MetaFilter I should probably behave as follows:
- I should probably stop talking/whining
- I should read what other people have to say
- I should be courteous and polite about what folks on average (or the mods, who are sort of representatives of folks on average) want

Seriously, guys, there are other places you can go to call people you don't like cunts. Your $5 did not buy you the right to do it. Get over it and move on. Stop being whiny about it. If a limp-wristed feminist man like me can get over not being allowed to call people cunts around here, I should hope that a real man's man like you can manage it too.
posted by kalessin at 10:33 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


We are careful
I should have said "we should continue to be careful". No disrespect to the awesome juggling job you guys do. I'm not so much pushing against the current position but pushing against a position I fear may happen.

To personalise this. I've had comments deleted for using the word twat, and I've been pulled up for using the word gay in a derogatory concept. (happy about the latter - not so happy about the former). I've seen long conversations about usage of the word retard, and the same conversation about calling people fat. I've seen people call out British advertising because it offends an American sensibility which just doesn't exist in the UK. (British Tortilla Chips deemed racist despite lack of Mexicans (or damaging Mexican stereotypes) in the country) I've seen married people, parents, hipsters, Christians, singles, role players, and all sort of peoples angrily railing against comments which denigrate each particular group.

Sometimes, I've had my mind changed, and I've adjusted my behaviour accordingly, but sometimes, I've just been left feeling that there's a really loud mob screaming for people to behave a certain way, and they're the ones with the "you wouldn't understand" mentality and a self-rightousness it's hard to be rational about. They're often the ones who won't move either, and that does worry me. I worry that they'll get their way and we'll be left with nothing to talk about.

I've mentioned the hurt/harm thing a couple of times here. For me, this is a whole new way of approaching offensive language that I've worked into my general moral framework, so I'm hitting these kinds of debates with it front-and-centre. So - now - If I can't see how it's going to harm society, or I can't see how it actually damages a good number of people, I'm going to try and argue that it can be said. This is not the same as "should" be said. But it can be said.

Maybe choosing "cunt" was the wrong word to hitch this particular pony to. I'm happy to accept though that it was.

Of course - I realise that it's probably something that's been discussed and know about by people who know about these things. Sorry if I'm retreading the stuff you learnt in Morality 101, but some of us have to work this stuff on our own. It can take a while. No fancy schmancy (LOLAntisemitism) books or learning for me.
posted by seanyboy at 10:35 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I yhave always found it interesting that being a feminist supposedly makes a woman more masculine, and a man less masculine. It's like feminism is the porridge that is just right!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:41 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Eddie Izzard -- who, it must be noted, is Not American -- has a joke, which goes something as follows:

"Margaret Thatcher. What a cunt, right? Oh, I'm sorry for using that word, I am -- you know, THAT word, 'Thatcher.'"

Tell me how that joke is funny if, in the UK, "cunt" means nothing but "person"?
posted by KathrynT at 10:48 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


P.S. I wanted to say thank you to cortex, jessamyn, languagehat and countless others for unflinchingly using the actual words instead of "c-word", "n-word", etc. in their discussion. Much more readable and, I think, ethical, to have the discussion this way.

I am not trying to harsh on folks who are/were uncomfortable with spelling out the full words - respect to those too, but I value that our mods especially are unflinching about using the full words themselves in discussion about language use.

Good on ya!
posted by kalessin at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


- If I can't see how it's going to harm society, or I can't see how it actually damages a good number of people, I'm going to try and argue that it can be said.

So you get to decide what "hurt" and "harm" are, who "soceity" is, how many is "a good number," and which people are "hurt" and "harmed"? Or are you just asking us to accept your determination on those matters, and make that our new rule?
posted by Miko at 11:13 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell me how that joke is funny if, in the UK, "cunt" means nothing but "person"?

It doesn't just mean "person", it's a very strong insult and shocking to hear in everyday speech - the point is that because it's A Word You Do Not Say, it's lost the associations that made it insulting in the first place. The joke would make just as much sense if he'd replaced "Thatcher" with "Gordon Brown", although admittedly Brown doesn't evoke the same levels of bile that Thatcher undoubtedly did.

While the word's origins are indeed deeply sexist - and that's as good a reason as any not to use it - I very much doubt that your average sweary British person considers that before using it. In contrast, "bitch" would only ever be used about a woman, except when it's a verb, but the c-word is applied to both sexes.

So, yeah - deeply insulting, clearly not used by someone who thinks before he speaks, but not necessarily an indication of deliberate sexism on the part of the speaker.
posted by ZsigE at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


if "it" is love then the whole concept is moot. checkmate. and queen.
posted by infini at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2010


Tell me how that joke is funny if, in the UK, "cunt" means nothing but "person"?
Because while not being a misogynistic word in usual UK usage, it is still considered one of the strongest profanities and hence a word someone might apologise for; instead he apologises for mentioning the name of one of our most reviled recent prime ministers. I can see that confusion might arise because Thatcher was a woman, but this is Eddie Izzard; he's not a misogynist, or certainly I've never had any inkling of that from his work.
posted by Abiezer at 11:17 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see I've just repeated what ZsigE wrote, but I would contest the idea that 'the word's origins are indeed deeply sexist' - AFAIK they weren't, it was just a term for a body part. I don't think any specific intention to denigrate women or equate them with just that body part was ever its most common usage in the UK.
Well, I say 'I would contest' but I won't really, as I am more than happy to agree it's a word we can live without on MeFi if it pisses off so many people unnecessarily.
posted by Abiezer at 11:22 AM on March 26, 2010


Oh, I'm not thinking Izzard's a misogynist or sexist. Far from it. But it's pretty clear to me that the word IS insulting. And maybe it would have been just as funny referring to Gordon Brown, but it wasn't, was it?

At any rate, can we please drop the "HURR HURR Americans are such puritans that word isn't insulting we use it to refer to our friends" bullshit, please?
posted by KathrynT at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2010


In contrast, "bitch" would only ever be used about a woman, except when it's a verb

BZZZT. "Bitch" is also a derogatory term for a homosexual and/or effeminate man.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2010


would contest the idea that 'the word's origins are indeed deeply sexist'

I agree, at one time about six hundred years ago it was an straightforward Anglo-Saxon word, but it's been an obscene word for a long time (like some other 'Anglo-Saxon' words - 'Anglo-Saxon' used to be a common euphemism for 'vulgar' or 'obscene'), and also has an intense history of being used in a misgynistic way, here at least, and possibly elsewhere. Easy to substantiate, but I can't search on that term at work.
posted by Miko at 11:34 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


At any rate, can we please drop the "HURR HURR Americans are such puritans that word isn't insulting we use it to refer to our friends" bullshit, please?

Oh, I definitely wasn't trying to defend that viewpoint, which is completely disingenuous. My point was merely that just because someone uses the word - hell, even uses it about a woman - that can simply mean that they were looking for the strongest insult they could. I'm trying to defend against the assumption, made upthread, that using the c-word as an insult is always an attempt to specifically denigrate women, as opposed to denigrating a single individual who may or may not be a woman.

Sys Rq: "Bitch" is also a derogatory term for a homosexual and/or effeminate man.

Yep, good call, forgot about that. Makes my point even further, though - in the UK, "bitch" is used to evoke femininity/effeminacy in a negative sense. The c-word is used just as a very strong general-purpose insult.
posted by ZsigE at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's more to do with the fact that because Americans are offended by something, the rest of the world is expected to kow tow before jumping into line.

I know this is late, but this has been bugging me through out this thread. The word 'cunt' is also offensive in Canada. As offensive as in the US; more so even since I think we generally try to be more PC. Which means that you can tally up two English-speaking countries where this is non-ok.

I mean I'm a little too prone to blame things on the US too - being Canadian makes me feel like our culture is being smushed by the American elephant. But guys just fuck right off with the 'ooh, boo-hoo the US is being all imperial and imposing their norms on us'. It's a fucking norm in Canada too and last time I looked Canadian norms weren't getting a lot of play on the continent.

Sorry about the swearing. I'm a little worked up over the Tea Partiers and it's affected (effected? blame them for that too) my vocabulary.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:39 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Wait, did I even mean the continent? I guess I meant Europe but tried to make it all fancy sounding. Anyway, hopefully you got my point).
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2010


I'm trying to defend against the assumption, made upthread, that using the c-word as an insult is always an attempt to specifically denigrate women, as opposed to denigrating a single individual who may or may not be a woman.

It may not always be an attempt, but it can easily be an unintended effect, as it has been (apparently) here - and that's why there's so much agreement on avoiding its use on the site. There may in fact be people who don't intend to denigrate women but are just plain unaware that the word has been used so often and so widely to denigrate women that a certain large number of people are not going to be able to erase their minds of those connotations, no matter what the intent may have been. Maybe in a small group of friends who you know well, you can call a woman a 'cunt' with no intent to denigrate her and have it be received that way (or at least look lilke it's received that way). But in a large discussion group where at least 90% of the people you're talking with are strangers to you, there may be an effect you wouldn't have in other contexts.
posted by Miko at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The word 'cunt' is also offensive in Canada. As offensive as in the US; more so even since I think we generally try to be more PC.

This is simply not true at all. Firstly, because it simply isn't more offensive here, and secondly, because we don't generally try to be more PC. I mean, hello!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 AM on March 26, 2010


Recommended reading for anyone wanting to know more about the word "cunt" ... Cunt: The History of the C-Word.
posted by Orb at 11:56 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree, at one time about six hundred years ago it was an straightforward Anglo-Saxon word

And this is what is so fascinating, actually. There was a whole push to sort of discredit Anglo-Saxon terms for things in favor of the more Latin words. The Anglo terms became the "dirty" terms whereas the Latin terms [feces, penis, whatever] were the acceptable terms. Longer blabla than really needs to be drawn out here, but there's definitely a cultural backstory to why cunt is a worse word than vagina according to most people.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


...also has an intense history of being used in a misgynistic way, here at least, and possibly elsewhere.
Yes, I agree there too.
Maybe in a small group of friends who you know well...
Not intending to mount some defence of using the word on MeFi, just couldn't resist commenting on a few (in my experience and opinion) mistaken assertions about how the word is used in the UK - just because I grew up and worked in the sort of social environment where it was part of commonplace profanity (i.e. not something you heard the vicar say but peppering the speech of work colleagues, customers in the pub I worked in etc.). Certainly heard it used more often by men but also definitely not exclusively so.
Not exactly more than a tangential point for the debate here, but since the topic arose, I couldn't resist getting my four-penn'orth in.
On preview - I do think that's interesting too and if my experience is right about it being rude but more visceral than misogynistic, I wonder if there is something in the word crossing the Atlantic and getting further from its commonplace roots that contributed to the extra layer of nastiness.
posted by Abiezer at 12:00 PM on March 26, 2010


but it's not harm and the reaction that you get is mostly one of prudishness. This may be followed by a bit of stumbling towards a feminist reaction, but it's not the first thing you think...

Yeah, please do not tell me what I'm thinking or that I'm not actually thinking what I say I'm thinking. Unless you have some sort of psychic link directly into my brain, there is no explanation you can give for this statement that makes it any less dismissive, condescending or flat-out factually incorrect.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:06 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Miko: Yep, completely agree with you. Thanks for putting it so clearly!
posted by ZsigE at 12:33 PM on March 26, 2010


we keep saying over and over again that we understand that when talking to your mates, that you aren't trying to demean or malign all women. we don't think you're being an asshole to use it in that context.

but that's not what this thread is about. this thread is about is it ok to call a woman you really, really hate a cunt? people keep saying "well it could've been about a guy", but you know, it wasn't. if you aren't the type to listen for this sort of thing it might have passed you by all this time - but watch women in powerful positions for a while - watch what is said about pelosi, hillary clinton, sarah palin, and ann coulter - don't you think it's a little weird, a little telling, that most of the time when they're insulted it's a gendered insult? and if the insults aren't because of their gender, then why does it keep being the go-to?

i think a lot of people could stand to read this comment again.
posted by nadawi at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


hosted from Uranus, banning "Jesus Christ" as an expletive isn't asking me to respect you; it's asking me to observe your religion, by treating the name of your god-figure as sacred. That's not only an unreasonable request, it's actually a little offensive to ask it of those who aren't your co-religionists.
posted by palliser at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


palliser (and earlier responders), I obviously did not make my point clear as responses seem to be reading things into what I said that I didn''t say or intend to imply. I actually don't have the time or inclination now to be more direct, but I do want to make it clear that I am absolutely not defending the use of cunt on this site or saying Christ is exactly the same.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 2:14 PM on March 26, 2010


use of cunt on this site or saying Christ is exactly the same.

Man, there are a couple of really bad jokes sitting here, just waiting to happen. So I'm going to back away slowly before I write something tasteless that I'll regret.

posted by quin at 2:31 PM on March 26, 2010


Miko: "Oh, as well as a "Women's" section of the paper. It contained the kind of content you would today find in the "Food," "Lifestyle," and "Arts and Culture" sections"

The Seattle Times did this once or twice last year: a special section (maybe called "W"? I've tried to block the memory) for the ladies. I only glanced at it, but as I recall it was about shopping, and clothing, and shopping for clothing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:10 PM on March 26, 2010


Curious, but did anyone see, or does anyone remember the comment, in the Tea Party violence thread, They probably refer to themselves as 'Freedom Fighters', which was scrubbed by Cortex, and upon which this MeTa post refers too above?
posted by Skygazer at 3:33 PM on March 26, 2010


I'm not totally clear if you're actually asking for a copy or just jousting rhetorically about it or what, but for posterity, here is your original comment:
Blazecock Pileon: I doubt very much that whoever is manipulating these Tea Bagger brownshirts really respects the ideals of democracy and civility very much to recognize human rights, if they were to ever take office. That much is plainly evident, at least.

Sadly, not many will make such a sophisticated deduction. What could be more repellent than what Palin (that fuckface fascist CUNT...ahem), said today.

Look, let me be perfectly clear, I don't think any (fuckface cunt, whore-bitch from hell with bloodyminded desperation for power and the ignorance to see people get hurt over a democratic vote and deserves nothing less than a boot up her ass) person who feels the need to have a squadron of flying monkeys, should be in office.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2010


There is a thing that always sticks in my craw about men and their fucking whining about reverse sexism
Not all men. Not me. This is an interesting thing. I *was* moaning the other day about how I thought this advert was sexist, and after being given an earful, realised that there was an assumption that I was coming at this from the perspective of reverse sexism. OK - The advert hurts a few men, but the damage that is done...

Dormant Gorilla:
I do think I came at this from too European an angle. & I didn't realise that in the US, this is an insult reserved for women. But you're right and you're very, very wrong. I don't have a psychic link with you. My opinion, expressed as it was, was a generalised statement based on the people I know, and the things that I have read. Because I haven't got that psychic ability you so sarcastically introduced, I have to make do with general observations based on what I've seen in the world. It's not perfect, but to suggest that I don't realise this fact is at best convenient hyperbole, and at worst ignorance and condescension.

Miko:
So you get to decide what "hurt" and "harm" are, who "soceity" is, how many is "a good number," and which people are "hurt" and "harmed"? Or are you just asking us to accept your determination on those matters, and make that our new rule?
Thank's for the rhetoric. I never said that. What is hurt, and what is harm are both open to discussion. I just think that this conversation may make more sense if we separate the two. There is an obvious difficulty in separating the two out, but it's my feeling that we need to do just that. I have an opinion on what is what, and I'm going to express that as well as I can, but to imply that somehow I have this patriarchal view in which I am right and you need to do what I say does a disservice to both of us.
posted by seanyboy at 3:47 PM on March 26, 2010


Wow, the original comment is actually much more vicious than I had imagined.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


That's really fucking misogynistic, nice work Skygazer.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2010


Just wondering, were you trying to use "whore-bitch from hell" in that gender-neutral, quaint British way too?

After seeing that comment, your accusation that we were disingenuously warping the way you were trying to use that word just repulses me.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The word "cunt" by itself is actually the least of that comment's problems.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2010


wow, good deletion.

Skygazer, not sure why you think "fuckface cunt whorebitch" is such a great piece of poetry, but it's exactly the kind of thing that idiot misogynists say to threaten women in the street etc, and yeah, FelliniBlank is right that it provokes an involuntary response of fear/fight or flight.

It doesn't strike me as making a persuasive point so much as making me think the writer is a jerk and possibly a threatening creep (since remember, I don't know you). It's exactly the sort of thing that would make a woman (sez me) less likely to hang around here, because it gives the impression that casual threats about women are tolerated as a-ok. I'm really glad we're now at a place where that kind of thing is deleted.

I think your point would be made even better if you just removed those words, since then it would be clear you're attacking Palin solely. (This is just how it reads to me)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:01 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


not to mention the part about how she deserves an act of sexualized violence.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:03 PM on March 26, 2010


Well, I'm glad everyone can see the actual comment that started this whole mess now. I saw it before it was deleted, and yes, that the word cunt appeared in it is only one of the issues I had with it.
posted by Orb at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2010


Wow, this MeTa was really just a stunning bit of misdirection, wasn't it? Trying to claim that the deletion of that pustulent sore of a post was an issue of censorship of a single word was a clever tactic; thanks, Cortex, for countering it.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2010


i'd seen the comment before it got deleted which is why i've been so confused at the staunchness it was defended with. there's just not a lot of wiggle room w/r/t intent there.
posted by nadawi at 4:26 PM on March 26, 2010


Thanks.

I thought since I've been branded guilty of "hate-speech," by some, without any knowledge whatsoever, of what the original comment was, it should be made available.

Hopefully a little context and perspective, might help.

Granted that comment is not my, finest or most articulate moment. It wasn't never meant to be. This person wields lots of power, over some very unstable people on the far right and into KKK, Neo-Nazi, White Supremicist territory, who love their guns, and love to brandish them and use them and the rhetoric has been building up for a while now. And there are not only Dem Congress people in danger, but their wives, husbands and children.

The best way I know of dealing with people that irresponsible and short-sighted is lampooning them with caricature and satire and laughing at them, and I equated Palin's strategy to evil witch from the Wizard of Oz, mobilizing her flying monkeys.

There's a long, fine history of open-minded satirizing and lampooning and generally performative commentary on Metafilter. I thought my comment within those those guidelines. I was taken aback when it was scrubbed. I under no circumstance intended to attack women.

The scope of this discussion has completely exceeded any intention from the MeTa, and the abstract notion of the c-word and using it upon any woman, is of course repellent, and there's no way to defend it or even discuss it, which is why I tried unsuccessfully to steer it away from becoming personal, but alas, some will not be happy until they have a scape goat to put their own issues and rage unto.

Again context and perspective and intention are incredibly important, so I ask that people try and put insert those elements back into this thread, but I realize minds have been made some have already too heavily invested in their previous judgement of me.

Scrubbing an off the deep end comment from Metafilter is one thing, but branding something "hate-speech," is a whole other thing, really shame on those who feel that need to do that, with the barest of knowledge of the issues.

Perhaps that it's time for Metafilter and I, after a decade of this being basically my home on the web to part ways, I'm not sure yet, but I have to say the judgmental, scape-goating, monolithic quality of some of the opinions is really leaving me very disappointed.

This MeTa had a two functions. 1.) was to generally lampoon the hell out of Ms. Palin and 2.) To come hear some alternative words, strictly from the point of view of an academic exercise in entertaining and fun and weird words and language.

That quickly devolved into another epic genders issue thread, that although I've followed in the past just for the sheer range of intensity on all sides, but stayed at a remove from, only reading, because they're serious and hard work and I'm happy to let the community come to a consensus and follow that consensus, also honestly because, as happened here, invariably it turns personal. Folks with differing opinions, not rooted in an overly PC university or college environment, or who don't necessarily want that to be the cultureof Metafilter get demonized and scapegoated and it gets nasty.

That being said, I'd like to apologize to a few people who I was somewhat flippant with and I think probably not very polite to, Pope Guilty, Nadawi, Miko and IRFH. Sorry guys, this thread went way off the mark, I can understand your opinions, and sorry to become defensive.
posted by Skygazer at 4:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


This MeTa had a two functions. 1.) was to generally lampoon the hell out of Ms. Palin and 2.) To come hear some alternative words, strictly from the point of view of an academic exercise in entertaining and fun and weird words and language.

I actually think this is the most appalling thing you've said yet, Skygazer.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2010


I under no circumstance intended to attack women.


Should have left the 'cunt' part out of it then, hey?
posted by quantumetric at 4:47 PM on March 26, 2010


There's a long, fine history of open-minded satirizing and lampooning and generally performative commentary on Metafilter. I thought my comment within those those guidelines. I was taken aback when it was scrubbed.

Notably, your two comments riffing on the Wizard of Oz were not removed. It's the "woman x is a cunt" stuff that is a problem, not the comparisons-to-fictional-villains bit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2010


Ashley801: After seeing that comment, your accusation that we were disingenuously warping the way you were trying to use that word just repulses me.

Why am I, not in the least surprised.

You know Ashley, you've been dying to make this issue personal from the very beginning, basically needling me and stalking me throughout this thread for your pound of flesh, and generally unable to, even when I decided to call it a night because things were getting too intense, to give it a rest. Instead you doubled down and had to be judge jury and executioner and label me dishonest, disingenious, and (of course), a dyed in the wool no doubt about it misogynist. If that wasn't enough, you in bold letters accused me of hate-speech.

Perhaps you should carefully think about exactly why you think that sort of behavior and judgement of a person, you know nothing about is valid. Or healthy. Or right. That's all coming from within you.

And it's disgusting beyond belief, fuck, way more so I think than calling a politician a cunt, to stand there and point your finger and accuse someone of hate-speech. On a couple of different levels, first off because you think it's okay to label people like that and cause real destruction in someone's life by doing that, and secondly because you dilute that label for when it is truly applicable and necessary.
posted by Skygazer at 4:53 PM on March 26, 2010


Wow, dude, that comment was really offensive and stupid. And offensive in a stupid, uncool, trying-too-hard, alienating way that undermines your point and doesn't stand up to the standards you should hold yourself to, let alone Metafilter. I know you wanted to be hateful and offensive, and I don't really have a tremendous problem with that, but seriously, listen to what folks are saying here, apologize for inadvertent offense, and step your game way up.
posted by klangklangston at 4:54 PM on March 26, 2010


I equated Palin's strategy to evil witch from the Wizard of Oz, mobilizing her flying monkeys.

At least for me, this wasn't at all the part of your comment that was disturbing. It was all the extra spew in parenthesis that had fuck all to do with your attempt to equate Palin to the evil witch from the Wizard of Oz that was over the top offensive (at least to me and apparently a few others). You seem to be under the impression that comparing Palin to a witch from Oz was what landed your comment in the dumpster, but I can't imagine, had you refrained from adding all the extra non-necessary vulgarity, that your comment would have made anyone bat an eyelash in your direction or it being deleted.

So let's talk about intention. You say you intended to satirize and lampoon Palin by comparing her to the wicked witch in Oz. In what way did calling her a "fuckface fascist CUNT" and "fuckface cunt, whore-bitch from hell with bloodyminded desperation for power and the ignorance to see people get hurt over a democratic vote and deserves nothing less than a boot up her ass" assist in your intention to do this? Why were these necessary things to say? Just because you wanted to "hear some alternative words"?
posted by Orb at 4:55 PM on March 26, 2010


fuckface cunt, whore-bitch

Seriously? You don't see how that comes across as violently hateful towards her as a woman and not just as a person?

but alas, some will not be happy until they have a scape goat to put their own issues and rage unto.

None of this sunk in at all, did it?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:00 PM on March 26, 2010


And don't go after Ashley801 either—she's got you pretty much dead to rights. It hurts your feeling, no doubt, but this is one of those situations where getting nasty with someone calling you out is pretty much guaranteed to lose you sympathy rather than changing minds.
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on March 26, 2010


And this recent comment to Ashley801 is pretty well beyond the pale. You get the part where she's not the only one saying that this is hate speech, right?

In case not, let me just say that fuckface cunt, whore-bitch is hate speech.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:03 PM on March 26, 2010


KK: Wow, dude, that comment was really offensive and stupid.

Agreed then, I trust your take on this, KK. Other than making a clean breast of it and saying I'm sorry not much more I can do. Seems the context and the perspective on the situation ain't doing much, so for what it's worth the intention had nothing whatsoever to do with hating women.
posted by Skygazer at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2010


Canadians.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:06 PM on March 26, 2010


That being said, I'd like to apologize to a few people who I was somewhat flippant with and I think probably not very polite to, Pope Guilty, Nadawi, Miko and IRFH.

You owe Ashley801 a bunch of apologies for the way you've talked to her, and owe everyone in this thread who isn't you an apology for your rampant bad faith.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:16 PM on March 26, 2010


rampant bad faith.

Explain.
posted by Skygazer at 5:20 PM on March 26, 2010


i've had the discussion here recently about why labeling things that are possibly just ignorant as sexist and if it is appropriate (starts here, if you're curious). i agree that an overuse of accusations about hate speech and sexism can be damaging.

however, fuckface cunt as an insult towards a woman you really really hate isn't an edge case and you didn't use it out of ignorance (as you've admitted many times in this thread).
i was thinking about this thread last night and it sort of reminds me of when perez hilton called will.i.am a faggot. he tried to defend it as reclamation, he tried to say that as a gay man himself he was allowed to use that insult because he was really just using will.i.am's own homophobia against him. and you know, none of that holds water and neither do any of your excuses or reasonings.

i am not saying you are sexist. i'm not saying you are a misogynist. what i am saying, is that after reading your original comment, in context, before this thread, i thought "wow, that's a really fucked up, sexist thing to say" and after this thread my impression is "that's a really fucked up, sexist thing to say that only gets worse the more you defend it". you don't have to be sexist to participate in sexist hate speech. these aren't personal attacks. these are my impressions of the thing you said, not you as a person.

i don't think you should leave this site, but i do think you should maybe bookmark this thread and come back in a month or two, once you're fully out of your hurt feelings and surprise at how this thread went and reread it. it could be enlightening.
posted by nadawi at 5:22 PM on March 26, 2010


i don't think you should leave this site, but i do think you should maybe bookmark this thread and come back in a month or two, once you're fully out of your hurt feelings and surprise at how this thread went and reread it. it could be enlightening.

Sounds like a good plan.
posted by Skygazer at 5:29 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


also: i appreciate your apologies to me, and i'll take them in good faith - but your continued browbeating of ashley801 leaves a seriously bad taste in my mouth. her and i don't always see eye to eye and we have a different approach to discussions, but this...

And it's disgusting beyond belief, fuck, way more so I think than calling a politician a cunt, to stand there and point your finger and accuse someone of hate-speech.

she called a spade a spade and you called a woman a cunt. to my reading, only one of those is disgusting beyond belief.
posted by nadawi at 5:30 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, the context doesn't help you out with that comment, and you may want to adjust your understanding of satire. There is no definition of satire that calling a woman you hate a "fuckface cunt whore-bitch from hell" fits.

I can't even believe you started this meta, honestly. There's no way using language like that, in that context, should ever be ok on this site.
posted by shmegegge at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Explain.

It's been explained to you what the problem with the word in question- and your purported use of it- was over and over, and you've responded to such explanations not with argumentation but with condescension and dismissal. This bad faith is compounded by the fact that you, as mentioned above, didn't simply use the word in question in the disparaging misogynistic way you quasi-copped to, you spewed out an entire torrent of disgusting, misogynistic garbage and characterized it in the MeTa post as something far less severe. This is, as I say, rampant bad faith that you have engaged the community with.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2010


Also I am loving the suggestion that accusing someone of using hate speech is some kind of moral crime on a level with the use of vicious, misogynistic slurs. That's a disgusting claim.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:35 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there are twisted people out there who think that calling someone a kike or a nigger isn't hate speech, e.g. "I'm just telling it how it is." The point is that the speaker's intent has fuck-all to do with how the message is received. Perhaps unintentionally using a line straight out of the misogynist handbook doesn't become non-hateful just because you don't have the experiences or point of view to recognize where it came from.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2010


Perhaps that it's time for Metafilter and I, after a decade of this being basically my home on the web to part ways

Skygazer, I for one would tell you to rethink this because we pretty much ascribe to the "brand new day" philosophy here. Over my many years here - about as many as you - I've seen a lot of uncomfortable moments here in metatalk, but usually within short order, they become history. This was not your finest moment, just learn from that and go on.

I can accept that you may not have *intended* your screed to be perceived in a way that would be considered hate speech to women, but communication is a 2-way deal - involving both the sender and the receiver, and many of the receivers are telling you that is how it comes across regardless of your intent.

I don't think you are a bad person or a hate monger. I just think you are frustratingly tone deaf and unconscious about this matter. And maybe things got a little more intense because you are feeling defensive (the first rule of holes, etc.) Leave it alone for awhile, step back and depersonalize it - and really try to listen to what people are saying. Because if you really hear it, it may be one of those light bulb moments. Many of my light bulb moments have been kinda uncomfortable - but generally worth it in the long run.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:48 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, Skygazer.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:54 PM on March 26, 2010


[sees original deleted post, eyes bug out]

Nope, not OK at all. The context makes it much worse.

I understand you want to undermine the person. I get that. But it's not OK to undermine the person for being a woman. And the words you chose are the most intense way I can think of in the English language to do so. So this isn't an edge case. We're so far past the edge, it has disappeared over the horizon.
posted by zippy at 6:01 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: Also I am loving the suggestion that accusing someone of using hate speech is some kind of moral crime on a level with the use of vicious, misogynistic slurs. That's a disgusting claim.

It's true, and perhaps one day you can conceive and understand what a terrible and chilling thing flippant talk of "hate-speech" can become to different ideas and different opinions and views of what is right.

Other than that Pope, what the hell you want from me, blood? Fine, I can send a vial to one of the mods and they can forward it on to you.

As for Ashley, I wouldn't mind apologizing, but I have seen zero sign that that would really do anything to convince her that I'm not Jack the Ripper at this point so, perhaps, let's let tempers flare down.
posted by Skygazer at 6:23 PM on March 26, 2010


BTW PG, I mean the word right with the idea that, that word can have a different yet just as valid meaning to different people.

Phew.

posted by Skygazer at 6:25 PM on March 26, 2010


I hereby call for a revival of " asshole." Gender-neutral and, by definition, usable only against those who deserve it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:27 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, Skygazer. Put down the shovel and stop digging. It's too late for you to salvage your reputation with a lot of people, but it looks like there are a few left who are willing to give you a Brand New Day under this username. Why don't you stop while you've still got something to lose?
posted by hades at 6:29 PM on March 26, 2010


Other than that Pope, what the hell you want from me, blood? Fine, I can send a vial to one of the mods and they can forward it on to you.

pssst I think he wants you to apologize to ashley

As for Ashley, I wouldn't mind apologizing, but I have seen zero sign that that would really do anything to convince her that I'm not Jack the Ripper at this point so, perhaps, let's let tempers flare down.

Well, perhaps give it a try and see what happens, eh?
posted by KathrynT at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems that "cunt" has not achieved the same stage of death as other Bad Words. Which I think is a crying shame, because I think it should be worshipped.

Well, heck, yeah.

But that's kind of the point. If you think that the word should be used as a positive term, then -- why support using it as an insult? Wouldn't letting people use it as an insult DETRACT from your campaign to use it as a positive term?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for Ashley, I wouldn't mind apologizing, but I have seen zero sign that that would really do anything to convince her that I'm not Jack the Ripper at this point so, perhaps, let's let tempers flare down.

What signs? She hasn't responded since the idea has been brought up. How could there be any signs of any kind? Are you asking your Magic 8 Ball? Also: she didn't compare you to Jack the Ripper. You're totally putting words in her mouth.

I'm with KathrynT, just put it out there and see where it goes. At least stop making it worse by attributing things to her that she didn't actually say and may or may not actually even agree with.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:45 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


skygazer: ok. i'm nearly at the point where i'm going to be done explaining and reasoning, but it seems like there might be this tiny glimmer where you're still listening.

here goes. you don't apologize so people like you. you don't apologize so someone thinks better of you. you apologize because you've done something wrong and apologizing is admitting that you recognize that. it doesn't matter one whit what ashley801 thinks of you after the apology.

it's sort of a lost cause now, though, because as kathrynt mentioned, you're just standing there with that shovel and i'm staring at the screen with my hand over my eyes, begging you to put it down.
posted by nadawi at 6:45 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


i'm sorry, hades, not kathrynt w/r/t the shovel comment.
posted by nadawi at 6:46 PM on March 26, 2010


The bad faith thing? Claiming that cunt was the problem in your post, and the reason for this particular fracas. Seriously, calling Palin a cunt was probably the least of your worries in that comment. We get it. We understand that you hate Palin. I'm sure you could find pretty powerful ways of getting that point across, but maybe next time, you could do it without using so many words that are specifically aimed at women. Calling a woman a whore is pretty much up there with calling a woman a cunt. If you titled this MeTa, "The word that begins with the letter "w." do you honestly believe you would have gotten even part of the "I get your point as a British usage of the word" support you've gotten here?

The comment was ugly. It was pretty much impossible to defend it, yet you've done so, leading those of us who haven't seen it to believe it was something along the lines of "Sarah Palin is a cunt." By itself, it's been explained repeatedly, by mods as well as a very large number of people that it's really not cool to do that on MetaFilter. If we're so against the "clean" version of what you said, how can you think we'd see what you actually wrote in any sort of positive light?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:53 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're nothing like Jack the Ripper. He had the good sense not to hang around for two days, pointing at a corpse and saying "Eh? Lovely bit of work, innit?"
posted by CKmtl at 6:53 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Skygazer: If you had just said sorry, it got away from me, I'm sure most people here would've understood. Most here feel similarly about Sarah Palin as you do, and it could've happened to most of us. Instead this turned into another one of those hundred-comment threads with nobody changing their minds, and people walking away feeling persecuted. It's not about you. Honest!

I mean, take your own advice. Does this:

Perhaps you should carefully think about exactly why you think that sort of behavior and judgement of a person, you know nothing about is valid. Or healthy. Or right. That's all coming from within you.

apply to this?

You know Ashley, you've been dying to make this issue personal from the very beginning, basically needling me and stalking me throughout this thread for your pound of flesh, and generally unable to, even when I decided to call it a night because things were getting too intense, to give it a rest.

Can you consider that maybe people are reacting to your words because they feel that kind of language "cause real destruction in someone's life" as you said? That there's a whole deal of baggage and history and hurt out there that you may have unintentionally added to? All you had to do was acknowledge it, and say sorry. You realise that the whole reason why people keep trying to pin you down is because they wanted you to understand what effect your words had, right?

Folks with differing opinions, not rooted in an overly PC university or college environment, or who don't necessarily want that to be the cultureof Metafilter get demonized and scapegoated and it gets nasty.

If you didn't care about the culture of Metafilter being welcoming to women, then yes, people who care would react. Women's rights is not some issue you get to relegate to some "overly PC" discussion. I'm sorry, but not all differing opinions are fine - there is, and needs to be and always has been, a baseline. Because there needs to be, because there are real people involved - and they matter. You don't get to relegate (again, unintentionally I trust and hope) the issue of how misogynist-sounding language affects women to some overly-PC university and college issue. Do you see what I mean?

People pile-on because they care - just as you said all those things about Palin because you care. I mean, "Folks with differing opinions, not rooted in an overly PC university or college environment, or who don't necessarily want that to be the cultureof Metafilter" - can't you just hear Palin saying that very thing? And this is not a attack on you - like I said, it could've happened to many of us. But the problem with Palin is that when she is wrong or misinformed on something or does something that hurts other people, she doesn't give a shit. You are not like that, right?

I understand, it's really, really hard in this situation to not feel defensive. I really do. But people do really respect you for it if you manage not to. It takes a big person to say sorry. People are not piling on because they get off on attacking you, I promise. If you had said sorry much earlier on, acknowledged their concerns, people would've respected you for it - and then the morning after few if any would even remember any of it, and nobody would've thought worse of you for it. It's your dismissal of their concerns that is leading to all this push back.

Do you know Reddit? There are many things I like about that site, many similarities with Mefi, some great content, and there are some really intelligent, knowledgeable and funny people there. But I could never join that site, because the level of sexism and misogyny there is ridiculous. Much like much of the rest of the internet, bar a few small pockets. Mefi really is an oasis in the desert in that respect, in how it cares about its female members. And that matters, and is important, I hope you agree. That culture didn't come magically, because Mefi members are just superior in some way - it came about because Matt and the mods care about it, and people fight for it, in threads like this, and insist on a certain line not being crossed. Again, I trust you are not sexist or misogynist. But you like Mefi, right? Generally? And you respect most people here? You can see the balance of opinions here - doesn't that give you a little pause?

Can we have these threads end differently for once? It doesn't have to be this way.
posted by catchingsignals at 7:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm glad I missed this this time around.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:32 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry folks, I just have very little desire to apologize to someone incapable of understanding sarcasm, irreverence, hyperbole or satire and on top of it labels you misoygnist and tries to SHAMES you and Silience you with accusations of "hate-speech," because in a way I would feel like I was silencing my self, sorry but I've worked too hard to throw off that silencing, to me shaming and silencing someone is on par with literal real bounding and gagging.

A truce is the best I can do for now, and believe me when I tell you I ain't digging down I'm digging UP so save the shovel talk.

And now with all due respect, I'm going to wish everyone a good night.
posted by Skygazer at 7:34 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The message is not "you are bad".
The message is "those words you chose have a very different effect from the one you intend."
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:49 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: Also I am loving the suggestion that accusing someone of using hate speech is some kind of moral crime on a level with the use of vicious, misogynistic slurs. That's a disgusting claim.

It's true, and perhaps one day you can conceive and understand what a terrible and chilling thing flippant talk of "hate-speech" can become to different ideas and different opinions and views of what is right.


Do you understand how chilling and terrible hate speech itself is? Think about how it made you feel to be accused of hate speech. Obviously it truly bothered you, angered you, and made you feel like you were being painted as something you're not.

Now try to think about how it must feel to walk down the street and hear someone yell "hey, honey, look over here!" and then, when you keep walking, eyes ahead, hear him yell "you cunt whore bitch!" It feels fucking terrible. Almost as terrible as overhearing a male colleague describe another woman as a "cuntish bitch" because she yelled at him for being late to work. Almost as terrible as smiling and forcing a chipper tone into your voice when you're mad as hell at the same male colleague because you don't want him to think you're a cuntish bitch too.

The hate speech I grew up hearing that (1) equated a woman with her vagina and (2) gave that body part, and thus that woman, the most negative connotations possible, means that I constantly evaluate whether my words and acts and thoughts make me a "good" woman or a "cunt." When my male colleague speaks to my tits instead of my face, what do I want to do? I want to say "Please stop staring at my chest," but (and this more than anything is what shames me) what I want more is that he (he, this dehumanizing asshole) not think me a cuntish bitch. I want him to like me, because that's what a non-cuntish bitch wants. I act to avoid being what hate speech has taught me is bad, and I do it every day of my life. Is that chilling enough?
posted by sallybrown at 8:00 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


What is hurt, and what is harm are both open to discussion. I just think that this conversation may make more sense if we separate the two.

OK, go for it. Separate the two. Define the words "hurt" and "harm" as you see them, and explain how you believe that hate speech can do one but not the other, and why you want to argue that some difference between the terms makes it OK to use extreme, loaded epithets about entire classes of people.

to someone incapable of understanding sarcasm, irreverence, hyperbole or satire

A little credit. I don't think a single person here is incapable of understanding those things - they understand them so well, in fact, that they hang out at a website where that stuff is pretty much the lingua franca.

to me shaming and silencing someone is on par with literal real bounding and gagging.

Really? On par with real physical violence and restraint? In such a way that they'd affect your behavior and comfort level with participating here? But they're just words. Just words! Why should they have such power over you?
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


See, he's operating on a completely different set of moral rules in which assaulting women with vile, misogynistic language and threatening them with sexual assault is awesome and fine, and saying that it's not fine makes you a giant asshole who wants to silence everyone you disagree with. This is an awful and horrible viewpoint without a place in any debate in which people are to enter as equals, as it establishes that certain members of the discussion are, not because of their poor arguments or ill-considered viewpoints or facile ideas but because of fundamental characteristics which are inherent to their person, not welcome in the conversation as full members and participants. It elevates the discourses of bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism, prejudice, and hate above the discourses of feminism, compassion, equality, and love.

It was disgusting when Andrew Dice Clay did it, it's disgusting when Young Republican fratboy shitheads do it, and it's something that I and a lot of MeFites don't want to be- and which I don't think is- welcome or acceptable on Metafilter.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just have very little desire to apologize to someone incapable of understanding sarcasm, irreverence, hyperbole or satire

Skygazer, I think we're all pretty good at understanding that stuff. If your intent was to be sarcastic, irreverent, hyperbolic, or satirical, I'm sorry to tell you, but it didn't come across that way. Maybe you were trying to point out what it would sound like if the left responded in kind to what the Teanuts have been saying. The thing is, we don't need to a) sink to their level, or b) need to see any further evidence of it, since it's out there, everywhere. And, c) it wasn't funny. Seriously. I don't know of anyone here who thought so. Sometimes jokes bomb, and no one gets them. Other times, jokes are laden with such hateful language that not only do they bomb, no one can conceive of how the teller could have thought it funny in the first place. Unless you're some kind of Andy Kaufman reincarnated, what you were trying to do just didn't work, and the manner in which you did seems stunningly indefensible, yet you keep trying to defend it. Not only are you trying to defend it, you're attacking and belittling people for pointing out how offended they are at what you said. It's not just one or two words, it was the violent imagery about a woman, using words specifically hateful to women that just doesn't fly. As you said, you've been here for ten years, yet you posted a hateful comment as if you had no knowledge of the community here. That's where this reaction is coming from.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:21 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just have very little desire to apologize to someone incapable of understanding sarcasm, irreverence, hyperbole or satire

You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 PM on March 26, 2010


believe me when I tell you I ain't digging down I'm digging UP so save the shovel talk

"Baby, who you gonna believe? Me, or your lyin' eyes?"
posted by hades at 8:49 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I do have an idea. Because I'm a normal human being who listens to other human beings and who (like most human beings) is imbued with this thing we like to call empathy.

And yet you think American prudishness is the reason people are upset with Skygazer's comment, even though dozens of people before you explained that their reasons are different. Like I said, I think you're a good guy, and I believe you when you say you're empathetic to others. But marching in to tell everyone the real reason they're upset after they've just explained in detail with examples, and have already addressed the points about prudishness and cultural differences... well, it's a belittling thing to do and it doesn't help the conversation.

Now that Skygazer's comment has been posted in full, I hope people can understand why other people reacted so strongly to it. It's got nothing to do with censorship or prudishness, and everything to do with maintaining a base-level of community standards. He seems to think that using words like whore and cunt against a woman he hates is some kind of radical boundary-pushing discourse, when everyone's heard it all before, usually before they've left highschool. The rest of us are hoping for something a little better than 4chan, and that he'll manage to lift his conversational level to join us.
posted by harriet vane at 8:55 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Silience you with accusations of "hate-speech," because in a way I would feel like I was silencing my self, sorry but I've worked too hard to throw off that silencing

Oh, you poor, poor repressed male, how you must suffer for not being able to really say what you mean and call a woman a cunt. Truly the gods weep for your sorrow and pain.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:57 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


To illustrate: my group of college friends is not at all uptight, conservative, or PC. One night one of the guys used the c-word and another friend (he wasn't referring to her) slapped him in the face.

The person doing the slapping in this scenario is a reprehensible sack of shit.
posted by bingo at 8:58 PM on March 26, 2010


Skygazer, I'm appalled, and I don't appall easily.

It is not my impression that folks are needlessly or flippantly calling your speech "hate speech". The fact that you are flippant about denying that it is hateful is what I think the problem is here.

KK has asked you to back the fuck down and step up your game. I implore you to do the same. Refusing to take responsibility for your hateful words and dismissing people who are trying to hold you accountable is a fucking cheesy move and should be beneath you, given your claims that you are an ethical or moral person.
posted by kalessin at 9:40 PM on March 26, 2010


I thought since I've been branded guilty of "hate-speech," by some, without any knowledge whatsoever, of what the original comment was, it should be made available.

Hopefully a little context and perspective, might help.


Speaking seriously, as someone who has been reading the thread on MeFi but who managed to miss the original comment, that comes off as a serious tactical miscalculation. I was imagining some half-witty throwaway line that employed the word 'cunt' sort of, well, accidentally, if you will, and using some other word would have caused significantly less ruckus. But yeah, the singular word 'cunt', as a few other people have already said, is the least of the problems.

The best way I know of dealing with people that irresponsible and short-sighted is lampooning them with caricature and satire and laughing at them, and I equated Palin's strategy to evil witch from the Wizard of Oz, mobilizing her flying monkeys.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you kind of buried your Palin-as-Wicked-Witch gem of a parallel under a steaming pile of 'bitchcuntwhoreGRAR'. You emphasize your disdain not once, but twice (first by capitalizing only the word 'cunt' in the first parenthetical, then by shrinking your second parenthetical entirely, forcing people to concentrate specifically on those particular words, giving them special weight) and then slip in the whole 'squadron of flying monkeys' bit at the end. Personally I read and reread that comment about six times, trying to figure out what the link was between 'bitchcuntwhoreGRAR' and the Wizard of Oz. It comes across, in my opinion, as a complete non-sequitur, and not some bitingly satirical commentary about Palin or the Tea Party. If you or someone else would like to explain what I missed, I'm open to that.

So, in other words, aside from the gender-hatred baggage of the words employed, the actual structure of the comment pretty much fails as comedy. The fact that you chose to use inflammatory language in that vein transforms it from a simple eyeroller into a shitstorm. The 'You just don't get it, maaaaan' defense doesn't really fly. If nobody laughs, it wasn't funny.
posted by quantumetric at 9:55 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just realised what this thread reminds me of! It's one of those shaming circles, like in Maoist China or some crazy cult group! People gather round and the crowd focuses their disdain on a single person and just lays right into them, chipping away, bit by bit, grinding them down, and taking away any sense of self-worth.

And no, that's not like insulting someone with hate speech (a predictable response) - because it is the inequality of numbers that is the real problem in threads like these. This has been bugging me about Metatalk for a long time now and I could never put my finger on just what was so gross about it but yeah, it's that relentless wave of disapproval. Something is really wrong there.

If [person who exemplifies the worst in humanity] him/herself were to materialize before you, would it really make any sense to line up a big crowd of people and just keep telling them how awful they were and how wrong they were, and how is it possible they didn't get it yet?

Just hang them, shoot them, exile them, or jail them. Get it over with. But the endless browbeating - and of someone in this community, yet - is reminiscent of the worst leftist cliches: revolutionaries fighting over themselves, getting lost to details and minutiae of differences, never getting anything done because they were too busy making sure everyone amongst them was 'pure' in intention or thought or deed.

I'm not talking about the word in question at all here (or any one word, for that matter). I'm not talking about Skygazer. I'm talking about the dynamics of these threads, the pile-ons. They're poisonous. Eventually, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if someone took one particularly badly and wound up in emergency over it. People seriously need to check themselves here.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Congratulations, stinkycheese, I thought Skygazer's arguments would prove to be the most ridiculously facile and victim-role-appropriating in the thread, but now I see that by arguing with Skygazer, I'm a Maoist who, by dint of the fact that I'm in the majority in this argument, is potentially going to drive Skygazer to suicide.

NEW METATALK RULE: ONLY AS MANY PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO ARGUE ONE SIDE AS ARE ON THE OTHER. Otherwise the more popular side is exploiting the dread INEQUALITY OF NUMBERS to SHAME THE OTHER SIDE AND TAKE AWAY THEIR SELF WORTH.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know Skygazer. I don't know he's reacting to this this thread. For all I know, he thinks it's a gas, he's loving it. I already said I'm not talking about him.

The thread could be about anything. I'm talking about the dynamics.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:14 PM on March 26, 2010


And it was your assessment of the dynamic that I mocked.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:15 PM on March 26, 2010


The word 'cunt' is also offensive in Canada. As offensive as in the US; more so even since I think we generally try to be more PC.

>This is simply not true at all. Firstly, because it simply isn't more offensive here, and secondly, because we don't generally try to be more PC.


You've stated that cunt does not carry negative/pejorative/misogynist connotations in Canada twice in this Meta, but you've been wrong both times, at least in the absolutist way you're presenting it. Maybe you live in Victoria or have British parents or hang with annoying Anglophiles who think talking like bad Warren Ellis parodies is the height of awesome or something, but in my experience the American usage is way more prevalent here.

Also, PC is a nonsense term. Regardless of whether one thinks it represents something good or bad, it's entirely devoid or any sort of actual value when trying to have a conversation. Furthermore, cherry tomatoes and hummus are the cat's ass.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:17 PM on March 26, 2010


Ultimately, Metatalk (and Metafilter for that matter) will be what they are, right? I understand that. No problem there. I'm just saying there is a disturbing dynamic going on when a 500+ comment thread is basically YOU'RE WRONG over and over and over and over. It's certainly nothing I have any interest in participating in - I'm surprised anyone does - but it seems to be the way things are going.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:19 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to take one last stab at the Online Interaction 101 part of this, because if nothing else I need to articulate to myself what I think very nearly all of the people in this thread understand intuitively.

I differ from Sarah Palin on almost every single possible metric - except gender. I don't like her much, so when I hear people being negative about her I'm usually approximately in agreement.

But when I hear someone call her a "bitch" or a "whore" or a "cunt," my first thought is "Huh, when I do something that this dude doesn't like he's probably going to call me one of those nasty words." This makes me not want to hang around that person, because I piss everyone off every now and then and I don't much like being called a cunt. I think we've amply demonstrated here that this is a not-uncommon opinion among women.

If enough people do stuff like call women "cunts," women won't want to hang around here at all. This is usually the intent of what people are calling "hate speech" - I've also heard it described as a form of terrorism, with the message being "See what I'm doing to this person? I'll do it to every member of this person's group if I get the chance." I think it's totally possible to use speech that has that effect without that intent, but that doesn't change the fact that it does have that effect. Ghidorah's reaction to the word (please forgive me) "kike" upthread is a really good example of how even when the word is not being aimed at anyone at all, but merely discussed as a word, it can have that sort of alienating effect.

The community has pretty much determined women (and gay people, and Christians, and the other subjects of this type of MeTa thread) not wanting to hang out here is a bad outcome. So the mods strongly discourage this sort of behavior. If any individual decides that avoiding this sort of language is "silencing," then... well, they tend to get piled on, because the community would rather keep the entire class of people put off by that language than the individuals who insist on using it.

It's not a judgment of anyone's intrinsic worth. It's a judgement of their actions, and you can change your actions. But if you'd rather be able to say whatever you want and only hang out with the people your language has no effect on, so be it. But not here.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:19 PM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Pope Guilty: And it was your assessment of the dynamic that I mocked.

You used Skygazer's name three times in one sentence.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:20 PM on March 26, 2010


Stinkycheese, I kind of see where you're coming from, but the person we're focusing on a) started the thread himself and b) is engaging with various people directly and repeatedly, prompting ongoing conversation. There are also quite a few interesting and valuable side-conversations going on between a whole bunch of people. The fact that next to no one (we may be down to "no one" after the reposting of the actual comment in question) agrees with him has more to do with the fact that he took a really fringe position and defended it vigorously than any sort of mob dynamic.

The alternative to MetaTalk, in which I think this sort of thread is inevitable, is an autocratically-moderated site in which the norms are enforced by moderators who don't tolerate public debate of their decisions. Which is totally doable but leads to a totally different kind of community, with different strengths and weaknesses.

(You've complained about this before, as I recall, and I must admit I don't quite understand why you read these threads if you find them so unpleasant.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:31 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm asking myself that more and more, restless_nomad.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:33 PM on March 26, 2010


I'll weigh in (again) on the usage of cunt in this piece of Canada. It is a vile, misogynistic insult, used to either slur a woman or denigrate someone or something by assigning it woman-ness.

When I hear it used in public, I cringe inside and looking for the exit; I feel a pulse of fear, because there is a threat of violence. Yep, only a word... a deep dirty insult in public.

Cunt is also a lovely fine word for a vulva, but that's a private usage: another situation where there's no mistaking the meaning.
posted by reflecked at 3:32 AM on March 27, 2010


Someday, somehow, this word really needs to be stripped of its power, because hiding it just lets it simmer away undiluted.

There's no doubt it's a word that comes from a time of marginalizing women, but it would sure be nice if the attachment to an implied feminine inferiority could be lost in the dustbin along with other words, such as hysterical, that most people don't overreact to at present.

It's tough word to use safely. Women can do it much more easily than men, of course, and my manly self can only use it in two contexts: (1) very privately, when a collar is involved, and (2) jokingly among female friends who I know in advance aren't uptight about it... but I can't imagine using it carelessly or among strangers in 2010 USA, and that is what unbridled use on MetaFilter would be like, right, no matter how much we like to think we're all so close?

So I definitely agree that blustering ahead with it while being willfully ignorant of how it's likely to be taken (especially with a very US-centric audience) is the height of foolishness. While one should be free to use it, of course, one should also be aware one is very likely to incite some pretty disproportionate reactions from sensitive listeners/readers.

And those reactions won't be quelled by MetaApologetics.
posted by rokusan at 4:07 AM on March 27, 2010


(PS: I suggest a rosy peach background color for MetaApologies, by the way.)
posted by rokusan at 4:07 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there a better word, than the "c" word to describe reprehensible public figures calling for violence?

If you cut out the rest of this discussion, and just post that single question to AskMe.... it would end up as one of my favorite threads ever.

I just know it.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 AM on March 27, 2010


prehensile labia would make an excellent name for a rock band.

Japanese punk, surely.
posted by rokusan at 4:17 AM on March 27, 2010


Is there a better word, than the "c" word to describe reprehensible public figures calling for violence?

"Asshole"? "Fuckstick"? "Shitstain"? "Malmsey-nosed death-token"?

Hell, just go to the Shakespearean insult generator if you're out of ideas. (And -- as a bonus, the Shakespearean insults sound way better anyway.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on March 27, 2010


Moist shaming circle? Jeez. On one hand, we're told we're a bunch of children who can't handle a bit of salty language and, on the other, we're compred to an idiology responsible for the death of thousands if not millions. This was not the great leap forward our chairman promised.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:35 AM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm just going to stuck with "moist" whenever I mean Maoist from here on out.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:36 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


You won't dampen my revolutionary enthusiasm with your bourgeois typos!
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 AM on March 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


If presented the choice between two Japanese punk bands, Prehensile Labia or moist shaming circle, I definitely would go with Moist Shaming Circle. The first, those are words that someone would've had to have looked up, and they'd be in on the joke. The second has a sort of Bump of Chicken/Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her vibe to it, where the band would be blissfully unaware of what the name actually meant.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:05 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


it is the inequality of numbers that is the real problem in threads like these.

It's the inequality of numbers that makes clear what the support for a given community norm is.

I agree that rampant pile-ons are a danger of online arguments where some infraction of norms is perceived. It's a hazard of this sort of forum and we should be careful about it. That said, this is a more complex discussion, and had there not been at least a few people trying to support the OP, making it clear that the issue might be a bit bigger than one single user and his views or comments, I don't think it would be drawing so many continued responses.

one should be free to use it, of course, one should also be aware one is very likely to incite some pretty disproportionate reactions from sensitive listeners/readers.

One is free to use it in life. And I find much in your comment to agree with, rokusan, but I can't help but notice that people who have objected to the use of the term on MeFi have now been called "prudish," and "sensitive" and their reactions "disproportionate." I'm not sure what you would consider a "proportionate" reaction would be to the use of words to express sexualized hatred toward women. I actually think this thread is quite proportionate - this is how we react on MeFi, we discuss, explain, hear many opinions, support viewpoints we agree with. It's rational, calmly handled, and completely appropriate to the incident - somewhat restrained, even.

I understand that some people wish this term wasn't so charged. However, it is, and if it and terms like it were used more laxly, a lot of people like myself would just leave MeFi. There's a lot of agreement that unredeemed hateful expressions toward women (gays, minorities, Christians, you name it) shouldn't stand as part of the discussion here, because to let them stand would result in the site culture becoming more and more exclusive and hostile over time.

There are legitimate reasons to oppose certain words. In itself, telling people they're overreacting for feeling as they do - especially when the feeling is so widespread among the active userbase as to actually be the norm, not some radical outlier - is a gambit in the game of perpetuating sexism that's very old. You may not mean to be doing that, but words like "sensitive" and "prudish" have clear, familiar meanings to women. They basically say "The fault lies in you, the woman, because you are too emotional" or "the fault lies in you, the woman, because you too sexually frigid - otherwise, you wouldn't object to the use of this term." I'd say the fault doesn't lie in any one individual's personal qualities - the fault lies in a culture that has created real, injurious, and negative experiences for an abundance (a majority?) of women over their lifetimes. So if I were to modify your comment to reflect my own view I would say "one should be free to use it, of course, one should also be aware one is very likely to incite some strong negative reactions from many listeners/readers."

I would like to take this moment to invite everyone who is so deeply concerned about not being able to use the word "cunt" anymore to recognize and revel in their freedom to say "cunt." I invite you to throw open your windows, step out onto the streets, stand on your porches, spread your arms and shout to the skies "cunt cunt cunt! CUNT!" I invite you to sit down to Sunday dinner at your mom's and end the meal with a "Who woulda thought an old cunt like you could cook so well!" I invite you to hail a friend on the street with "Hey! Cunt!" Please - have at it. Cunt away. It's your life, and you'll be able to experience whatever consequences arise there, just as people sometimes experience consequences here. Here, the standard has become that the consequences are deletion, because the word contributes to aspects of site culture that the community generally rejects.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on March 27, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'm talking about the dynamics of these threads, the pile-ons.

I think with very few exceptions, this thread is not in any way a public shaming. Skygazer has been treated respectfully, he's been asked specifically to stick around when he's threatened not to and he's had people's feelings on this topic explained, mostly dispassionately, over and over. The fact is, a lot of people disagree with him. And many do not, or they agree somewhat and disagree somewhat. This is not people hounding him out of the community and this is not people trying to get him to change his mind, just change the way he maybe interacts with the community, in a very minimal way.

I've seen pile-ons in MeTa occasionally and they're ugly. One of the things we do as moderators is keep big ugly torch and pitchfork pile-ons from happening. This bums people out but I think we're a better community for basically not allowing that sort of thing.

We have a large enough community now that almost any strongly worded statement is going to find a crowd of people who are going to disagree with it, our goal is for that disagreement to be dealt with mostly civilly and explored until the people who have been disagreeing can reach if not a consensus point at least a civil agree-to-disagree point. And sometimes we have to be willing to tell people "hey if that's the MeFi you want, that may not be the MeFi you can get...." but I don't think that's even the case here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the things we do as moderators is keep big ugly torch and pitchfork pile-ons from happening.

You guys are great mods, no question, but the ugly pile-ons are starting to pile up IMO. Their accumulated ugliness is in fact distracting from the site's finer graces.

I'm not going to be looking at this thread again for awhile today BTW. I'm going outside to enjoy the spring air.

And, for the third time, I was not talking about Skygazer.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:34 AM on March 27, 2010


I invite you to sit down to Sunday dinner at your mom's and end the meal with a "Who woulda thought an old cunt like you could cook so well!"

This is actually the traditional closing for Sunday dinners in Canada.
posted by palliser at 8:56 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn: I think with very few exceptions, this thread is not in any way a public shaming. Skygazer has been treated respectfully,


Jessamyn, with all due respect, I don't think you've been paying close attention to what's been going on here. I've explained my reasoning, I've admitted the comment was bad and immature; a throwaway, I've apologized to almost everyone and been respectful.

But somehow, that's not enough. I'm hearing the same thing over and over and over again. The self-righteousness and need to shame and humiliate and silence has created something grotesque and toxic.

Stinkycheese is exactly right in his observations. This thread has gone way beyond anything having to do with me and my stupid comment or MeTa, and has now become something way more fucked up in it's own right and way more insidious than one person getting carried away and using the word cunt.

It's deplorable and I'm really at the end of my rope with understanding why for ten years they people here were people I admired and thought of as friends.
posted by Skygazer at 9:42 AM on March 27, 2010


Bill Hicks:

No. 1


No.2
posted by Skygazer at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2010


And a lot of other people here seem to be at the end of their rope with understanding how you're still characterising the original comment as simply "an immature throwaway," to which folks are inexplicably hallucinating hateful language.

I think a lot of the pile-on is that many of us (I'll admit, myself included) see the problematic nature of the comment as blindingly obvious and are having difficulty figuring out why you can't work it out, even after it's been exhaustively explained.

It's like playing "where did I leave my car keys"... "They're on the table... no, the table... right on the table... you just moved you hand right over them... on your left now... no your other left... ok, why are you looking on the credenza... see? on the table, directly in front of you... arrgh!" And we keep figuring eventually, you'll go "oh, they were right there all the time!" And it all goes on way too long.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Miko: It's rational, calmly handled, and completely appropriate to the incident - somewhat restrained, even.

Christ, what bullshit. Fucking hell no fucking shit pissmotherfucking way...

This has become about control, and the worst fucking type of "liberal" shaming exercise. You should put yourself in my position.

I'm not going to let this kind of holier than thou self-rightous ness go without comment anymore. It's dangerous and it's gross. Fuck, it even sounds like an official statement from the Maoist office of Public Information.

I'm a lefty, I'm a progressive, I'm a liberal. I am pro-gay, pro-woman, pro-choice , But I am SICK of the shaming and silencing and PC groupthink. Really, shove it up your asses.

These Maoist shaming sessions in the name of "community consensus" are just getting disgusting. ANd this is the latest case in point, and if I seem a little angry it's because, I've now had the displeasure of being the focus of one of these torture sessions.
posted by Skygazer at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2010


It's deplorable and I'm really at the end of my rope with understanding why for ten years they people here were people I admired and thought of as friends.

With all due respect for your good-faith efforts to solve it, I might suggest you're experiencing an honest moment of cognitive dissonance and that it may be something you find yourself thinking about for a while.

You're having trouble "understanding why for ten years they people here were people I admired and thought of as friends" who disagree with you on this issue. Either you have discovered you no longer admire them and think of them as friends, or you are dealing with the realization that people you admire and think of as friends have a real and serious difference with you about the acceptability of certain expressions in this forum.

It's always a difficult moment, but it's not something that others can resolve for you. It might be that you gradually come to accept, if not agree to, the standards of discourse here and carry on, brand new day, and continue the friendships and participation you have enjoyed in the past. It might be that you decide it's more important to you to use the kind of language you're used to, regardless of whether it inflames others, than to have these friends and participate in this forum. But it doesn't seem like there's any more to it than that - you've come up against a boundary you didn't know was there, you're not sure you buy into it, and you'll have to give it some thought.

Personally, I hope you stay, because that's the best outcome for everyone - that we are able to talk through things and agree reasonably on ways to talk together that help keep everyone in the conversation.
posted by Miko at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Karmakaze: And a lot of other people here seem to be at the end of their rope with understanding how you're still characterising the original comment as simply "an immature throwaway," to which folks are inexplicably hallucinating hateful language.

Here we go again, # 389, to tell me this.

You know what, read the thread. Read the whole fucking thing, and then think about what you just wrote and how un-necessary it was. Thanks for your self-righteous concern.

Next.
posted by Skygazer at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2010


Christ, what bullshit.

I'm comparing it to a lot of other threads about gender, sexuality, and minority language use, really some notable ones that exploded in all directions and in which a lot of people lost their shit. This hasn't been like that. I'm sure it's miserable for you, Skygazer, but by the yardstick of past "what flies and doesn't" threads this has been really calm - that's all I meant. The comments from others could have been much uglier. It's not a happy and pleasant discussion by any means, but I think people are staying pretty coolheaded overall.

I'm going to head outside, too. It's a great day here.
posted by Miko at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2010


Miko: or you are dealing with the realization that people you admire and think of as friends have a real and serious difference with you about the acceptability of certain expressions in this forum.

Or the community standards, exercises that have been going on regarding gender issues, have now proven themselves to me now, and I was always somewhat suspect and repulsed by them, as maybe dangerous and sick, Utopian exercises in groupthink and shaming of people. Of picking people out and letting them get flayed and insulted and tortured because of some perceived slight, and some "historical wrong," and how making someone's life miserabel over some great epic injustice, that mankind has commited over history really just defeats the fucking purpose of moving towards greater "social justice."

Christ, if I'm such an impolite, and anti-woman asshole, how the fuck did I ever get by around here since I finally got an account in 2002 and began commenting.
posted by Skygazer at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2010


Provisos: I'm 100% OK with 'cunt' never being used in earnest on the site ever again. It's such a minor thing to give up in exchange for not alienating many who are offended by it. That said the questions raised re free speech are valid ones and merit a less fighty discussion than exhibited here.

Three points:
  1. I want to call out Miko for being fantastic (as always):
    It may not always be an attempt, but it can easily be an unintended effect, as it has been (apparently) here - and that's why there's so much agreement on avoiding its use on the site. There may in fact be people who don't intend to denigrate women but are just plain unaware that the word has been used so often and so widely to denigrate women that a certain large number of people are not going to be able to erase their minds of those connotations, no matter what the intent may have been. Maybe in a small group of friends who you know well, you can call a woman a 'cunt' with no intent to denigrate her and have it be received that way (or at least look lilke it's received that way). But in a large discussion group where at least 90% of the people you're talking with are strangers to you, there may be an effect you wouldn't have in other contexts.
    I get that some people want MeFi to be a neighborhood pub and act accordingly, expecting a certain level of benefit of the doubt to questionable statements. Others want to be able to read a thread without being offended. Both sides are entirely reasonable and frankly both were way past good taste in defending their positions in this thread.
  2. jessamyn, cortex, et al: Hypothetically would the troublesome comment have been deleted if it had replaced Palin with an equally-reviled male figure? (Bush maybe?) Obviously it wouldn't have made sense in context but it changes the 'hate speech' aspect of this discussion in a crucial way (to me). Similar questions could obviously be raised for other
  3. I find 'mansplaining' see-red, flag the comment offensive. It's a needlessly combative ad-hominem that seems to be fighting sexism with sexism. All the comments in this thread that use it stand fine on their own without reinforcing the us-vs-them battle of the sexes meme that dominates gender discussions.

posted by Skorgu at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"social justice."

You're...you're aping Glenn Beck. You realize that, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on March 27, 2010


You're...you're aping Glenn Beck. You realize that, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:17 PM on March 27 [+] [!]


Maybe if you actually read the comment, you'd realize how dumb that statement is. This has nothing to do with GB.

I actually and totally believe in and am commited to seeing social justice actualized, asswipe.
posted by Skygazer at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2010


So what part of your paranoid, OMGMAOISTSARERUININGMETAFILTER ranting was not Glenn Beck-like? Seriously, you're coming off kind of... not well.

In the head.

PS: Yes, I wipe my ass. Thank you for noticing.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2010


people please shhh there are children sleeping, somehwere

it all sounds to me like a fundamental case of the values gap here, where the value propositions upheld by the metafilter community irregardless of where they may be from, match each other, and though the words they use are english the meanings mean differently from one to another person. its called frame of reference. if you have learnt your 3 point perspective - an orthogonality if I may call it, thank you sir for teaching us the importance of absolutely white paper, and no finger prints on it mind you and take off the scorpion headset in the back there omfg you know, i knew that. oh goodie. its legal now. ;p
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on March 27, 2010


Skygazer, you're responding as if people are calling you an asshole but they're not. (Or, I don't think anybody is, maybe I've missed someone) Mostly people are saying that the words you chose sound way worse than you intended. (And I take it that you're on board with that, after a thousand people saying it?) I think people understand that you're not an asshole, not a bad guy, not a misogynist, not a hatemonger, etc.

I think the reason people came back into this after that "apology" comment you linked was that your comment didn't say anything like "okay, yeah, I shouldn't have used those words." I think that's the magic phrase in this context. You explained why you used them, said that the people complaining just didn't have proper "perspective", and apologized to three or four people by name because you were more sarcastic with them than you meant to be.

Also --
I think terms like "hate speech" are not all that useful in discussions like this, exactly because they tend to make people very defensive ("I don't hate anyone!"). So, my advice would be, ignore that phrase because there's no way to respond to it. And my advice for people who are trying to say "look really don't use that word here because it's a big bad one" is, maybe lay off the 'hate speech' terminology here because it just isn't useful when you're trying to have a mostly good-natured informative-type exchange that can reasonably end with someone saying "oh wow, sorry, I just didn't realize, shouldn't have said that". Once you get into 'hate speech' and how a comment reflects on someone's actual attitudes toward women, the person can't apologize without feeling like they're losing face or accepting a charge of Bad Guy. The point about how these words are really received can be made without using the term 'hate speech'.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:31 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: you're coming off kind of... not well.

In the head.


Maoist shaming technique # 11

Question their sanity.
posted by Skygazer at 10:34 AM on March 27, 2010


oy vey as they say back in calcutta
posted by infini at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2010


LobsterMitten: The point about how these words are really received can be made without using the term 'hate speech'.

Thank you for writing that.
posted by Skygazer at 10:39 AM on March 27, 2010

And my advice for people who are trying to say "look really don't use that word here because it's a big bad one"
Except that, as we've pointed out again and again, the problem isn't really the word. (And we have to point that out again and again, because if we don't, we get the whole "prudish American who is ignorant about how people order chips in Glasgow" argument.) The problem is that the entire comment, and not just that one particular word, expresses gendered contempt for women. The problem with calling Sarah Palin a "fuckface cunt, whore-bitch from hell" is not just the word cunt. It's that you are marshaling every profoundly gendered, profoundly sexualized insult that you can think of to insult a woman you hate. The entire phrase derives its power from the misogyny embedded in all of those words.

I don't think stargazer is a misogynist, and I don't think he's a bad guy. I don't know him, actually, so I don't think anything about him. I just think that this particular phrase was a really shitty phrase, because it relies on misogyny to make its point. And when you use misogyny, you reinforce it, even if you're trying to use it in the service of an anti-misogynistic cause. You also alienate a lot of women, including women who basically agree with you.

I think a lot of people do this kind of thing unthinkingly, and it's good to discuss it because it makes people think about it more. I'm not trying to shame stargazer or put him in the MetaFilter gulag or anything. I'm just trying to point out why I think this is a problematic rhetorical strategy.
posted by craichead at 10:41 AM on March 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


Skygazer, you're responding as if people are calling you an asshole but they're not.

Skygazer has, indeed, been accused of explicitly trolling, not acting in good faith and indeed being a misogynist. I'm not condoning either side of those descriptions but they are in the thread as direct accusations.
posted by Skorgu at 10:41 AM on March 27, 2010


I'm saying you sound batshit, and should maybe make an effort not to, so as to state your position more effectively.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2010


indeed
posted by Skorgu at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2010


Next.

I've been trying to be pretty patient and understanding with you on this, Skygazer, but three days later I don't know what you were or are hoping for with this thread. To be told that it's okay to call a woman a cunt and a whore?

Your comment was really fucked up. That you made it that way upset a lot of people because the language you chose to use is really offensive to a bunch of people. That much can't be changed or argued away: it was a fucked up thing to say.

Your defense of the comment has been, well, really defensive and a lot of people have felt like you were trying to hand-wave away the impact of what you actually chose to say. That kind of thing upsets people too.

I hear you when you say your intent was not to hurt women or be openly misogynistic. I'm willing to believe you on that, despite the pretty awful nature of the language you chose to use. Tonedeafness happens. It's happened to me before, certainly.

But I can't force anyone else to draw the same conclusion, and I can understand (and you should be able to as well) that some people are going to reasonably be less charitable in their interpretation of what went down. You said something really fucked up that resembles the sort of shit that people who actually are hateful misogynists are known to say. It creates a hell of an interpretive problem for folks trying to figure out what the hell you were thinking and why.

That having been said, most of what's gone down in this thread has been people reacting badly to what you actually said and how you've defended it, as things that happened in time. It's not a giant circle of people declaring you to be a fundamentally rotten person, it's a bunch of folks talking about why the thing you said was rotten and talking, more generally, about language use in this community in abstract independent of your choice of words or your comments or, really, you at all. I understand you're going to naturally fixate on stuff that's (a) targeted specifically at you and is (b) the least charitable in its estimation of why you said what you said, but the thread has been much larger and more complicated than that core of commentary.

If you learned something about how the word "cunt" is used and why it's more problematic than you had previously understood, great. I hope that's part of what happened here. I also hope you've picked up on the fact that the whole dynamic of hurling shitty language at some woman you dislike is seriously problematic, specific choice of words aside, and that that general choice of tactic is a big part of why people are upset by what you said and your insistence on defending it. And I don't know if that's getting through as much, and maybe that's part of why there's this ongoing sense of dissonance for you. I don't know.

I'm sorry you're feeling piled-on. Your comment, and your defense of it, has upset a lot of people, many of whom who have trod this ground before both on mefi and in their own personal lives, as victims of or as friends/relatives/spouses of people who have been victims of some really awful behavior that resembles, however cluelessly or accidentally on your part, the kind of shit you included in your comment. It's not really something that leads quickly to hugs or a balanced discussion, and returning to it repeatedly to in various ways tell people they're wrong to think it's problematic has been what's keeping this thread alive and responses coming in toward you.

I can't tell people not to think poorly of you or not to react strongly to your comments on this topic, and I can't tell you to just make an unqualified apology for the deeply shitty aspects of that comment on the blue, but in my honest estimation I think the latter would probably really help with the former. And that, as an alternative, it might make sense to just drop this instead of continuing to try and fight people about it. The "Maoist shaming" stuff sounds ridiculous and paints this as something far different from what it is: a bunch of people on this internet community who are pretty reasonably upset about a shitty thing you said on the site and the fact that you don't seem to think it was actually all that shitty at all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2010 [19 favorites]


Sys Rq: I'm saying you sound batshit, and should maybe make an effort not to, so as to state your position more effectively.

And I'm saying you sound like a self righteous dickhead who doesn't really understand what he's talking about in regards to me, as person, or my state of mind or in regard to the what's' been going on in this thread.
posted by Skygazer at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2010


Except that, as we've pointed out again and again, the problem isn't really the word.... The entire phrase derives its power from the misogyny embedded in all of those words.

craichead - Yes, I absolutely agree with this, and well said. All I mean is, it's more effective to say it this way than to use the phrase 'hate speech', because that phrase makes people stop listening, whereas explaining it fully in the way you've done allows them to keep listening.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2010


i hurt from all of this noise, its outgrown the signals that were pure music as metafilter used to be, what happened to it?
posted by infini at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2010


And I'm saying you sound like a self righteous dickhead who doesn't really understand what he's talking about in regards to me, as person, or my state of mind or in regard to the what's' been going on in this thread.

Fine. Continue with the loopy analogies of persecution and the utter lack of self-awareness if you really think that's working so well for you.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:55 AM on March 27, 2010


Sys Rq, accusing people you disagree with of having mental disorders is rarely a useful or good faith strategy.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2010


I'm a lefty, I'm a progressive, I'm a liberal. I am pro-gay, pro-woman,

Honest question.

In your most heated moments of anger at some Republican/conservative involved in a gay sex scandal (Larry Craig, what's-his-face with the pages, etc.), would it ever cross your mind to shoot off something like:

"Ha! Dirty little cocksucker! Enjoy your aids, you flaming faggot."?

Because that'd be about as pro-gay as your Palin screed was pro-woman.
posted by CKmtl at 11:02 AM on March 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


Cortex: The "Maoist shaming" stuff sounds ridiculous and paints this as something far different from what it is: a bunch of people on this internet community who are pretty reasonably upset about a shitty thing you said on the site and the fact that you don't seem to think it was actually all that shitty at all.


Thanks for that , measured and balanced response, but I think I've stated about a dozen times now, that I don't think that was my best moment, I've also said I don't think it's right to use in anger against women.

But this became a bit more last night after I apologized. And I think, and I say this as someone who cares and respects this space more than most over a fucking decade, that there is a tendency for something messed, a dark dynamism, and shaming circle is exactly what it is, that develops when the self-righteousness gets thick enough to gag on. It has happened in other agonizing gender issue mega-threads and it will happen again if it's not taken into account.

I'm just sorry I didn't come to the defense of people who, no matter how heinous their opinions were or unpopular in those past MeTa's, went through with this sort of thing, because it is torturous and it's wrong.
posted by Skygazer at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2010


Sys Rq, accusing people you disagree with of having mental disorders is rarely a useful or good faith strategy.

Yeah, I know. That's why I didn't do that.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2010


Skygazer, I don't think you're Jack the Ripper. That said, I don't expect you to apologize to me.

I think we've finally gotten down to what this is all about- you don't like being told what not to say. And you don't like facing consequences for the things you say. If you feel less free to say exactly what you want at all times, that scares/upsets/angers you.


It would have been nice if we could have just started from there and had a discussion about that. Instead of that whole facade of "It means something different in different cultures!" which now seems to have shifted to "I was just being sarcastic/satirical!" (There is nothing satirical about simple namecalling).

If you want to feel free to say exactly what you want, whenever you want, without consideration for anyone else --- if you don't want to ever face consequences for anything you say--- that's a completely different discussion than the one we're having here.

I suspect you didn't frame this thread in that way because either you knew it wasn't quite reasonable, or because you didn't think it would garnish much sympathy. Or because it's simply not how things work. Forget Metafilter- it's simply not how things work in the real world.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've stated about a dozen times now, that I don't think that was my best moment, I've also said I don't think it's right to use in anger against women

And how I wish you'd stopped there.

Actually, there is one more thing I'd like to know: are you going to do it again? Never mind how ashamed you do or do not feel; I do not care. If you've actually said, flat out, "I will never use 'cunt' again -- let alone "fuckface cunt whore-bitch" -- on Metafilter to describe anyone," I missed it in all your distracting defensive howling.
posted by sculpin at 11:23 AM on March 27, 2010


AShley801: If you want to feel free to say exactly what you want, whenever you want, without consideration for anyone else --- if you don't want to ever face consequences for anything you say--- that's a completely different discussion than the one we're having here.

Well, thank you for telling me what we're talking about here and thank you for ignoring 12 of of my comments.

Also, thank you, and here I'm serious for putting away the accusations of "misogynist" and "hate-speech," you were using before so casually and freely.
posted by Skygazer at 11:24 AM on March 27, 2010


Let me get this straight.

Person (a) makes a comment calling out Palin in a questionable way
Person (a) is called out.
In the course of the discussion many people tell person (a) that the comment upsets them.
Person (a) says his intention was not to make people feel that way.
People say, But - aha - the comment does upset me.
People tell person (a) that his intention does not matter.
People say that person (a) could not understand.

So, person (b) steps up and says it looks as though person (a) is being picked on.
Person (a) says, yes - I do feel like I'm being picked on.
People say that it was not their intention to make person (a) feel that way.
Person (a) says, But - aha - the comments do upset me.
People tell person (a) that he's being stupid, and he should pull himself together.

There's been a fair bit of "please try and understand where I'm coming from" in this discussion. The same right should be afforded skygazer.

Plus - this *is* a bullshit pileon. The comment was out of order, but honestly... Hate Speech? Referring to a kick up the ass as "threatening a sexual attack"? Lining up behind the people you agree with empty repetitions of what they already said.

Skygazer has tried to apologise, but as far as I can tell, you've all got the scent of blood now. There will be no stopping until he shuts up, and then you'll get on with the insidious practice of monitoring everything he says.

I'm guessing that in this fight, a couple of the older ones will pull back a bit now while the young stupid ones go in for a bit of blood. If he snaps again, you can all pile on. If he doesn't , you can lick your cubs in congratulation for a job well done.
posted by seanyboy at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


AShley801: If you want to feel free to say exactly what you want, whenever you want, without consideration for anyone else --- if you don't want to ever face consequences for anything you say--- that's a completely different discussion than the one we're having here.

Well, thank you for telling me what we're talking about here and thank you for ignoring 12 of of my comments.


Yeah? Okay, let me ask you directly then.

Does it bother, scare, upset, or anger you to feel as if your speech is being restricted, or that you might face consequences for it?
posted by Ashley801 at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2010


There's been a fair bit of "please try and understand where I'm coming from" in this discussion. The same right should be afforded skygazer.

The same right has been afforded Skygazer, by a lot of people in this thread who have taken issue with the comment but have been making an effort to talk about why it's problematic and to understand where he was coming from (a) when he made it in the first place and (b) when he started this callout and commenced defending it.

There's no way to produce any kind of symmetry from a thread where the fulcrum stands between "people who will argue that calling a woman a cunt is a problem" and "people who will argue that it's no problem at all". The asymmetry is inherent in the offense and the conflict.

I don't like the piling-on dynamic and I can understand where Skygazer is coming from feeling bothered by it, but this is not a mob coming out of nowhere for the sheer fun of grouping up on someone: this is a proportional representation of the asymmetry of opinion on the whole hurling-awfulness-at-women thing, in a thread he started himself to protest the deletion of a comment where he called a woman a whore and a cunt. The surprising thing is not that the conversation has been lopsided but that we're having to have it at all at this late date.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

Also, thank you, and here I'm serious for putting away the accusations of "misogynist" and "hate-speech," you were using before so casually and freely.
FWIW, I'm not backing away from that. What you said was misogynistic hate-speech. That doesn't mean you're a misogynist. This isn't about what you are. It's about what you said and why it's not acceptable here. Nobody is passing judgment on you as a human being. We're just trying to explain why it was deleted and why deleting it was the right thing to do.

I don't know you, but I'm going to make a guess here. I think your comment probably sprung from totally understandable impulses. You hate someone and think she's scary and dangerous, and you're going to pull out the biggest rhetorical ammunition you have against her. That makes sense. It's just that when you're dealing with a woman, even a woman who has the full force of patriarchy, fundamentalism, and the GOP behind her, the biggest rhetorical ammunition is misogyny, and that's not cool. I get why you would feel justified in using that rhetorical ammunition against her. Hell, I've done that kind of thing myself. It's just that I've thought about it, and I've decided it's not ok, because you can't deploy misogyny selectively. Ultimately it hurts all women, not just the woman you're using it against. (And the same is true of racism and homophobia and what have you.) And I hope when you think about it, you'll come to the same conclusion, because ultimately I think we're probably pretty much on the same side.
posted by craichead at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


Stop talking to him. This isn't about mutual understanding- he doesn't care. It's about giving him a reason to skulk in his room and feel persecuted for being brave enough to throw around misogynistic language and not care about the consequences of his actions. Skygazer's shown no remorse for using that language, no concern for how the use of that language in the Metafilter discourse affects other people. He only cares about his own freedom to do and say whatever he wants, which is more important than the consequences of his words and deeds and which is sacred above all else. Any efforts to get him to understand why that language is seriously problematic or what the consequences of that language are end up being met with accusations of "silencing" and "Maoist shaming". He's not at all engaged in this discussion- he's simply flailing at anyone who comes near him and reiterating his position, and lately going on about how his political positions somehow make it acceptable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty paraphrases as: I'm not going to try and see this from his perspective. He obviously doesn't see it from my perspective.

That "Maoist shaming" thing. Ridicule away people. It's what it feels like.
posted by seanyboy at 12:08 PM on March 27, 2010


Pope Guilty, really, I can't even understand you being in library science, you don't understand the first thing about freedom of speech and you should be ashamed of yourself. Your viscous, relentless, self-righteous censoring attitude is absurd, scary and fucking dangerous.

Really, give it a rest. I get it. You want to see me flayed and humbled and humiliated and shamed. Got it. Message received. Now let's see how many more times you need to repeat yourself.
posted by Skygazer at 12:10 PM on March 27, 2010


The problem I'm having with your explanation of your original comment is that, aside from your apology to those you named, you don't actually seem all that sorry about what you said at all.

You seemed to think that getting the mods to repost your deleted comment would somehow magically clear things up and that everyone who responded negatively in this MeTa would collectively facepalm and say, 'Oh wow, I so misjudged you, Skygazer!' And that kind of didn't happen. I'm rereading the thread from this point and if anything, the reactions are overwhelmingly not 'Oh wow, I so misjudged you, Skygazer!', they're 'Oh wow, you actually said that, Skygazer?'

You intended your comment as humor, a joke, a satirical remark comparing Palin to the Wicked Witch of the West, right? Well, it didn't work. It didn't just flop, it bombed, and not just in the comedic sense of 'a failed joke', it actually exploded, making things much worse than they would have been otherwise, and it's your usage of 'cunt' and 'bitch' and 'whore' that caused that.

I think you're acknowledging that failure, but somehow you don't think it's your fault, it's everyone else's. You're coming off a bit like Lt. Steven Hauk here, and it's going about as well.
posted by quantumetric at 12:11 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


there is a tendency for something messed, a dark dynamism, and shaming circle is exactly what it is, that develops when the self-righteousness gets thick enough to gag on.

I think this might be central to the disconnect that's happening in this thread. I don't think you're fully appreciating the effects your words are having, so the reactions you're receiving may seem disproportionate. What's most troubling is that it seems like recognition of your own agency in this isn't getting through. Cortex wrote at length to try to explain that people are going to react badly to things like what you said, and that that's reasonable. But even though you've acknowldeged that the deleted comment wasn't you at your best (which, to be honest, is a far cry from actually apologizing for being offensive) you've continued to dismiss these understandable reactions as "self-righteous" or "Maoist." and this isn't just now, after your apology. This whole thread has seen you going on the attack, slinging insults and being... self-righteous. And I appreciate the apologies you made to the individual mefites you thought you were unfair to. I think that's a good step.

But I think apologies need to be followed up by better action or they ring hollow. Sure you're not calling people cunts or whores, which is better than doing that. But that's really low on the behavior scale and between there and "real signs that progress has been made and he's actually sorry" there's a lot of ground to cover. Part of that ground features things like calling people dicks and insisting you're the victim of a Maoist shaming circle.

Again, the over arching theme here seems to be denying your own agency. You didn't want to accept comment deletion, so you start this meta about the word cunt. (conveniently neglecting to mention the rest of the vile content in the comment.). You make ad homynym attacks, and you passive aggressively call for the whole comment to be reproduced. Confronted with how much worse the real comment is, you grudgingly accept that it's "not [you] at your best" and immediately continue the ad hom assault.

There comes a point where you need to just acknowledge your own failures in a situation and back off. And that point was days ago, here, and long before any notions about persecution should have materialized. If you can't stop calling people dicks, for even 1 day, the problem is not everyone else.

This is your meta. You made the comment. You called out its deletion, you insisted it be reproduced for all to see, and you went on the attack discussing it. You should focus on that. If you take the time to really consider your own part in this, I think you'll find that everybody else's part doesn't seem nearly as big a deal as you're currently making it out to be.
posted by shmegegge at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Skygazer, you've deteriorated into a series of personal attacks, and it might be a good idea to step back.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2010


Quantumetric: I think you're acknowledging that failure, but somehow you don't think it's your fault, it's everyone else's.

It was a failure and it was plug stupid a comment and I'm glad it was deleted. I am sorry for using that word, there's rarely any excuse to use it. And I apologized to people I was rude too in this thread. Including some who still want something more from this. And I am sorry, SORRY SORRY.

I've repeated that how many times now?

This is no longer about me. This is about you Metafilter (and you know who you are and I'm referring too).

Let's see how much longer you can let this drag out and how much more humbling, humiliating and agonizing you can make it.

Fuck it. This has been my home and my community for 10 years, and I'm going to fight for it. And fight to define what type of community we're going to be. The kind that can have some compassion, empathy, generosity and is able to forgive or the kind that's turned into some unhealthy leftist groupthink Maoist shaming circle under the rubric of "community standards."
posted by Skygazer at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Skygazer: Friendly reminder that there's a big world out there full of people (including many women) who would not have had a problem with your original comment. Metafilter is not representative of the whole planet. And even within Metafilter, you are now fighting a battle with a group of people who are self-selected as the type of people who want to put their time and energy into a Metatalk thread about the appropriateness of the word "cunt." Could this really have turned out any other way?

Your original question was polite and reasonable. Jessamyn's response near the top of the thread was really all you needed to hear, and to her credit, she put that answer in terms of what's appropriate for Metafilter, and not what's appropriate for the whole universe.

You ask "So, when is the "c-word," okay to use?" And I will answer, as if through a tiny hole in an ever-thickening haze: In situations that are not part of this mileu. You might as well be standing on a corner in Kansas and asking for directions to the beach. You just can't get there from here, my friend. These people are not your friends, and you owe them exactly nothing. Spread your wings and rise above it.
posted by bingo at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah - I'm not comfortable about how this is going either.

Skygazer - Hopefully they won't be, but I'm thinking there's going to be a few more comments now from people trying to either explain to you stuff you don't want to hear or attacking you directly. My advice is to step away. You've said your bit, and I think we passed the point some time ago when anyone could learn anything new. It's been a tough couple of days for you, and some people really should know better - but you're not a bear and you don't need to be involved in the baiting. If you must say anything, reapologise to those you're actually sorry you upset (cos you did say a bad thing) - put your head up and just step back.
posted by seanyboy at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This has been my home and my community for 10 years, and I'm going to fight for it.

"Spoken like a true Klansman," said the Maoist.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:39 PM on March 27, 2010


Really, give it a rest. I get it. You want to see me flayed and humbled and humiliated and shamed.

Could you give the over-the-top hyperbole a rest? Please?

You aren't being flayed, or tortured, or drawn and quartered, or hobbled, or sat in the Judas cradle, or made to suffer the anal pear, or crucified. You're being disagreed with, in a thread that you started for the sake of people discussing your behaviour and behaviour like yours.

You've been free to stop reading at any time. You've been free to wander off and mutter "Meh. Idiots." at any time.
posted by CKmtl at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


What goal are you fighting for here, exactly? This is a genuine question. I can tell that you're hurt and upset that motives have been ascribed to you which you don't possess, but I can't figure out exactly what you're asking for. Are you asking for only a few people to tell you when you've upset them, rather than a whole bunch? Are you asking for people to not push the issue when they feel dismissed about being upset? Given that you made the comment and posted the MeTa, how would you have liked to see things go?

(If you read this in a snarky "Son, where exactly did you think that was going to get you?" way, please don't. This is a reasoned attempt to clearly define goals so that we can come together to achieve them.)
posted by KathrynT at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2010


I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe this thread should be closed. What purpose is being served here?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:42 PM on March 27, 2010


The kind that can have some compassion, empathy, generosity and is able to forgive

There's been a fair amount of all of those in here, if you would look to see it. There's also been some folks treating you less compassionately or empathetically or generously, who don't seem like they personally are going to forgive you. Some of those folks may change their minds over time, I dunno.

If what you want is to know that people in this community can look at a bad stumble and recognize it as that, it's already here. I can understand if it's harder to see it when you're feeling angry at the people who aren't treating you as gently, but it's been happening all thread long as people try to extend you the courtesy of treating what you said different from who you are.

If what you're asking for is a place where everyone, bar none, is going to apologize for giving you a hard time and give you a hug, that's unrealistic. Partly because not everyone is for their own personal reason going to be receptive to your own apology or explanations, partly because some folks are maybe just kind of jerks about taking the high road, etc. I'm sorry, it's rough and, like you say, humbling and humiliating and agonizing to be on the receiving end of, but that's life in a social context. You fucked up, forgiveness for that is not going to be evenly distributed.

I appreciate your apology, and I appreciate your frustration with being the center of such a hard discussion. I think it'd probably be smart for you to bail on the thread at this point and just worry about doing better in the future and let the stuff that's driving you crazy here start being part of the past.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree. I can't imagine there are any new points to be made.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:44 PM on March 27, 2010


Sys Rq: ""Spoken like a true Klansman," said the Maoist."

???

I'm missing the reference.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2010


It's a Harlan Ellison story, I think.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:47 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fuck it. This has been my home and my community for 10 years, and I'm going to fight for it.

You say that, but what you seem to be doing is actually "This has been my home and community for 10 years, and I'm going to fight for it." Just drop it and we'll all move on, Brand New Day, and all that. Your continued insistence on being on the defensive for something you've already apologized for is only making it worse.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:50 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skygazer: you don't understand the first thing about freedom of speech and you should be ashamed of yourself. Your viscous, relentless, self-righteous censoring attitude is absurd, scary and fucking dangerous

Freedom of speech means the government isn't going to penalize you for your comments. It doesn't mean other people can't criticize you, insult you, or even shun/shame you socially because of what you say. In fact, freedom of speech encourages all of us to fight speech we don't like with more speech. If you're really accusing Pope Guilty of censoring you and thus violating your freedom of speech, you are incorrect. If you feel shamed socially for your speech, you might personally consider that a "chilling effect," but that's not the "chilling effect" the law concerns itself with. The latter "chilling effect" is most often used to describe a vague or overbroad law that could cause people to refrain from fully legal speech out of fear of penalization.

Fuck it. This has been my home and my community for 10 years, and I'm going to fight for it.

I'm genuinely glad you plan to stay (I like that you write well and that you care deeply about what you say), but I don't really understand what you feel you need to fight to defend Metafilter from. Honestly, the I don't see a community standard that says "don't use the word cunt to describe a woman in a negative way" as problematic, especially because it was in place long before you made your comment. Nothing has changed.
posted by sallybrown at 12:51 PM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


LobsterMitten: "I think people understand that you're not an asshole, not a bad guy, not a misogynist, not a hatemonger, etc."

craichead: "This isn't about what you are. It's about what you said and why it's not acceptable here. Nobody is passing judgment on you as a human being. "

The disconnect is that he's referring to comments like these which, if you missed them, might leave you puzzled about some of his defensiveness. I didn't quote the multiple comments accusing him of trolling because it's so common here (and elsewhere) when someone disagrees with a lot of people.

"You are the one who is not operating in good faith here."

As far as I am able to tell, you haven't responded to this, and that kind of suggests you weren't really interested in figuring out why your comment was deleted when you started this MeTa thread, but instead started it merely to complain, make your points, and become weirdly gleeful at the outraged reactions you get.

"Because there is no such reason, and you're too dishonest to simply admit it.

Honestly, you might actually come off better if you'd just own up to it. "Yeah, I think some women deserve to be called cunts. Deal with it!" Then you'd just be a simple misogynist. Instead of being dishonest and disingenuous in addition to being a misogynist.
"

"You owe Ashley801 a bunch of apologies for the way you've talked to her, and owe everyone in this thread who isn't you an apology for your rampant bad faith."

"See, he's operating on a completely different set of moral rules in which assaulting women with vile, misogynistic language and threatening them with sexual assault is awesome and fine, and saying that it's not fine makes you a giant asshole who wants to silence everyone you disagree with. "

posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:52 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


???

I'm missing the reference.


Dude's been calling everyone he disagrees with maoists; it's fucking ridiculous. Then he got all metafilter nativist, so I siezed the opportunity to slug him one back to an equally ridiculous degree.

Clear now?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2010


The kind that can have some compassion, empathy, generosity and is able to forgive

I didn't and don't really give that much of shit about this on a personal level; surely that must count for something?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:57 PM on March 27, 2010


It's a Harlan Ellison story, I think.

nah, it's misquoted Philip K Dick. "Flow My Klansmen, The Maoist Said."
posted by shmegegge at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2010


if we were being nannyed (nannied?) there would be a lot more snacks and a lot more time outs but they would be really short. And jessamyn and cortex would play candyland with us and help us put our shoes on.

Apparently you didn't go the meetup last night, huh?
posted by msalt at 1:05 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


if we were being nannyed (nannied?) there would be a lot more snacks and a lot more time outs but they would be really short. And jessamyn and cortex would play candyland with us and help us put our shoes on.

As a nanny, I don't do time outs with kids. No, you just have to come and sit next to me until you regret having been born. Also: you have to put your own shoes on, you're such a big boy!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:09 PM on March 27, 2010


Less slugging and more hugging please.
posted by Sailormom at 1:13 PM on March 27, 2010


Fair enough, internet fraud detective squad. I won't speak for anyone else. *I'm* not accusing stargazer of being a misogynist, and when I say that cunt, when used in that fashion, is hate speech, I'm not accusing him of being a woman-hater. Other people's mileage may vary.

I don't think it's terribly surprising that he was accused of arguing in bad faith, though, given the disconnect between the way that he characterized his comment and the actual comment that cortex posted. Accusing him of bad faith may not have been particularly productive, but it seems like a fairly natural response.
posted by craichead at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2010


Pope Guilty, really, I can't even understand you being in library science, you don't understand the first thing about freedom of speech and you should be ashamed of yourself. Your viscous, relentless, self-righteous censoring attitude is absurd, scary and fucking dangerous.

I am asking you to consider the meaning and impact of your words- to consider the consequences of them- and not use certain kinds of language on Metafilter because of the environment they create and the pain they cause to members of the community (particularly because those members of the community aren't even the targets of your language- they are simply people who happen to be members of the community (many of who have explained this upthread) who are distressed and hurt by the presence of said language. You are responding with outrageous rhetoric which paints yourself as the victim because people don't agree with you.

Free speech has nothing to do with this. Free Speech does not entitle you to say whatever you want, however you want, whereever you want to say it. It entitles you to be free of government restrictions on that speech. Full stop. That's it. That I'm studying library science does not require me to put away my morality and my ethics; it does not require me to cease making any judgements at all. It has nothing to fucking do with the topic at hand, and the only reason you're bringing it up is that your arguments are extremely weak and you are flailing wildly and using vicious attacks on those you disagree with in an effort to shut them up. If anything, you yourself are guilty of the silencing you are accusing others of. I don't imagine the irony will occur to you.


Dude's been calling everyone he disagrees with maoists; it's fucking ridiculous.

Well, he wasn't until stinkycheeseman gave him the idea, and now he's got a new toy to play with and he's bringing it out whenever he can. It's completely ridiculous and is no different than comparing banning people from a forum to the Holocaust; it minimizes and insults the actual victims of actual persecution and delivers to Skygazer a moral superiority which he hasn't done or experienced anything to earn. It's terrible and offensive rhetoric which minimizes the suffering of other people for Skygazer's brief, immediate rhetorical advantage, which means that it's pretty much directly in line with his arguments in this thread- fuck actual people who've actually suffered and who are harmed by my actions, this is about me and what I want above all else.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sys Rq: "Dude's been calling everyone he disagrees with maoists; it's fucking ridiculous. Then he got all metafilter nativist, so I siezed the opportunity to slug him one back to an equally ridiculous degree.

Clear now?
"

I was hoping it was a reference to something because bringing up the KKK seems needlessly inflammatory and sorta out of left field.

This conversation is really going nowhere good. I agree that we should close it up.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:21 PM on March 27, 2010


You know what Pope, save the fucking lecture. I was doing reference in a library when you were literally in fucking diapers. I realize the full fucking extent of what the free speech clause is and what the limitations are.

The point is what the fuck are you going to do weed , every single book in the collection of a library you deem misogynist and that uses the word, cunt, nigger, fag, kike etc.....

Because that's going to be one piss poor fiction collection.
posted by Skygazer at 1:26 PM on March 27, 2010


There is a difference between Metafilter and a library. What is appropriate and acceptable for one is not necessarily appropriate and acceptable for the other. The request that has been repeatedly made in this thread has been that you understand the consequences of your actions in this thread and in the original thread and that you not use misogynistic language on Metafilter. That's it. You keep trying to blow this up into some huge, totalizing scenario where your very being is being attacked, but it's just a request to understand that other people are affected by what you say here and to stop using that sort of language here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:30 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Skygazer, I say this with nothing but peace in my heart and no malice whatsoever. You should take a break from this. Really, guy ... leave it.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:33 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, Skygazer.

For what it's worth, I never thought you were a hate-filled misogynist. You were upset with those labels, and appeared to be very concerned about the intended context of your original comment as satire. I tried to keep my remarks strictly at that level, and address your usage of those words solely as a tool of humor.

It was not my intent to humble, or harass, or humiliate. I thought I saw a point that wasn't being fully dealt with and tried to bring that to the fore. If I was wrong about that, then I was being sloppy and I apologize.
posted by quantumetric at 1:34 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know how people love to twist words & misunderstand stuff here so I tried to be as clear as I could. But, once again for the cheap seats:

I just realised what this thread reminds me of! It's one of those shaming circles, like in Maoist China or some crazy cult group! People gather round and the crowd focuses their disdain on a single person and just lays right into them, chipping away, bit by bit, grinding them down, and taking away any sense of self-worth.

I said it reminds me of those shaming circles. Not that it is exactly the same, or that people suffer in identical fashion. I even went on to explain why it reminds me of such phenomenon.

Going outside again now.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:37 PM on March 27, 2010


there's a big world out there full of people (including many women) who would not have had a problem with your original comment.

"Fuckface cunt whore-bitch"? Not "full," surely.

Though it is true that phrases like it come up often in my mom's work, as part of a multi-agency domestic violence response group. So there are folks for whom that's pretty natural language.

I think that's part of why people's response to it tends to be so strong -- words like that tend to come along with violence, so when they're used they bring up the specter of violence, even if they weren't intended that way (and I accept that they were not intended that way, and appreciate the final apology, Skygazer -- even if you felt like you were repeating yourself, it seemed to me to say something different than you had before, thanks).
posted by palliser at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skygazer, the thing for you to do here is say, "I will not do that here again." And then you stop and go outside. The big deal is not that you're sorry but that you will stop that behavior. Honestly, I think the original deletion was as much to protect you from the consequences of your own behavior as it was to keep the community civil.

This is not the glorious battle for empathy and forgiveness in our community. And if it were, then you, a man who has just made a name for himself as That "Fuckface Cunt Whore-Bitch" Guy, would not be in a good position to take up the standard.
posted by sculpin at 1:52 PM on March 27, 2010

You know what, read the thread. Read the whole fucking thing, and then think about what you just wrote and how un-necessary it was. Thanks for your self-righteous concern.
Ye-ah... You see, that's where the rest of my comment, that you didn't quote, comes in. You said you were having trouble figuring out why you were getting so much opposition, and I pointed out that there are a lot of people having trouble figuring out why you're digging your heels in. There's a feedback loop.

We're pretty deep into "I don't understand why you don't understand this" territory. That's a rough thing to let go of, because it's so easy to think that, somehow, just one more try will tear away the veil and everyone can just agree. In many ways it's related to XKCD's "wrong on the internet" phenomena (can't be bothered to look it up, but most of us have seen that strip by now).

I ran into something like this when I was tutoring (we were amateur, volunteer tutors), where frustrations would ramp really high because something that felt like it should be easy to both parties just wasn't. ("I've explained this. It's obvious. It's a constant of the universe. What's not to get." vs. "If it's so easy, why can't you explain it in a way that makes sense?") At some point, the frustration feedback loop can get way out of hand. It's really hard for either party to disengage because nobody wants to admit they can't do something that seems like it should be easy. Sadly, where the similarity breaks down is that this is an asynchronous conversation that already has too many cooks; we can't just try fresh tomorrow with someone else. So we're kind of stuck with a bunch of people frustrated because they can't get their point across and some others frustrated because they're being made to feel browbeated for not getting that point.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:00 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point is what the fuck are you going to do weed , every single book in the collection of a library you deem misogynist and that uses the word, cunt, nigger, fag, kike etc.....

Yeah, Pope Guilty, what the fuck are you going to do weed , huh? Well?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:56 PM on March 27, 2010


I was doing reference in a library when you were literally in fucking diapers.

Then one would expect you to be old enough to know -- and expect that you've been here long enough -- to know that when a MeTa discussion become direct attacks on people, including what they do for a living, then it has outlived its usefulness.

If you have person issues with Pope Guilty, can I suggest that you take it to MeMail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:17 PM on March 27, 2010


personal
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:17 PM on March 27, 2010


I don't think anyone is enjoying this any more, if anyone ever was, and since Skygazer doesn't seem able or willing to cut his losses and withdraw gracefully, I add my voice to those suggesting this thread be put to a merciful end.
posted by languagehat at 4:55 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


where's voltaire? we need someone to say that i may not agree with your words sir, but I will defend unto death your full and honourable right to utter them. whatever
posted by infini at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2010


eh, I wasn't referring to languagehat's comment but to skygazer, on behalf.
posted by infini at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2010




The best way I know of dealing with people that irresponsible and short-sighted is lampooning them with caricature and satire and laughing at them,

There's a long, fine history of open-minded satirizing and lampooning and generally performative commentary on Metafilter. I thought my comment within those those guidelines.


Skygazer, my understanding of "satire," "lampoon," and "caricature" clashed with what I got from your original comment, so I looked up a few definitions and usages to see if I had as much of a clue as I thought I did about what they mean.

From dictionary.com:
Satire, lampoon refer to literary forms in which vices or follies are ridiculed. Satire, the general term, often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose: Swift's satire of human pettiness and bestiality. Lampoon refers to a form of satire, often political or personal, characterized by the malice or virulence of its attack: lampoons of the leading political figures.

[Lampoon:] a work of literature, art, or the like, ridiculing severely the character or behavior of a person, society, etc.

A caricature grossly exaggerates a distinctive or striking feature with intent to ridicule
Like quantumetric, I can see that the flying monkeys idea had good potential to be developed into decent satire. I get that you intended the flying monkeys and the swearing to be a seamless whole and thanks for clarifying a few times that the intent had nothing whatsoever to do with misogyny.

Since you've already conceded that "Granted that comment is not my, finest or most articulate moment" I wonder if at some point if you look at the original comment again, you might see why the strings of "fuckface cunt bitch-whore" swearing comes off very differently to some of us. I can kinda see (I think) what you intended, and at the same time, I can't see anything that differentiates the strings of swears, as placed in that comment, from garden-variety gender-based contempt. If they're meant to ridicule a "distinctive" feature of the target, then the feature that this paragraph gives prominence to is much less the craven hunger for a personal flying monkey squadron, and much more, the simple ownership of certain orifices.

I thought you were a troll at one point, but I don't anymore. I don't think you're a misogynist. I think that
"Intent and execution are two entirely different things," to quote someone else whose satire didn't go over as intended. (Please ignore the cartoon at the top, which I think is unnecessarily harsh, but I like comment #59 in that thread, saying that satire is "supposed to hold up a mirror to society and reflect it back in subversive ways. However to work, you either need to show the frame, so that it’s clear it’s a reflection . . . or be so extreme that no one really holds those beliefs (eg, satirizing wealthy/middle class views on poverty by advocating sterilization of the poor, isn’t satire because it’s been done and is still being done; satirizing it by suggesting cannabalizing the poor, to choose an example entirely at random does work)." That's another reason why the swear-strings had a different effect than intended.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:27 PM on March 27, 2010


I finally came in to read this to see what's up because there are almost seven hundred comments and it appears to be about one of my favorite words...but oh my god, the commas. That is all.
posted by phunniemee at 8:17 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm going to close this up. If someone wants to reopen the discussion in a day or two because they feel there would be some benefit to the community, please feel free to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:28 PM on March 27, 2010


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