Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Four Letter Words

I've been thinking a lot about words lately, after our class discussion about the words "faggot" and the word-that-must-not-be-named: the n-word. It struck me that there are two 4-letter words used to refer to the female population that have no male equivalent.

These are "slut" and the c-word (I prefer not to use it in any context).

Slut is something we hear, unfortunately, on a fairly regular basis. Just last week I was walking down the quad and heard a pair of guys talking about past hookups and casually referring to the girls they interacted with as sluts. Then there's the saga of Limbaugh's reference to the girl from Georgetown as a slut. Why is this word so acceptable to us? (Well, maybe not acceptable so much as tolerated.)

The word is offensive to me, quite frankly. And the fact that it has no male equivalent makes it just unfair as well as offensive. Slut has a negative connotation. There's no doubt about it. No one wants to be called a slut. But if "slut" refers to a woman who sleeps around and is a negative word, why are words that refer to men as sexually potent regarded as more positive? He's not a "slut," he's a "player," which is something that a lot of men aspire to be. Bottom line is that men can have a reputation for sexual promiscuity that's positive, while women cannot.

Next, we have the c-word. This one is less controversial, I think. It's pretty universally unacceptable. If I heard someone using this in casual conversation, I might assume that they had some anger issues or mental problems. For instance, a friend of mine worked for OIT last semester and while attempting to explain the printing system on campus to an older man, he got very worked up and yelled "Just tell me how to print the f***ing thing, you c***!" I've heard it a few times out of guys my own age, but only in a drunken angry stupor.

Once again, no male equivalent. The closest thing is the word "dick," which is a pretty weak word at this point. It's kind of negative, but it doesn't pack nearly the same punch as the c-word does. Why is it that even our language is oppressive? Even the words we use have been twisted against women and in favor of men. I'm not advocating that we create a new set of words in reference to men that are just as offensive as the aforementioned. I don't think that would solve any sort of problem. But I do think it's important to be aware of the meaning and the impact that something as seemingly harmless as words can have.

1 comment:

  1. Jane Fonda used the c word on the Today show, discussing her role in the Vagina Monologues -- and it caused a furor.

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