On the Etymology of C***, Political Correctness, My Own Bullshit, & Such Divers Matters

Originally published 2010CE, as an updated take on this, & something of a mea culpa.

I've starred out the offending letters in the title in order not to give greater offence. I have no particular wish to alienate anyone, but in order to discuss what I need to discuss I shall be using the word in question (& not just referring to it as "the word in question"). If you will be genuinely upset by this, then don't read the article. Otherwise, do.

Background

Just recently a friend of mine listened to the most recent album (Batteries Not Invented) & emailed me saying "Sounds really good. Not keen on some of the vile lyrics". I knew instantly what she meant. The song Bedruggled contains the lyrics "come on & let's go out & all get absolutely cunted".

I explained myself to her, but it occurred to me that I could perhaps do with writing something about this issue to clarify my feelings & my motivations.

Deeper Background

When I left home & went to do my degree at the beginning of the nineties, it was in many ways the heyday of what is variously referred to as Identity Politics or so-called Political Correctness. My best mate was a lesbian, & I was surrounded, more or less, by feminists of every stripe. One way & another I internalised this way of looking at the world. Even then I don't think I would have been naive enough to identify as a feminist (something I still don't think that a man can do), but without question I sympathised with, & supported feminism.

(I have little time for Separatist Feminism, but then they have even less time for me, so it's all good.)

So. I paid attention. I did my level best to reject patriarchy & avoid misogyny (sexism is not a particularly useful term, as it is something of which women can also be accused) &, more to the point, I attempted to mind my language. Partially in terms of not using the word "girl" to describe an adult woman, & avoiding all the various misogynist terms which are used to insult women - or indeed men, by implying that they are feminine. But above all, I avoided using the word cunt.

Seen from a feminist standpoint it's not hard to see why the word's problematic. It's perhaps the biggest taboo of all, the nuclear bomb that you drop on someone as the worst possible insult that you can think of - & in that very context it reveals its misogyny.

The Noughties (Are we really calling them that?)

When, at the end of the nineties, Britpop came along, it left me utterly cold. With one or two notable exceptions it ushered in the era of New Laddism, which was so diametrically opposed to my own feelings that I just couldn't get past it.

But at some point, something changed. In 2005, during John Lydon's residence in the Big Brother house, I wrote this article on the subject of the word "cunt". I'm no longer prepared to stand behind it in the same way that I was - for one thing, my understanding of the etymology of the term, explained to me by an A-level English teacher, appears not to be correct.

I wasn't stupid enough to think that Feminism had succeeded & was no longer necessary, but it seemed that we had come such a long way, & that freedom of expression was most important.

I still hate censorship. But ones views on this probably have a lot to do with ones understanding of Political Correctness.

Now. Political correctness was never really an ideology per se. Nobody invented it or named it so - it's almost exclusively a pejorative used to describe certain forms of inclusive or neutral language. Although the Daily Heil, for instance, with its catchphrase of "political correctness gone mad", would view it as a form of Cultural Marxism, I think it's really fairer to say that, as the great Stewart Lee put it, it's an attempt to be polite. Which is fine. I think that in my article, I just wanted to point out that no word should be forbidden. I didn't have any desire to offend anyone.

The Song

Bedruggled is a song, needless to say, about drugs. All of them. It's about our weird & contradictory feelings towards drugs - society will happily take some extraordinarily harmful drugs for the purposes of medicine; & will turn a relatively blind eye to tobacco, & will positively revel in alcohol (both also extraordinarily harmful substances) & caffeine.

& yet cannabis & psychedelics - of little direct harm - are seen as beyond the pale. & in spite of the fact that these things *grow* - they are indisputably *part of nature* - we legislate against them. How can we criminalise nature?

Anyway.

During my twenties, I was something of a hedonist. I took - many things. & although I wrote this song as a celebration of all this, it was also something of a fond farewell - I'm older now, & these substances don't necessarily mesh terribly well with attempting to keep ones life in order. I needed to say goodbye to them all.

& in my attempt to capture the spirit of my hedonistic youth, during the nineties, I invoked a phrase that was very much a part of the argot at the time. "Absolutely cunted". I heard that phrase any number of times. & besides, it rhymed with "munted". So in it went.

Part of the problem with the word "cunt" is that it's used largely as a pejorative - that is, it's always a bad thing. But, I rationalised, this is not a pejorative use of the term. It's a cheeky, kinda celebratory use of the word.

I think I fucked up.

Resolution

You know what? After the rise of new-laddism, & the seeming decline of a popular feminist discourse, I really *missed* feminism. So I was delighted to find I Blame The Patriarchy, an outstanding blog run by one Twisty Faster/Jill Psmith/Spinster Aunt. WARNING - if you are a man, & you visit that site - DO NOT FUCKING POST ANYTHING. I can't state this advice strongly enough - it's a space for women to discuss patriarchal bullshit & whatever you say, you will almost certainly fuck up. The results, if you ignore this advice, will be pleasing to no one, least of all yourself.

I do not necessarily agree with everything said there, but the posts are made by a seriously intelligent & justifiably pissed-off human being. & there's a great deal with which I *do* agree.

But interestingly, there was an incident on that site now known as Cuntalinagate. The article, & its attendant comments, just go to show that nothing's ever simple... It's still an extraordinarily divisive word.

But the discussion got me thinking. & what it ultimately got me thinking was that - whatever your feelings about the word, about whether it can ever be reclaimed as a positive word, or whether it's too mired in patriarchy & oppression ever to be rehabilitated - if there's one thing that the situation doesn't need, it's a man to come along & sort it all out. Not my place. Not our place. We men who give a shit should keep the hell out of it. & we shouldn't be using the word "cunt".

So why have I left it up here? Why do I even play the song at all?

I couldn't rewrite it - the line's too much a part of the song. It expresses what it was designed to express with an horrible economy. & the trouble with these things is that they take on a life of their own; there's a whole lot of people who *love* that song. There's a whole lot of *women* who love that song. It gets requested - & a pissed audience is not a thing with which to treat lightly.

& so it got included on the album, in spite of my reservations.

Furthermore - I *could* withdraw it. I could take it down. Get rid of the offensive song that occasionally puts people off or makes them angry - but what would that achieve? It'd cover over my own bullshit, that's what. It'd make me look better. Maybe then the feminists would give me a biscuit & a pat on the head?

Nah. Not buying it.

I've written many other songs on these issues, on the patriarchy, on the oppression of women, on the way society treats women, the way it views them as somehow less than human. I refer you to Opheliaphilia, to Naked, to The Museum Of Suffering Untold, not to mention Anima.

It stays as a monument to by own bullshit, my own patriarchal fucked-uppedness. With a link to this article to acknowledge - yes, this is... problematic. To say the least. I thought, for a while, that it was kind of okay - but it isn't.

That is all,
MK