What if words matter? Thoughts on “pussy” and “slut” and word baggage

Having just returned from a visit to the Pacific Northwest where I lugged suitcases across Oregon and Washington, I have baggage on my mind. Currently, my unpacked suitcase is swollen with my finds from the Portland Saturday Market and Pike Place Market. And dirty laundry. Ah, if only it were filled with Voodoo Doughnuts, but those don’t travel so well. Alas, my suitcase will be far easier to unpack than the baggage that comes along with words. While away, a lively debate ensued among some feminist friends of mine about the word “Slut” and its usage in the many SlutWalks taking place around the world. As I missed this glorious and erudite debate, I am posting this carry-on- size food for thought about words and baggage.  (For some posts on  Slutwalk, see  here, here, here, here, here, and here)

Before my holiday, I posted on what I saw as the unnecessary (and sexist) use of the term pussy in Super 8 (Super 8 and The Monstrous Pussy” at Womanist Musings and “Super 8’s ‘Super Pussy’” at Ms. Blog). Reading through the comments, especially those at the Womanist Musings thread, which include many claims that the use of the word is “historically accurate,” got me thinking – can words ever truly  be “reclaimed” or, to stick with the baggage metaphor, unpacked? Granted, Super 8 is not trying to unpack the word “pussy” – rather, the film uses it in its common sexist meaning – i.e. pussy=coward=being like a woman.

But, could “pussy” be put in a pleasant new bag, one with nice polka-dots or a furry peace sign? Some think so. Some also think “cunt” could be repackaged into a term of feminist empowerment.

As for myself, I think it is difficult to entirely reclaim words as they cannot be drained of their historical baggage.

Words matter.

In fact, they matter so much that they almost have a material weight to them – a baggage that cannot simply be ignored or erased.

Words are like suitcases, carrying with them all manner of meanings and socio-historical links.

I don’t think we can easily “reclaim” words any more readily than we can “reclaim” lost baggage at the world’s most disorganized airport.

(And, as for Speilberg and Abrams, well, they likely travel first class and don’t have to think about the “baggage” some of us on the other side of the privilege matrix must lug around. And their baggage, is of course, filled with BALLS, not pussy – which, are, I might add, far more vulnerable than the mighty pussy!  Thus, isn’t “Don’t be such a testicle” more apt? I would love to hear that in a summer blockbuster sometime!)

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello,
    I like the word cunt, never bothered me in the list and just like the word fuck it really does release anger..but I don’t use it on females, I use it on everyone!!! :) Pussy on the other hand I use on my cat..I call him Pussy all the time and my parents flinch LOL..but I haven’t heard someone cowardly being called a pussy in a long time. I’ve heard don’t be such a girl or such a woman, which I think are FAR more derogatory as pussy is just a part of a person (or a fluffy cat), while the other is a full person..you won’t hear people say don’t be such a nigger..ya know? And how come “be a man” is still used, I’ve been told that by my boss at work..I told him I’d rather not be a MAN, thank you very much..If I wanted to be I’d have a sex change and start saying stupid shit like “be a man” LOL

    • Michelle,
      I too am fond of the word fuck but cunt, not so much. Too many triggering connotations for me. I wish, like you, I hadn’t heard pussy being used to mean cowardly recently, but I have – in the Super 8 film and in disussions by students, on blogs, etc. I agree that “don’t be such a girl” is hugely derogatory! Hate that saying and its ilk! Can’t believe your boss said that too you. Youch!
      Thanks for your comment and for reading!

  2. i like the word pussy and cunt to use to describe *female* anatomy, never a person, male or female or otherwise. I am a sex worker so i use the word pussy a million times a day and so maybe i am much more desensitized to it than others. i never cringe at “dirty” words. i don’t see them as dirty because the vast majority of the time, i am using them during work and its just business. im not offended by it. However, when used as an insult, im more bored than offended. seriously? you are still using those words to describe how vile and weak femininity is? get over it…..ugh

  3. I like the word pussy and cunt as because I am very fond of sucking pussy and cunt and drink the juice of pussy. I also like simultaneously sexy females sucking my cock vigorously and in turn I suck their cunt and pussy and keep drinking the nectar coming out from their pussy as because I am a very sexy person. I want to enjoy very naked sex which provides complete enjoyment throughout. If any female would like to meet me for any enjoyment or would like to get their pussy/cunt suck, please call me or come to me so that all these sucking activities can be done plus insertion and good enjoying of cock versus pussy when cock gets properly inserted into pussy then comes the real enjoyment. Call me any sexy female for this overall sexual activities secretly. I will maintain highly secret. Looking forward for your reply e-mail.

    • You’re a disgusting excuse for a human and should be tied to a car by the balls and paraded around the street like the dog you are. Cunt.


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