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View Diary: Pussies, Twats and Bitches (401 comments)

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  •  I think for most men... (4.00)
    ...having grown to maturity in groups of men in which the worst epithets that can be hurled at a guy are 'pussy' or 'cocksucker', those terms tend to pop out in the heat of anger even when someone is, by any measure, neither sexist nor a homophobe.

    There are plenty of other epithets to use--shithead, asshole, wimp, asskisser--that don't have those taints. But old habits die hard. I was raised female but had a lot of male friends, and I sometimes find myself calling a man I perceive as weak a 'pussy', when I obviously don't consider weakness and femaleness as equivalent, and when I call someone a 'cocksucker' it's generally simply a sign that I am REALLY mad and looking for a 'top level' bit of invective; it has no relationship to my actually being homophobic or even accusing the target of being's more like an amped up 'asskisser', as 'pussy' become an amped up 'wimp.'

    Now, as for terms I use about other women...I use 'bitch' pretty often, and I know what I mean by it--not a strong woman, or an assertive woman, but someone I find obnoxious. I can't honestly say I use 'twat' much, at least not epithetically. Now, CUNT I use about once a year, if that. I really have to loathe someone to use it (the only person I can think of I use it for currently is Ann Coulter.)

    Now, I suppose you could ask, why use terms that are synonymous with female genitalia? Well...I also use 'dick' a lot, and 'prick', for men I don't care for. I suppose one could stop using ANY genitalia-word as an insult, or mix it up by calling an obnoxious woman a 'dick' or a 'prick'. I wonder if men, or women, would find "Condi Rice is a prick" offensive, or just not effective.

    The way I see it, invective has two purposes (not mutually exclusive, necessarily, but separate.) One has to do with the speaker and is to VENT anger. Most people have a hierarchy of insults that correspond to how angry they are, and reserve certain words for extreme rage. The other purpose has to do with the target and the purpose is to VILIFY. In both cases, you're communicating something. If I'm ranting and calling someone a 'jerk', my friends barely notice. If I'm ranting and calling someone a 'motherfucking cocksucking fuckhead', they hide behind sandbags--wisely. Likewise if someone's irking me and I call them a 'dork', it's way different from calling them a MFCSFH.

    It may take an entire generation of people raised on gender neutral invective to eliminate the habits from discourse. In heated moments, it's easy to forget that we've decided not to use a certain term because it might offend the WRONG people (that is, not the object of the insult but others who hear it), or convey something about me (hatred of women or gays) that I don't want conveyed.

    It's not been my experience that giving lectures about PC behavior, particularly when someone is upset, is useful. I think it's fine to set boundaries--one of my friends, who is a lovely woman and very devout Catholic, told her boyfriend if he ever called her a CUNT again they were through. Period, no negotiation, THROUGH. That's pretty clear cut of course, and only two people are involved.

    I don't know what would happen if, say, Kos said that insults that are sexist or homophobic, like insults that are racist, will be deleted and, if they persist, the person may be asked to leave. I see several problems with that--one is simply technical: this board does not allow posts to be edited. So if you want to go back when you cool down and change what you said, it's in a different post which not everyone might see. The other is when people disagree on whether an insult is or isn't sexist/homophobic, or, for that matter, the meaning of the word 'and.'

    I tend toward First Amendment absolutism, which is that the remedy for speech you don't like is more speech, not censorship. I was once on a board run by a true First Amendment absolutist.  He figured if someone is obnoxious, other people will either argue them down, or ignore them. It wasn't his job to interfere. He just set up the board, he wasn't our nanny.

    Actually, realistically, if you are in agreement with someone's views, and they happen in one post or another to use terms you aren't happy with, wouldn't you just say "Hey, X, I really like your views, but I didn't really care for your calling Condi a 'twat'"? Would one word REALLY alienate you from the rest of what the person had said?

    I remember in my teens I would get upset about Nixon and about the Vietnam War and use a profanity, and my mother would jump all over me for the 'dirty word.' It drove me insane that people dying in an illegal war, our President being, yes, a crook, upset her less than the word 'shit.'

    I don't have any answers, and am relieved it's not my board to have to make those kind of calls. If I did have a board, I would probably go, at least initially, with the anything-goes approach my friend used.

    -- Life is tough: Three out of three die. Now shut up and deal. ~Ring Lardner Jr.

    by Eleftheria on Tue May 31, 2005 at 08:22:49 PM PDT

    •  So would I. (4.00)
      I'm all for everybody saying anything they please, folks I love, folks I loath, saying things I agree with, agree a bit, just don't get, find incredibly stupid, or just plain hate.  I want everybody to say what's on their mind.
      THEN, as a Good, Free-Speech-Loving American, I'm going to complain about it.

      I would never try to stop the Nazis from marching, but I'll be on the sidewalk exercising my sign and my big mouth in protest.

      •  That's the spirit! (4.00)
        I have two ways to deal with it, by the way, when a guy calls ME a bitch.

        One is to smile serenely and say "And your point is?" or "Why, thanks, I try!"

        The other is to say "Tsk, life is not easy for men with small penises in our society is it?"

        If a woman calls me bitch, I just say "Same to you" and start pulling her hair. Always gets a crowd.


        -- Life is tough: Three out of three die. Now shut up and deal. ~Ring Lardner Jr.

        by Eleftheria on Tue May 31, 2005 at 09:36:40 PM PDT

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        •  You sound like my women friends (none)
          and thank for pointing out that bitch refers to obnoxious behavior rather than gender at this point. I think it is a little odd that I can refer to a guy acting like an asshole as a dick (and in some cases will refer to him as a bitch if it's not an extreme form of being an asshole or dick), but can't refer to a woman as such because that automatically means that I am hating the the gender. I just don't think that automatic is there anymore.
    •  Thanks for the considered analysis (4.00)
      I find the inflexible doctrinaire attitudes on either side to be unworthy of the usual standard of discourse on dKos.  I also see value in both points of view, and I think you bring those values out very well.

      Being a man, I understand that many men use these terms in what I perceive to be a non-sexist manner:  "pussy", for instance, can mean "female genitalia".  But it also has a separate, common colloquial meaning which, when applied to George Bush, actually means "unmanly," as you point out.  

      However, the meaning of a communication is at least as much in what's heard as in what's said.  With that in mind, political labeling of our opponents using these female-referent terms is counterproductive.  This argument trumps the free-speech one when it comes to public argument and framing.

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      by Dallasdoc on Tue May 31, 2005 at 09:57:56 PM PDT

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    •  Nicely said. I tend toward First ... (4.00)
      ...Amendment absolutism, too. And I would certainly never suggest censoring or censuring someone (not even with a bad rating) for using whatever language s/he wishes to label whoever s/he wishes. Moreover, linguistically speaking, you're obviously right, words have complex, multiple meanings.

      However, I think it's rather telling that if someone had chosen to call, say, Kay Bailey Hutchison a "pussy" or Dick Cheney a "bitch," the reaction here might have been quite different, providing evidence that there is still a twisted genderization associated with the words. But I digress.

      To reiterate, I don't believe in censoring anybody. But people who choose to use epithets "with a history" to frame progressive/left/liberal propaganda shouldn't expect me and others here to shut up about their lousy choices. And that's where this discussion began yesterday. Not with somebody's understandable outburst at the latest Administration lie or crime, but rather with arguing ad nauseam in his Diary that "pussy" is the right frame for all that is wrong with George W. Bush.

      I could have made as good a case for using "nigger" to describe Dubyanocchio, and I'll wager that I'd have been shouted down as being grotesquely offensive if I had tried to claim that objectors were being "PC" or "overly sensitive."

      Would one word REALLY alienate you from the rest of what the person had said?

      Me? Yes. And I will wager that just about everybody draws the line somewhere. If, for instance, somebody were to call Ben Nighthorse Campbell a fucking redskin, I'd be alienated even if this was surrounded by 29 paragraphs of eloquent takedown of one of the worst Senators ever to come out of Colorado, which is saying a lot.

      I personally don't want to have to say "Hey, X, I really like your views, but I didn't really care for your calling ... every time somebody uses "pussy" or "bitch." But maybe that's what all of us who detest this sexist language should tediously do on every occasion it occurs. When those who think these words aren't offensive finally get sick of our saying they do offend, maybe we'll see more creativity on the epithet front.  


      Writing dialog George Lucas so terrible at is. --Yoda

      Visit The Next Hurrah

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 01:02:49 AM PDT

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      •  I think we're pretty much in agreement.... (4.00)
        ...except that you misunderstood my comment about "one word" disqualifying the rest of someone's message.

        I think it's entirely possible for a person who is NOT sexist to call Dumbya a 'pussy'. In fact I've heard women call him that! But it would be difficult to believe that a person could call a Native American a 'fucking redskin' (which is two words ;) ) and mean ANYTHING other than a racial slur. And that slur would call into question whether or not you would want to ally with someone who, even if you shared some political views with them, is a racist.

        Example: Imagine I am talking to someone who says, re: Ahnold, that he pretends to be a big tough macho guy but when it comes to letting the corporate interests dominate California, he's really a...pussy. Now, the person's use of 'pussy' rather than 'wimp' is not going to make me doubt I really have common cause with them. I might well say that I feel that particular word is offensive, and undercuts the point that the Goobernator's what I would call a shill for monied interests. The person might well grant that my term is more precise and damning, which is the whole point. Absent some other indication that the person has a demeaning attitude toward women, I would still be open to communication.

        On the other hand, I have ex-friend known for opining that Arnie does not deserve another term in office and lamenting the media infatuation with him, both sentiments I share. However, she will then go on to say that all California's problems come down to one thing: "wetbacks." This to me is like your Nighthorse example; that ONE WORD reveals a mindset that thoroughly disgusts me. That, and other views, are why she is an EX-friend.

        And that reminds me of another point: I've also known people whose WORDS are quite inoffensive, even "PC", but their ATTITUDES are still offensive to me. They may be quite careful to use 'gay' and 'lesbian' and couch their argument in bland social science vocabulary--but that only makes them more dangerous. On the other hand, I've known older people who don't quite know how to refer to gays--they may say 'homaseckshul' just like a redneck. But then they may go on to add that while they don't know any 'homaseckshuls' they're just fine with letting them marry if that's what they want. What a shame if someone wrote them off because their terminology isn't PC!

        Sometimes you don't know what someone is really thinking until you've talked to them enough to know what's in their heart, not just in their mouths. When I was going through a sex change on the job, I went to each person to explain it to them. Everyone said the right PC things (this was in Palo Alto CA) to demonstrate their own sophistication and tolerance, invariably concluding by warning me I should NOT tell our co-worker who was an ex-Marine and a fundamentalist Christian transplanted from Oklahoma, because he might 'go off on' me. But I did, explaining as best I could why I was doing it. He just stared at me when I was finished, and I thought "Uh oh." Finally he said "I can't honestly say I understand any of what you just said, but I like you and if what you're doing makes you happier with yourself, I think that's just fine." I later found out some of the oh-so-PC folks later made snide remarks behind my back, but no one ever said that guy did.

        Words do have power. But in the end, as the old saying goes, actions speak louder. And sometimes you have to be around people awhile before you know whether their words really reflect their heart. If someone IS sexist, it won't take long for them to reveal that unequivocally. I would hate to jump to that conclusion too quickly, however, and miss out on someone who would make a good ally. There ARE well meaning people who have a sort of 'backlash' resentment about PC because they've been in situations where it went too far. One of my former bosses got 'written up' by HIS boss over a silly blonde joke (she was blonde, well, bottle-blonde.) The thing is, his WIFE is blonde, he's not sexist, it was simply a joke. A joke that led to a disciplinary action that marred 18 YEARS of a perfect work record. And what's funny is, the joke worked JUST as well AS a joke if the 'blonde' in question was a guy--it's not about women but about airheadedness, and that can be a trait of either gender. I'm sure his boss got HER orders from up above. But I would have respected her more if she'd simply talked to him, and pointed out that in today's litigious atmosphere managers must be very careful what they say (because the company couldn't have cared less about the wounded feelings of dumb blondes--they were scared one might be smart enough to sue if they claimed offense at my boss's joke.)

        Anyway, he was so upset, a week later he went out and shot every blonde he could hit till he ran out of ammo.

        No, it's late and I just made that up to see if anyone's still reading :D.

        -- Life is tough: Three out of three die. Now shut up and deal. ~Ring Lardner Jr.

        by Eleftheria on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 02:31:40 AM PDT

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