Then, partly because I needed to conduct an interview for a paper, partly because I wanted an expert’s opinion, and partly because I enjoy unabashedly flirting with her, I contacted Kari Ramos. Who’s that? Oh, she’s just this badass that does a shit ton of anti-sexual violence work around the state of Nevada (with the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence). Sexy swag, right?
But wait. It gets better.
So I started off with an easy, broad question.
“What are your experiences with the word cunt?” And it was perfect timing, really, because she had just had a confusing experience the night before. As an instructor for our university’s FemSex program, she was conducting a session and one assumedly self-proclaimed feminist referred to her mother as a cunt.
I winced, but Kari was excited about it.
Even though, generally, she thinks that was kind of out of line, it raised an interesting point. Cunt has attained flexibility, flexibility that it has never had before. It can be used as a withering insult but also as a rallying compliment. She compared it to the word “fuck.” For example, if I (not Kari) were to tell you, “You’re a fucking piece of shit,” with a menacing tone while holding a sharp object, you’d be concerned. But if I said, “You’re a fucking genius,” you’d know it was a compliment. Cunt, perhaps, is reaching that pliable threshold.
“Is it a good thing that the word can now be used negatively and positively? Don’t we want to just move forward with the positive?”
“In theory,” she said consolingly.
I started freaking out. I mean, that’s what this whole fucking experiment is about: reclaiming the positive. And this woman – who knows her shit – was saying that expecting to just reclaim the affirmative side of cunt was possible…in theory.
She noted that only small circles were (currently) willing to reclaim the word. But that doesn’t wipe away all the meaning attached to it. “Anytime you can take the power out of nonsense, out of bullshit, then do it,” she explained. “We have to find balance. Offending people into accepting our train of thought is like fighting fire with fire. No one wins and nothing really changes. With that said, being the nice girl doesn’t get you very far either so not saying the word is giving power to the word.” And then I stopped hyperventilating. Because she was right. After all, isn’t that what happened with Voldemort? And furthermore, if I tell you that you can only use cunt in a positive context, you should ask me “why?” Why limit where cunt could take us? Why not let it get…a little dirty?
After all, I’m always happy to get a little dirty.
And she brought up another great point: “You find where [cunt] empowers you and empowers other people and allow that to grow.” Which reminded me of a meeting I had with a wonderful woman a few weeks ago. I was meeting her about a project – which is related to this article series, so stay tuned – and she was really trying to wrap her head around the word. She said that, at first, she was uncomfortable with it. She told me, “I have said “cunt” more in this conversation than, quite possibly, like, the last thirty years.” The woman is somewhere in her early to mid-thirties.
“Dude, me, too,” I told her. “I used to have to give myself a little pep talk every time before I said it.” Now, it’s starting to flow off my tongue like it was meant to be there.
“Exactly! The more I say it the more I…kind of like it!” She said, looking a little scandalized and naughty. Of course, that might have been the double margarita talking, but I had experienced the exact same thing.
So, of course, Kari was right.
Which led me to realize that just because cunt is given a positive spin doesn’t mean that everyone’s definition is the same. So I asked her to explain her personal definition of the word cunt.
She needed a minute, but she came up with: “It means remaining unapologetic for claiming your own space, no matter how meek or assertive that is!”
“Fuck yeah!” I said, inappropriately fist pumping in the middle of Starbucks.
“…and it’s completely disconnected from gender,” she finished.
Of course, there were so many delicious goodies in her definition that merited further exploration, but it was that last phrase – “disconnected from gender” – that had me running for my paper bag again.
Of course, if you’ve been following along, I claimed cunt for women and womanhood.
“I wanted it to be a rallying cry, something that women can be selfish with and be happy to be selfish with,” I explained. Kari laughed and I thought she might actually agree with me. “I wanted something we could own and develop without gender role concerns.”
“Totally, love that idea,” Kari said, nodding.
Wanna know Kari’s response? Check back in with us next week. I know, I know, I’m leaving you on a cliffhanger. This is worse than a Vampire Diaries season finale. But I know ya’ll got short attention spans so I’ll see you next week.