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Sydney, NSW, Australia
Photographer. Writer. 45yo Indo-Fijian Australian. Glam Feminist. Coconuts.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cuntrary to Popular Opinion.

Published in the inaugural issue of Mai Life STYLE October 2014 and posted here in its unedited, naked entirety.  This post may be deemed NSFW. (but violence and murder and poverty is okay)

"I have written a controversial article about a contentious word... from my liberal feminist point of view. 
Those that know me well know how I feel about the demotion of feminine specific words and terms (eg. "runs like a girl") and this article explores the etymology, history and demotion of this oh so offensive word. I resent its modern derogatory meaning and am baffled by the reactions it gets.... especially considering it is a literal 'channel of life'."
- my words from this post

Cunt-rary to Popular Opinion. A feminist feminine statement by Dusk Devi
Cunt-rary to Popular Opinion. A feminist feminine statement by Dusk Devi
This article will either scandalize or delight you.
I confess, after the initial thrill of the successful pitch (to the MLS Editor), when it came to writing it (for publication! in a magazine in semi conservative FIJI!!) trepidation set in.

I have never shied away from voicing my opinion about this, I feel very strongly about it but suddenly I doubted the importance, the relevance.
Oh my gosh.  This is Fiji.  What will my parents friends think??  What will MY god-fearing friends think?  Will MLS have to have a sealed section??   Would I ever be allowed back in to Fiji?? And can we start a hashtag?

My firm belief in what I believe in went wobbly… for 5 minutes.  Then I remembered a personal motto that evolution needs revolution. The timing for addressing an age-old issue is always now.  My country needs me…

You may have gathered by now exactly what this article is about.  It’s about the word cunt.

Take a minute or however long it takes to reach for your smelling salts/paper bag/defibrillator, take a deep breath, put your adult cap on and read. 

How do you feel about this word?  Cunt.  Is it making you cringe seeing it on this page?  Are you still reading?  Have you started writing a letter to the Editor?  Have you ever used it in anger?  Have you called me one for daring to write this word?  Have you been called one in anger?  Does it horrify you? 
…but what you really need to ask is why this word horrifies you. 

It offends me greatly… when it is used in a derogatory manner. When it is used to emasculate.  When it is used female against female as a put-down.  When it is used to damage, because no other word is considered as offensive.
Really? The worst possible word humans can think of to diminish another human, is a word for female genitalia?  Why exactly is the word considered so vulgar?

When 18th century lexicographer Francis Grose published ‘A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’ he couldn’t bring himself to write the word “cunt”.  Instead, he wrote it how most of you wish I wrote it; “c**t”; a nasty name for a nasty thing”.  Oh dear. 

Okay there have been instances where it is used ‘fondly’; Australians have a penchant for calling their mates cunts and strangers mate and the Irish use it as a fullstop.  To be sure.  Shakespeare was a great fan of the word, not as vulgarism but as euphemism.  [eg. Hamlet talking about “country matters” with Ophelia A3 Sc2] but still, generally speaking, this is not a word that is used as it should be.  

Go ahead and Google “define cunt”. Do it now on your smartphone. [here I've done it for you]. Read it.

what does cunt mean to you?

When is a word not just a word?  When it is a paradox.

I love this word.  I truly love the word cunt.  It is a powerful word. Made more powerful by the taboo associated with it and I do not say that out of rebellion (rebellion is not my thing, too conformist). 
Attributing taboo connotations to a word saturates that word with mystery.  Being an etymology aficionado since childhood, I have been fascinated with the origin of words, their history, why they mean what they mean and how magical they are!  They hold so much power. 

It is this power that shocks.  Is it the word or what it represents that shocks?  It’s a short word and yet, so packed.  There is simply no other word like it.  There is no male equivalent of this word.  All colloquialisms for penis are in fact ‘normal, words.  Do you really need me to spell them out for you?  Just think what a needle does to a balloon or what crows in the morning and as for the short form of Richard, well that actually was a taboo word back in the 19th Century but it has melted in to being another word for ridiculous.

Strangely [for me] it is women who find this word most offensive.  Even though my perspective may be seen as a feminist edict (it is) and rooted in matriarchal power (it is!), even feminists differ in their views as to the positive interpretation of this word.

In 1979 radical feminist [in my opinion, misogynist, misandrist and
misanthropist] Andrea Dworkin described the word as reducing women to "the one essential; 'cunt: our essence ... our offence”.  What does this mean?
That which is our truth also betrays us.  Women are punished for being women. 

Of course there have been many feminists who have championed the word, like Germaine Greer.  She says it is a dangerous word because it represents the power of female sexuality.  She also says that it is one of the few remaining words in English that retains its power to shock, simply because women have been conditioned not to own it nor any word that describes their genitals in a powerful way. 
Cunt is a polarizing word.  To our modern ears it sounds harsh because that is what we have been conditioned to believe.  As if all the other words are pleasant!

I am pedantic about the usage of “vagina” to describe the vulva.  Vulva, such an awkward word, even gynecologists don’t use it.  Don’t get me started on the cutesy nonsense names that are deemed acceptable.  “va-jay-jay”?  “front bottom”??   The Fijian slang word embarrasses me but get this, as most of us from French class would remember, it was also the name for the cat in our textbooks; "la chatte Mimi"! 

Speaking of which… pussy.  I loathe the use of this word but this is the word most accepted.  It’s insulting.
A word that is also a synonym for weakness is an acceptable “cute and sexy” name for female genitalia.  Right.  Pussy good.  Cunt bad.   Pussy keeps us in our place.  You can’t call a cunt a cunt because you’re a pussy.  See what I did there? 

Vagina is the tunnel, the ‘sheath’ (literal meaning “sheath for the sword”. So very Thomas Hardy and patriarchal to boot.  It was after all named by male anatomists).  Vulva refers to the external genitals (clitoris, outer labia majora and minora)…BUT, there isn't a word for all of it!   Would you believe that “cunt” is the only word in the English language that actually means all of it?!

We need this word! Our vaginas and vulvas are two parts of a… pun not intended!  Men should be so lucky.  They don’t have a word for their package.  Except package.

My introduction to this word was in class 6 when the school bully called me such because I had ignored him.  Hard to believe I know but I was a precocious child with Jedi delusions (if you know me, not much has changed) so I confronted him and asked him what it meant, he told me and I recall saying to him; “so how is that a bad word?  I’m a girl.”  Then he called me a bitch and ran away.

So I investigated why this moron thought it okay to use a word for female genitalia to insult me with, me a female.  Needless to say every adult I asked went green at the gills and my teacher immediately sent me to the Headmaster.  Helpful teenage friends were most amused by my questions and told me it was a “very bad” word.  The Suva Library was a fount.  Alas, I cannot recall what I found but I know that what I read had a lasting impact on me.  Unfortunately it also left me puzzled about human nature and what we are forced to accept.

As I got older I had access to more writings and my research has continued over the years.  As with all things women, the reasons according to all literature as to why “cunt” is considered sacrilegious, comes down to feminine power and the subjugation of it, mostly by the religious patriarchy. 

By all accounts cunt was actually a word of reverence.  One origin theory is that the word “cunt” came from the Proto-Germanic word ‘Kunto’, which in turn came from Indo-European word ‘Kunti’.  Kunti is the name of a revered ancient Hindu Goddess and is the ruler of ‘kunta’; the feminine energy that exists in our spines that we know now as “kundalini”, a Yogic philosophy that is a form of inner corporeal force.

Goddess Kunti. Cunt is sacred. Image by Dusk Devi Vision
Goddess Kunti. Cunt is sacred.
Image by Dusk Devi Vision for her first exhibition 'Evolution' October 2013

Goddess Kunti, is also known in ancient Hinduism as the ‘Yoni of the Universe’ (yoni means ‘sacred temple’ in Sanskrit and is used to describe the womb and genitals).  Also Indian children who were born out of wedlock were known as ‘Kuntas’ and revered as gifts of the Goddess Kunti.  

This smacks of Immaculate Conception folk lore, no fault of the male, let’s blame the female and just to be safe, make it sacred too.  I am certain this is where the negative connotation stems from.

Other obscure names and words stemming from this source are "Cunina”- a Roman Goddess who protected children in the cradle; "cunicle" - a hole or passage; also “kenning” which became cunning and originally meant knowledge, learning, insight, remembrance and wisdom.  Of course cunning now has negative connotations.

All cultures and races have a derivative of Kunta.  “Kunta” means woman in several African languages. It has been found in ancient writings that there was a North African Goddess called ‘Kunda Saharan’ and her people, called The Kundas, are still around today.  

In all ancient history the meaning of the word “cunt” was synonymous with "woman" in a revered, respected way.  

In Sumeria (Ancient Iraq), “kunta” means literally “one who has female genitalia”. This is linked with the word ‘Cuneiform*’ which literally means “the sign of the Kunta” or “Queen who invented writing”. 
Cuneiform is one of the earliest known forms of writing in Sumeria dating at 3100 BCE.  Around the same time there were priestesses named The Quadesha who were accountants at the Temple of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare.  It has been found that Cuneiform was the wedge-shaped marks the Quadesha used on clay tablets to record the temple’s financial accounts thus making it ‘the Sign of the Cunta’.

Many more origin theories abound but all stem from the Proto-Indo-European root.  Every English word starting with “cun-“ comes from  Kunta, the original meaning of Cunt.  “Cow" and "queen" as well and this, my favourite word, "cunctipotent”, meaning all powerful, omnipotent. 

Yet today it is the word of the lowest of the low. 

How did this happen?  Over time everything that made Woman so divine was twisted to make women the enemy.  A word that was once a celebrated name for those who were purveyors of pleasure and knowledge was replaced by a word for weakness and a mere sheath for a penis. 

I am sure there many instances [wishful thinking?] but I have only once heard “cunt” used in its proper context in a film.  In ‘Inside Man’, Christopher Plummer calls Jodie Foster “a magnificent cunt”, which she is.  She is powerful, knowledgeable and in control.

It has become my wo-mantra.  I am a magnificent cunt.  

I urge my women friends to be cunctipotent, to lead with their essence because it is not an offence to be a woman.  It is a privilege. 

The next time you use this word to abuse someone, understand this; you are saying that that person is powerful, they are making you feel out of control and that is why you need to disempower them.

Cunt is not just a word, it is a statement. 

Cunt is not just a word.  It is a statement.
The heading during the mock-up phase.
The Editor of STYLE wanted this but had to concede to the Publisher's worry.
It was unfounded.

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