American comedian Samantha Bee is in ridiculously hot water this week, after calling Ivanka Trump a ‘feckless cunt’ on her TV show. People – by which I mean mostly American right-wingers – are up in arms because calling the daughter of the US President a ‘cunt’ is apparently one of the most heinous things you can do. So let’s talk about the word ‘cunt’, shall we?
I have a cunt. I like calling it ‘my cunt‘, and although I’ll use ‘vagina’ if I’m talking to doctors about it, I will only ever call it my ‘pussy‘ on the day that hell freezes over. Cunt, as a word, has so much more power. Not just in the sound of it, but because it’s seen as the worst swear. Say ‘shit’ in front of someone’s mum at a wedding and you’ll probably get away with it, but ‘cunt’ will cause sharp intakes of breath, muttered whispers, and potentially even a tut or two.
Perhaps, if an American person is nearby, they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t use that word – that it’s a horrible way to refer to a person. And you can explain to them, if you’re British, that we don’t have quite the same relationship with ‘cunt’ as they do. If you know a little of the etymology of the word, you’ll know that ‘cunt’ is the oldest word in the English language to describe a vagina. You might also know that ‘cunt’ comes from words that mean either woman, knowledge, creator or queen whereas ‘vagina’ just means ‘a sheath in which you put your sword’ – thus defining my genitals entirely by what someone else might like to shove inside them. You might also point out that in England you don’t have to be bad to be a cunt: you can be a ‘good cunt’, or a ‘funny cunt’, or a ‘romantic cunt’ or a ‘loveable cunt’. Cunt is a powerful word, and you can use its powers for good: when my partner calls me a cunt, with a twinkle in his eye and a roguish smile, it’ll make me feel happier than it would if he’d called me ‘darling.’
But let’s not pretend that Samantha Bee used ‘cunt’ against Ivanka Trump in this way. And no matter how many Brits are entirely baffled by the news that Bee retracted her comments and apologised, it doesn’t take great leaps of imagination to recognise that she meant it cruelly. She meant that Ivanka Trump was a feckless cunt.
Would her statement have had as much power if she’d said ‘feckless ass’ or ‘feckless twat’? No. The show’s writers chose that word because it’s the strongest insult. I might use the word ‘cunt’ in bed because I find it hot, and as a term of endearment because it works well for that too, but let’s face it: most of the time I use it to describe people who are absolutely terrible cunts. Because ‘dickhead’ doesn’t cut it.
Perhaps in the US, ‘cunt’ is a more gendered insult – thrown more frequently at women, and therefore more biting in that context. Perhaps the fact that it’s rarely used over there means I can never be a good judge of whether Sam Bee’s insult was appropriate. Perhaps I should shut my mouth and step aside for this one…
But fuck it, I’m a cunt, so I’m wading in.
Ivanka Trump – as Samantha Bee pointed out in the segment before the much-publicised insult – is a senior White House advisor. She is not just the President’s daughter, she is one of his closest allies. In a week where we learned that Trump policy involves tearing families apart at the US border, Ivanka Trump tweeted a photo of her holding her young son tightly to her, and smiling as they both enjoyed a cuddle.
I explained earlier that where I come from ‘cunt’ can be a term of endearment as well as abuse. Well, also where I come from ‘truth’ is usually a watertight defence when someone’s trying to get you to shut up. And the truth here is that Ivanka Trump is a feckless cunt.
Not just feckless: cruel. Monstrously, horribly cruel.
Imagine what has to happen in order to take a young child away from its parents. First the family travels to the US border, usually fleeing violence and terror in their home country. They’re frightened and desperate. They are looking for help. When they reach the border, they are separated. But ‘separated’ is a euphemism here, and if anything it’s far more offensive than any use of the word ‘cunt’, because it covers so much horror. In order for a family to be separated: someone has to physically remove a child from their parents’ arms. Border guards will watch as all that fear and desperation wells up in children too young to understand what’s happening, and the grief and panic in the eyes of the parents who are powerless to stop their kids being taken away. This is not a ‘mistake’, or bureaucracy. This isn’t someone losing a pile of forms and destroying lives through carelessness: this is a deliberate choice. A policy.
At some point further up this chain, someone decided to do this. As many have pointed out, this is the first time something like this has been done in America. Jon Favreau called it ‘uniquely barbaric.’
I don’t know about you, but where I come from that’s when we crack out the c-word. The people doing this are fucking cunts. Those who help this happen are cunts. Those who give the orders? Monstrous cunts. And those who stand by, who have the power to intervene and stop this but choose not to do so? What can we call them other than ‘cunts’? If we have this powerful word – the strongest and most controversial and terrible – but we don’t use it against those who would do such appalling things, what the cunting fuck is the point of even having that word in the first place?
No, Ivanka Trump is not solely responsible for this – there are many more cunts who hold more responsibility. But Ivanka Trump not only fails to speak out against the brutal, racist policies implemented by the White House where she works as a senior advisor, but is so breathtakingly callous that she posts a picture that looks bizarrely like a ‘fuck you’ right in the middle of this news breaking.
Don’t be shocked that Samantha Bee called her a feckless cunt: she is.
Maybe what I’m saying here is really shocking, but I am honestly baffled by how many people can seemingly be outraged by the word ‘cunt’ yet fail to summon the same level of horror at the knowledge that families are being torn apart at the US border while Donald Trump – the worst cunt in America – sits smirking in the Oval Office.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of offensive words, I’d rather hear ‘cunt’ a thousand times than hear the President of a supposedly democratic country referring to human beings as ‘animals.’ That is far more disgusting than any genital-based swearword, and if you’re worried about the impact of ‘cunt’ on Ivanka, you should be proportionately terrified of the effect this dehumanising language has on the humans who sit at the sharp end of Trump’s policies.
Ivanka Trump is a cunt. Donald Trump is a cunt. Anyone who works in that administration who has not spoken out against its racism and brutality is a fucking cunt. Samantha Bee – or whoever at the network ordered her to apologise – is a cowardly cunt for backing down and apologising for saying something so patently, demonstrably true. And every single person who complained about Ivanka being called a ‘cunt’, while giving not one single shit about children being forcibly removed from their parents, is also a fucking cunt.
I’m a cunt too. I’ve done some terrible, cunty things in my time. And I’ve been called a cunt – with very good reason – by people who both love and hate me. I hope that I’ll always be lucky enough to have good friends who’ll call me a cunt when I do terrible things. I’m not arguing here that ‘cunt’ is always justified – like any good swearword its power is strongest when it is used in the right context. When it punches up instead of down. When it draws attention to appalling behaviour, rather than being used to silence or intimidate the weakest. But if anything this furore over the word ‘cunt’ only serves to highlight its power, and demonstrate to me why Samantha Bee was absolutely right to use it.
If this word really is the most powerful, shocking, and insulting then it’s times like this we need it most. When the world is being run by racist cunts, aided and abetted by cruel cunts, and cheered from the sidelines by ignorant cunts, ‘prick’ just isn’t going to cut it. I love this word, and I’ll continue to embrace it in positive and insulting ways: I will fuck with my cunt, talk about my cunt, call my friends and lovers cunts, and then when I’m really angry I’ll turn the dial up to 11 and spit a bitter, rage-powered ‘cunt’ at the ones who deserve it most.
We need the c-word right now. We need it desperately. And if you want to take it away you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead cunt.