I’m guessing it’s the New Statesmen editors who headlined this piece with the infantilizing phrase “C word” rather than the author (Laurie Penny) who wrote:
It’s a perfectly nice little word, a word with 800 years of history; a word used by Chaucer and by Shakespeare. It’s the only word we have to describe the female genitalia that is neither mawkish, nor medical, nor a function of pornography. Semantically, it serves the same function as “dick” or “prick” – a signifier for a sexual organ which can also be used as a descriptor or insult, a word that is not passive, but active, even aggressive.
There are no other truly empowering words for the female genitalia. ‘Pussy’ is nastily diminutive, as if every woman had a tame and purring pet between her legs, while the medical descriptor “vagina” refers only to a part of the organ, as if women’s sexuality were nothing more than a wet hole, or “sheath” in the Latin. Cunt, meanwhile, is a word for the whole thing, a wholesome word, an earthy, dank and lusty word with the merest hint of horny threat. Cunt. It’s fantastically difficult to pronounce without baring the teeth.
I must differ with the “nastily diminutive” description of the word “pussy”, though. I’ve heard “pussy” used that way, sure. But, more often, not. Is “pussy” diminutive? Sure. But we (men and women alike) can and often do use diminutives to express tenderness and affection. We also use them, sometimes, for nasty putdowns and diminution; context is everything.
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