I remember years ago playing Uno with some 20-something people and guys kept on cursing. “Fucking cunt” was one of them’s favourite everytime he had bad game and no one reacted. Until, his sister said “Aw fuck off!” after losing. The men gasped, turned to her, told her how offended they were. She defended herself and refused to apologise.
I praised her, the women present stood by her and the game ended with the men saying they were too shocked to carry on. She is a woman, she swore and did not apologise at once. How shocking, indeed…
As Stephen Fry says, I am not one of these twee people who believe that swearing is a lack of education. For me, as a man, swearing is normal. I swear and it’s fine for me and pretty much anyone, as long as it’s not to abuse anyone or in the classroom. And then again, I’m often excused if I go off rail because I am a man and that’s what men do. We are beasts and being violent, “asserting our authority is part of who we are”.
I am not here to advertise nor advocate swearing as a whole, especially when used as an attack on someone – which, by the way, can be done without swear words. It’s just that swearing holds a special place for me in how I fathom feminism.
For me, feminism is to relentlessly fight the gender roles that society has built, whether it’s males accused of being “such a girl!” or women shot down in flames for daring to behave like men. Despite what most (men) like to say, a woman swearing is still dragged in the dirt for having broken a taboo: violence through words.
That’s why I believe one the most poignant act of feminism any woman can do is to openly and unapologetically swear and be crude, raw, true to herself if she wishes to express herself in such way. Which is why I adore feminists like Amy Schumer, Jennifer Saunders, Jo Brand, Joan Rivers, Madonna and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Because their work is a massive, loud, proud and now unavoidable “Fuck off” to what society expects of women: to be nice and polite.
People don’t believe that women who swear and talk about sex without euphemisms are dragged in the dirt, well I hereby invite you to read the comments left on Amy Schumer’s latest acceptance speech at GQ. Warning: hatred by the bucket! Especially directed towards her not being funny because her language is crass, disgusting and undignified for a woman.
The buzz is also about Michael Caine’s reaction to her “Patrick Stewart cumming all over her tits” joke. The man didn’t laugh, looks appalled and like an umbrella has been shoved up him and just opened up. So people are going berserk to show that, unlike her, he has class whereas she is trash and cheap. “He’s a true gentleman” and “she’s a whore.”
As a man, the chances are he swears way more often than she does on a daily basis because it’s more widely accepted but in public, things are different.I am not accusing neither one nor the other for this, for the choices they made in defining their public persona, just pointing out at the reactions that are at the complete opposite: he’s praised for how he presents himself while she’s being dragged for basically talking like a man. She is compared to Ricky Gervais and other comedians.
That’s my point! This kind of joke is what Ricky Gervais or Jimmy Carr would do. That’s also the kind of language hundreds of thousands of male comedians or pranksters use in their praised work, and highly watched and praised videos on YouTube. No one has a problem with that because they are men.
Schumer mentions how unfunny some men still find women who swear and talk about sex when women (and gay men) find them hilarious. It’s not the first time I hear or notice this. Almost none of the straight males in my family or friends circles understand the appeal of Absolutely Fabulous because it depicts women that no man would possibly want to marry. That’s what many straight guys tell me about the series when they try to explain why they didn’t understand the humor. For them, Eddie and Patsy are monsters and nowhere near appealing: they smoke, drink and swear. How not wife or mother material of them!
Women, on the other hand, and gay men, will find a common ground in the depiction of true women as flawed human beings who are aware of their limitations and find the material for their brash and unconventional humour.
Saunders close her acceptance speech hoping she has done enough to promote women’s friendships, the need to not have a conventional, normal heterosexual relationships to define you and women applaud. They applaud her swearing, her accepting and not thriving for another version of herself but embracing her human nature.
What I find the most interesting is that GQ has censored Schumer when she says the word “cunt”* when, at the same time, Glamour Magazine posted a completely uncensored video of Saunders using that very word. It’s not a first for Glamour nor is it for GQ. A women magazine is not censoring swear words whereas a men magazine does. Hmmm…Especially when it comes to words depicting female genitalia for Schumer’s use of the word “dick” was left to be appreciated.
In a society that keeps asking women to hide who they are, change who they are, pretend to be someone else in order to achieve the ultimate goal of finding a man to marry, every single swear words ushered, murmured, whispered, said, told, spoken, shouted, screamed, yelled by women is a step forward.
*Here’s the uncensored version posted by Jim Chapman who doesn’t think she is dirt for saying “naughty words”.