One of my favorite bloggers, Ren from Renegade Evolution, is guest-blogging at Feministe this week. True to form, she starts off her guest tenure with a "controversial" post, which includes a rant about language and swearing. When you read this post, you will understand why I love Ren so much -- she's strong, she's opinionated, and she's certainly not going to let anyone get by without knowing what she's about. Upfront, honest, clever, intelligent, and a fucking potty-mouth: everything I want to be. I look up to Ren, and I just want everyone to know it.
In the above-linked post, Ren also links to a post on the old ell-jay with a great rant about language and swearing. The gal who wrote the post on ell-jay also puts the language rant in awesome terms. I have been inspired.
Language is always an issue when you're dealing with the written and spoken word, but especially if you're a woman. For example, we loud-mouthed (usually feminist) women are almost constantly told that we need to watch our mouths, because no one wants to marry a potty mouth. Because swearing isn't "ladylike".
Well, I disagree. My friend Erich defines a lady as a woman who has full control of herself and understands her surroundings enough to know how to act -- that is to say, a lady is a woman who acts mindfully and has reasons for everything that she does. I like this definition of lady better than the prescribed behavior to which one is expected to adhere in order to be ladylike. In this new, feminist, enlightened definition of a lady, swearing to your goddamn heart's content is not un-ladylike, provided you are being mindful of why you are swearing. I would bet my rice that ladies like Ren (and recent guest-blogger on Feministe, PhysioProf -- who is in fact male), who use more swear words than proper adjectives, are doing so with mindful intent.
That is to say, in a society that thinks that nipples and the words shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits are more dangerous to the well-being of the children (won't somebody PLEASE think of them?!) than gratuitous violence -- a society that rated The Dark Knight PG-13 when it should be rated R, if we're going for any measure of consistency. In a society as uptight about shit as this one is, it's pretty hard to swear by accident, cause when you swear someone, somewhere, without fail is going to tell you to watch your language.
I've ranted about "fuck" before. In said rant I explained that the word FUCK draws attention to the other words that a person is saying. It's an expletive because it's loud, hard, and when you hear someone say FUCK you start listening to what they have to say. However, with this not-so-new censorship, people make a big deal about the word FUCK in order to ignore what the person who is saying it is actually trying to say. In my past rant, I talked about the NWA song "Fuck tha Police", a song that talks about white policemen's intentional prejudice toward young, black men in inner cities. We all know that the kerfuffle surrounding this song was about the word FUCK and not about the actual content of the song.
This is also intentional. People don't want to know that their white police officers are prejudiced against young black men in inner cities. Ergo, a word which was ignored before becomes the center of a content censorship battle that rages to this day and still no one has bothered to fucking care about the actual issue. The ironic thing, of course, is that after the kerfuffle began, "Fuck the Police" soared upwards on the music charts... sadly, still, because of the word fuck. But, at least, because of the word fuck there are people like me who know about this song (and NWA in general -- who were pretty much before my time) because of the word fuck.
It is undeniable that words like FUCK get attention to the person who is writing or speaking them, if only because of the big fucking deal that is made of them. If FUCK was just another word, it wouldn't be as powerful, and there are people who speak and think and fuck like that: fuck is just another word -- it is also the most versatile and volatile word in the English (as well as a number of other) language. And so it is unfit to be used by women because women are not supposed to be either versatile or volatile.
*BZZT* WRONG AGAIN! The only reason the long-standing, common definition of what is "ladylike" excludes aspects of a personality such as volatile is because being demure makes someone easier to ignore, easier to abuse, and easier to shut up. Telling a woman to watch her language is only one more of many billions of ways that people (that is, men and women who seek to uphold the power of the patriarchy) who don't want to hear what a woman has to say about herself, her rights, the world around her, her children, the fact that she is more likely than a man to live in poverty, the fact that there is almost a 20% chance that she, her sisters, or daughters will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime; or any number of other things that get women (and, credit where credit is due, many men) pissed the fuck off about sexism and gender prejudice.
Human beings have a natural predilection toward justice and seeking justice. That's why over the course of human events we have been able to come up with such documents as the Declaration of Independence, The UN Declaration on Human Rights, even all the way back to Hammurabi's Code; that's why above all, we seek to ensure that the Rule of Law is protected, and that government is of and by laws rather than men (persons, in this case).
Humans also have a natural dereliction toward wanting to subvert the power of others, to enslave, to create a need for our propensity for seeking justice. These two things go hand in hand pretty naturally, and they show no tendency or intention toward abating. As a woman and a feminist I experience this quite often, when I speak on justice, social, criminal, economic, I am often told that I don't understand what I'm talking about or excuses are made such as "that's the way it's always been" or "I just don't get the hubbub around the N-word if they can say it"; and naturally when someone seeks to dismiss one's desire to speak, be heard, and effect justice and change for the better, one tends to get fucking pissed off.
Moreover, issues such as rape, pay parity, racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, xenophobia, all of those things which get up the hackles of the Social Justice Crusader tend to be illustrated in terms that are so utterly abhorrent if you're not offended you're not paying attention. Some swearing is absolutely necessary when Native American women are more than twice as likely to be raped by white men than are white women. Some swearing is absolutely necessary when Black and Latina women make 57 cents to a white man's dollar, and a white woman makes 73 cents to a white man's dollar -- some swearing is absolutely necessary when those who seek to subvert this fact twist the statistics and the perameters of the study to claim that the reason women make less than men is because the work fewer hours and take time off to have kids. (The actual facts of the perameters of the study is that the incomes of men and women are compared where each member of each gender works the same amount and does not take time off to have and care for children.)
In short, in the words of Brandon Boyd, if you're not affected you're not paying attention.
So while I may need to watch my fucking language when I'm in a professional situation (such as greeting clients at work), it is completely uncalled for for me to be expected to keep the shits, pisses, fucks, cunts, cocksuckers, motherfuckers, and titses to a minimum out of respect for people who don't give a fuck what I have to say in the first place. I don't have to watch my language. I'm an autonomous adult, I can swear as much as I goddamn well please, and it doesn't impugn my intelligence or my womanness when I do so. In fact, it actually insults my intelligence and womanness to imply that swearing does somehow affect or effect just how intelligent and feminine, or ladylike, I am.