I can be slightly naïve at times. Well, not naïve. Optimistic perhaps. I tend to believe the best about people and circumstances, and, when people behave like absolute asshats, I’m almost always surprised. It’s as if I did, in fact, just fall off that turnip truck because I was indeed born yesterday; and, there I am lying helpless in the road wondering how I got there. Oh, right, I was shoved.
I am being tongue-in-cheek because it’s fun. The very minor incident to which I am not so subtly alluding was annoying but, at the same time, surprising to me.
An anonymous person posted a comment to my blog a few days ago. He wrote:
You are a cunt!
Yes, yes, this is a troll, and there is one mantra that we should all follow when it comes to trolls:
Do not feed the trolls!
Trolls know how to take the piss, don’t they? Calling a woman a bitch isn’t so bad. How many women have been called that and worse for ignoring the clumsy gropes of some drunk guy at a bar? I have. My girlfriends have. Accidentally cut someone off in traffic and some angry person will yell, “Bitch!” Women are finally beginning to reclaim that word in order to rob it of its power. The C-word, on the other hand, feels altogether different, doesn’t it?
Well, Tina Fey tackled this issue on 30 Rock in the “C-Word” episode when her character Liz Lemon overheard Lutz, one of her writers, call her the dreaded C-word behind her back. Her response? She wanted to fire him. Yep. That’s how most women I know feel about being called the C-word. We have a visceral response to it, and if we could fire the person who spoke that word over us, then we just might. Liz Lemon ran to her producer and shouted, “We need to fire Lutz! Fire him!” When she explained her reasons, both Pete, her producer, and Frank, one of the writers, grimaced. They, too, know of the C-word’s power. And, why does this word hold so much power? What was the conclusion? It is so powerful because there is nothing that a woman can call a man that is as degrading. As misogynistic and, well, defiling as the C-word is to women, there is no linguistic match for a man.
My husband and I sat around one night and tried to come up with an equivalent if you can believe that. We came up with one, but it lacks the punch that the C-word packs. I think that Tina Fey is right. This is why trolls love this word so much. This is why people aiming to shock and hurt women love to use this word. It degrades and defiles in a way that few other words do. There are erotica authors who have decided that it’s time to reclaim this word, I’m concluding, to rob it of its powerful punch to the female gut. They freely use it in their writing. It’s a jarring read to be sure, but it’s interesting to watch the linguistic evolution of this word. Where might this word be in another generation? Will it feel as truly disgusting as it does now? Will I want to plug my ears and cry, “Lalalalalala!” when I hear it in 25 years?
Why write a post about the C-word? Firstly, to be frank, it pisses me off that there are people out there who find trolling entertaining. It’s a complete waste of time, and it can hurt very vulnerable people. Secondly, I have four daughters, and I’m a woman. This sort of behavior is not acceptable no matter its form. I blackholed that comment, but how does one feel empowered after reading something like that? It’s insidious. That’s why trolling is potent. Words are infinitely powerful. The written word, when aimed directly at a person, can carry the weight of an anvil, and that is the take away. Words can be weapons, or they can be shields. They can edify and build a person up higher than the highest skyscraper. They can also destroy a life. We get to choose. Isn’t that incredible? How many things in life do you actually get to choose freely?
You always get to choose your words.
That is a brilliant thought. Many of us are caregivers to very vulnerable people. We know just how weighty each word that we speak is because we have seen just how destructive other people’s words have been. I am going to try to pay more attention to my words this year. That is the gift of the dreaded C-word. It’s potency inversely teaches us just how powerfully good we could be when we choose the better words instead.
Incidentally, the brilliant comic The Oatmeal has attempted to rob the awful C-word of its “terribleness” in his wonderfully irreverent and funny comic The Terrible C-Word. For a good laugh, you simply must read it!