Embracing the 'c' word - in a blog and on screen
It’s been well over twenty years since the words of Eve Ensler first encouraged rows of middle aged women to yell the ‘c’ word with gusto during performances of The Vagina Monologues. The groundbreaking play was written about, and based on, anecdotes passed on to Ensler via friends, and mainly related to sexual relationships and violence towards women.
The worldwide theatre phenomenon explores the sexual experiences, both good and bad, of women of all ages and every demographic difference, and takes a hard look at genital mutilation, sex work and child birth. Alongside the inspiring often horrific stories told in each portrayal, was the encouragement for the audience to enthusiastically embrace, and thus reclaim, every perceived harsh word used to refer to our genitalia. It felt remarkably freeing for a verbally uptight English lady like me .
"Women's empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality" Eve Ensler has stated, and The Vagina Monologues went on to inspire much more than the loud chant of twat, from row 23 of The Assembly Halls in Tunbridge Wells. The play has inspired the hugely successful charity initiative V-Day, that raises awareness about female genital mutilation, and millions of pounds to end violence against women and girls.
But what of the use of the ‘c word’ since? Being a taboo word in many UK households, it’s doubtful that the aftermath of the production saw many mothers in Bristol and Birmingham encouraging their family to use the phrase in a heartfelt fashion.
However I know from experience that the less offended nations of Australia and Ireland are really not that averse to expressing the word c***; and because they use it without anger, it really doesn’t make much of an impression. A great Irish friend of mine will often affectionately refer to any one of her four grown up children as a little c***, and I’ve never thought of her as aggressive or uncouth.
It’s just a four letter word with a bad reputation, but, as with all swear words, it’s the manner and tone in which it is said, that really causes the offense.
Therefore it's quite interesting to see how rarely the word is used in English speaking households, or moved onto the big and small screen for mainstream audiences. When you consider the gore, sexual violence and horror we are all subjected to on an going basis, it seems strange that the world of celluloid is still so hesitant about using this moniker for a ladies private parts.
In 2010 we were introduced to the Kick-Ass cinematic franchise and an eleven year old assassin who went by the name Hit-Girl. Great controversy ensued after the movies release, not due to the unmitigated violence the vigilante meted out, but because the twelve year old actress used the phrase "Okay, you cunts, let's see what you can do now”. Many people felt uncomfortable about someone that age using the expression.
Recently Game of Thrones saw The Hound appropriate the term on several occasions, a verbal incident fairly unshocking in the mouth of a character who most surely would have said it freely, especially in more Medieval type times.
It seems to be a long way off before the ‘c’ word becomes used in either general daily life or during daytime television. Perhaps it’s not just the housewives and grandmothers of Tunbridge Wells who need to be less prudish about the use of this particular profanity, which in all fairness, really doesn’t need to be a profanity at all.
If this middle aged lady from the south of England can say c*** and start contributing to the general happy appropriation of the ‘c’ word, then why not international script writers, film producers and network commissioners?
It’s not easy though when you’re not being supported by the swell of gleeful audience participation in a cosy theatre venue.
‘C word’, c*** ….. Oh go on then … cunt.
Over to you BBC, Netflix and HBO.