The C-Word

The C-Word

In the first chapter of my first novel, the main character uses the c-word to insult another woman who is behaving badly. You know the word I mean. It’s a vulgar term for vagina and it’s considered one of the harshest words you can use when insulting a woman. It’s so bad that it’s never co-opted to insult men. You might call a man a pussy, but you wouldn’t call him the c-word. That word is reserved for the truly despicable. It’s reserved solely for women.

I chose to use the word because I needed something strong enough to make real trouble for the woman who uttered it. It’s not a word you can say without getting backlash. Apparently, Samantha Bee used the word to refer to Ivanka Trump on last night’s episode of Full Frontal. I haven’t seen the episode yet, as I’m incapable of watching anything in real time. We have it recorded to watch tonight. By the time we watch it, it’s possible that Bee’s show will have been cancelled. In the aftermath of the cancellation of Roseanne, the network may feel it has no choice but to pull Bee off the air. They certainly have the right to make that decision. Bee has to face the consequences of free speech just like anyone else, and no one is guaranteed a television slot.

But the Roseanne Barr incident and the Samantha Bee incident are in no way equivalent. What Bee said was vulgar. What Barr said was racist. Bee’s rant was scripted and delivered on-air. Barr’s rant was Tweeted, supposedly in an Ambien haze. You can decide which is worse, but I’ll take planned vulgarity over casual racist outbursts every day. Dirty words don’t bother me too much, but I know people find the c-word highly offensive. I don’t think it’s nearly as offensive as comparing a person of color to an ape, but the ball is in TBS’s court and it will make whatever decision it deems right.

Can I confess that I don’t really understand why we’re so uptight about the c-word? It’s ugly for sure, but is it so much worse than when a man brags about grabbing women “by the pussy”? Aren’t “pussy” and c-word the same thing?

Or is it that the insult was hurled at a particular woman and that the woman happened to be the president’s daughter? The real insult is in treating Ivanka Trump as if she’s just the president’s daughter. She is an official advisor to the president and a member of the White House staff. She is an integral member of the administration.

We can all agree that the president’s children (any president’s children) are off limits, particularly when those children are still minors. Once a child is an adult, however, and working willingly in the administration, she is no longer free from scrutiny or criticism. Was the c-word too much? Probably. Does Ivanka deserve harsh criticism for her constant tone-deaf image peddling? Absolutely.

By the time you read this, the execs at TBS will likely have made the decision to keep or cancel Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. I hope they keep her on the air. I understand if they don’t.

Finally, I know a lot of you are probably seething about my perceived hypocrisy right now. That’s cool, though I think you’re missing the point. And if anyone wants to call me the c-word, feel free. I’m a grown woman living in America in 2018. I’ve been called worse.

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Tiffany Quay Tyson

THE PAST IS NEVER, a southern gothic novel steeped in local lore, is available now. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance deemed it an Okra Pick. Tyson's debut novel THREE RIVERS was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and now lives, writes, and teaches in Denver, Colorado.
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One thought on “The C-Word

  1. When I lived in the UK and visited Ireland I noticed that the C word is tossed about quite freely. It’s still a bad word, but not quite as much stigma as it has here. And, they use it frequently to describe men, much unlike here. Thanks for drawing the distinction between vulgarity and racism. There is a difference, an important one. Neither is good, but one is much worse.

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