Updated: Jan 30
My darlings—I must get this off my chest, so to speak. Somehow, in our society, we have learned patriarchal rhetoric and it has become the center-point of our thinking. We don’t consciously realize it or contemplate on it but I’m asking you to do so now. Men and women, guys and gals. All of us. Let’s begin—
Cunt. Sonofabitch. Motherfucker. Douchebag. Sisterfucker. Bastard. Whore. Ball-buster. Nag. Shrew. Ice Queen. Diva. Slut. Trollop. Frigid. Man-eater. Prude. Hysterical. Over-Sensitive. Neurotic. Irrational. Bitchfest. Catfight. Minger. Hag. And the list goes on and on…
From my research, it does appear that there is a sexual prejudice when it comes to name-calling. How many of you females out there have been called one or more of these names? Or been told to calm down or that we were irrational when the conversation was not going in the direction the man wanted? Why is all this negative sexual language still so pervasive in the 21st century?
When Barbara G. Walker published her famous book, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983) she said, “Few words are so revealing of western sexual prejudice as the word Goddess, in contrast to the word God. Modern connotations vastly differ from those of the ancients, to whom the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love. Birth, Death, etc.” What surprised me personally was that the book was met with such negative reviews by women. Instead of finding it and teaching, some females made Ms. Walker out to be a man-hater that lacked respect for the Bible and it’s God. (I wonder if those same women lived long enough to read Inga Muscio’s CUNT which I recommended last week.)
While Ms. Walker spent twenty-five years researching her book, she discovered that cunt is related to words from Ireland, China, Rome, India, and Egypt. Words that were respectful titles for women, witches (herbal healers, nature worshipers) and priestesses, or spinoffs of various Goddesses’ names. We all know that a bitch is a female dog, and according to etymology, even more offensive than whore. Whore stems from the Middle English—physically dirty or slime. Before that period, it was simply connected to words “to like, or desire, which in other languages has produced words for "lover; friend." Unfortunately, Shakespeare loved using the word whore in his writings—and in a negative sense. Sonofabitch, of course, is simply a profanity relating again to women and their sons—commonly used since the 18th century.
Are you beginning to get the picture? The definition of bastard talks of women in a “less-than” manner—implying an unwed mother is something to be whispered about, something dirty, wrong, or bad. In today’s world, un-wed mothers are more common and hopefully less judged. So why does the word bastard hang around??
It seems that when The Simpson’s began appearing on television, more varied cusswords were invented. To this day I hate the word pie-hole. I’m not sure why I find it so offensive, but I do even though it is gender-neutral. And then there’s douchebag. Our culture has taken a word that deals with women’s hygiene and turned it into something to mean you’re really ugly. Let’s be real here, women’s vagina’s (cunts) are beautiful and give much pleasure. Through them another human is born, for god’s sake. They’re not dirty or smelly, they are bursting with life. So why aren’t women’s genitals honored? Why has our patriarchal culture turned them into something ugly used for name-calling? I believe it’s called internalized misogyny. And I sure hope women are not participating in this type of negative female name-calling. If you hear someone using these terms, SPEAK UP! Set them straight about how tired we (women) are of this type of misogyny. And remind them of the word’s true meaning.
Friends, internalized misogyny prevails even in the medical field. Have you ever heard these terms?
Failure to progress. (Slow dilation of the uterus)
Elderly primigravida. (Female who delivers her first child after age 35)
Irritable uterus. (Contractions that don’t affect the cervix dilation)
Incompetent cervix. (Weak cervical tissue contributing to early delivery)
I bet they damn sure don’t have the term incompetent penis for erectile dysfunction!
Do you understand how negatively these terms describe women? This misogyny is so ingrained in our society that we just accept it or throw our hands in the air because someone tells us to get over it or that we’re being overly sensitive. And if any of the women reading this are thinking those thoughts, know that you’re not recognizing your ownmisogyny. It’s very similar to white fragility or white exceptionalism—always hidden just underneath the surface. (Don’t worry, we’re gonna talk about that as well in the upcoming weeks.)
According to most woman-centered historians, the containment of women’s sexuality became an immense priority for budding patriarchal religions and emerging economic systems very early on (CE). The early religions practiced male savior-centeredness. They sprang forth from a very real fear of women and their power. Remember The Inquisition? It began in 12th century France and continued until it was banned in the 19th century. Sadly, it justified rape, enslavement, and murder of any woman, man, or child that did not glorify the savior-centered worship. Women were specifically targeted: if they had resources or owned property, it was seized by the Catholic church and the women disposed of. Don’t get me wrong, the Catholics were not the only religion to fear women’s power, trying to keep them quiet and out of the pulpit. It continues to this day around the world. Some religions have evolved. Many have not.
We can try to blame this on the Taliban, but that just doesn’t fly. Truth-telling is hard because we have to accept that all of us are to blame. We continue to use words and phrases that are derogatory toward women. (Yes, there are some names that are gender neutral, but not many. And some that denigrate men.) Let’s step up and SPEAK UP when we hear the hurtful names. Maybe if more of us call out others when this happens, it will stop. We can at least try.
GUTSY WOMAN: HEDY LAMARR
Austrian born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (1914-2000) was an inventor, American film actress, and mother of three. After fleeing from husband Friedrich (Fritz) Mandl, a military arms merchant and supplier whose ties to Mussolini and Hitler frightened her, Hedy was introduced to Louis Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in London. Her film career sky-rocketed in 1938 with her performance in the movie Algiers. The media dubbed her bombshell and the most beautiful woman in the world. When WWII started, Hedy used her scientific knowledge in collaboration with George Antheil, a brilliant composer and pianist, to develop a radio guidance system that would benefit the Allies by interfering (jamming) the Axis’ radio communications for which they (she and Antheil) had a patent (1942). Sadly, the US Navy rejected her ideas, calling them impractical. (They told her she would make a greater impact pushing war bonds and selling kisses—talk about sexism!) The technology would one day be the basis for WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS systems! Her natural beauty hid the brilliant brain of an inventor, causing society to “long ignore her inventive genius” until 1997—over fifty years after her initial invention.
Hedy was the only child born to Gertrud and Emil Kiesler, a Jewish family living in Vienna. Her father, a bank manager, invented things for a hobby. Even though Hedy showed interest in acting and the theatre, she spent much time with her father who explained different, contemporary technologies. Her early schooling focused on piano, ballet, natural sciences and language.
By age 18, Hedy was cast in a film where she was tricked into doing nude scenes. Outraged at the director for his lies, she had no choice but to let the film be produced (though she had no idea how to explain it to her parents). The film, Ecstasy, was both notorious and celebrated world wide, though it was banned in both America and Germany for her brilliant acting of an orgasm. Hedy went on to perform locally in theatre productions, catching the attention of the wealthy Fritz Mandl. Despite his being fifteen years her senior, they were married after he promised to keep her Jewish heritage a secret. Unfortunately, Mandl was extremely controlling, Hedy claiming she was a virtual prisoner in their castle home, for he refused her pursing an acting career. She was totally and completely his arm candy.
But Hedy was no dummy. She cunningly listened into conversations with Mandl’s associates as he planned to arm Mussolini and later Hitler. Hedy attended scientific meetings with her husband which fed her own latent interest in science. Eventually fearing for her life she escaped first to Paris and then on to London where she met Louis Mayer who offered her an acting contract. Her acting career blossomed from 1938 to the early ‘50s.
Lamarr was indeed a genius as the gears in her inventive mind continued to turn. She once said, “Improving things comes naturally to me.” She went on to create an upgraded stoplight and a tablet that dissolved in water to make a soda similar to Coca-Cola. Among the few people who knew of Lamarr's inventiveness was Howard Hughes, the aviation tycoon. He took her seriously when she suggested he change the rather square design of his airplanes (which she thought looked too slow) to a more streamlined shape, influence by pictures of the fast birds and fish. Lamarr discussed her relationship with Hughes during an interview, saying that while they dated, he actively supported her "tinkering" hobbies. He put his team of scientists and engineers at her disposal, saying they would do or make anything she asked for.
During Hedy’s whole career, the media focused on her love life (six marriages and six divorces) and “kitten looks” instead of focusing on her brilliance. “Lamarr herself, who pointedly defined glamour as standing still and looking stupid, understood all too well why no one wanted to hear about her science work – it didn’t fit MGM’s marketing narrative.” As her film career declined, Hedy gradually went into seclusion in Florida.
By 1974, Hedy had developed a drug addiction and possibly a plastic surgery addiction, the former aided by the norotorious Dr. Feelgood, also known as Max Jacobsen—who over prescribed amphetamines and animal hormones to celebrities. Ironically, Hedy made many suggestions to her plastic surgeons which are now in common use.
A documentary produced by Susan Sarandan in 2017 titled Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is well worth watching. You can find it on PBS or Prime.
DID YOU KNOW?
1.) Hedy became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1938.
2.) She died in Casselberry, Florida, of heart disease at age 85.
3.) Hedy was awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1960.
4.) In 2014, Hedy Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame for frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology.
CUNT, A Declaration of Independence
(20th Anniversary Edition) by Inga Muscio
"Bright, sharp, empowering, long-lasting, useful, sexy . . . " -- San Francisco Chronicle " . . . Cunt provides fertile ground for psychological growth." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian "Cunt does for feminism what smoothies did for high-fiber diets -- it reinvents the oft-indigestible into something sweet and delicious." -- Bust Magazine
An ancient title of respect for women, the word "cunt" long ago veered off this noble path. Inga Muscio traces the road from honor to expletive, giving women the motivation and tools to claim "cunt" as a positive and powerful force in their lives. In this fully revised edition, she explores, with candidness and humor, such traditional feminist issues as birth control, sexuality, jealousy between women, and prostitution with a fresh attitude for a new generation of women. Sending out a call for every woman to be the Cuntlovin' Ruler of Her Sexual Universe, Muscio stands convention on its head by embracing all things cunt-related. This edition is fully revised with updated resources, a new foreword from sexual pioneer Betty Dodson, and a new afterword by the author. (Amazon Review)
*Just a note:
This book sits on my personal bookshelf for a couple of good reasons:
1.) My daughter recommended it to me (and I respect her intelligence greatly).
2.) It reminds me of how respected women once were and need to be again!
Please get your hands on a copy of this book and share it with other females. It’s important we know the history of certain words that our patriarchal culture has chosen to turn into demeaning adjectives. And then we can educate them.
Happy reading, dear ones.
Love and light-