Last week someone, let’s say a man, on social media called me a bogan. And a cunt. It was meant to shame me. To humiliate me. To put me in my place. To remind me that not only am I a useless woman but I’m also lower class. Uneducated. Unrefined. Crass.
Those words are meant to reduce my value. To silence me. Those words are sent as a reminder of my deep unworthiness. Those words are meant to devalue the actual words that I speak.
Words are powerful. Ugly words have a violence intended to cause harm. They are arrows layered with meaning. It’s why some words go so deep. They carry with them generations, sometimes centuries of shame. Like poisoned tips. They are words like nigger, wog, spic, poof, spazzo, abbo, retard, hippy, gypsy, loony… those words are meant to keep people down. To seed self-hatred and then inflame it. They are words that remind you that you are NOT privileged. They are words that relegate you to the margins because you DO NOT belong.
It is a tiresome exercise to attempt to hurt people with poisonous words. To throw rocks of shame at the heart of another. But even the most well educated persist with name calling. These words must be unpacked. Disempowered. A kind of semiotic disarmament. So lets start with Bogan.
We all love calling people bogans. In a politically correct world it seems that bogan is still permissible as a word to diminish people. But should it be? Aren’t we just calling someone working class? Aren’t we just saying someone is lower status than us because they haven’t enjoyed our privilege?
The dictionary tells me that a bogan is ‘an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.’ Low-status-people tend to be uneducated, from low socio-economic areas or origins, and as a member of a lower class have none of the refinement of the more privileged. They probably say fuck a lot. I say fuck a lot. They probably speak loudly and don’t have a filter. I speak loudly and don’t have a filter. We all know that low-status people aren’t perceived as valid or as esteemed as high-status people. High-status people come from the upper classes; they have power and privilege.
I may well be a bogan. In fact, if we’re throwing around labels, I’m probably a redneck. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right label to diminish yourself with.
I grew up in housing commission in a regional town. The holes in our fibro walls were all fist shaped from my alcoholic father. No-one in my family had been past year 10. We lived on welfare. There was no talk of literature in my home. Or classical music. Or art. We didn’t own land. We didn’t have prestigious jobs.
My family were tradies. They painted houses. They cut hair. They got drunk and they fought. On pay day they partied until all the pay was gone. They loved footy but they also watched the news. They were staunch Labor voters.
My neighbours played Slim Dusty so loud that the Lights Coming over the Hill nearly deafened me. My dad came home drunk and howled along to Chad Morgan’s classic 78 The Sheik from Scrubby Creek. Ironically Chad comes from the same town as me.
Growing up I had one brother. And one sister. She’s Indigenous. Is she a bogan too? Another sister came along later who was born in Sri Lanka. Is she bogan?
Wow, it’s so easy to reduce people, but so hard to define them…
I find books, I start to read. I find life hard, but learning easy. It becomes clear to me at an early age that education and achievement are the way out of my struggle street. And so this bogan working her bogan arse off because no-one was going to rescue me. There were no fancy schools. No trips overseas. No after-school tutoring. No Mummy and Daddy setting me up in my first home. I decide at an early age that if I want anything I have to make it happen.
I became a feminist at six when my father died and I vowed to never let a man beat my mother again. A 6-year-old feminist bogan. Probably about the same time I became a cunt. That is, a female person who believes that her life, her voice and her story is equal to that of a man. How dare I.
So to all my bogan cunt friends out there, those of us who strolled libraries in our thongs, scared we would never be taken seriously: Take heart. We’re no longer controlled or diminished by your fear and inadequacy. The bogan cunts are coming for you.