How do you feel about the C word? Frankly I hate that I can’t say ‘can’t’ here. Like it’s too hideous to be said out loud. For some people, even saying ‘the C word’ without saying the actual C word is as risky as they get. They’ll say ‘I can tolerate anything except the C word’ because apparently it’s too offensive. I find that offensive. Although you have to admire a word with that kind of power, It’s taboo. It never goes unnoticed. It packs a punch. It’s a lot more impactful than ‘dick’ or ‘cock’ – they barely raise an eyebrow.
The magic C has lost none of her fierceness. She can start a fight. She can close a party. She can have you thrown off stage. She can even have you thrown off Facebook – Mr Zuckerberg doesn’t like it. Facebook is like some uptight school principal who suspends you for use of the C bomb as an offence against public decency. Meanwhile, you can post images of violence, sexist memes, and right wing conspiratorial propaganda – but no, not the C.
I reclaim it. Although I’m not quite saying it out loud here. Because I can’t say can’t. I like it as a word for my anatomy. It’s short, and not up itself. In fact, it has a stinging brutality that I like. It’s not as silly as ‘twat’. I don’t have a twat. A twat doesn’t convey the majesty. A twat is something you have at bingo, or when you’re selling raffle tickets; ‘Watch it Beryl! You just hit me in the twat with the meat tray.’ A twat is friendly. A twat does a lot of volunteering. Twats are people pleasers. Women called Joyce have twats.
And as for ‘vagina’ – I always feel weird saying vagina. It’s too proper and creepy. Someone once asked me ‘Can I touch your vagina?’ I instantly said ‘No’ because it was Santa, and we were in a shopping centre. A vagina is something you show the doctor, even if they don’t ask. It’s medical. I can’t imagine going to the doctor and saying ‘I’m just here for you to check my C’. I’d like to. Just to see them squirm. Vagina isn’t even the right word, I think vulva is probably more accurate, but it just makes me cringe. Vulva is the creepiest of all. I bet a man made up the word vulva. He said, ‘How can I make women ashamed of their C’s? Let’s call it a vulva’. But I can say vulva and not get banned on social media. I could wear a T–shirt that said ‘You stupid vulva’ and I’d be able to sit in the front row at church.
Then there’s ‘yoni’. I couldn’t use that word with a straight face. It sounds like a singer. I’ve written about the yoni before – it’s far too spiritual for me. A yoni would complain a lot I reckon. Never satisfied.
And ‘pussy’ – pussy is the most ridiculous word I’ve heard for a C! It’s strictly for porn. And it’s something hetero men say. I always find it weird when I hear women talk about ‘my pussy’ like it’s something they are comfortable with. I couldn’t say to my young daughter ‘I hope you’ve washed your pussy’. Too Epstein. When you give an animal human features it’s called anthropomorphising. When you do the reverse, it’s called zoomorphism. Stop zoomorphising my C! It’s not a pussy, or a beaver.
I once did a drawing of the Virgin Mary – I realised the kneeling figure and all the folds looked a lot like the holy mother – and I’m talking about the one between our legs. It occurred to me that the space of our fertility, that which has caused centuries of fear and suspicion and oppression has always had a kind of mysticism; the place of pleasure, and pain, and the miracle of life. So I called the drawing of the kneeling virgin the ‘Insatiable C’. C is a word that disrupts – it still makes people uncomfortable. Colloquial terms for genitalia have always been used as derision – and while I avoid using the C word because of an element of what I find sacred, I wonder, when the time comes that all these words have the same benign level of offence if we will have truly achieved gender equity? I guess I’ll just sit on my can’t and wait.