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Oh, Say, Can You C-Word?

Notes on a feckless country

The word couldn’t have gotten more buzz if Trump’s stubby thumbs had tweeted it from his golden toilet.

The once-verboten, inarguably vulgar C-word has been on everyone’s whispered lips after funny gal/political commentator Samantha Bee hurled it at Ivanka Trump. The First Daughter earned the ire for tweeting a tender and utterly tone-deaf photo of herself snuggling her son during a week when migrant children were being torn from their parents at U.S. borders per her dad’s new “zero tolerance” immigrant policy.

Predictable reactions followed: 45 feigned offense, though we’ve all heard him refer with equal crudeness to the same body part and saw him welcome Ted Nugent to the White House after that courtly gentleman used the same epithet on Hillary Clinton. Bee apologized. A couple of companies pulled their ads from Bee’s aptly named Full Frontal show. And even liberal women who applauded her message mumbled to one another that the jab was uncouth.

But as the entire incident erupted at the intersection of my three favorite things ​— ​debating over language, insulting a Trump, and alluding to vaginas ​— ​I rather enjoyed it.

Bee called Ivanka a “feckless [C-word],” and I’m a sucker for the delicious pairing of an erudite word with a back-alley one. (Although, to be fair, I see the Princess-in-Chief as more of a witless twat, but what’s done is done.)

I know a lot of gals who consider the C-word on par with the N-word because it’s used to demean, dismiss, and define women by their anatomy. I get it, but if you regularly call despicable men by their genital equivalents (um, guilty), then I think you’re unentitled to play that particular how-dare-you card.

My friends say it shatters the sisterhood for a woman to call another woman a C-U-Next-Tuesday. But I would feel very comfortable flicking the word at, say, Betsy DeVos, Kellyanne Conway, or Sarah Huckabee. I’d also rather listen to a Ted Nugent album than see any of those names (shiver) share a paragraph with the word “sisterhood” ever, ever again.

There’s a grumbling in the air that we, as a society, should be ashamed of ourselves for becoming crasser by the week. Surely there’s a sort of expletive inflation taking place if a blazered mother-of-two can spew such an indelicate invective in front of the FCC and everyone. I suppose it’s a good sign that we can still be outraged about public name-calling; perhaps it means we haven’t yet hit the tawdry, blue bottom.

Ultimately, though, I just don’t ascribe the same weight to words as some people do. Maybe it’s because they’re my trade, like a barber’s clippers and shears; to me, words are just spiritless tools, utterly neutral until we animate them with the niceness or badness of our intention.

And that, to me, is where all this dirty-word prattle disappoints. Bee’s offending taunt was spat in anger. But far more offensive is the amount of attention our culture will devote to a quartet of innocuous letters ​— ​the same ones that kick off nutcake, for god’s sake ​— ​while the sticks and stones of our nation’s abhorrent policies are actively ripping children from the arms of their mothers and putting them in cages. Who cares about our vocabulary when the United Nations is imploring us ​— ​a first-world nation whose own Lady Liberty “glows world-wide welcome” ​— ​to stop violating the basic human rights of asylum seekers?

I wonder: If we keep lowering the bar on language and get all of our ugliest words out into the open, could we recalibrate our outrage meters? If we finally became numb to the cacophony of vulgarities being flung with such ease nowadays, would it allow our ears to pick up on, and our dialogues to center on, more important issues?

Feck our mouths. How do we wash out our collective souls with soap?

 

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