Defending Dick – genitalia, profanity and insults
Back in January, some of you may recall, I wrote a little post about “Headset Vince“, the Shamwow/SlapChop guy. That post is still making its way around the entire internet (the entirenet? is that catchy? no? nevermind then.) Seriously, I had no idea how many people cared so deeply about the topic. It’s received an unprecidented amount of traffic.Â I was sure the Scientologists were going to come after me, but no such luck.
But almost as fun as being murdered by Tom Cruise was an email we received a couple of weeks ago from someone who liked the article, but not my writing style. She said she “wasn’t offended”, but felt that my frequent use of the word “dick” demonstrated a double standard since no one at Skepchick throws the word “cunt” around in the same way.
The email in its entirety, more dick, and my reply after the jump.
(Suggestion:Â if you are offended by the discussion of comparative obscenity, you should [read more here] instead of after the jump.)
Name: Jane Q. Public
Email: [email protected]
Subject: News Item or Link
Message: I am writing about Elyse’s article “Buy ShamWows! Now!”
(January 19, 2009, http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=5490)
I found the article to be fascinating. But I take exception to
Elyse’s frequent use of the word “dick”. Don’t misunderstand me, I am
not “offended”! But I think it is unprofessional and it reflects a
As we know, men tend to be offended less easily. But if the word
“dick” is okay, then there really is no reason that the word “cunt”
should not also be okay. However, I do not see ANYBODY going around
calling other people “cunthole”. There must be some reason why.
Less double-standard, please. Then your articles will carry more
credibility. People know the authors are female from the name of the
site. It is not necessary to pound that home with a sharpened
sledgehammer. Doing so makes you appear to be pissed off and
defensive, rather than objective.
Other than that, keep up the good work.
I appreciate that Jane Q. Public is not “offended”, but rather is merely put off by my need to pound my gender home with a sharpened sledge hammer. I also understand that she thinks the girls at Skepchick should stop picking on the boys just because they’re tougher than us.
But I think that the reason we can throw the word “dick” around so freely and not “cunt” has nothing to do with each gender’s relative skin thickness. It has to do with what the words mean in context.
The word “dick” is only similar to the word “cunt” in that they are both slang for those body parts generally reserved for significant others, Catholic priests and Skepchick calendars. They are also the kind of names that get your mouth washed out if you use them to describe your sibling when your grandmother is in earshot. But as an insult, they do not carry equal weight. And as degrading references to gender, they are even less equal.
Let’s keep score here. Dick is an insult. It is aimed generally at men, and refers to a penis. Cunt is an insult. It is aimed generally at women and refers to a vagina. On that comparison, no Sexist Degradation Points awarded to either term. Cunt: 0, Dick:0
Dick, while generally applied to men, can be used in gender neutral situations. If you don’t know the gender of the person in front of you, who is driving like an asshole, you might call that person a dick. The term “cunt” is reserved for once you’ve seen that driver, and that driver is, undoubtedly, female.Â Sexist Degradation Points: Cunt +1, Dick 0
Cunt and dick are both used to communicate that the insultee is unpleasant or unlikable, a person you would likely prefer to avoid if given the option. But the word cunt is closely related to the word “bitch”; both words almost exclusively used to describe women. Dick is mostly used when describing men, but not with the same exclusivity. You only call a man a cunt if you are being ironic or campy.Â SDP: Cunt +1, Dick 0
If I were to call you a dick, I would not be saying that you are acting in a manner consistent with possessing male genitalia in your Dockers. Cunt and pussy mean exactly that, but female rather than male. If I call you a “pussy” I’m saying that you are physically weak or emotionally soft like a girl. You are not strong and manly. You possess traits that are undesirable and therefore you are acting like a woman; you are acting like a vagina. Cunt, on the other hand, does not mean that you are weak and womanly, it means that you areÂ unpleasant and bitchy. You are like a woman who is having her period, a ball of hormonal rage… a bloody cunt. SDP: Cunt +2, Dick 0
For these two words to be sexist equals, you have to be able to swap them out in the same way.
If I say, “Rebecca, you are acting like such a cunt today.” Do I mean, You are acting like your girly genitals are doing all of your talking today, and you’re seriously pissing people off?
Yes, that is exactly what I mean.* I mean that a man in her situation would handle it completely differently. He wouldn’t get his panties in a wad. He wouldn’t have to act like a controlling bitch to get the job done.
If I say, “Sam, you are acting like suchÂ a dick today.” Do I mean, You are acting like your manly genitals are controlling your actions today, and you’re seriously pissing people off?
Nope, not at all. I am saying that he’s being a jerk.**Â If anything, I’m saying that by virtue of his penis, at least his jerkiness is not him acting like a pussy.
SDP: Cunt: +1, Dick -1.
Cunt is arguably the worst insult you can hurl at a woman. You could call her a bitch, but that’s not enough… what’s a step beyond bitch? Cunt. What’s worse than cunt? Fucking cunt? Goddamn cunt? Goddamn fucking cunt? After cunt, it’s just a matter of qualifying her amount of cuntiness.
It’s a word that is generally reserved, even by those of us who are unabashedly profane, for the worst situations. It is more than a word. It is a statement. You are not saying that this woman is just unpleasant, but that she embodies everything that is evil and wrong with women. It’s the word people use when they can’t come up with the words to articulate how much they hate a woman. Calling a woman a cunt is the equivalent of calling a black man a nigger or a gay man a faggot. But you really can’t throw around words like nigger and faggot without coming across as an ignorant hick. But with the right delivery, cunt makes a profound statement about the person being described.
But is dick the worst thing you can call a man? Is it any worse than asshole? Is asshole the worst thing you can call a man? I doubt it.
Here’s an example – last night, I was watching the documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father. It’s about a boy, Zachary, whose mother found out she was pregnant with him shortly after she killed his father. At one point, Zachary’s grandfather calls the woman a cunt, or maybe a fucking cunt either way, it really works. It tells you exactly what he thinks of her. A woman murders your only son, she’s a fucking cunt.
“You murdered my family, you… you… you cunt!”
But let’s flip it. Let’s say it was a man who murdered their only daughter. Can you really call him a dick?
“You murdered my family, you… you… you dick!”
It only works if it’s the first time you’ve ever used profanity. Otherwise it sounds like you’re trying to parody South Park’s famed “You killed Kenny”.
Dick is more appropriate for the following exchange:
Guy 1: You ate all my PopTarts, you dick.
Guy2: Geez, I’ll buy you another box. No need to be such a dick about it.
Girl1: You ate all my PopTarts, you cunt.
Girl2: Geez, I’ll buy you another box, No need to be a cunt about it.
See? The second one is actually pretty funny to me because the exchange is so bizarre. SDP: Cunt +10, Dick +0
Go ahead and add up the points yourself.Â I don’t think a total is necessary.
Flippantly using the word dick, I will concede, isn’t professional – but neither is posing topless for the Skepchick calendar. But, you may be surprised to hear, I am not a professional journalist. Hell, unless you count Wii Sports Boxing, I’m not a professional anything.
But as for treating men unfairly by using the word dick? C’mon. It’s a nice sentiment that the sexes are equal, our genitals are equal, and that insulting one gender is insulting everyone; but it’s not the reality. Until “dick” is used with the same hatred and venom that “cunt” is, I will continue to use it. Likewise, once Jon Stewart starts throwing around “cunt” nightly in lighthearted commentary without backlash, I will use it, too.Â Because that’s fair.
But I won’t use “boob” as an insult. That sounds like something an old and creepy guy would say. And besides, what’s better than boobs?