A few mornings ago, while my husband was getting ready for work, we got into a small argument about the use of swear words around our son. He was giving me grief because I don’t necessarily check my potty-mouth around the baby, but I do jump on my husband about his foul language. I tried to explain to him that there is a difference because I use profanity differently, but he laughed at me and called me nuts. While my nutsness is not really a question, it’s inconsequential since I’m right.
If you’re offended by 4 letter words, I’ll just warn you that this post would not be appropriate for prime time. But I do have to wonder how the hell you forgive lesbian monkey porn, manatee porn, frog sex (including a toad orgy), orgasmatrons, and any post by bug_girl, but you’d prefer to close your ears to that what lies beneath the bleep. That said, I will now begin using words not safe for basic cable and attempt to defend my case for why it’s not that big of a fucking deal.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not looking forward to my son blurting out his first “mutha fucker”. He is 7 months old right now, and I can’t help but beam as he crawls across the floor, looking at me, saying “Mama!” as he approaches me. Or when he looks at my husband, smiles, and says “dad-dad”. He sits on the floor and signs for “dog” and “milk” regardless of whether he is actually trying to say “dog” or “milk”. But I know he is going to learn more words. And he will learn more signs. And he will learn “those” words. And he will learn “that” sign. I will not beam when those words are said and that sign is made by him, but it is inevitable. And once he learns them, he will use them. There’s nothing I can do about it.
The whole key to whether or not my child is “allowed” to say something should be based on what he is saying, not necessarily the words he uses. For example, there is a world of difference between saying “You’re a mother fucking cocksucker” vs. “Fucking shit balls!” But there is essentially no difference between “You’re a goddamn shit head” vs. “You’re a stupid poo head.”
Saying something cruel does not become more or less cruel based on the words you use. It’s the message that makes it cruel. Perhaps of the cocksucker, shit head and poo head examples one is generally considered to be more polite. But if we’re going to be really honest, we have to admit (for most of us anyway) there is far less shame in sucking cock than having poo on one’s head (or poo for a head).
I don’t want my son saying mean things to people. I don’t want him doing mean things to people. I don’t want my son to be an asshole. And that’s the lesson I’m gong to teach him: Don’t be an asshole. It doesn’t matter what words you use if you’re being a dick.
Who is he hurting if he falls, nails his funny bone on concrete and yells out “holy mother fucking goddamn shit that hurt!”? Perhaps a couple of god-fearing old ladies sitting on the park bench nearby might be offended, and they wouldn’t have been (though I would be) if he yelled out “crickey mommy-frog gosh golly darn crappity crap that darn diddly hurt”. But he didn’t say anything insulting, hurtful, slanderous or cruel. If he had fallen and yelled out, “Piss off, old bitches on the fucking bench. What the fuck do you think you’re looking at, cuntrags?” Now, that would be a different story, but that story doesn’t change if he yells out, “What are you looking at, you old hags? Why don’t you mind your own beezwax and go back to knitting?” Whether he drops the dreaded c-bomb or accuses them of gasp knitting, his message is clear; it is the same and it is offensive. (And, for the record, if I ever get wind of that message, my response will be just as clear and offensive.)
There is absolutely no reason that one word should be considered worse than another when they have the exact same meaning. If someone tells me he is going to leave the room to go “take a shit”, he cannot improve upon that statement by saying, “take a dump” or “make poo” or “poop”. There is no word that can be used in place of the word “shit” to make me feel better about his candor. I would prefer if he just said “please excuse me”, leaving out any information detailing his feces altogether, no matter how crudely or politely he chooses to describe them.
And a word only has as much power as people are willing to give it. Take the words “n****r” and “bitch”. I am hard-pressed to come up with a word that is considered more offensive than the word “n****r”. In fact, I debated even using it as an example because, even in quotes, it’s a word that makes me uncomfortable. But why? Without getting into the politics of the word, the short story of it is that we, as users of the language, have given it that power. As long as people continue to let it have that connotation it will have that connotation. In junior high and high school we were assigned to read books with the words “n****r” and “bitch” in them. We saw the words in context, and they didn’t seem like such a big deal.
My point is that they’re all just words. So why can’t we just use them like they’re just words? Teaching our kids not to say “those words” doesn’t stop them from saying them. So why don’t we just concentrate on it being less about the word itself and more about what we are trying to say when using the words we use.
Understand, I’m not excusing poor manners, but swapping out an offensive word for a word that alludes to the offensive word doesn’t magically make it polite.
So… who’s fucking with me on this one?