You may recall last month’s informative (brilliant?) post about the etymology of the word “fuck.” This may come as a shock to some of you, but – brace yourself – not everyone likes the word. And I’m talking about real adult people, not just my son, who accuses me of saying it even when I haven’t. Or have I been saying it without even noticing? Why
the fuck does he even care? Damn it.
After the fuck piece ran, several Generous Readers sent me a link to a funny rant in which little girls use the F-bomb to emphasize gender disparities. I thought it was awesomely ingenious, and a hilarious way to highlight women’s issues. Do you want to watch it? Go ahead and click right here. I’ll wait.
What did you think? Was it shocking? Yes! I thought so, too. And that’s why I loved it. Juxtaposing the discomfort of pretty little girls saying fuck against the injustice of gender inequality, sexism, and violence against women was an effective way of highlighting which issues should steal the spotlight.
But one Generous Reader was appalled. He is a kind, gentle, conservative man who has raised a lovely daughter, and he wrote this:
In my opinion these young children are being exploited by adults in the pursuit of both an agenda (its merits being the subject for a different debate), and for plain economic gain thru the sale of t-shirts. Injecting vulgarity and profanity (as well as the inexplicable anger) into these kids lives has a corrosive effect: It pollutes the precious innocence to which they are entitled–and that we shall not rob. The adults who created this video must be–no doubt–very proud for their remarkable contribution to the advancement of women’s causes, but in the process, sadly, they’ve trampled over the fragile minds of some trusting little girls.
He has an excellent point! With which I disagree. Still, I get it. It’s very uncomfortable to see children intertwined with vulgarity, and yes, language can be vulgar. Yesterday, I took the Pterodactyl to CrossFit, and together we listened to Big Sean’s breakaway hit called, I Don’t Fuck With You. Lyrics include: I don’t give a fuck about you, you little stupid ass bitch. He wrote it about his former fiancé. Which is so modern and New Age-y, right? For him to express his feelings like that? The song’s success must give him a wonderful sense of closure.
Now that’s vulgarity – not because of the words, but because of the intent, which is to denigrate a specific woman so pervasively and publicly that she’s practically stripped of human characteristics. To me, it’s the same with the video – hearing the girls say fuck, fucked up, fucking, what the fuck isn’t particularly upsetting, and certainly doesn’t steal their innocence. What’s horrifically sad instead is listening to them express the injustice to which they’ll be subjected to as they grow. Hell, they’re being subjected to it at this very moment by people expecting them to be polite, pretty girls who aren’t aware of inequality. Those girls were, what, maybe seven or eight years old? In just a few years, men will be ogling them as they walk down the street. School administrators will send them home if their tank top straps are too narrow. They’ll feel pressured to lose their virginity, then labelled mercilessly when they do. And they are the lucky ones. We are the lucky ones – we can vote, run for office, marry who we want, and have sex without getting pregnant.
But worldwide, there is indeed a war on women. In Iran, a woman has been sentenced to a year in prison for trying to attend a volleyball game as a spectator. Girls in Nigeria are being regularly kidnapped and sold off as child brides. In Saudi Arabia, one of this country’s strongest allies, women can’t go to school, travel, or even seek medical attention without permission from a man. In parts of Africa, genital mutilation on young girls is common. Pakistani authorities look the other way when women are murdered in “honor killings.” And all over the world, girls and women are being bought and sold as sex slaves. Seriously? Do we exist in a Margaret Atwood novel? It makes me sort of sick to my stomach.
These are the stories that keep me up at night, although I can’t do much about them other than stay informed and be aware and write about them. But I can be vigilant about the battles women face right here in my community, from unequal pay to sexist expectations. In this family, we don’t tell our daughters to “act more ladylike” and we don’t tease our son about (insert activity – throwing a ball, running, crying) “like a girl.” I don’t make my girls dress girly, and I’m not freaked out by my son’s long hair. Also, around here, anybody can burp and fart, not just the boys. And I can vote for politicians who won’t waste time talking ABOUT WHEN MY DAUGHTERS CHOOSE TO HAVE KIDS. I try not to patronize businesses I deem demeaning to women, and I do my best to support the women in my circle. It’s a start.
Also, I don’t give a shit if my children curse, though it’s best if they do it quietly, and not in front of their schoolteachers. Sometimes a little emphatic profanity can take the edge off a bad moment. I never was a fucking princess, anyway.