I am spanish, and in Spain we use the word coño without too much concern, although it doesn't mean the same. I guess our "coño" is not dissimilar to "shit" in terms of the use, maybe "fuck" or "for fuck sake", which is rude, but doesn't make anyone grasp and look at you as if you just did something horrendous.
- "Coño, date prisa" (for fuck sake, hurry up)
- "De que coño estás hablando?" (what the fuck are you talking about?)
- "Coño, ya volvemos a llegar tarde" (shit, we are late again)
I never realised how bad the 'C' word was in English, until I came to live to UK; by then I probably never even knew about the word itself, that much is secretly kept in a box of shame.
It was quite surprising for me. A friend was gossiping about someone else who had used "the C word", I didn't know what that word was, but by the faces of everyone else I could easily understand that it was something really big. When I asked for further clarifications, they had to whisper it to me, probably wondering if saying it, even in that context, would mean that they too would be put on social trial. I guess I didn't make their work easier when I asked what it was, just to find out that it was the vulva, but it didn't mean vulva, it meant, literally "the worst possible insult you can ever say to anyone".
Wow. The worst insult you can call to anyone in the English language, to the point of being treated as "that who shouldn't be named" was cunt. Vulva. Pussy. I did certainly have lots of thoughts about it. Nothing really deep, just the confirmation, once again, that the language is another tool of the patriarchy.
It is true that dick is also an insult, or cock, but surely everyone would rather be a dick than a cunt. I am not native, but that much I got. Also, I never heard anyone talking about "the D word" as some sort of secretive message. Also you would definitely want to be ballsy, but not a pussy. (even if in real life a pussy is much stronger and resilient than balls and that is not disputable).
In spanish being a "coñazo" (boring) sucks, but it is great to be "cojonudo" (cojones = rude way to say testicles). Being "la polla" (rude way to say penis) is the ultimate compliment. A male fox means smart, a female fox means slutty (wtf!?). Language is misogynistic, society is misogynistic, we can't be surprised that coloquial language is too.
I have taken the time to research about the origin of the word cunt, there is a really empowering explanation and one that's a bit more practical and less exciting. I leave the links there for those of you curious about it, but whatever the real truth is, at the end of the day we all know (I do now) what it really means and the effect it causes when used. And that is what matters.
I am a big follower of Aileen Quinn, the amazing woman behind Tinder Translators, and I loved her dissemination of the use of the word and its feminist implications. Apart from her very logical admiration of the way it sounds (with a plosive sound), a small but needed stop in the transphobic implications and great comparatives about how insults are not meant to be literal (fuck Boris definitely is not a hope of him getting laid, or how wanker is an insult but self pleasure is great) she finishes on an important point: people are scared of the word because of the big taboo around women's sexuality; If you don't like to use it, don't, that is perfectly fine and of course that doesn't make you any less feminist, but it doesn't make you any more feminist either.
Another of those fascinating crossroads of feminism, those moments in which in the name of feminism we can defend one thing, and the opposite, truly believing that it is the obvious way. I say that even if we're just questioning what we believe, why we do so, and where it comes from, that counts as a win.
I don't use the word cunt at all, just because English is not my main language and we learn by imitation and because very few people use it just doesn't come to mind when I need to swear (and I swear a lot!). But I am fascinated about the effect it provokes, that enough probably made me be a bit of a fan. I guess cunts are still controversial after all.