Last week's film, "Dirty Wordy", explores how long it takes for a word to lose it's power and, originally, I was toying with using slurs instead of curse words. But I decided to save the slurs for this week because I felt compelled to comment on the fact that there is a glaring subtext when it comes to slurs:
SOME GROUPS HAVE MANY SLURS. SOME DON'T HAVE ANY.
It's quite possibly the most hypocritical part of modern culture.
It must be said that I made these films from an angle that merely reports an observation I've made about the way culture works. And the way in which we use language to suppress entire groups, while exempting others from being suppressed. I could just as easily have used the amount of racial slurs for white folks versus every other ethnicity as the main theme. Or homosexual slurs vs. heterosexual slurs. But those lists have to stand in awe...AWE!...of the disparity between slurs against females and slurs against males.
First off, there are no slurs that are exclusive to heterosexual men. Any slur against you can only be a slur that is already meant to degrade other groups. "Faggot", for instance, holds a special place in the lexicon of offensive terms for another group. Even "gay" as a slur for a heterosexual person is more degrading for homosexuals than it is for heterosexuals. "Cunt", "douche" and "pussy" are also akin to this.
If you're white, though not totally exempt from slurs, you are much more impervious to them than...well...basically every other race. "Cracker", "Devil" and "Trash" are three words I wouldn't want to be called. But they're pretty much the only three words I can think of that might sting. None of them definitely sting. And "honky"?? Haha...get the fuck out of here.
Males of any race or sexual orientation enjoy the privilege (yes, privilege) of having no clue what it's like to be marginalized just because you're male. Furthermore, males of any race or sexual orientation don't also have benign vocabulary words used against them to paint them in a harsh light.
For instance...if you're male, consider the impact of someone calling you "aggressive". If you're an aggressive guy, you're usually termed an "alpha male", which places you in the ultimate position of dominance. "Aggressive woman" is really just a euphemism for "bitch".
Guys, ever have a woman refer to you as "easy"? Or a "piece of ass"? Or "slut"? If a woman called me a slut in front of my friends, I'd get a giant pat on the back and someone would probably buy me a shot.
Here are some others for the men:
Ever been called a "ball and chain"? Or how about a "kept man"? Or a "househusband"? Anyone know any househusbands?
Lots of men work very hard for a living in respectable fields. Are they "career men"?
Am I a "career man"?
Dads...if you had a nickel for every time you were called a "working father", you'd probably have exactly zero cents. But then again, you wouldn't need the money because you're just a person that goes to work...who happens to have children. You aren't defying other people's expectations of your fatherhood just by going to work.
A few other things I learnt:
1. There are some words on the list that I personally don't think hold enough weight to be slurs. Like "feisty" or "hysterical". Certainly not up there with "twat" or "skank". Unless you said "feisty twat"? I don't know...seriously though, I wanted to make these from a purely objective stance. I'm also not in a position to tell people what they should or shouldn't be offended by. So they stayed in.
2. Slurs have a really long shelf life. People still use "broad", "dame" and "Jezebel". When was the last time you said "dame" when you weren't referring to Judy Dench?
3. Some of these words actually are funny. Though still offensive, "bridezilla" can be pretty on point when used appropriately.
4. There are A LOT of words meant to marginalize a woman that are seemingly harmless until you flip the script and use them to describe a man. Take "ditzy", for example. Let's use it in a sentence:
- "Dammit! My ditzy secretary must have forgotten to send you the invite!"
- "Your dad is strong but, man, is he ditzy!"
Doesn't really work does it?
5. Some words require context in order for them to be bad. For example, if you walk into the house after a long day of work and your young daughter runs up to you and jumps into your arms. You might lovingly exclaim, "Hey sweetie!". Versus if you're standing on a street corner and yelling "Hey sweetie!" at a complete stranger as she does her best not to look your way. Same sentence, different context.
On the flip side of all of this, I do think the "they're only words" argument does hold some water. It's true that words can only hurt you as much you allow them to. It's just that the list of words that can be used as weapons against a female versus the non-existance of such a list for men is the real issue.
For those who let words and name-calling get them down, I'll leave you with this great bit from Richard Pryor about the word "nigger":