Saturday, April 6, 2013

Skepchick loves the d-word

Some time ago, Tim Minchin asked a question about the "c-word":

Obviously this warranted a response from the Skepchick herself:

It seems apparent there is a disconnect about what the c-word means around the world.

One thing seemed odd - don't SkepChicks like to throw the word "dick" around?

If you do a search for the d-word on their website, you get all sorts of hits.

There is even a letter to Richard Dawkins that starts affectionately "Dear Dick". (It's because his name is Richard, do you get it?!? Ugh...)

Then there is then the articles written by Watson entitled "Don’t Be A Dick" which appears to be a series of at least two parts.

Then we're lead into the holy grail of SkepChick's love of the word "dick"

Post from 2009: "Defending Dick – genitalia, profanity and insults"

Short on time? Read the recap below.

Written by "Elyse":
[...] 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.
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 double standard.
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. 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. 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 are 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 such 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.** 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.
Compared with:
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. 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. 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?
*That is exactly what I mean in this completely hypothetical statement. IRL, I totally heart Rebecca. She pays us in love and candied unicorn poop, and we adore her for it.
**If his manly genitals were controlling him, he’d either be peeing on everything or having sex with everyone he saw… that’s generally not referred to as “being a dick”, but rather “I’m calling security. You’re fired.”

  1. Apparently "dick" and "cunt" are based on character attributes assigned to genitals, with one set having more negative connotations than the other.
  2. "Dick" can be used in various contexts but "cunt" is universally awful.
  3. The term "cunt" is apparently reserved for women.
  4. "Cunt" is particularly offensive in mainstream American culture for reasons not explored, therefore it should not be used.
  5. After analysis of nothing but the author's experience, it has been determined that "cunt" is the most worst thing you could call a woman - nobody is sure if a word of similar weight exists when applied to men but we need not think about it. (maybe it is "angry virgin"?)
  6. "Cunt" is a word that is hateful and venomous, therefore nobody should use it. Unless everyone does use it, then it will not be hateful and venomous, and the author would use it.

This has it all:
  1. Circular reasoning
  2. Subjective arguments
  3. Hypocritical behavior
That's so Skepchick.


  1. Women give that word power when they react and attach a negative connotation. What's worse is that women teach other women that cunt is the worst word a man can call a woman. It's a social construct.

  2. There is no comparable word for men. Women have never used a word to maintain power over men in a completely oppressive way. You can claim circular logic all you want, but while I was being burned and raped I was called a cunt many times. It's not your problem that the word makes me think of that, but know that it does and I'm one of MILLIONS. Are there words like that for men? This is like the tired old defense of using racial slurs. How about we just leave all that behind? Showing sensitivity to the unknown and not-understood is not some kind of terrible surrender or burden.

    1. Can't believe anyone has to say this--and considering the age of the blog post, no one will even read this--but uberfeminist is not advocating the use of the word 'cunt'. Uberfeminist is saying that using the word 'dick' and demonizing 'cunt' is hypocritical.

  3. Like the "n" word, it's up to women to reclaim words like "cunt" and "bitch" and to strip them of their power to hurt us. The Vagina Monologues has a wonderful piece called "Reclaiming Cunt." Personally, I call all of my close friends "bitch," male and female, similar to the way Americans of African descent use the "n" word (eg "Hey bitch! Watcha doin' today, do you want to get some Thai food?"). One only needs to watch an episode of Rupaul's Dragrace to witness how this is done: Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent! Allowing these words to hurt us is what gives them power.