Feminists like to cuss too! But some cuss words are misogynist, some are deliberately feminist, and others are in the process of being reclaimed. What's a feminist to do?
This is a brief field guide to cussing in a feminism-friendly way. User beware - if you piss people off, and say, "But Geek Feminism said I could say that," we'll just laugh at you.
- no slurs or phrases whose derogatory meaning relies on oppressed minorities, historical or current
- no slurs or phrases that are racist or ableist
- no slurs or phrases that rely on body-shaming, sexuality-shaming, kink-shaming, and so on
- that having been said, there is no need to hold back from using terms whose meaning relies on non-oppressed groups ("punching up")
- Douche, douchebag, douchenozzle, etc. - douches are unnecessary tools of the patriarchy
- Cockbiter - instead of cocksucker (or sucking references in general like "that sucks"), which makes the act of giving a blow job shameful. It's worth noting that the swear word is popularized by the web series Red vs. Blue, which has many of the same problems as South Park.
Try to avoid
- Any form of fuck that assumes penetration is a bad thing for the receptive partner
- Flippant references to rape - sexual assault survivors are everywhere, and may particularly not appreciate being reminded of that because someone lost badly at a computer game (for example).
- (Potentially) illegal stuff such as threats of violence (what crosses the border from asshattery to illegal threat varies a lot), slander, libel, hate speech against minority groups
- Incitement to suicide - this is straight-up bullying
- Sexuality-shaming slurs and terms such as slut, bugger, cocksucker, wanker
- Cunt (when referring to things other than female genitals)
- Body-shaming slurs such as fat, ugly, hairy, skin-and-bones, bald...
- Ableist slurs such as crazy, schizo, psycho, retarded, unmedicated, autistic, lame, etc.
- Don't use them directly (e.g. "crazy" for someone with a mental illness)
- Don't use them indirectly (e.g. "lame" for a disappointing night out)
- Be very cautious using them neutrally or positively if you are not part of the group in question (e.g. "crazy" as an intensifier as used by someone without mental illness; "She's crazy talented")
- (if your feminism has room for body-shaming and/or ableism, it's bullshit)
- Misgendering - not for cisgender people, not for transgender people, not for people of any other kind of gender.
- Cuckold & derivatives - this is predicated on a relationship model of subjugation rather than equal partnership, where cheating is not a unilateral violation of relationship agreements by one party, but a failure of the oppressor to adequately oppress.
Reclaiming is done by people who are in the group who are disparaged by the word. If you aren't in the group, it's best to refrain from using it. If you are in the group, use your own best judgement but be aware that continued disparaging use will slow the progress of reclaiming. In any case, use of these terms to offend does not further the goals of reclaiming.
- Cunt - as a term to describe one's genitals, not as a description of a person.
- Queer - community-dependent: some people have enough trauma associated with it to not want to hear it again, even from in-community.
- Loaded racial terms
Open for discussion
- Motherfucker - gender specific, but based on incest taboo rather than patriarchy?
- Fuck in general - has several meanings and usages, some of which are misogynist and some of which are not
- Masturbation - the implication that only losers have to masturbate because winners can get sex whenever they want ties into so much patriarchal bullshit.
- Dick and friends:
- Associates a specific body part with patriarchy-related badness; body-shaming isn't feminist.
- On the other hand, cis men are in power. Perhaps these words will lose their charge when patriarchy is overthrown.
- On the third hand, some women, and some people who don't identify as men or as women, have penises. Associating penises with negative things is potentially damaging to trans women and trans*femme people, who are socially vulnerable (whereas cis men are not). It also has the potential to reinforce the false equivalence between cis male privilege and the possession of a penis.
- On the fourth hand; it's a term to describe someone's genitals, not as a description of a person. Consistency is important, and this should be classified the same as 'cunt', 'pussy', etc.
- Consistency merely based on "this is a genital" that ignores cultural context in which the genitals and their use as synechdoche for the whole person and/or stereotypes associated with those genitals is a mealymouthed shitroomba kind of consistency. Cultural context is important.
- casts patriarchal aspersions on the conduct of (all of) the individual's parents
- refers to a historically disempowered social position (ineligible for inherited power)
- used to describe callous and cruel behavior unrelated to parentage
- can be used to compliment particularly audacious awesomeness, as in "magnificent bastard"
People using these may hurt or affront people with religious beliefs (many of whom are not clearly empowered, although the institution of their belief may be):
- God's teeth
- Christ on a crutch (and variants)
Scatological & bodily secretions
- shat the bed
- shit yourself sideways
- shit hits the fan
- piss off
- piss up a rope
- Smegma (which can affect all mammals with genitals)
Threats & Violence
- explosive, explosively
- step on a lego
- lick a lamppost
- chew a hammer
- chewed up Lego
- useless potato peeling