'C-word one of the few that still shocks'


“We were allowed seven c**ts, but only two of them could be aggressive c**ts.”

Where would that sort of attitude leave the Premiership – or politics? Short of staff, one might think.

Ken Loach has been rattled by the British Board of Film Classification’s approach to his new film, The Angels’ Share. The British director had to remove several uses of the C-word in order to meet the quota of seven and bag a more audience-inclusive 15 certificate. How he argued the subtle difference between the two “aggressive” and five “non-aggressive” c***ts, one can only wonder. The film is set in Glasgow, where c**ts are common, they say, so maybe it wasn’t that hard.

Last Saturday Paul Laverty, writer of Loach’s whisky heist movie, told the audience at Dublin’s Irish Film Institute that “You wee c**t’ is often a term of endearment” in Scotland’s second city. Laverty writes tight, but Loach’s use of real people with little acting experience and lots of spirit allows for a free exchange of views about delivery, and off-piste excursions into a rich vernacular seam. Most of the c**ts were not in the script, Laverty said.

“There are many films they have given a 15 certificate to that I think are full of pornographic violence or racism or cruelty that is not fit for 15-year-olds, and they show that with no problem at all, so I think there is tremendous hypocrisy,” Laverty said at the recent Cannes festival, where The Angel’s Share picked up the Prix du Jury.

He has a point.

I thought I had fine-tuned a feminist response to the blanket use of my genitals as a term of abuse. It was all sorted. The C-word was “out” as an insult, but maybe “in” as a reclaimed word to describe my lady bits. But then the sheer trembling power of the word, a word so offensive it can cost a movie millions in lost revenue, proved too hot to handle.

After years of losing the plot if some c**t used the word in my presence, especially someone without a c**t of their own, I reintroduced it to my lexicon. And there it stayed until I finally faced the fact that I was using a quite useful and totally inoffensive part of my own body on a regular basis to describe Luis Suarez. The music died.

I should have known I was playing with fire. C**t “is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock,” Germaine Greer has said. Too f**king right, Germaine, and not bad for a word that finds its earliest recorded origins in 1230.

Über-feminist Andrea Dworkin described the word as reducing women to “the one essential – ‘c***: our essence ... our offence’”. And she is also right. The word is a distillation of womanhood used to describe unmentionable filth. Filthy, dirty, unmentionable women and their bloody, uncontrollable, life-giving bits.

It’s a frightening thing, a c**t. In some parts of the world they cut off the pleasure-giving areas with a blade; in others they drive you to use a blade to remove your post-pubescent hair. C**ts are to be controlled. And one way to keep them dirty and unmentionable is to use their name as a dirty, unmentionable insult.

Maybe Loach and Laverty have made a timely point. If use of the C-word is offensive on the big screen; pornographic, unreconstructed, disempowering images of women are just as bad. The film industry can restrict the number of c***ts in a movie, but it needs to stop using women to flash the flesh on screen and flesh out their parts. You can insert your own double entendres at your leisure, but the discussion needs to be had.

As for Luis Suarez. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I have found a replacement C-word. If anyone’s genitals are going to be used to describe Luis Suarez, they will be his own.

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