Misery Loves Company: This is Offensive

parental advisory

Recently we had a pretty big disagreement at Heave Media. Lines were drawn, and I found myself a one man army the face of what I considered to be an overly sensitive knee jerk reaction to “obscenity”. Twice in the same day I had an article pulled because of obscenities. I was given two choices; self censor the article and change the intended message or post a disclaimer and turn off potential readers.

Let me be perfectly clear, dear reader. I really hope that you find my articles entertaining and thoughtful. My writing style reflects my personality. Sometimes I use profanity to shock you into thinking, sometimes I use it to give you a good laugh, and sometimes, for the ladies, I use it to perpetuate my bad boy image. However, as much as I love you, I have to tell you that when reading my articles I reserve the right to draw the line at what I want to say. You, my friends, do not have the right to NOT be offended (or apparently wade through poor grammar). If you are the type of person who would be offended by certain words or euphemisms, please do not read my article.

The issue we ran into here at Heave was with the word “cunt” in an article about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secret baby. Upon getting some negative feedback from a few readers, my article was pulled by the Culture Editor, Ryan Peters.

This is an artist rendering of what Ryan Peters may look like.

Here is the first email I received from Ryan, to let me know I had “crossed a line”: “So Everett’s article was really funny and actually kind of sweet at the end today. I really enjoyed it. But E, at one point you wrote: “Whore + Liar = Total Cunt.” More than a few people brought it up to me today to say they thought it was offensive, and I actually kind of agree. I don’t think it’s that much different than a term like “faggot.” I know you didn’t mean it like that at all, but I just think it probably isn’t appropriate to drop the C-bomb. I’m going to change it to something else, but that’s just so that we don’t turn off potential readers. Everett, I don’t want to censor you or anything, especially when your articles have been so great, but I think this needs to be changed.”

And then I received this email from co owner and Musician’s Liaison, Amy Dittmeier: “Cunt is offensive to ALL women, regardless of character. It’s a really good article and I enjoyed it…up until that line. Then I couldn’t get over that word and just stopped reading. I agree that we shouldn’t censor our articles. A certain amount of profanity is fine. But when you throw down words like “cunt” and “faggot” I feel that a writer’s work can lose all credibility.”

In response to the negative feedback we made a deal to change the “offensive line” and allow me to publicly respond via this article. So, this is going to be a slightly different MLC than you are used to, but we’ll be back on track with our “playlist’s for jerks” next week.

Thank god they don’t have pitchforks!

First of all I have to say this, offensive comedy is completely subjective. In my previous articles I have written terms such as “dickwad”, “asshole”, “beaner” and “bitch”. I’ve even written articles in support of euthanizing the elderly, and lambasting Christianity. All of those articles could be deemed as highly offensive to certain people. In fact, my article on the “2011 rapture” brought in the most views has ever gotten, and was extremely offensive to fundamentalist Christians. So, why would the word “cunt” be so offensive that and article would have to be pulled from the website? Simply put, it’s because everyone has a different level of what is acceptable and what they consider obscene. I received just as much negative feedback for “the rapture” article as I did for “Arnold’s Baby Mama Drama”. Why didn’t that article get pulled? Because it didn’t cross the line of “offensive material” that our editors toe, and that line is arbitrary.

More bitching after this quick bunny break.

I don’t write articles for people who have arbitrary lines of “offensive terminology”, and although I do include a lot of toilet humor in my articles, it is done with intention to provoke thought. When I used the term “cunt” to describe Arnold’s mistress, it was not a knock on women everywhere; it was in response to what I believed to be strongly inappropriate behavior by the one woman in question. The women I write for are strong enough, and intellectual enough to understand that the action of one woman doesn’t represent the entire female population. Therefore, the terminology used to describe the woman doesn’t reflect upon the entire female population. How could the term possibly be “offensive” to women everywhere?

As for comparing “cunt” to “faggot”…that is absolutely ridiculous. One word is used to describe one person whose actions are unconscionable and the other is used as a word of hate to repress an entire group of people with an attraction to the same sex. One term is used to label an individual based on their actions, and the other is used to label a group of people for being born the way they are. It’s not even remotely the same thing.

How’d this picture get into an article about the C-word?

I write for people who understand that words are just words. I take real issue with people who would censor, or otherwise, make a scene about offensive material, especially when they become champions of other types of “offensive comedy”. Friend of Heave, and offensive comedian, Doug Stanhope said it best in an article about a woman who heckled a comedian because she thought his comedy was too offensive: “Everyone instead questioned good taste versus bad or free speech against common decency, yet all of this responsibility is heaped on to the shoulders of the comedians and none on a random audience member who – for the price of a ticket – can wander into a dark room, stir up a ruckus and blend back into the sofa never to be heard from again.”

This is why I chose to write this article today. It’s because I love the fans of my article. They know that sometimes we have to make fun of real life hard to discuss topics like rape, cancer, disabilities, natural disasters, and even impending raptures. Does this mean I’m a heartless bastard who is incapable of being empathetic to my fellow brothers and sisters? No, it does not. By laughing at difficult subjects it takes a little bit of the sting out of life. Sometimes when life gets tough, or find ourselves in tough situations, we need to laugh. Many people have a pet issue that they feel is taboo to discuss, make jokes about, or make light of, but those issues are different for everyone else. If we tried to cater to everyone’s pet issue do you think any funny or entertaining articles would be written? So instead of censoring how about we all just lighten up a little bit? Cool?

  • Anonymous

    As a footnote to this article, I love Ryan and Amy to death.  This is all in good fun, and we thought we would share some of our inner drama with the class. 

  • Tomo

    I’m not sure I understand your defining terms for the use of the word “cunt.” You say you used it to describe it for someone’s actions that were unconscionable. But would you use this word to describe something a man did? In American culture the word “cunt” is engendered towards the female sex. If we were in the UK someone might use it towards a man but in America that does not happen. Which is why I think your editor was trying to compare it to the word “faggot.”

  • Ryan P

    I’m glad Everett took the time to write this article, and since we are bringing it up publicly, I’d also like to respond here, briefly, with a few points:

    1. Everett’s not the only one who writes things which can be construed as offensive by any number of readers. In my weekly “Ups and Downs” columns I’ve used a myriad of obscenities with the potential to offend. In a different capacity, as the Editor-in-Chief of a student newspaper at North Central College, I won a series of awards from the Illinois College Press Association for an editorial I wrote defending the use of the word “nigger” in an article describing an instance of hate crime vandalism on campus. I’m not afraid to offend, or court controversy, and I think anyone familiar with my writing here could attest to that fact. 

    2. The issue, in this case, is that being offensive merely for the sake of being shocking. Everett makes the claim that he uses obscenities to challenge the way that readers think, and more often than not, I think he is successful in doing so. But successful satire, regardless of the language that it uses, requires sophistication, I remain firm in my belief that there is nothing particularly sophisticated about calling someone a “cunt.”

    3. Tied to my second point is another issue that Everett raises, which is that our editorial or ethical standards are arbitrary — that we allow some potentially offensive things on the cite, while reacting strongly (overreacting, to Everett’s mind) to others. in all honestly, I think that Everett is partially correct and partially incorrect. The poster “Tomo,” in his above comment, makes the point quite well: “Cunt” is derogatory to all women (regardless of whether or not all women are actually offended by the term or not in a given instance) because it implicitly suggests that the character or behavioral flaw it accuses someone of possessing or enacting is specifically tied to their sex — that they are a cunt because they have one, so to speak. You wouldn’t call a man a “cunt,” and if you did, it wouldn’t make much sense. In this way, I think the comparison to the term “faggot” is warranted — both terms are broadly derogative, and not specific of any particular critique. Now, I think Everett might respond by pointing out that we have previously allowed terms “dick” (as in, “Man, that guy was a dick!”) in articles on the site without ever raising a fuss. And in as much as “cunt” is specific to women, “dick” is specific to men. This is true, and it would indeed seem like an instance of political correctness to choose to be offended by one and not the other. But as editors of a site read by a wide variety of people, we also have a responsibility to be aware of the cultural context in which particular words exist, and the truth is that “dick” is largely a socially accepted term — the FCC even allows network sitcoms to use the word. “Cunt” on the other hand, is perhaps the last taboo term we really have in our society. And while I’m not opposed to using the word period, I think their needs to be a pressing need for its use, and in the case of Everett’s article, I don’t believe that it was warranted. A different article from Everett, in which he lambastes fundamentalists Christians could potentially offend, but it was also intelligent and made a strong argument. I don’t feel the same way about the sentence in question here. You can have a provocative debate about the use and acceptance of sex-specific slang in society, but ignoring the social context of a word in order to shock someone to a conclusion isn’t so much edgy as it is ineffective. 

    4. Lastly, if we’re talking about editorial standards, part of the issue is that Arnold’s mistress and his previously-unknown child are not public figures. In fact, for more than a decade they kept quiet about information that they could have easily used to extort money and fame. Even now, with the intense focus on the story, they have avoided doing any interviews or courting attention. Critiquing public officials and fame-seeking morons is one thing, calling a private citizen — one who clearly values her family’s privacy — a “cunt” is another.

    As Everett said, we all love each other, and this is just an instance in which we disagree. As ever, I’m looking forward to Everett’s next article, which I’m sure will be funny and challenging, as always.   

    • Ryan P

      I wrote this response on my phone, by the way. So please forgive the spelling errors and transposed words — autocorrect doesn’t much like long responses. 

    • Anonymous

      See what I mean people, he’s pure evil. 

    • Anonymous

      I do have a couple of issues with what you were saying here.  First, that its fine to overlook the word dick because its socially acceptable, and we have to censor the word cunt because its taboo.  

      Sometimes men think that women aren’t strong enough to handle hearing a word that they may deem as offensive.  Some men, like Ryan (and I’ve been guilty of it too) feel some sort of primal need to protect women.  This is far from the case.  In fact, most of the positive responses I’ve gotten for using the word cunt, and for the defense of the word cunt, come from women.  It’s extremely sexist to think that using the word dick is cool, but using the word cunt is taboo.

      You also make a statement defending the woman who Arnold slept with.  First of all, like blocking women from seeing the word cunt, trying to defend this woman is completely sexist.  She lied to Maria, a woman who gave her and her family employment, bought them gifts, and showed them a lot of love.  She also lied to her child, and her husband about the real identity of the child’s father.  She single handedly destroyed the lives of three people with lies and deceit.  Why is she keeping private?  Because she is in fact a cunt.  No need to be her hero Ryan.  She deserves the title.

  • BWR

    As for comparing “cunt” to “faggot”…that is absolutely ridiculous. One word is used to describe one person whose actions are unconscionable and the other is used as a word of hate to repress an entire group of people with an attraction to the same sex. One term is used to label an individual based on their actions, and the other is used to label a group of people for being born the way they are. It’s not even remotely the same thing.

    Actually, “cunt” means “vagina”. Its literal meaning is female genitalia. That is why using it to mean “one person whose actions are unconscionable is offensive. If it makes it clearer to you, what you wrote was:

    “Whore + Liar = Total Vagina.”

    I mean, I don’t think you have to censor yourself, but I think you’re not a very good writer if you honestly can’t understand why women might find that offensive.

    • Anonymous

      You would be correct in your assumption that I am not a very good writer, but I do understand why SOME women would get offended by the use of the word cunt.  There are two points I’m making…1. I don’t care if I offend people.  You have no right NOT to be offended.  2. Lighten up.

      More women were pissed about missing out on a good cunt joke, than they were about reading the word cunt.  Who do I cater too?  The answer is neither.  I write what I like, and if you don’t like it read something else.

    • Anonymous

      And for the record, cunt isn’t limited to referring to the vulva.

      Cunt is also used informally as a derogatory epithet in referring to a person of either sex, but this usage is relatively recent, dating back only as far as the late nineteenth century.[3] Reflecting different national usages, the Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines cuntas “an unpleasant or stupid person”, whereas Merriam-Webster has a usage of the term as “usually disparaging & obscene: woman”,[4] noting that it is used in the US as “an offensive way to refer to a woman”;[5] the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English defines it as “a despicable man”, however when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in countries such as Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it conveys a positive sense of the object or person referred to.So one could have also used, “Whore+Liar=Unpleasant or Stupid Person”

    • Amy D.

      The definition of “cunt” always gets me. People use the word to degrade someone and don’t think of the meaning. It’s the same thing when someone uses the word “pussy” or even “wuss.” It’s all American slang terms for female genitalia. The only slang term for penis we have are dick and cock, which some people take proudly as a moniker. Being cocky can be a good thing. Being a pussy never is.

  • Aylofft Dustin

    I’m not easily offended. I am very secure in my skin, and proud of how I live my life. I find censorship in general to be a weak defense to one’s own insecurity. If seeing the word cunt or faggot makes you lash out at it’s author then you may in fact be showing everyone your fear of being as such. As a gay man I personally find the word faggot to be refreshing. I find that if you take a word that is meant to bring you grief and take ownership in it, then that word loses its power to hurt. If your offense to something incites you to create your own intelligent rebuttal, then more power to you. However, if you think your offense to a curtain subject should be recognized with censorship then shame on you. Who are you to tell me that I shouldn’t enjoy a light hearted article which is clearly written to entertain? As a fan of poetry and music I find the idea of censorship absurd. How can someone tell an artist that they can not or should not use a word?Rhyming and prose is important in music and the arts. Being that there are not a lot of signal syllable words to describe a vagina and/or an asshole, I find cunt very necessary. Are you saying the Queers shouldn’t preform their song My Cunt’s a Cunt,or that the Happy Mondays Some Cunt from Preston should be deemed offensive to all females. As well I find the use of cunt in cinema very poignant. The scene in Total Eclipse, were Arthur Rimbaud played by Leonardo DiCaprio, tells off his lover shamefully returning after an argument bearing a fish for dinner, is perfectly summed up by the use of the line, “god you look such a cunt…” Furthermore, Justin Bond could not have been more descriptive and frank in Short Bus when he touts, “she’s got a cunt like a wizards sleeve.” I understand that in the workplace we have to censor ourselves and be respectable to others. I can’t very well go around my place of employment telling costumers that it’s completely selfish that they blow second hand smoke in my face all day or that I find it sad that they would rather spend their deposable income on silly games of chance rather then maybe giving that aid to people in need. Because first of all it’s none of my business and I’m there to preform a service. If I didn’t find my job rewarding, I could go elsewhere. The same applies to the readers of Everett’s Heave Media articles. If they don’t like the content maybe they should turn away. If Heave Media decides they need to censor their writers then that censorship should be constant and known ahead of time. These are the words we don’t print. But beware, such censorship can make you edgeless and bland. Where do your future interest lay?

  • Jason Bryant
    • Lara

      That book is from 1998 and not a good representation of the way the contemporary feminist community actually thinks of the word “cunt.”  That’s not to say that attempting to reclaim any derogatory word is a bad idea; it’s just that reclaiming “cunt” hasn’t been very successful in the real world.  It remains a word used to shame women, or shame men by implying they are behaving like women–actions which can and have amounted to psychologically damaging and physically dangerous conditions for those being shamed.

      I’m not trying to be snippy or pretend that there aren’t women who don’t mind using or overhearing the word “cunt,” but having worked within the feminist activist community for several years, I can say with some surety that cunt continues to be a demeaning, not empowering, word in the minds of many, many people.

  • dhaab

    I would just like to chime in here and reiterate a point that was made in the article by Everett.  These are just words and only the people who read them can give them more weight than they actually deserve.  This whole debate reminds me of a line that Sarah Silverman used a while ago.  She said that the word “diarrhea” would be a beautiful word if it didn’t mean what it did.  I think that sums it up nicely.  These are all just words and humans simply give them much more impact than they truly deserve.

  • Anonymous

    Words have power that WE assign them. I’m a woman who enjoys using the word cunt. When someone refers to me as such, I generally giggle. And the fact that people make such a big deal about using that word, to me is ludicrous. Especially overly critical people who hide behind the “I call it like I see it” persona and are the first to recoil at ANY criticism aimed their way.

  • 4241752033