Donald Trump is a dick. Is there a legitimate reason for outrage in this diss? Should there be? The guy who cut me off this morning is a dick. I saw a picture the other day of a trio of neo-Nazis holding a sign that read ‘White Genocide”. I’m pretty sure they’re all dicks too. According to Merriam-Webster, “dick” is a vulgar reference to the penis and along these same lines means, “a mean, stupid, or annoying man”. In sum, that dude yelling at the cashier because his coupon is expired is mean, stupid, and probably annoying; thus, he’s about as couth as an exposed penis. Hence, he’s a dick. In this construction, the penis represents the most ignorant, myopic, and basest qualities a man can demonstrate. “Dick” is certainly an insult, but I think few people would see its usage as fundamentally undermining those persons who possess dicks. Yup, the term is inappropriate in certain situations, but it’s hardly the cornerstone of umbrage.
So, why can’t Ivanka Trump be a cunt? Merriam-Webster tells me that “cunt” is an obscene term used to describe female genitalia, and that the term is “usually disparaging,” but it does not provide “cunt” with the same sort of definition—mean, stupid, annoying—it provides for “dick”. Why is “cunt” obscene, but “dick” is only vulgar if they both describe the same thing? As the argument goes, to call a woman a cunt is to reduce her to her genitalia, yet it seems that to call a man a dick is to also reduce him to his. Let me take this a step further. Isn’t the mere use of “male” and “female” a reduction of the individual to one’s genitalia? The whole construct of sex, if not gender, seems to be the same distillation.
I assume one point against “cunt,” and the reason it is classified as disparaging and obscene is the way men use it to denigrate other men. I suppose this is a result of the grand tradition in which men and even women believe that the best way to demean other men who demonstrate weakness, fear, or peevishness is to feminize them. A whiny bloke is a bitch, which is a euphemistic way of referring to a mean and withholding woman. A guy who’s afraid of the dark is a pussy, which equates a lack of nerve with women, who apparently lack courage. Essentially, the grand offense—the obscenity—is tied directly to the tired ideas that undergird the sexist constructs that define and distinguish the genders. Under this framework, “cunt” is more obscene because the feminine is more obscene. While men can be dicks, women can’t be cunts because women are denied the potency and control of their own genitals. For example, the naked female form is much more common in media throughout our culture because men dominate the industry. As the preponderance of writers, directors, and producers are men, they exert their power over the female form. Thus, the woman serves the male gaze and loses control over her very person.
If we can call anyone a dick, but no one can be called a cunt, then might we also be reinforcing the very system that weakens the potency of female agency? If references to male genitalia are simply vulgar, then shouldn’t references to female genitalia be as well? True equality for each term means equal opportunity for each to insult mean, stupid, and annoying behavior. Yes, there is a tradition in our culture of men using women to denigrate other men, but we don’t have to give this tradition credence by ignoring all the cunts and recognizing all the dicks. We don’t have to deny to cunts the power we give to dicks. And we certainly shouldn’t pretend we wouldn’t have the saga that is the Trump White House without a bunch of cunts and dicks working to screw us all.