Girls Swear and It’s Perfectly Okay…in an idealized, female-empowered world. Of course, that’s not actually the world we live in, is it? Hence, Part II of the Girls Swear and it’s Perfectly Okay blog series. You can read Part I here where I strove to shed light on how a girl can’t swear the same way a guy can without risking likability in both life and in fiction.
Part II, this blog, is dedicated to exploring the impact of withholding access to certain words from girls, which begs the question: is a word just a word? I mean, what’s the harm of asking girls to simply choose to express themselves with other words? Less, ah, offensive words? I mean, one word is just as good as another word, isn’t it?
Hmm……seems like a question for Shakespeare.
It’s a good line, but my favorite part is that first question:
What’s in a name?
Because THIS BLOG, Part II of the series, is about exploring the power of language. For Juliet, a name was not just a name. It was a family feud and an obstacle in the way of her relationship with Romeo. She had two choices: accept all the hatred that was behind the name Montague and abandon Romeo or fight the name Capulet for the right to live and love according to her will.
As for me, I’d like to take a moment to pat Juliet on her tapestried back for having the girl balls to not just ask that question but to fight an oppressive and prejudiced status quo.
To deny women the right to a word is to deny women the right to what the word represents: emotions, beliefs, boundaries. Some words are extremely important. “No” for example. I can’t think of a more important word in the English language or a word women are more culturally conditioned to feel guilty saying…which can lead to significant boundary violations…which can lead a woman to excruciating pain that can most accurately be expressed in such a way that leaves her not only violated but judged for her word choice as well.
Pretty sucky, huh? Yeah. What’s even more sucky is how society tells women in a million subliminal and overt ways to respond when they are wronged:
I find it ironic that while so many four-lettered words are loaded with judgment, this one four-lettered word is encouraged.
“F.I.N.E.” which, according to the Free Dictionary by Farlex, is an acronym for:
- Freaked Out Insecure Neurotic and Emotional
- Feelings Inside Not Expressed
- Frustrated Insecure Neurotic Emotional
- Fertility Information Network [Not only a failed acronym (where’s the e?), but…ewwww!]
- Feeling Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional
- Feeling Inadequate, Needing Encouragement
- Fickle Insecure Neurotic and Emotional
- And…according to Aerosmith: Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional
Notice a common theme? Women who express strong emotions like RAGE when they are wronged are perceived as insecure, neurotic, and in need of encouragement. And who wants to be seen like that? No one, right?
So we deny our anger.
We say we are F.I.N.E.
We hide everything that makes us unique and authentic and powerful beyond belief.
We try to be cool and wind up believing this:
Which seems about as crazy as it gets, but Amy Dunne of Gone Girls explains it so well!
Shaming a young woman who is trying to express her anger at being mistreated because of her word choice is one of the first acts of violence that conditions a woman to be silent when she is used or abused.
Which is why, when I wrote GRAVITY, I gave Ellie and Kate vibrant voices with full vocabularies to speak the entire depth of their pain and anger. I wanted them to be able to say, “I do not allow you to treat me this way. I have worth, regardless of whether you are in my life or not. You may betray me, but I will not betray myself.”
The only thing is….that’s a mouthful for a young woman. Sometimes, often, it comes out in one word: “NO!”
Sometimes, even more often, it comes out in two: “FUCK NO!”
Crass? Slutty? Unfeminine?
I really don’t give a shit.
I’m an author. My job is to translate truth into art.
I’m an advocate. My job is to use my gifts to lift up others when they are down.
I’m an ally. My job is to fight with those who are fighting for equality.
What I AM NOT is someone willing to stand by as the world tells women to conform to quiet politeness while inside they are raging from pain.