17 February 2008

f*** this s***

As an editor for a Catholic university-funded newspaper, there are certain things we must be careful about. We get a lot of freedom from the administration, don't get me wrong, but there are certain subject matters that we are forced to be extremely sensitive about... abortion, birth control, alcohol and illegal substance use, etc.

Okay, so no frivolous pieces on the virtues of abortion. Duh.. no responsible journalist would do that anyway.

But one thing that was news to me was that the university has declared war on "naughty words." Two weeks ago, in an interview with Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essman, staff writer Jim Taugher asked Essman for her thoughts on a comment posted on a fan message board that said "I would like to f*** the s*** out of her."

Turns out, this question, which was part of a really interesting interview full of good questions and colorful insights, was viewed by the university as being vulgar and offensive. The Foghorn immediately received e-mails from a prominent university official asking for an explanation and an apology.

Left with few options, we ran an apology the following week, and met with said official to grovel and gain back some of her affection. Shameless, I know.

The point is... what is the point? Oh yeah.. Profanity. The words used in the article were profane, especially in that context -- but that was the point. Besides, they really were implemented tastefully, as Taugher was using the quote to get at an interesting point: how can a strong woman in Hollywood, who doesn't portray herself as a sex toy by any means, deal with that kind of objectification? All in all, a really decent, smart question.

Moreover, these words were used in a direct quote, and they were asterisked out, all which is in line with the AP Style Guide.


On February 14, Jane Fonda appeared on the Today Show to talk about her involvement with the play The Vagina Monologues, and, low and behold, she used the "C-word." And America freaked. And NBC apologized profusely for her "slip-up." And people worried about the poor children who were exposed to this dirty, vulgar, disgusting word over their Cheerios.

The thing is, like The Foghorn incident (am I really comparing The Foghorn with The Today Show? meh...), it really wasn't a slip-up. At least I don't think it was. The word was used in the context of a famous feminist play, so it was obviously not being disrespectful toward women. In fact, one of the whole points of Monologues is to "reclaim" the word cunt from being what the Parents Television Council called "one of the most patently offensive words in the English language."

Bad words... isn't this all very juvenile? The very idea of certain words being "bad" reminds me of junior high school. I thought the stigma associated with these words would disintegrate after eighth grade.

It's things like this that make me want to move to Canada.


Jacob Marx said...

This is really funny because its sort of like a Curbepisode. I don't know if you wantch the show, but its almost spot-on. I agree that cuss words are just words.. to me the word cuss sounds more inappropriate than f*** or s*** or f***in's***. .
Education* seems to be at the core of Jesuit values; its too bad we have to add astericks to anything. I've never been able to figure out the reason for the *abortion, birth control, alcohol and illegal substance use, etc ban


Erik said...

You know what I just realized the other day, is that the word "cooties" probably stemmed from "cooter" as it seems only girls have "cooties" and no one seems to have a problem with it. Either no one has noticed, or we decide that "cooties" sounds cute and therefore it is ok.