We couldn’t blame Samantha Bee, either. In fact, this moment made such an impression on us that we decided to gather a literary anthology in response and protest. It became Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology.
Is Maryanne Trump Barry embarrassed by these leaks? Hopefully she feels unburdened. The only shame is silence, when fellow human beings suffer.
From the Introduction:
The country was in an uproar: the air was saturated with images of crying children, torn from their mothers and fathers, kept in cages. Stunned parents were paraded for the cameras so we saw them as criminals, less than, other. Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy was a disaster. It seemed a reasonable expectation that his daughter Ivanka, an Assistant to the President who occasionally posed as an advocate for families, might help to clean the mess. But, instead, she posted a shockingly tone-deaf photo of herself with one of her kids wrapped tight in her arms. Samantha Bee called her a feckless cunt.
Suddenly, the cruelty at our border was lost among clutched pearls and shrieks of disingenuous outrage: Samantha Bee said a bad word! The worst word.
Cunt—or, as it is whispered by many otherwise mature adults, “the c-word”—is that word you keep in your back pocket. It is the one word you never, ever say…until you do. Then, the shock of cunt is a weapon. Forbidden so long, it takes on an almost holy significance.
Cunt is a complicated word because its power is held by those who benefit from gender oppression. There is a reason why the words for female genitalia make us gasp and cringe. Samantha Bee was scolded by some of the same pundits and politicians who helped lower the bar to the dirt for acceptable Presidential behavior. But it was when Donald Trump tweeted that Bee should be fired for her “horrible” language that my brain, fully engorged with rage, burst from my skull and squished down the street in search of a fight. I could not take one more day of it: the hypocrisy. The gleeful hate. The false equivalencies. The violent displays of white supremacy and misogyny. The greed. Trump’s smug, petty ignorance. We had all heard him admit to sexual assault, right? Although he said pussy, not cunt. It was not that this moment of hypocrisy and “outrage” was worse than all the others. But it was a moment of ENOUGH.
I posted a call for lean, furious, feminist responses to this moment in the resistance. I gave a tight deadline: July 4, an invitation to declare independence from the petty, patriarchal bullshit. My Inbox became a collective scream.
In 2019, my writing did not make any “Best Of” or “Favorite” year-end lists. I wasn’t expecting it to. I did write a fair amount—less than I should’ve. But my writing brought me to some singular experiences this year, opportunities to read intensely personal work in front of larger audiences than I’d encountered until now. I started the Desert Split Open Mic in an effort to continue the conversation started by 2018’s Feckless Cunt Anthology. Every month I wrote something for it, and a few pieces were published. I planned literary events for Joshua Tree Pride, participated in a staged reading of a friend’s novella-in-verse, helped plan two events celebrating composer and poet Lou Harrison, and more. A few times each month, it seems, I found myself standing before a microphone as myself. Did I forget to mention that I’m an introvert?
As 2019 limps to its overdue end (just me?), I feel overwhelmed by exhaustion. It was a tough year, personally, and that’s part of it. But the truth is, I was busy. So busy that I forgot some stuff by the time those year-end lists cropped up. Gathering these photos, I realized that almost everything here required me to step beyond my comfort zone. No wonder I’m tired!
Most writers labor on without much if any external appreciation. We open our veins for the page and—maybe—get an acceptance or a “Like” or word of praise. Sometimes that’s enough, that small acknowledgment from a reader: “Yes. For me, too.” But, in the quiet between acknowledgements, it’s important to remind yourself that you are amazing. You are doing the work and, sometimes, it’s good! Thank you for indulging me as I reminded myself. Wishing you health, happiness, and—most importantly—hope in 2020.
I get it. Some of you are uncomfortable with the word “cunt.” You certainly don’t want to hear it said aloud. You don’t even want to see it written, each letter just sitting there, brazen, unashamed, like a naked body sprawled across the floor you have to step over and can’t avoid:
C U N T.
Here’s the thing: I’m not sorry. I won’t apologize for Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology. I will not tiptoe around your discomfort. I will not even soften it by inserting asterisks where letters belong. Although, of course, I realize that some people and publications will require asterisks, I will never use them. Words are powerful, yes. If a word makes you uncomfortable, look at it harder. Your discomfort is the point. If you’re not a member of a marginalized group that has had “cunt” used to oppress you: YOU DON’T GET A SAY. If it has been used against you, I’m sorry. And, also: I think you’re going to want to read this book. These 35 fierce contributors have the guts to confront this word, and—more importantly—the sexist culture that defined and weaponized it. These contributors take back “cunt.” They take control of the narrative of our own lives.
The 52 lean, feminist pieces collected here (poems and very short prose) don’t back away from controversy. They run headlong toward what we’ve been told not to say, think, be. They reject the patriarchal idea that we’re forbidden to speak the words used against us. I invite you to join us.
It’s okay if you’re not ready. But do not ask me to spend time and energy explaining or excusing myself. The time for that sort of endless, unpaid, emotional labor by women is over. Read Feckless Cunt to understand why I think it is not only okay but necessary to write and say
C U N T
as many times as it takes to change the world, a little. You do not have to listen. You do not have to stay in this room where C U N T is sprawled across the floor. I just ask that you let us speak and write and confront what needs confronting. I am not afraid of words or your disapproval. I am afraid of losing my freedom of speech—an understandable fear, I think, considering how the current administration makes daily noise against the free press and dissent. Speak now or forever…better yet, listen: Feckless Cunt will be out soon. I will let her have the final say, without asterisks or apologies.