Being a pussy is not what it used to be

By Christopher Cudworth

kill-bill-vol-1-originalWalking out of the health club after a weight workout last night, I overheard a friend call across the parking lot to a young man entering XSport.

“Diego’s a pussy,” he teased.

His friend laughed and they met at the door for a fist bump before heading in to lift weights.

The comment struck me. Guys have teased each other about being “pussies” for as long as I can remember. All the way back to middle school, the worst thing you could be called was a pussy. It meant you weren’t man enough to stand up to competition. Or it meant you quit when the going got tough. It was the worst of insults to be called a pussy.

But it’s funny to consider the term is still being used after all these years. Hasn’t the frame of reference changed when it comes to such terminology?

Like a girl 

marathonersBeing a “pussy” once meant you acted “like a girl” in competitive situations. It used to mean that actually having a pussy, to use a coarse and colloquial term for a woman’s vagina, meant you were one.

Once upon a time, girls really didn’t “do” sports. Not in the sense that guys did sports. Girls didn’t know how to throw and catch, shoot hoops or ride a bike at 30 miles an hour. Only tomboys did that, and that came with its own vacuous accusations about the sexuality of a girl who liked to do things that guys do. To be called a lesbian is still a term used with disdain in some quarters.

Over time that really has changed. The days of worrying that a woman’s uterus will fall out if she runs a marathon are over, and girls who compete in sports are no longer labeled “tomboys.” But certainly there’s still some patent ignorance about women’s bodies going on. It plays out in the news every day it seems.

Ignorance on the run

More than one politician has shown misogyny in their worldview with attitudes about rape, abortion and the simple act of birth control. A simple survey from the website politicsusa.com (a liberal political site) reveals a wide range of dumb statements about women.

Take for example the statements of Ken Buck about rape: “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse … It appears to me … you invited him over… the appearance is of consent.” –October 2010 

And then there’s the inimitable Clayton Williams, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

We should not forget the brilliant insight of one Todd Akin, whose knowledge of the female anatomy appears to start somewhere outside the pussy and end there as well. He said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down” – mid 2012 Senate Campaign.

Let us not forget the attacks leveled on Sandra Fluke by the king misogynist Rush Limbaugh, who accusingly stated that he believed she was having so much sex she could not afford birth control, and that the government should not subsidize her sex life?

Limbaugh later was forced to apologize in order to avoid the appearance of a bully and an idiot. But the point was already made.

On weakness

f6a3e3f03e432600_178369404.previewWith attitudes like that floating around, and plenty more to back them up, it is perhaps no surprise the term “pussy” is still a popular derogatory term for women and “being weak.”

But then perhaps we should turn it around and accept that some men simply seem to have dick for brains.

In any case, there now appear to be more women runners than men in the United States. Each has taken control of the health and fate of her own body in a healthy, positive activity that helps everything from weight management to self empowerment. As a result women are changing the reference point on everything about the female body. Men have been forced to recognize women as their equals on the athletic front.

Hard and fast

One learns that lesson the hard way when you make any sort of assumptions about the power and ability of women to compete and enjoy athletics. My own experience of trying to tag along when two strong women cyclists passed me on a country road brought the lesson home all over again. Both these people were good riders. They traded pulls on the front at more than 23 mph on the flat and climbed hills at a rate that found me standing on the pedals to keep up. Then they rode even faster, topping 26 mph while I gasped and hammered for miles in their wake. Finally they eased away and I was forced to ride along on my own. I’d gotten dropped, in other words. I saw them glance back while rounding a term and could not help wondering if they did not mutter the word I would have least like to hear at that moment.

“Pussy.”

Turnabout is fair play

Women have perhaps earned the right to wield that term as a threat and an insult. For decades women have put up with derogatory comments about their anatomy. Even a favorite cycling term for Time In The Saddle adds up to the word TITS. The sexual undertones of such terms are common in the sports world. Yet each as it is exposed seems to wane away. Mixed company and looking like a macho dork in the company of female athletes will do that.

It’s somewhat the same with the racial term nigger, which is being turned inside out. A generation of comedians and other social commentators have determined to own the word nigger by using it aggressive verve, dismissing its discriminatory history in a tarsnake of social irony.

149912104.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeOn many fronts we really are witnessing a quiet revolution of social change. Of course it is being resisted on many fronts by people who abhor change. But what’s the alternative to social progress, going back to a time when it was acceptable to go around calling everyone pussies and thinking nothing of it? Women have emphatically disproved such assumptions. Yet old and odd habits persist. Gross traditions die hard.

Let us consider that the term pussy is used almost interchangeably with the term “fag” for someone who is considered effeminate or weak. It stands to reason that the same groups of people who seem to have trouble understanding the real strength of female anatomy would have an even harder time understanding a sexual orientation that is not the same as their own. They are threatened by such notions, especially fearful when the “other” shows strength of purpose and resolve for equal rights.

That’s true for both women and for homosexuals. But things continue to change. The history and leanings of an obsessively patriarchal society seemed indomitable just a few years ago. Now those social structures are changing. Yet people cling to anachronistic worldviews including religious views that have long been proven false.

The times they are a changin’

photo (15)But all great social change takes place one footstep at a time. Civil rights marches made the difference in the 60s. And who resisted the changes wrought by such passive empowerment? The very same people who continue to resist positive social change today. For some reason they prefer stubborn adherence to derogatory social dogma and literalistic fervor over granting people different from them the basic rights of citizenship and approval in this world.

A real revolution of terminology and perspective began back in 1967 when one Katherine Switzer dared compete in the Boston Marathon. Since then it has been a growing revolution of women engaged in running, cycling cadence and arm turnover. Every moment made by women contributes to the bigger movement of social change. To deny that is to expose a gross flaw in one’s worldview. Women continue to work for control of their own body image. Even the color pink now stands for empowerment. Perhaps there is no small irony that the word pink is another yet another term for the female anatomy we call pussy. Yet even the big, bad macho world of the NFL is “going pink” on occasion. Redemption happens in strange ways.

Super changes

Cross Country GirlsWe live in a sexually charged society. The big old marketing force that is the NFL knows that better than anyone. Hence the cheerleaders on the sidelines. But now there are female sportscasters who report with knowledge and insight on NFL games. So guess what, there’s no such thing as a pussy anymore. Girls and women have changed all that by taking the lead in their own empowerment as athletes. And more.

There may be still be athletic events where elite men are still superior to women in terms of overall time. The gaps have indeed narrowed and along the way millions of men have learned the important lesson that women can not only pass them by, they can literally leave them in the dust.

So who’s the pussy now?

That’s not what it’s all about of course. Sure, the kidding can be fun and women can be just as tough with their insults as men. The term “pussy” is not likely to go away anytime soon. It’s been commodified in a post-post-modern context, applying not to gender per se, but to weakness in general. At the point where it is turned back on the original perpetrators it is probably no longer politically incorrect. But we’ll see.

By any measure, being pussy just isn’t what it used to be. And that’s a good thing.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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