A warning to my readers with virgin ears: Today’s post uses obscene and salacious language. Please read at your own risk.
Growing up, I had a cat named Mittens. She was gray with white paws that looked like winter mittens, thus her name. My grandmother called her Cat, Fuzzy Cot and Pussy Cat, but never Mittens. My dad, who did call her by her proper name, also frequently referred to her as a pussy cat, and as a little girl, I, too, labeled many kittens pussy cats. “Josie and the Pussy Cats” was one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons and I even had a Pussy Cats lunchbox one year. But somewhere along the line, I became uncomfortable using that terminology because the “P” word took on a whole new meaning as I grew older and more worldly.
My childhood bestie, my cat and me, c. 1978 — back when it was okay to say pussy cat.
“Don’t be a pussy,” was a pretty common expression used by high school boys when I was growing up (and it still is today). The less vulgar kids used the term ‘wussy’ instead when they wanted to call a guy out for being a wimp, but pussy was definitely tossed around pretty freely and without much blowback. Sure, boys may not have used the phrase in front of adults because it was akin to saying shit or some other minor curse word, but it wasn’t like dropping the “F” bomb … Until it was used to describe a vagina. Then, the word went from being mean and uncouth to lewd and pornographic.
When did pussy develop a double entendre? When did it turn dirty? And who decided anyway? It’s the same as so many other frequently heard foul words used (by men, mostly) to mean vagina. I’m talking about innocent words like beaver, clam, box and snatch — to name just a few. Seriously, WTF?! All of these words have real, chaste definitions that are completely unrelated to female genitalia. But thanks to some perverts, I can no longer perform a snatch move at the gym, dress as a beaver for Halloween or call my friend’s kitty a sweet, little pussy cat without thinking of vaginas.
The funny thing is, most of these words — beaver, box, etc. — don’t really offend me. I kind of just shrug them off as bawdy and go about my business. I’ve even jokingly used some of them (and others) myself in comfortable settings. I am far from a prude, but I think we’ve now gone too far. As a mother raising two boys, hearing the word pussy used by a Presidential candidate and the media is just too much for me. I do not want that word to become commonplace. I do not want that word to become acceptable. I do not want that word to come out of my sons’ mouths, so I am taking it back.
I know, I know. Sounds hypocritical coming from the mother who admits to cursing on a daily (hourly?) basis in front of her kids, but that word, when used in that way, is misogynistic and hateful. Much like the unspeakable “C” word and the forbidden “N” word, I’d rather hear my kids say f*%@. [Side note: In my opinion, a well-placed “F” bomb is descriptive, but when used as a verb, it’s just crude.]
I don’t know who befouled the word first (it was done long before Donald Trump spoke of grabbing it), but I’ve decided that whomever it was isn’t going to win. I am reclaiming pussy, as well as beaver, clam, box and snatch. From now on, they will only mean what they were originally intended to mean: a cat, a rodent, a mollusk, a container and to grab something (also an intense Olympic barbell move, for my fellow gym rats). I can’t stop people from using these words in profane ways, but I can stop making the association in my own mind. I can also teach my sons that these are not respectful words to use when speaking about women.
So join me in bringing innocence back to the word pussy because a vagina is not a small, furry pet. It’s just not.
Oh, and guys … If you want to reclaim (D)ick, cock, pecker, balls and nuts, I’m all for it. Just don’t forget wiener so we can lose the stigma associated with singing that old Oscar Mayer wiener song … “Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener …” Try getting that out of your head now!
Thank goodness there’s no female equivalent to the wiener mobile.