Serving C*nt – How The Internet Is Reclaiming The C-Word

Warning: this article contains a whole lot of c-words.
Maddie Abuyuan / HuffPost; Porter Gifford / Getty Images; Emma McIntyre / Getty Images; MGM / Everett Collection; Warner Brothers / Everett Collection

If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you must have seen an influx of people asking for examples of how someone can “serve cunt” in various different situations.

Tweets like “how do you serve cunt in a cat-like way?” or “how do you serve cunt in a lawyer-like way?” have been all over the social media platform, prompting users to respond with various moments in pop culture history that they think fit the bill. For example, people have been replying to these tweets with things like Halle Berry in Catwoman (cat-like), Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (lawyer-like), Paul Mescal in short shorts (Irish way) and many many more.

It has given rise to an online phenomenon where it almost feels like the internet is finally reclaiming the C-word, which normally held a very negative connotation — at least in America. The word, which was once the epitome of misogyny, regularly deployed by people to undermine feminine authority, has now turned into a symbol of femme ferocity.

Something that is now associated with slaying so hard that you have no choice but to say they’re ‘serving cunt’.

“The c-word is being increasingly, if gradually, reclaimed,” Stan Carey, one of the editors of profanity blog Strong Language, told Rolling Stone.

“It’s part of a long tradition of co-opting taboo words’ power. Since identity politics is now such a common and explicit part of public discourse, it makes sense that words intended as weapons against particular groups would, in some cases, be reappropriated by their targets as a way of blunting those weapons and redirecting their force.”

This is largely due to the efforts of stan Twitter and the LGBTQ+ community, as more and more people in the mainstream are starting to embrace the word in its new light.

‘Serving cunt’, ‘mother’ and other feminine terms have seen a recent uptick in positive usage, and it is a very interesting phenomenon to observe in a world that seems to be regressing in terms of women’s rights.

Before ‘serving cunt’ started making its rounds on social media, the phrase “the director said cut but [insert term] heard cunt” gained immense popularity on Twitter.

K-Pop fans and Stan Twitter have been instrumental in making this phrase go viral. Tweets praising Brie Larson’s rendition of Black Sheep, various K-Pop singers just looking hot, almost every scene in Succession (it makes sense dramaturgically) and many more popped up on everyone’s feed.

But before cunt became a mainstay on social media, the LGBTQ+ and drag community — especially Black trans women— had a very big hand to play in reversing the negative connotations surrounding this word.

In fact, cunt was always used as a celebration and as a symbol of power, feminine authority and bodily autonomy. In 1995, drag queen Kevin Aviance released the song “Cunty (The Feeling)”, which Beyonce sampled in her Renaissance track “Pure/Honey”— which, again, is an album that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. The Grammy winner even performs in front of a “KNTY 4 News” desk on her ongoing world tour.

“I think the rise in use of the word “cunt” is part of the history of reclaiming derogatory or denigrating language and using it to empower. When I was a young man, ‘Queer’ was an insult – now it is a badge of pride. It’s from the idea that ‘you can’t hurt me if I claim your weapon’. It gained prominence in the Drag Scene where it means fierce and powerful,” explains LGBTQ+ historian Michael O’Keeffe.

“As Germaine Greer says cunt is the only word that fully describes the entire anatomy of the female genitalia. It’s important to kind of note that although drag has helped us today, these conversations have been happening for a while,” adds Ibi Profane, a drag performer and postgraduate researcher at the University of Warwick.

“I think a lot of the stuff in the drag community comes from a particular kind of this…kind of reclaiming the superiority of femininity, which is often seen in a very negative association.

“Drag performers in particular have always been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ movements—they just are. But in terms of things like mother, that’s more of a drag family type thing. That’s a found family structuring around normal heteronormative frameworks, because there were no other frameworks at the time. You call up and coming queens the children—the legendary children—and then you have Mama Roo [RuPaul] for example,” Ibi Profane adds.

In fact, RuPaul is actually one of the biggest reasons drag has attained a mainstream status. RuPaul’s Drag Race’s criteria literally states that you need to have Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent. Or, you know, cunt – it’s also a song that RuPaul released in 2017.

“I think cunt in particular stands out, though, because of how socially it’s coded otherwise. It’s seen as an incredibly damaging word. So I think that’s one of the words that has really stood out. It is having a reclamation,” says Ibi Profane.

For a word that has always been used by misogynists to degrade women and femininity, ‘cunt’ has now given rise to a completely different movement. Now, if you’re serving cunt, you are essentially unstoppable. You are mothering beyond belief, you are the cuntiest of all cunts.

A word that was once used to exhibit female weakness is now a symbol of the ultimate girlboss — all because people on the internet, with the help of the LGBTQ+ community, decided to reclaim the word once and for all. Instead of it being a word that someone would have hated to be associated with, it has now become a word that people now aspire to.

Obviously, context matters. If you try to use “cunt” in a misogynistic or negative way, it will still hurt the intended target. But if you use it in a way that celebrates feminine power, it may actually help uplift marginalised communities — women, the LGBTQ+ community, drag performers — whose lives are currently being threatened worldwide due to regressive laws and outdated practices.

And while this in no way will solve the problems that are plaguing these communities every single day, it can definitely be seen as a small victory — one that can give us a good chuckle on a bad news day.

To paraphrase queen Lucy Liu in Set It Up: don’t be one of those people who cannot say cunt.

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