I’ve noticed a subtle shift in my generation as we’ve grown older. When we were younger, we tried to be polite–in context, and in general. As we’ve grown older, I’ve heard my give a fuck’s broken time and again slip from mouths that used to pretend fuck was a blaspheme against God himself. I don’t know that any of us have pondered very deeply why this internal shift has occurred in us; it just has. And, at some base level, we’re tired. We’ve changed, and we’re tired.
I, however, have given some thought to this because it’s a boring, repetitive argument within Christian writing circles. Aside from complementarianism, it’s the important talk of the day! And it doesn’t stop with fuck and the other seven deadly words. It’s all a matter of how much class and propriety the Christian readership has been raised in–how sensitive and deeply harmed some people are by offhandedly mentioning panties or farts. In polite society–i.e. Christian fiction readers and all those raised in upper crust families, as well as those who aspire to being upper crust–these matters are taboo. There also happens to be a consensus that women of any class ought not to be using these harmful words. I’m not certain exactly where this underlying assumption, that women are refined and men are coarse as a matter of natural law, came from. The myth of the angelic female who must civilize the savage male sounds a bit Victorian to me, and haven’t we moved past victorian mores? Regarding the divide of niceness in the Anglo sphere, one finds that it was not so sharp in prior ages. In fact, the pendulum often swung in the classic Greek direction, instead: women are coarse and material, while men are intelligent and spiritual.
In any case, this blog post was inspired by a friend who sent me a text this morning that read, “Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em all!” The text conversation had woken me up, and my morning-dream state floated into the kind of rumination I’m doing here. Twenty years ago, I can’t imagine the same person so boldly stating the same words. In the same way, my sister, whom I’ve been having many heart-to-hearts with lately, quite boldly uses emphatic language these days, when she would have been much more tentative twenty years ago. What has changed?
Language is powerful. Controlling language is part and parcel with controlling people. By the year I was born, 1973, comedians such as George Carlin had already questioned why certain words were censored from broadcasts, while other words were not. So I suspect, for my generation, that we grew up with the push and pull of obeying the censorship and acting out against it. We heard from those who wanted to protect our tender ears from words that would surely dement our minds, such as shit. When we realized that these words did not materially change us, that they were, in fact, powerful words owing to their censored status, we decided that we would not be held in bondage by a classist and controlling system. It’s an outer sign of rebellion against the control grid.
Maybe I’m making too much of this. Maybe. It’s just a rumination, after all. But I often wonder what would happen to those lulled to sleep, by supposed gentle language, if they were woken up by the simplicity of Our government wants to [fill in the blank]? Fuck that! broadcast on national TV or radio. It gets our adrenaline going and releases endorphines in a way that listening to hours of talking heads on CNN can’t. In fact, when I hear the talking heads speak words such as [What can we do to offset costs of the Affordable Care Act? We can all do our part. We can pull together to exercise for thirty minutes a day. We can take education courses on nutrition…] I turn my listening switch off when I should shout at the top of my lungs Fuck that!