A Little Ditty About The “P” Word
by Ginger Teppner
(Spoiler Alert: I use the word pussy 16 times in this piece. If you have a pussy aversion, consider yourself warned.)
Pussy is a fluid word. Sometimes noun, sometimes adjective, sometimes verb, sometimes slang or euphemism. Sometimes it is vulgar but sometimes not. The history of pussy as word as symbol suggests that it evolved from a reference to a cat to a reference for young girls or women in the seventeenth century to a reference for female genitalia by the eighteenth century. In the twentieth century it transformed again to include sexual intercourse with a woman. In short, pussy has been around in various mutations for a long time.
Words evolve. They are not static elements, and they are imbued with the energy of those who express them, expression that reflects cultural bias and perception. Expression can be exquisite, banal, violent and everything in between. Expression is a manifestation of humanity in all its contradictory glory. As a writer, I am fascinated by the power of language, the energy it contains. I am also intrigued when words as symbols are appropriated as weapons to shame or silence. As a woman, I am fascinated by the power of language, the energy it contains. I am also fascinated by pussy in all its manifestations.
To be clear I have only recently added the word pussy to my lexicon; I have only recently started to use the word in print and to add the word to particular conversations. In a sense I feel like I am owning my own power as a woman by taking ownership of language that has most often been used against me. The first few times I allowed the word to pass my lips, I cringed visibly and inwardly. I remember the very first time I tested the word out-loud. I was bartending and I insinuated the word into casual conversation. I felt dirty. But half a century on the planet has taught me that my visceral reactions to language always need to be investigated. My self inquiry led me to the stark realization my personal aversion to the word reflected a personal aversion to my own sexuality. A personal aversion foisted on me by a society that has long expected its women to be virtuous whores. I think what I mean is: a society that dictates certain judgemental and self-righteous pussy parameters.
Sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment and abuse all share, among other things, a component of shaming the victim for having a vagina. A pussy. We have internalized this shame. So while I abhor the connotations that insinuate pussy equates to weakness or any variation that implies that a pussy is something to be owned or controlled or violated against a woman’s express desire, as well as any interpretation that implies something vulgar or perverse, I take this word back. I will not feel shame for having a pussy, nor will I be shamed for using the word. My pussy is pure. My pussy takes up space. My pussy controls the conversation. My pussy will not be censored.