Cussin’ and Swears are close to my heart, so censorship has always irked the livin’ hell outta me. The very first petition I ever signed in my life was about censorship in music. (Tipper Gore vs Frank Zappa. One guess which side I fell on…) I have a long history of self-expression, and the list of people who have tried to interfere with that self-expression, (to squelch it, step on it, and break it), is long.
Cussin’ and Swears in song
As an artist, I have thought long and hard about censorship. I think it’s very important to be able to truly reach people. To put a thought into them that might never have been thought but for you. That’s how you change the world. So I try to say what I feel, regardless of the Victorian prudery of my audience. I have many songs that I can’t perform just anywhere. (See: “God Save The Queens”, “Cheesecake”, etc…)
I have a rabble-rousing song called “Let Them Eat Cake” that the establishment-types don’t care for much, even though there’s no actual cussin’ or swears in it. It references a (most likely apocryphal) saying of Marie Antoinette’s, who, when told that the peasants had no bread, said, “Let them eat cake!” It also quotes Jesus, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the plaque at the base of The Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island. My point? There once was a time when a woman would have been burned at the stake just for saying some of the things in that one song, albeit by small, petty, power-hungry men and institutions. (Alas, they were stronger. And had all the matches…)
This Sh*t is Ass-backwards…
It’s odd that there are things in real life that you can’t do but are ok to depict on TV and in the movies, and things that are okay in real life that are heavily censored. Like sex. And boobs. Boobs are ok in real life. Hell, they’re great! They are an incredible evolutionary tool for feeding offspring. More than half the world’s population love boobs. And all of the world’s babies love ’em! But show them in some states – even to breast feed – and could be hauled off to jail. Think about that: babies who loved boobs grew up to be lawmaking men who are offended by them. (Or, probably more accurately, afraid of them…)
And yet it’s perfectly acceptable in films to depict rape, murder, incest, child molestation… things that are terrible and heinous and carry grave consequences in the real world. You can be violent AF in media, but god forbid anyone sees a boob!
Uh oh, y’all…
Here’s a thought: what if by censorship we are actually strengthening the thing. Because no one gets to deal with it out in the open, it becomes a warped and damaged version of the original concept. So Fear has warped reality. Cussin’ and swears are expression, and squelching expression ain’t never good. (< I know that is not proper grammar, but it’s my webpage, and I sez what I likes, y’all.)
Warning: Blue Language ahead
So I swear. I don’t say, “The F-word,” I say “F*ck.” (I don’t call it “The F-word”. Making a word “That Which Shall Not Be Named” makes it way more powerful.) Sometimes I use “Effin” or “Feckin” or “AF” (< I do that – and this @#%&! – to pad it for the easily offended, but honestly, if you a grown, fully formed human being that is offended by swears, we probably ought not interact.) *sings “Cussin’ and Swears” to the tune of “Silver and Gold” and does a soft shoe*.
So, that’s a good use for swearing. Keeps out the riffraff. Another valid use: humor. Sometimes a well-placed curse word is amusing. But, surprisingly, it is also therapeutic. Scientifically Proven to be thus! They did experiments where people held their hands in ice water for as long as they could. Half cursing, half quiet. All of them could pull out their hands whenever they decided. The findings were actually pretty significant. The cursers held on for much longer than the ones who didn’t, and reported the pain wasn’t as bad as the non-swearers rated it. Cussin’ and swears, my pretties! It makes the pain of life easier to bear! (Here is a Psychology Today article referencing it, and here is some additional reading on why those of us who do swear are generally healthier, happier, smarter, and more honest than y’all tight-asses who don’t.)
Finally, allow me to leave you with this heartwarming family anecdote: My mother was hanging out laundry to dry while babysitting my little cousin Joy. (Curly blonde hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks. The kid was the spittin’ image of a cherub, I tell ya.) So mom, who (*at that time) never cursed, dropped some wet clothes in the dirt. And the tiny, delicate angel by her side solemnly intoned, “Shit.” Teach the children, my friends, teach the children.
Special thanks to my Grandma Kitty, who swore like the colossus she was. In English, Italian, and Yiddish. (She was very continental with her cussin’ and swears.)
*After Dad passed, Mom lived with me for many years. I think it’s safe to say she picked up some of my skills.