I ♥ My Dirty-Girl Mouth
I have a potty-mouth. It’s not a bad thing.
For a long time, though, I was ashamed of what came out of my bazoo. Why couldn’t I be demure—ladylike, like the fairy-tale damsel?
It’s not as if I didn’t try to make nice. We bobby-socked baby-boomers were groomed to. Still, I just couldn’t ‘do’ pink and meek and froufrou. The cardboard cut-out ingénue from fairy tales pissed me off. As a child, I may not have known the meaning of ‘grow some balls’, but I had ’em; she didn’t!
My propensity for obscenity* became clear a few years back when I joined a writers’ website. Members submitted poems or short stories and reviewed each other’s work. One priggish reviewer took me to task for my use of ‘fuck’, sans asterisk, in a poem:
‘Your poem would work just as well without the swear word. It doesn’t need to be there, you know!’
This sent me into a horrible shame spiral. (We writers are sensitive like that.) But it’s where I became better acquainted with my muse: Baubo, the ancient Goddess of Obscenity. Her habitat? The deepest reaches of psyche. Psyche’s gutter level, if you will.
Baubo and I had a tête-à-tête. Our monologic dialogue (or dialogic monologue) helped me understand why my books are liberally sprinkled with swear words (and double entendres). I got that my colourful language is not contrived, and it’s not there for shock value. It comes naturally. As a reader myself, I find an orchestrated use of foul language off-putting. Cerebral sludge. But when it’s natural, the word feels like it should be there, and the sentence would be poorer for its omission.
I became more accepting of my locker-room lingo—even started to love my muse. Beats being driven by a harpy, the archetypal mythical bird-woman that swoops and poops on others’ stuff.
With all this in mind, I responded to the sanctimonious critic:
‘Oh, yes it does. The word needs to be there. My muse gave it to me … and I respect that.’
As writers, who are we to censure and censor our muses? They speak from the core of our being.
And I’ve learned a lot about this goddess, who is a personified aspect of the human psyche—that of sacred sexuality; passion. She has the whip hand in mine, but she’s in all of us.
Baubo embodies a holy kind of dirty. She’s not housebroken, nor should she be. You just know when she’s escaped the moral straightjacket. It’s in those moments when you double up with laughter of the raucous kind: when you’re screeching, hooting, holding your splitting sides, and damning your pelvic floor that’s been undermined by dry rot!
The dirty goddess represents a vital power, a heat, medicine that helps us loosen up and lighten up. Gut-busting laughter can bring us out of a funk, and give us some relief through life’s big or little tragedies. And what’s tragic, or at least, a crying shame, is a woman shaming another woman’s innate, earthy expression.
The thing is, when you deny one aspect of soul, the whole of you suffers. And the female collective suffers—sisterhood and daughterhood.
Raw obscenity shakes off the shackles that have bound women’s expression (and their sexuality) for eons. And writing is a powerful tool to help us, and others, achieve that. Give depth, I say, to the stereotypical female protagonist of newfangled ‘fairy tales’: she, whose romanticised quest for perfection first pumps us up as she fights her darkness and rises above it—Yeah, baby!—then deflates us—FFrrrrrrrrrrrrrr—as we drown in ours, war-weary and cursing our fate. But … it’s that little bit of cursing that both comes from Baubo and summons her.
We need to uncover this buried immortal, and immortalise her in writing. It’s very grounding to lose the ***s in your eyes and the ***s in your words. You might be regarded as less of a lady, but with an important aspect of psyche fleshed out and given its due, you’ll feel like more of a woman.
I Am Woman
In 1972, Helen Reddy released the song ‘I Am Woman’. The first line, I am woman, hear me roar, became an enduring anthem for women’s lib. Now, 50 years on, perhaps it’s time for a new anthem, or, a revised one. Not just to reflect cultural shifts, but also to celebrate the obscene, life-giving goddess at the core of our womanhood.
Here’s a suggestion:
I am woman, I swear, and I don’t fucking care!
This was an article written for Women Writers, Women(‘s) Books Online Magazine: http://booksbywomen.org/on-swearing-in-writing-by-paula-houseman/
*Read more about obscenity: