Sandi Toksvig offends (rude word alert!)

Rude word alert: if you are young, easily offended (or female and much given to the “vapours”), read no further. Alternatively, you have been warned.. .

OK. We have been here before.

It seems that John Whittingdale, a Tory MP and chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has been offended by Sandi Toksvig’s cunt.

Ooer, missus! Perhaps I should rephrase that. Just a tad more delicately.

On the news quiz, a programme that takes place first between 6.30 pm and 7 pm on a Friday – and then is repeated on Saturday sometime around mid-day, Ms Toksvig came out with the easy and scripted aside that “It’s the Tories who have put the “n” into cuts”.

Like, she didn’t even SAY the c-word! She might, for all I know (given her Danish ancestry) have been hinting that the conservative party were a bunch of Cnuts, attempting hopelessly to turn back the tide of bureaucratization of the state.

No? Alright, she probably WAS alluding to the slightly vulgar word for vagina.

But hark! Who is complaining about what? The Daily Mail write: “The Corporation decided that the word – most abhorrent to women – has lost much of its ‘shock value’ and is tolerable for radio and television”.

Its also, apparently, a term associated with abuse. Which I kinda get. But I repeat: just who is complaining about what? The original complainant is a Mr Harrow, who self-deprecates by confessing to not being a retired vicar from Cheltenham, but…

The argument is then taken up by the aforementioned John Whittingdale – and echoed by Vivienne Pattison, who is a leading light in Mediawatch UK, an organization not a million miles removed from being a successor to Mary Whitehouse’s Viewers and Listeners Association.

Is it really corrupting, abusive, offensive to hear this word?

Perhaps. I have a friend who identifies as a “third-wave feminist” who used to gain some amusement from teasing a “second-wave feminist” by uttering this word loudly and in her hearing. It does divide women. No doubt about that.

But still, I’d give far more credence to the argument about female offense if it were women leading the charge. Except it isn’t. Its men, being all indignant on behalf of women.

Funny, that. That’s definitely a trend I’m noticing now: how men are totally eager to leap to our defence, to protect us, look after us, to, er, police the world on our behalf.

Hence my abusive friend at the leisure centre: a guy who felt that on behalf of women he was entitled to threaten to hit me. Not that any woman had actually asked him to.

In this case, I’d say similar – without quite accusing Messrs Whittingdale and Harrow of resorting to violence. If women hate this term: if I see the female moral madge getting up on its high heels and complaining, I’ll listen.

Meanwhile, though, forgive me if I feel very much entitled to ignore a couple of blokes getting indignant and putting the boot into the Beeb on behalf of womankind.

Get over it, boys!



11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    The most offensive thing one could possibly say to a woman, eh? Oh, the horror of reminding her of her genitals, which any right-thinking man would naturally assume she must be disgusted by.

    I note that the forbidden word in question is one frequently used as a term of affection (for a person of any gender) here in Glasgow.

    No, it isn’t intended affectionately when used about Tories, but neither are the several words used about both Tories and male genitalia. Words can have multiple meanings. I cannot think of any word for genitalia, nor any organ, which inspires the same public revulsion in Glasgow as ‘Tory’ does. 😉

    Paul Dacre is such a Henry Kelly.

    • 2

      janefae said,

      is this an appropriate point to insert (!) that when i got my surgical horrors checklist from Transhealth, a piece of rogue spell-checking (i suspect coy spellcheck hitting mis-typed vagina) spoke enthusiastically about the new “vegan” i would soon have between my legs.


      Not sure i approve of that!


  2. 3

    Paula said,

    Well what a fuss over nothing.. I’m one.. been practising the last 40 years.. pretty skilled now.. honest 🙂

  3. 4

    It’s worth pointing out that (as I understand it) the broadcast where this occurred was last Autumn. However the Mail are treating it, for the purposes of their agenda, as though it took place in the last few days.

    It’s clearly so offensive that it has taken more than six months for the normally simmering Mail to come to the boil.


  4. 5

    Lucy Melford said,

    ‘Cunt’ is a bit of rather old-fashioned slang really, very 1960s. I can’t speak for Glasgow, but I never hear it nowadays. I know, I move in terribly genteel circles and not among the hoi polloi, but really it seems to have gone the way of other words of this type, such as ‘prick’. Good riddance, I say. It was always a nasty little word, and it was so bad that a lovely bit of female anatomy should be used as a term to insult somebody with.

    I think UK society has relaxed hugely over sexual matters, and this shows in the vocabulary. We can all be Jo Brands now and speak jocularly of ‘todgers’ and (Jane will appreciate this one) ‘fou-fous’ and offend nobody. The mystique about private parts has blown away, and with it all the sniggers and cheap remarks. We’ve gone clinical, ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ being perfectly everyday words in 2011.

    Mind you, I really do like the notion that Sandi Toskvig meant ‘Cnut’, and that the coalition government were trying to resist the irresistable.


  5. 6

    Stephen said,

    I think this programme is great as is Sandi Toskvig. My 28 year old son was ‘shocked’ when his 86 year old grandmother used the word ‘cunt’ in a game of scrabble!

  6. 7

    Sabine said,

    Nothing like a cunt to turn a guy into a prick, right?

    I’ll give a shout if I need to be defended from anything, thank you. Maybe you can defend me from that irritating fly.

  7. 8

    […] I posted a day or so ago, I think I first started to notice this when I was threatened by a guy because I might be “making […]

  8. 9

    warbers said,

    interesting to see this response despite the fact that Sandy didn’t actually use the word – she alluded to it but you needed to know the word and understand the context she referred to it in for the joke to make sense -so no danger of corrupting anyone.

    Also intersting to consider why references to female genitalia are always seen as more offensive than references to male genitlia – which are regularly used in the media with no comment

  9. 10

    I see all this as a detraction from Sandi’s latest office, installation or honour (take your pick!) at the University of Padua, I mean Portsmouth, on which I have blogged at:

    STOP PRESS: University of Padua, I mean Portsmouth, distances itself from Plymouth

  10. 11

    Hugh said,

    As I remember, Steven Fry actually said the word (albiet surreptitiously) in ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ when he redefined “countryside” as meaning “to kill Piers Morgan”.

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