'My son asked me what 'the C-word' means and this is what I said.'

This article contains graphic language that might offend.

My tenth birthday party was cancelled because I refused to stop saying “fuck” in every sentence. It was the most ineffective act of parenting that was ever used on me.

Fast forward three decades, and my ten-year-old has the face of an angel and the mouth of his mother. And I don’t really care. My proclivity for profanity has really made no difference to my life whatsoever, and I don’t expect it will be life-altering for him, either.

So to say I have a liberal approach to swearing as a parent would be a fucking understatement. But even I have standards.

In my extensive swearing experience, it has occurred to me more than a few times that swear words are strangely anatomically/bodily specific. Obviously because there once was so much shame associated with the human body. I get that. I’m comfortable with that.

But the one swear word that I refuse to use is more than that.


So. Disgusting. I’m not going to type it in full again.

The c-word refers to a vagina, but it’s so much more derogatory than dickhead. There’s something blatantly misogynistic about it – probably because it’s usually used by misogynists. The word implies more sexual crassness than dickhead. And it’s a much dirtier, more negative word than pussy.

It’s cruel, vulgar and highly offensive to women. It’s so injected with hate that most of us would agree it’s an abusive term.

Which is why the c-word is such a shitty thing to call someone.

And why it’s the one swear word that I won’t ever use. I don’t think it. I won’t text it. I won’t say it. And it’s never been said to me.


Except of course for when my son said it to me.

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As we sat innocently eating dinner the other night, talking about whether we’d see Dr Chris Brown at Bondi beach the next day, the kid delivered literally the most shocking moment of parenting I’ve ever had.

“Mum, what’s a cunt?”

Say what now? As with all things parenting, that bloody escalated quickly.

I could cope with a clitoris question. I would prefer a clitoris question. Because that’s anatomy. And it’s crucial knowledge if he ever wants to have a happy relationship with a woman.

But cunt? Where’s he heard it? Who said it to him? What did they tell him it meant? Why did this most horrible of horrible words have to invade my evening?


I wanted to deflect the conversation and tell my son that the ‘big smoke’ (Sydney) has already corrupted him in just four weeks of us moving here.



I was also tempted to tell him it means C U Next Tuesday, as Charlotte described it at Vera Wang, because Sex and the City references are always appropriate in parenting chats.

But I knew he’d find out the truth eventually. So I ‘mommed-up’ and told him this:

“Technically it means a woman’s vagina, but that’s not how people use it. They use it to describe a woman they hate. But it’s not just like dickhead; it implies she isn’t clever and is lower than everyone else. That she’s nothing and that she doesn’t matter. It’s the meanest thing you can call anyone, especially a woman.”

I’m proud to say my child was absolutely horrified by the gravity of the word. But it made me sad to hear that it was still being used in the playground. Because we’re putting a lot of faith in this next generation of kids – especially the boys – to do better by women in general.

So I added in my most serious parenting voice,

“Now you know, don’t be an asshole and ever say it again.”