Saturday, August 20, 2011

Feminist Friday XIV: Don't frape me







I really must get into the habit of posting my Feminist Friday posts on a Friday - I hope Transatlantic Blonde, who runs the series, doesn't get too annoyed with me.


This week's topic is language in general and the use of the word "c***" in particular. It's not a word I like, or use and I find it highly offensive that a word for female genitalia comes at the top of the hierarchy of sweary words. While you would never find a woman being called, for example, a p***k or a d******d, presumably because comparison with such symbols of masculinity is seen as well above our station, men will happily use terms for intimate female body parts to insult each other. The clear implication is that women are subordinate to men. 


Some people think that reclaiming these words is the way to go. I disagree. I think they deserve to be consigned to the scrap heap of history, just like some terms to describe race which are, rightly, no longer considered acceptable to use in any sort of company.


I will, however, admit to a double standard on this. I am much more tolerant of feminist women using that word than anyone else, because I understand what they are trying to do even if it makes me feel a bit squeamish.


But there's one word doing the rounds at the moment which is guaranteed to make me incandescent with rage whenever I see it.


My Facebook status at the moment is:
"Caron Lindsay is a duck. Quack quack."
Grand. And, of course, I didn't write it. My daughter got hold of my iPhone. She tried to blame a smurf, but I know the truth.


The first time it occurred to me to put a passcode on my iPhone was not out of fear of it being accessed by some random stranger, but to protect it from my family. My sister and her kids were having some juvenile fun with Facebook statuses which made us all laugh. However, what stopped me in tracks was the use of the word "frape" to describe this process. That would be short for Facebook rape.


Yes, that's right. The horrendous violation of a person, which traumatises for life, is being equated to putting out some lavatorial humour on someone else's facebook status which is easily wiped out with the delete key.


I can't stand to see one of the most serious crimes imaginable trivialised in this way. It's wrong, and frape is another word whose use needs to be challenged. It's probably more dangerous because its use is completely mainstream and isn't considered rude at all. 

11 comments:

Mr Eugenides said...

It perhaps won't surprise you that I disagree with this. It's true that the 'c' word is very offensive, but another word for the same thing, 'fanny', has a completely different sense; in come contexts it's almost affectionate. Similarly, I might say "Charlie is a tit", but I find it hard to see how that implies the inferiority of women.

If I had to guess I'd say that the taboo status of that word is probably down to America, where it is used differently to here: not so frequently about men, instead it is usually applied to women, and so it does take on the status of a misogynistic insult.

But leaving the 'c' word aside, I would take issue with the last bit:

I can't stand to see one of the most serious crimes imaginable trivialised in this way. It's wrong, and frape is another word whose use needs to be challenged. It's probably more dangerous because its use is completely mainstream and isn't considered rude at all.


With respect, this is nonsense. We use violent imagery in other contexts all the time. How often do you hear football fans saying "we absolutely murdered them"? This doesn't imply that murder is not a horrendous crime; it is just a shorthand way of saying that the game was very one-sided.

Equally, how often have you heard someone use the word 'slave' as a joke? You know, "Charlie lost a bet with me so he's my slave for the day". Does this imply that slavery was no big deal? Of course not. Taking the word out of its normal context leeches it of the true horror of the original usage.

In the case of "frape", it came into usage presumably to refer to the sense of violation when someone uses your account. Sure, it's quite a strong word and no doubt some people find it offensive. But I reject the idea that simply using a word in an unusual way diminishes the seriousness of the original meaning.

Melaina25 said...

When you take a word which describes a despicable act and use it so casually to describe mundane and normal things, you strip the word of it's power. When you use that word so nonchalantly it normalizes the event it is meant to describe. When you use "rape" without even thinking about it you marginalize the millions of men and women who have been raped.

I wholeheartedly agree with you Caron.

George Potter said...

I have to say that I'm afraid I disagree with you when it comes to the word "frape". I can see where your objections come from but I think I agree with Mr Eugenides in that it's not really any different from using violent metaphors elsewhere in our language. Aside from that, I can't really think of an alternative phrase to describe it - the only one I can think of is "facebook hacked" or "facked" for short but if anything I think that one would have an even higher possibility of being considered offensive...

Am Firinn said...

Dear God. As Mr E has pointed out, we use "murder" all the time, without even a spare letter in front of it to disguise it. Is rape worse than murder, do you think? Because, I assure you, if you look at the court reports you'll find that the heroine chooses to save her virtue at the expense of her life only in Victorian melodrama. Please, please get some sense of proportion.

Caron said...

Like Melaina, I think we have to be a bit more careful about how we use language. The word car-crash, for example, is often used to describe a disastrous tv interview or performance, but that could really upset someone who had lost someone in such an event. I'm not saying I never use those words, but I guess we all need to think about the context.

I can't imagine anyone who has been raped being happy with the idea that a bit of Facebook foolery, which can be wiped out with one tap of the delete key, is compared to the ordeal they have gone through.

The crime of rape has a great deal of baggage attached to it - it's the one crime where society is disposed to blame the victim, particularly when the victim is female, for what she was wearing, what she had to drink, where she was - there are so many hurdles she has to clear before she is allowed to get any sympathy. Trivialising it by using it in the context of Facebook compounds it.

I still stand by what I say - you might well get hold of my Facebook and change my status, and, Mr E, I just shudder to think what you might change it to, but I don't wan you to call it fraping.

George Potter said...

@Caron

"I can't imagine anyone who has been raped being happy with the idea that a bit of Facebook foolery, which can be wiped out with one tap of the delete key, is compared to the ordeal they have gone through."

But I don't know anyone making that comparison. As far as I'm concerned (and as far I imagine most people who use the term "frape" are concerned) fraping is something trivial that happens to your facebook status whilst rape is a terrible and horrific crime. Until you wrote this blog post I never even mentally linked the two and I'm sure that you'd get the same response from most people you ask about it.

Caron said...

George, I'm sure wouldn't be consciously comparing the two - and that's part of the problem in a way.

Maybe we should think about why we use the words we do and whether analogies are appropriate.

Using the word frape casually, without thought as to what it means, might well make people think that rape is an everyday occurrence that doesn't cause trauma. A child's first exposure to the word rape might come through the use of the word frape. It's a relatively trivial thing to prat about with someone's Facebook status. When they learn the word rape, especially given all the ifs, buts and maybes around it, they might not see it as the serious thing it is.

This is a term we have to think seriously about using. I'd never ban it, but I'd like its use to be less acceptable than it is.

George Potter said...

But that's my point, people /don't/ associate "frape" with "rape". And I don't imagine anyone growing up and hearing it will ever consider it more odd than the word "grape". As time goes by people will stop even thinking of it as an abbreviation for "facebook rape" and just use it as a word in its own right.

I can understand where you're coming from but I really find it hard to believe anyone would mentally trivialise rape through association. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree though.

Anonymous said...

I think it's specious to say that men using slang words for uniquely female attributes is some form of demeaning of women since men use words for the male member, as well as for shared body parts, as insults

E.g. YOU
Arse
Prick
Tool
Schmuck!
Total cock

How does that factor I to your theory

@kelblundell said...

Can I start using Feminist Friday too? It's a great idea :)

Caron said...

Course you can - I crashed my way in when I started doing it:-).

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