What’s in a Word – Misogyny in the Politics of Irish Water






I am very much anti Irish Water (in its current form) but I was extremely disappointed to hear about claims that the abuse being thrown by protesters in Jobstown was misogynistic in nature. The reasons they were deemed misogynistic was specifically the use of the words ‘bitch’ and ‘c*nt’ towards TD Joan Burton. This got me thinking about the words themselves and our definition of misogyny – was that a fair assessment to make? I personally felt calling a woman a ‘bitch’ definitely had abusive sexist connotations but I wasn’t so sure about the use of the Big C. So this morning I turned again to my most common source of blog insights, Twitter, to figure out the question:

Is C*nt a Misogynistic Word? 

To answer the question (or at least start answering the question) I adopted a simple methodology. I looked at the use of the word ‘bitch’ in relation to mentions of Joan Burton and @Joan_Burton since September 1st, and then I looked at them in relation to Enda Kenny under the same terms (as another prominant but male politician) I also did the same for the Big C. And here’s what I found:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 12.04.17

…So what does it mean? Well the use of the the word bitch was used 27 times for Joan since September and primarily was done so in a way that was ‘straight up’ name calling. However, there were instances of use of the word ‘bitch slap’ which actually primarily came from female tweeters. This is very saddening I think you’ll agree – as it portrays (all be it a tiny sample), a role of women in supporting the language of violence towards other women.

When we look at Enda, the numbers tell a different story. The use of the word ‘bitch’ occurred 10 times since September. And generally was used in an inference that he was something ‘less than’ male e.g. the idea of being a bitch meaning ‘being too much like a woman’, or ‘being someones bitch’ – meaning to be below and answering to someone elses whim.

So in conclusion, the word bitch – according to Twitter – is a highly misogynistic word.

It’s a different story however when we look at the second word.

Enda was called it 54 times versus his 10 bitch insults, while Joan ‘only’ 13 times to the 27 uses of the word bitch.

Obviously it is absolutely horrible that anyone would use either words to describe, hurt or threaten another human being but it does seem to tell us one thing about the word c*nt – it is (in the Irish-twitter verbatum) a non gender specific and therefore, I’d argue non-misogynistic word. Basically, I think this means it’s the more insulting version of ‘asshole’.

The word ‘bitch’ however is still loaded to the tips with sexist hatred – hatred towards specific women, men deemed to be ‘acting like them’ in the eyes of their verbal abusers and of the gender as whole.

It would be nice if we could avoid all bullying and abuse in politics – particularly in the sphere of social media – but it’s a symptom of much larger social issues. I feel sorry for anyone who has to go through online bullying – even those who are haemorrhaging my hard tax money into ‘jobs for the boys vogons’.  But if I was Joan (or any female, politician or not), I would get far more inflamed by the word ‘bitch’ than ‘c*nt’. Or any feminist man for that matter. Or any man who feels men shouldn’t have to feel they must subscribe to a certain description of ‘manliness’.

If that word was being hurled at her on Jobstown or Twitter, then it’s my belief that people certainly were being sexist pigs.

In fact (I’m very sorry), this whole post should really been written as ‘b*tch’ with an asterix instead of cunt.

I hope it didn’t cause too much offence.


*A Note of the Ridiculously Basic Methodoloy

1. Doesn’t take into account any tweets that may have been deleted.

2. Doesn’t take into account any tweets using the just ‘Joan’ or just ‘Burton’ or just ‘Enda’ etc. – as they would be really hard to filter in terms of relevance.

3. Doesn’t count any uses of the words in that mention either politician but are used in relation to something else e.g. ‘Enda Kenny is talking to that $%£@ Billy again’ etc.

4. The number of uses of one word vs the uses of the words against the other politician is not an accurate measure from which we can draw anything – as the awareness of these figures on Twitter/Ireland in general are different from one another two. So I’ve just made observations of the use of that word in relation to the other, for the same politician.

5. Sorry for boring you but just wanted to be clear!


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