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See You Next Tuesday, Madame President

In the ongoing sexual harassment and assault scandal rocking the University of Colorado, the President of the school – Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman has been talking under oath about details of the mess. Apparently, one female athlete was called a “c-word” by a teammate. Dr. Hoffman was asked about this incident, for which the teammate was disciplined.

According to Dr. Hoffman, the “c-word” is not patently “filthy and vile.” In fact, to her, it can be a “term of endearment” in certain contexts. To her, a medieval scholar, the word has a long and rich history, and was not always considered pejorative.

Dr. Hoffman must think that there are scholars of medieval etymology on her school’s football team.

I’ve never been overly fond of “the c-word.” My standard, slightly flippant explanation is “it’s such an ugly word for something I’m extremely fond of.” Less flippantly, it’s an ugly word, that instantly strips a woman of her personality and humanity, and reduces her to a single objectified aspect. I loathe that, and have trouble respecting those who use the term.

But also speaking as a former editor for my college paper, I know what my first response would be. I’d start referring to Dr. Hoffman as “President C-word” (affectionately, of course) in print at every opportunity.

J.

Clarification: The "female athlete" cited above was a place-kicker on the school's otherwise all-male football team, and (I believe) the first woman to serve on the school's team. I think that adds a bit more context to the story. Thanks to Steven Taylor and his commenter, Tom, for helping me realize the importance of this omission.


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