Language reflects and reinforces social norms; ungendering language is an important part of solving sexism. And there has been some progress. As you might expect, much of this emanates from Sweden. In the 1990s, there was consternation among Swedes that there was a colloquial, non-sexual word for penis (“snopp”) but no female equivalent; a discrepancy with ramifications on how children view and learn about their body. So Anna Kosztovics, a social worker from Malmö, coined “snippa” in 2000 and started promoting it. The government encouraged her efforts. Apparently, nursery school teachers were encouraged to put up notes on their doors asking: “Have you said snippa today?” Snippa entered the Swedish dictionary in 2006 and is now widely used.
Earlier this year, Kosztovics called for the UK to follow Sweden’s lead in a video on the BBC. British English has the word “willy” but lacks a widely used non-clinical, non-sexual way to talk about the vagina. Kosztovics says this means “little girls grow up with the thought that there is something wrong between their legs”. She adds: “There are 360 million people who speak English and I think it’s time for you to discover your own word … I say let the best word win.”
We need to find a new way to say cunt.
You know, I have this feeling that it’s going to be a bit more complicated than that, I really do.