Women who don’t amuse Penn Jillette are cunts

Lindy West is a freelance writer who often writes for Slog, so I’ve grown to love her writing since I’ve moved to Seattle. She has a piece at MSNBC poking fun at the apocalyptic Super Bowl ads from last night. And this is what Penn Jillette thinks of her article:

“What a remarkably stupid cunt. Why did I read this? Strained comedy that does exactly what she’s busting. Horrible. How about not watching? This is just someone trying to hate people and be superior and having to work really hard at it. She does the same fucking joke 4 times and pats herself on the back for it. I’ve never seen any of these ads, and never will, but what a fucking talentless cunt.”

Yep. According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.

It was irritating when he was promoting a garbage piece his friend wrote about how guys will be guys, and the skeptical movement should accept that instead of trying to be welcoming to women. But this crosses the line. Gender based insults like “cunt” are unacceptable. And frankly it’s a little sad that Jillette embraces the skeptical movement and we embrace him back, yet he can go on tirades like this…without even watching the ads that the article is poking fun at. What happened to becoming informed before taking a position?

I’m done with Penn Jillette. We can come up with better skeptical role models and celebrities than this.


  1. says

    I almost regret seeing this post. It’s so sad to see an erstwhile respected icon fall so low.

    Nonetheless, thank you for speaking out against these things, Jen. It’s what truly makes you invaluable.

  2. says

    For whatever reason, I can never spell his last name. I even tried to double check and look at how it was spelled on Facebook…I am blind to that “l,” apparently. Thanks.

  3. Marion Delgado says

    There was only ever one woman who was the equal of a man, obviously. The late Ayn Rand!

    The best most women can hope for is a speed-date in a quarry with Howard Roark.

  4. rbray18 says

    along with the real time guy who’s last name i can’t spell and don’t want to look up and a few others i can see myself why others call atheists elitists yes i’m a atheist myself so i see where the religious are arrogant too but still.

  5. Azkyroth says

    This is incoherent. Cunts are wonderful, beautiful, delightful things and there’s nothing contemptible or shameful about them – or anything disgusting, either, unless one, like, just doesn’t bathe. >.>

    And there’s nothing disgusting, contemptible, or shameful about failing to amuse Penn Jillette either.

    (I do think there’s more to it than misogyny, though – the phonetics of the word “cunt” seem to make it remarkably satisfying as an expression of strong negative emotion. In support of this, I find that “lump” is almost as satisfying without the sexist overtones.)

    What a stupid lump he is. >.>

  6. says

    Why did Penn even bother to share his opinion on this? Because someone needed to stick up for the hurt feelings of ad agencies?

    How about not watching?

    How about not reading?

  7. Lynda says

    Jilette certainly crossed the line here for me as well, Jen. The word cunt is one that I find exceedingly offensive and his use of it deplorable. Other role models: Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Dawkins, Molly Ivins (wish I could link!)

  8. Evan Bettencourt says

    Damn, now I’m sad.

    Though these guys ended up on my shit list after I had to constantly rebuff the same bogus arguments from people arguing against environmentalism who’d seen that one episode of Bullshit.

  9. mcbender says

    Penn really needs to stop digging.

    That said… I don’t find this particularly surprising. Next thing you know, high profile atheists like Christopher Hitchens will be telling us women aren’t funny… oh wait…

    This isn’t good, and it needs to stop. Will they ever realise these kind of comments just make them look stupid?

  10. says

    I’m really disappointed in Penn over this. I’ve had a lot of respect for him in the past. I’ve never agreed with everything he’s espoused, ant to be frank he’s very hit-and-miss as an entertainer in my opinion, but I respected him.

    This is bad, though. Penn has lost a great deal of my respect. I’m not, as Jen said, “done” with him. He’s still done a lot of good work which I feel deserves respect. But this is not the kind of behavior or blatant displays of sexism we want in our skeptical leaders.

  11. Sili says

    “Lump” is good. Noöne likes to discover a lump anywhere on their body, whether male or female.

  12. sambarge says

    What if we call him a ‘penn’?

    You know, a penn – a guy who is not that bright but thinks he’s genius, not that funny but thinks he’s a comedian, not that critical of his own thinking but thinks he’s a skeptic and, ofcourse, not that special but thinks he is special.

  13. Laurence says

    I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher, but he took a shot at Penn in his thing where he talked about how atheism isn’t a religion.

  14. says

    How in the world does a celebrity of any prominence think that this message is an acceptable thing to tweet? Did he not think about how this would look to his many twitter followers, or did he just not care?

    Don’t get me wrong; in a way, I’m almost glad that he’s unambiguously revealed himself to be a sexist jerk, rather than propagating more subtly sexist ideas. It’s just that while I realize people have these kinds of thoughts, I’m still astonished at those who say them out loud. He saw no problem with publicly tweeting this.

    By the way, I love the implication that people should just “not watch” the Superbowl if we have problems with the ads. It’s a major television event with countless viewing parties and a ton of buzz, but someone who writes for a major media outlet should have just not watched it.

  15. muletonic says

    Bravo, sir or madam. Penn Jillette is one of the big reasons I skip things like TAM – he’s always been an intolerable self-aggrandizing douche. The reason he’s attracted to the skeptical community is not because of any amazing capacity for rational thought, but because he wants to be a dick, make fun of people, and tell them how wrong they are.

    I’m glad to see at least part of that community beginning to reject him.

  16. says

    “Don’t like the ads? Then don’t watch them. Shut up already!” is about as persuasive as, “Don’t like religion? Then don’t go to church, and stop yammering about your godlessness.”

  17. says

    Is it just me, or has Penn never really than been that funny or insightful? He’s literally my go-to example for douchey white guys who other douchey white guys like because they’re douchey white guys.

  18. says

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Penn is blind to his own misogyny–I think he just believes he has a right to it. A worse position in most ways, since it makes an epiphany less likely.

  19. says

    You are an overly sensitive cunt.

    Penn did not say that “if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.”

    He said that Lindy West was a cunt.

    Stop doing the thing you are blaming Penn for doing.

  20. Azkyroth says

    “Cunt” differs from “fag” and “nigger” in that it also refers to a body part. Embracing being reduced to one body part, even in the interest of “reclaiming” it, seems like a step backwards.

    On the other hand, pointedly using it to refer to the female genitalia and ONLY the female genitalia might send an analogous message. Sort of what I was doing above (I remember a quote from Pharyngula along those lines, too: more or less “I wouldn’t call her a cunt; I LIKE my cunt.”).

  21. says

    Strained comedy that does exactly what she’s busting. Horrible. How about not watching? This is just someone trying to hate people and be superior and having to work really hard at it. She does the same fucking joke 4 times and pats herself on the back for it.

    Much of those same things can be said about Penn Jillette. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s just tedious. He can come across as superior and overbearing.

    He has done some good work for the skeptical movement, and by being such an insufferable ass, he is doing it great harm.

  22. Eric RoM says

    You’re late to the party if you’re just figuring out what a douchey asshole Penn Jillete is. Like thirty years late.

  23. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Jillette is a skilled stage magician. As a thinking, caring human being, he’s a skilled stage magician.

  24. sambarge says

    Jillette found an article that was intended to be funny and written by a woman not funny so he called the author “a remarkably stupid cunt.” Ergo, the statement that Jillette thinks women who don’t amuse him are stupid cunts is actually a factual statement.

    Are you having trouble with reading comprehension? Or, are you suggesting that Jillette only means that this woman who didn’t amuse him is a stupid cunt and the other women who don’t amuse him are not stupid cunts? Because I don’t see that in his tweet.

  25. sambarge says

    I’m with you. The first time I saw Bullshit I thought: “What an ass. And what’s with the silent guy?”

  26. Anonymous Person says

    Where was Penn’s comment originally posted? For you to take it, without any of the context of the original post, or the thread that followed it, seems very much unfair.

  27. Azkyroth says

    Please provide an example of a hypothetical context that could possibly render the quoted piece defensible.

    Go ahead, we’ll wait.

  28. Eric RoM says

    I am very onboard with this, but ‘penn’ is a little vague: calling someone a ‘jillette’ seems more pointed.

  29. sambarge says

    That’s interesting. In what context do you imagine the following statement be appropriate?

    “What a remarkably stupid cunt. Why did I read this? Strained comedy that does exactly what she’s busting. Horrible. How about not watching? This is just someone trying to hate people and be superior and having to work really hard at it. She does the same fucking joke 4 times and pats herself on the back for it. I’ve never seen any of these ads, and never will, but what a fucking talentless cunt.”

    I’m really interested in knowing when you think it would be appropriate to critically review a writer’s work and start with the statement “what a remarkably stupid cunt.”

  30. Caliguy7281 says

    I don’t know why he can’t just attack her writing, and just leave the “cunt” comments out. I haven’t read her article and I most likely won’t(since I respect his view on comedy) but he crossed a line(that shouldn’t even need to exist) and should at the very least apologize.

  31. Eric RoM says

    WTF? I went back and read West’s piece (I’m a fan) and Jillette’s diatribe doesn’t even make any sense.

    Reads like douchey-McBellypants was drunk tweeting.

    (Seriously, does he still have the awful facial hair and the douche-handle ponytail? Guy’s a tool.)

  32. Anonymous Person says

    Penn uses vulgar language all the time. He’d just as much call a male friend a cunt. Still, without knowing the full context of where this was posted do we even know if this was meant to be generally public?

    When I post on Facebook and comment on a protected post I wouldn’t automatically assume that it would be for public consumption for the entire internet.

  33. Anonymous Coward says

    So uh.. we’re making a big drama that he’s using a curse word. A sexually charged one, but a curse word, when he’s known to curse.

    Mountain, Molehill.

  34. witless chum says

    C’mon Penn, anyone who uses the term “candy parts” is funny. I think she’s actually pretty good.

    I guess I don’t know why anyone would get mad at her taking the piss out of Super Bowl ads. Did she make fun of the random naked girl and white background industries?

    Skepticism stopping at gender roles isn’t a particularly thorough skepticism. And it’s frustrating when someone claims to be a skeptic but won’t apply the lessons and implications of skepticism to area X.

    Penn’s always sorta been an “He’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole” type to me.

  35. orablue says

    Because they were never like that and it sounds like they’re imitating typical gen X/Y males for popularity. There seems to be more and more of an attitude that we’re just characters in a massively multiplayer game and that all things are evaluated by how much it entertains them. The closest thing outside of clinical conditions I’ve ever seen to pure solipsism.

  36. Eric RoM says

    It’s not you.

    Maybe Teller is silent because he knows if just once he spoke, he’d spew all his comebacks to Jillette’s stupidity out in one go.

  37. Eric RoM says

    Don’t you know that white douchebag guys are contractually required to defend douchey behaviour at all times and in all places?

    And, as the King of White Douchebag Guys, Jillette has to set an example.

  38. Sili says

    No. I’m just noticing that it’s a much better epithet than “cunt” and that I really like it.

  39. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    On the side…

    …one of the extraordianry claims Penn & Teller made about Bullshit! is they plugged it as everything Michael Moore is not, while simultaneously ripping off everything Moore ever did both good and bad when it comes to vidio based investigative journalism. Since watching both of their productions, I couldn’t tell the difference in tact, execution and style…accept P&A where nutty libertarian and while Moore bordered on the looney left. Let’s not get into heavily inflated egos from both parties.

    I guess my point about this is that this when I became higly skeptical of Penn & Teller, before this other shit came up about them. Just saying.

  40. alysonmiers says

    Given his role in promoting Mallorie Nasrallah’s garbage, I can’t say I’m surprised about this. Perhaps a bit intrigued that he thinks it’s okay to use language like that where the whole Internet can see, but not really surprised at his attitude.

  41. Gus Snarp says

    I never did get skeptics’ fascination with Penn. Occasionally he delivers a powerfully funny, angry, and well placed rant, but most of the time he’s just an asshole. The recent examples of his misogyny come as no surprise to me. Aside from never having liked him, I lost all respect for him as a skeptic when I saw an episode of Bullshit that I won’t mention specifically because it will cause a derailment. Suffice it to say that I agreed with his overall conclusion, but the episode was not actually skeptical. He took two sets of extremists and positioned them against each other, then sided with one set of extremists. Meanwhile, he could likely have found some experts who supported his view without going to the extremists. Doing so would have made his case stronger, and also avoided the obvious conclusion that he cherry picked the evidence to support his cause. He was right for the wrong reasons, and that’s not skepticism.

  42. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    I’ll use something a more gender neutral and less derogatory: And you’re a stupid troll.

  43. says

    I read PJ’s last book. It alternates between genuinely interesting musings and puerile nonsense, and by the time he cheerfully admits to being an “asshole,” you’re well inclined to believe him.

    After that book I decided I didn’t have to feel guilty about taking a dislike to him. None of his more recent hijinks are giving me reason to reconsider.

  44. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    …I’m not sure we should be feeding these two apparent trolling sock puppets. Defending the indefensible is not a reasonable arugement to begin with. /thread

  45. BJ Kramer says

    Skeptics already seem to have a problem where they extrapolate one person’s activities to be representative of a group. This is especially pernicious in discussions of gender, where there are serious issues at hand. It behooves us to be more careful in our accusations.

    If you have a problem with Penn using the word ‘cunt’, fine. I think it’s bit childish to find offense in a word that adults use good-naturedly all the time (yes, including some women), but I do not begrudge your offense. Yet extrapolating that insult to all women is flatly ridiculous. Penn made no such blanket statement, and very explicitly called this woman names because of the particular article she wrote. The headline attached to this article isn’t merely sloppy, it’s a lie.

    Nobody would be complaining about Penn’s Facebook comment if he had merely called her a ‘moron’. There’s a potentially-legitimate (I suppose) discussion to be had here about the use of the word ‘cunt’. Don’t undermine it by wildly exaggerating the issue to grind your Penn-axe.

  46. Anonymous Person says

    I didn’t realize asking for an original source, with full context was “trolling”. How can one get the full picture without all the information.

  47. says

    I’m not a troll. I can speak on this subject. I am a woman, and I can clearly see that this cunt is going out of her way to say that Penn is talking about ALL women he doesn’t find funny.

    It’s just not true. The writer is stating something false about what Penn said. She is putting her own feelings and meaning into it.

  48. Heidi says

    Thanks for this article and bringing to my attention. If you don’t find Lindy West funny just say that. There is no reason to call her the c word. The c word chnages it from your opinion to a sexist remark. And Pen Jilette I never thought you were the least bit amusing, but now I think you’re a jerk as well. Poor Teller.

  49. Adam G says

    I think you need to ask yourself the following question:

    Why did Penn choose to use the word ‘cunt’?

    Could he have chosen another word and still preserved his intended meaning?

    If so, why didn’t he pick a different word?
    If not, what specifically about the word ‘cunt’ conveys his intended meaning?

  50. daenyx says

    Because it’s an effective silencing tactic to marginalize people you dislike based on some native, ‘othering’ trait they possess.

  51. Largo says

    Penn Jillette is a follower of the Ayn Rand cult who gets “rational free thinking” following when all he really cares about are corporate profits.

  52. Saurs says

    Somebody is very desperate for facebook hits. Have you got an album you’re promoting or summat?

  53. BJ Kramer says

    Indeed, reasonable people can disagree about the appropriateness of certain terms’ offensiveness. But claiming that this statement of Penn’s applies to all women? Not so reasonable.

  54. says

    A former boyfriend of mine was really into Bullshit!, so I watched more than my fair share of the episodes. The broader conclusions were sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss, and all too often some kind of very discomforting mix between the two. I felt like most of the targets interviewed – like, the vast majority – were the lowest-hanging fruit available.

    I’m sorry, but you don’t get skeptic street cred for pointing at the least convincing arguments and saying “Wow, look how fucking stupid that is!”

  55. muletonic says

    Oh, please. This is really easy to follow:

    By virtue of the fact that Penn called a woman a cunt because he finds her unfunny, with no qualifier or apology, Penn obviously thinks that this is an acceptable way to behave. That is to say, he believes that calling women cunts for being unfunny is ok (unless you’re seriously implying that he would only ever do that to this one woman). So yeah – at least some subset of women are cunts because they don’t amuse him.

    This says something about his attitudes towards women, and that’s the point of the post – he’s a privileged, misogynistic, libertarian douchebag, and is a piss-poor spokesperson for skeptics.

  56. Eric RoM says

    Dickheads ‘cheerfully’ use all sorts of inappropriate words. That doesn’t make the words less inappropriate or offensive, it makes the people bigger dickheads.

  57. alnitak says

    “Newflash! 28 out of 50 Indiana state Senators are still complete morons (emphasis mine)”

    Calling people morons is OK as part of a well-considered blog post, but not calling them “cunts” in an off-the-cuff twit.

  58. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    Do we need the full picture when someone says something offensive? I think not.

    …but no, the question itself is not trolling. Assuming Jen’s position as unfair without a convincing reasonable explanation is. Accusing her unreasonably of raising drama by publically speaking against something she disagrees with is. Thus you two are likely not here to elighten us and/or add meaningful debate, but further sow dissension for likely nefarious and disingenuous purposes.

    Change tactics or put a sock in it.

  59. says

    Words like “cunt,” “nigger,” and “faggot” are problematic because they imply that the target gender, race, or sexual orientation is inferior to the point of being an insult in and of itself.

    We can get into ‘reclaiming’ (i.e. “My feminist sisters says that all the time!”) after you take the 101 course.

  60. Anonymous Person says

    Yes, I think the full pictures does matter. Penn only seems to friend and follow people he’s close to on Facebook. So I would assume that wherever he posted this he didn’t expect it to be in general circulation.

    So his guard was probably down more than it normally would be if he was posting public criticism. You’re also all assuming that he’s using the term specifically as a sexist comment. When he could just be using the word for shock value or emphasis. He’s used the term cunt towards men and women.

  61. Pandademic says

    Okay, maybe Penn has a reason to call Lindy West a cunt, but doesn’t think that all women who write articles failing to amuse him are cunts. So how did Penn come to this conclusion about West in particular? Well, let’s look at what it’s safe to assume Penn knows about her:

    1. She’s a woman.
    2. She wrote an article that failed to amuse him.

    Am I missing anything?

  62. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    I let others here spend time dissecting the errors of your position. Though I am curious to know why you think trolling is a *male thing? Even though I stated I used it as a gender neutral term.

    *Note: I know you are are woman, I can clearly see that from your name.

  63. says

    dunno about “erstwhile respected”. he is a libertarian and has always defended some deeply stupid ideas as a result. and if you’ve ever seen Bullshit, you’d know Penn & Teller exalt in the Male Gaze. This is entirely unsurprising.

  64. eigenperson says

    Yeah, actually, that’s about right.

    Run s/cunt/moron/g on Penn’s starfart and you just get Penn being an asshole, rather than him being a sexist asshole.

  65. Adam G says

    I care because skepticism, as a movement, like many other movements, has a diversity problem, particularly in regards to gender diversity.

    I care because Penn, like it or not, is a public face for skepticism.

    If the major figures in our movement can make public statements including gendered insults without any backlash, how are we ever supposed to move toward a movement that’s more inviting to women?

    There are many women who wouldn’t want to be involved in a movement populated by Penn Jillette types. Statements like these only serve to perpetuate this notion.

    I have a better question for you. Why do you care so much that we are talking about this?

  66. says

    I disagree. It’s the intent that matters. Black people sometimes use the word nigger towards each other in a brotherly manner. It is acceptable to them.

    It depends on the person’s intent when they are saying it.

    Penn’s intent was definitely to insult, but if he had said a sentence using cunt a different way it could have sounded sexy.

  67. Adam G says

    I also notice you failed to substantively answer any of my points, instead pointing out the fact that i’m male as if that somehow disqualifies my points. Nice tactic! I’m sure debating like that will get you far.

  68. Janstince says

    BJ Kramer and heatherhenderson –

    Yes, yes, we get that you have the right to free speech, and you can say “cunt”, “nigger”, “faggot”, “darkie”, “lazy Mexican”, “sand nigger”, “towel head”, “she’s on the rag”, “bitch”, “slut”, “coon”, “wetback”, “spic”, “daygo (never knew the spelling on that one)”, “chink”, “slant”, “gook”, “spear-chucker”, you know, I was going to list a bunch more for completeness, but I’m really bored with it.

    We also get the right to point out how stupid, mysoginistic, racist, ignorant, moronic, unjustified, hurtful, and denigrating it is not only to the person you say it to, but to everyone you lump into that group.

    It’s like “why can’t us white folk say the n-word? those blackies say it all the time…” They say it as a sign of their common struggle against repression. You say it, and it has a totally different meaning because you are benefitting from said repression. Get it?

  69. says

    You should ask yourself this, Adam, (man without a cunt)

    Why do you care?

    because sometimes, you can find a particular man who has more respect for women than a particular woman. which is why “adam” understands that vaginas aren’t vile and thus unsuitable as insults, while you don’t.

  70. says

    I want an original source, too. Lindy West doesn’t give one, and I can’t find this post on Facebook. I’m not suspicious because I think context might redeem this, but because it doesn’t sound like Penn Jillette.

  71. says

    The argument is that the writer is saying that Penn is lumping all unfunny female writers under the label cunt. That is a dishonest statement if you are reading the same quote that Penn said that I am.

  72. says

    it’s really completely irrelevant whether he’d insult a man by comparing him to a vagina as readily as he does so to women; he’s still a)using a female body part as an insult, and 2)reducing a woman to a bodypart he finds vile enough to use as an insult.

  73. Azkyroth says

    The problem isn’t that it’s a curse word or that it’s sexually charged. The problem is that calling people you don’t like “cunts” demeans actual cunts and by extension people who have actual cunts.

    How could you possibly – possibly be stupid enough to think that the issue was that it’s a “curse word” or “sexually charged”?

    You stupid fucking asshole. (See what I did there?)

  74. Azkyroth says

    So his guard was probably down more than it normally would be if he was posting public criticism.

    So you don’t think the fact that this is how he talks when he’s saying what he really thinks and feels is relevant to what he really thinks and feels, and thus to what kind of person he is?

    You’re also all assuming that he’s using the term specifically as a sexist comment. When he could just be using the word for shock value or emphasis. He’s used the term cunt towards men and women.

    So using a body part only women have to mean “something despicable or worthless” is only sexist if it’s aimed at a woman?

    …were you dropped on your head as a child?

  75. says

    First off, it’s no secret that he used it as an insult. It’s no secret that you used it as an insult. It’s a gender-directed word with connotations of negativity, inferiority, and insult, and that’s exactly what you used it for. I’m not sure how this isn’t computing for you.

    Second, the world’s shortest lesson on how words work:

    I have a dog named “Kitty.” What I mean when I call her “Kitty” is clearly different from the meanings generally attached to the word, and as such, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I confused the living hell out of someone by calling some random dog “kitty.” Is it wrong to call my dog “Kitty”? No. Is it wrong to assume that pretty much everyone else is going to think of my dog rather than a feline – with all the cat-associated connotations attached – when I say “Kitty”? Yes.

    Words communicate ideas and connotations – ideas and connotations that you, not being Supreme Goddess of Word Usage, have only a very, very limited amount of influence over.

  76. Adam G says

    So are you saying that you would completely change your position if this were a public tweet or post? Come on.

  77. Tom Singer says

    So gender-specific anatomy-based insults like “cunt” are bad, but gender-specific anatomy-based insults like “dickhead” are acceptable?

  78. Azkyroth says

    Using a name for body part that only women have* as an insult is inherently insulting to all women.

    How can you not see this?

    *(Okay, yes, I’m aware of trans issues, but I very much doubt any of the people who thoughtlessly use “cunt” as an insult are, and in this discussion it’s tangential to the point of pedantry).

  79. Ace of Sevens says

    Why hasn’t anyone tried defending him by saying he was using it in the British sense, where it’s a mild slur on the order of “dick.” it’s way more plausible than any of the defenses I’ve heard.

  80. Antonov An-225 says

    Oh, you’re a woman and you don’t care about what a huge gaping asshole Penn Jillette is? That’s nice. I’m a woman, and I happen to care a lot about misogynistic language. So go white-knight for this asshole somewhere else.

  81. says

    reasonable people can disagree about the appropriateness of certain terms’ offensiveness. But claiming that this statement of Penn’s applies to all women? Not so reasonable. –BJ Kramer

    Then why did he call a woman that after she did not amuse him? And why did the troll up above call Jen that? Your denial is just as pathetic as antivaxxer denial.

  82. Azkyroth says

    Well, you’re bending over backwards into a shape that requires Rn generalized geometry to describe to defend Penn and avoid recognizing the problem, so no, we aren’t reading the quote the same way as you.

    However, he called her a “cunt” because
    1) she was a woman and
    2) he found her unfunny.

    This means that he considers being a woman and being (to him) unfunny to be sufficient to merit the designation “cunt” and there is no qualifier offered that indicates he would not extend the label to all members of the class of “Women he finds unfunny.” Unless one resorts to being both intellectually and regular dishonest in order to defend him.

    Think of it as a sort of descriptive inertia.

  83. Caliguy7281 says

    I disagree, it’s not an effective silencing tactic. It simply paints you in a negative light making your argument less cogent, and taking away the speakers credibility not the credibility of the target.

  84. says

    tldr; The fact that you may or may not like being called a ‘cunt’ in the sack has absolutely no bearing on the widely-accepted connotations surrounding the word.

  85. Azkyroth says

    The word “moron” hasn’t been in clinical usage for decades and has been completely divorced from its origins as a reference to actual mental disability. The word “cunt” remains intimately associated with misogyny.

    Never mind oranges; you’re comparing apples and orangutans here.

  86. Tom Singer says

    Penn should probably refrain from calling a woman a cunt. However….

    “Probably because you’re a raging dickbag whose justification for 13 years of singledom is blogging not-so-thinly-veiled misogyny.” — Jen, http://www.blaghag.com/2011/08/reason-why-youre-single.html

    That didn’t take much Googling. If “gender based insults like ‘cunt’ are unacceptable”, what about gender based insults like dickbag? Or is there a distinction that I’m missing?

  87. Azkyroth says

    Well, no, he didn’t literally say that it applied to all women.

    However, if you’re going to assert that the only reading one can take of a person’s words is the most stupidly literal interpretation of what’s actually on the page, consider the following:

    Jen’s readers cover a broad span of ages. At least some of them are under 18, and each of those who are is a “child” in a legal sense. Many of them, nevertheless, are reasonable upset about misogyny in the broader culture and thus are likely to be bothered and annoyed by your insistence on defending it, since you are interfering with efforts, which they support, to reduce the amount of ambient misogyny in the environment.

    According to dictionary.com, the first definition of “molest” is “to bother, interfere with, or annoy,” and the definition of “molester” is one who molests.

    Therefore, if, in fact, the only reading one can take of a person’s words is the most stupidly literal interpretation of what’s actually on the page, you should not object to being described as a “child molester.”

    Still think connotation and implication don’t matter?

  88. Azkyroth says

    Not from your comment; I was trying to think if there was another obvious association for “lump” that wasn’t coming to mind.

  89. Azkyroth says

    So the way people behave when they think only sympathetic people will see it has no bearing on what kind of people they are?

  90. amp says

    “gender based insults” …you’re kidding right? seriously?

    Dick and dickhead, are both “gender based insults” that nobody does, or should have a problem with. The same should be with cunt.

    Whenever i call someone a dick, a dickhead, or a cunt it is TOTALLY without any reference to their gender, why would i give a flying fuck what their gender is. I’ve called both men and women all of these things (when, of course they were being a dick, a dickhead, or a cunt).

    You really are seeing sexism everywhere, where there is none

    More than likely you’re feeling a slight “twinge” inside when you hear the word cunt, not because it is designed to be sexist, but simply because the word cunt is pronounced with a very harsh “K” sound at the beginning, making it sound like a more harsh swear. But in reality it simply a word which references the female genitalia, as the word “dick” references the male genitalia.

    We both know that Penn Jillete had no intention of being sexist and was not insulting this person BECAUSE they are a woman, and that if you are going to argue that that was his intention it would have to be obvious.

    To argue that he is being sexist based on such tenuous information is frankly irresponsible and puts you in a position of distrust if you were ever to point out a position of actual sexism.

  91. Pandademic says

    If his thought process isn’t “Unfunny woman, therefore cunt,” then it must be “Unfunny woman who also _____, therefore cunt,” right? So fill in the blank. What is the actual basis of Penn’s judgement, that is specific to this case?

    The question here isn’t whether Penn came out and stated, “All unfunny women are cunts.” The question is whether he feels that’s an appropriate word to use whenever he thinks a woman isn’t funny.

  92. says

    Lindy West tweeted it and Slog covered it. I have a hard time believing there’s any sort of context that could redeem this, regardless of the source.

  93. killertapir says

    Umm, yeah, actually the Pharyngula commentariat does have a problem with all gendered insults including ‘dick’ so you appear to be less informed than you think.

  94. Azkyroth says

    [Pointed monotone]Thank you for that. Wherever would we be without your superior insight.

    Read Thread, THEN Condesplain, plzthx.

  95. Azkyroth says

    Although to be fair, this isn’t Pharyngula, and Jen DOES occasionally use “dick” variants.

    But supposing she repudiated it and stopped.

    Would Amp, and Eric upthread, then accept her position on “cunt?”


    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  96. Adam G says

    “when, of course they were being…a cunt”

    I am curious what exactly you think it means for someone to ‘be a cunt.’

  97. says

    Had to get a word in edgewise… Would it have been acceptable if Jillette had said “Stupid fucking nigger” on his personal facebook? How about in a personal message? Would you consider me a silly drama llama if I said “That language is pretty reprehensible in the context of the post, no matter where he posted it” if it had included the word kyke or faggot or raghead? A term that is considered a slur is always a slur if it is used in a hateful manner. Now, would you say he was a racist for saying that? Probably right? Would you say he was a racist if he said, “No no no! You misunderstood! I don’t think all black people are lazy! Just that lazy ass nigger over there!” Would that magically make him totes not a racist? If you think so… Fucking reconsider your life. You may be in the wrong place.
    My only issue is… Why don’t we make a bigger deal about people saying dick? I’m not saying cunt is any less of a slur, I mostly just feel kind of hypocritical to fling it out there. So I don’t think I’ll call Penn Jillette a dick. I like dicks in the right setting! You know what is generally bad, and not a slur applicable to anyone in particular? Something that is totally annoying and drives you insane and won’t go away?
    Penn Jillette is a herpes.

  98. says

    Excuse me? Do we know Jillette isn’t a misogynist? I really have not a shred of evidence supporting that he isn’t. There’s a word for believing things when the evidence shows something else, now what was that?
    Oh yeah.
    NOT a skeptic :p

  99. Happiestsadist says

    Yeah, at this point it’s like “Penn Jillette remains Penn Jillette. Film at 11.”

    He gets things right occasionally, but they’re suspended in a miasma of stupid.

  100. Tom Singer says

    If Jen is going to publicly hold him to that standard, I’d appreciate it if she at least acknowledged that she should be held to the same standard, and doesn’t always meet it. That, or explain why dickbag is different from cunt.

    I’m not using Jen’s use of “dickbag” to argue that “cunt” is acceptable. I’m using it to point out that she’s being hypocritical.

    It’s like when Newt Gingrich talks about the sanctity of marriage. I can call him a hypocrite, and a conservative Christian anti-gay-marriage supporter can call him a hypocrite. The fact that we’re calling him a hypocrite doesn’t mean that we endorse or reject his position on gay marriage.

    There’s no “yes, but …”.

  101. Happiestsadist says

    I really, really like that. I shall add “lump” to my list of handy, apt, yet not bigoted things to call people.

  102. Palaverer says

    You must be incredibly obtuse to not understand what makes cunt an insult. To call someone a cunt or a bitch is to say that they are inferior, not because of the particular thing they did, but because they are female (or like a female). There is no way to use cunt as an insult without being misogynist because that’s what the insult means.

    I agree with Penn that the article wasn’t funny. I haven’t read any more of that lady’s stuff and it’s possible I would find her an unfunny woman. First of all, that’s entirely subjective. Someone else may find her hilarious and neither of us is wrong. But it’s possible to insult her by calling her an unfunny woman (or a gender neutral vulgarity such as an unfunny shit) without denigrating women as a whole.

  103. Tom Singer says

    And I don’t recall that I’ve weighed in on the use of gender-based insults in the past, much less that I’ve done so often. Perhaps you have me confused with someone else.

  104. Happiestsadist says

    I dunno it seems MORE skeptical, rather than less, to examine the whole picture of a person, including what they say when they think nobody will call them on it.

    Also, it’s cute that you think facebook is private.

  105. Adam G says

    “Penn should probably refrain from calling a woman a cunt. However….”

    Honestly, how is that any different than saying “Yes, but…” ??

  106. amp says

    Nope actually, I would prefer that Jen (and everyone else) be allowed to use the term “dick” and words cunt, ass, fuck, shit and whatever, and be allowed to use them derogatorily and have claims of sexism actually stand on their own merit (i.e. was what was said intended to be sexist?).

    And that when arguing for the limitation of these word to argue tentatively, rather than what only could be described as “clutching at straws”.

  107. Azkyroth says

    The same reason we don’t consider “honky” as unacceptable as “nigger.” Because due to the systematic oppression of women in society the impact and implications in context are not symmetrical.

    This doesn’t mean there isn’t an argument against using “dick,” just that equating the two is at best blockheaded and at worst grossly dishonest.

  108. Laura-Ray says

    Though I gotta admit, I am kinda sad about this. I used to really love Penn Jillette. I mean, I don’t think this is abnormal for him, or new. I’m just sad I had to find out how much of a herpes he was.
    Actually, no I’m not, I’m just sad that he’s such a fucking herpes.

  109. says

    1. Men are part of the privileged majority. Women are not. Derogatory words like “cunt” are used to silent all women, “dick” is not.

    2. Regardless, I have been trying to use the word “dick” less because I do stand by the statement that gender base insults are generally wrong. I try to go with “asshole” since everyone has those. I’m sure you can find a case where I screw up, but see point 1.

    3. “Dickbag” is not “dick.” What the hell is a dickbag? It’s a nonsensical hybrid word my friends and I use, like douchebagel and asshat. If you’re going to call me out for saying “dick,” at least quote me actually saying “dick.”

  110. Happiestsadist says

    You’re not very bright, are you? I mean, you can’t see what’s wrong is using a term for a woman’s genitals as an insult? And why deeming those who are doing their jobs (writing about media) to be beyond contempt for not making a pompous, dull jackass laugh?

    It’s kind of gross seeing women beg at the men’s table for crumbs like you’re doing.

  111. Happiestsadist says

    Calling a man a cunt doesn’t make the idea of cunt being a revolting insult not misogynist. Jesus wept, you’re a stupid lump.

  112. says

    What if the source isn’t Penn Jillette? Penn takes everything to Twitter. Nothing about this is on his Twitter feed. It also, frankly, doesn’t sound like him.

  113. says

    One of my FB friends had a great line which is useful when the term is used to insult someone who deserves insulting: X can’t be a cunt, ze has neither the warmth nor the depth.

  114. amp says

    And just to further clarify, I’m not arguing that Jen should be okay with Penn using the cunt BECAUSE she uses the word dick. But that these words should be “allowed” or “socially acceptable” (baring mitigating factors like the presence of children.) to be used unless sexist intent can be agreed upon beyond reasonable doubt.

  115. muletonic says

    Oh, FFS. You know why “nigger” is bad and “cracker” is less bad? That’s right, because one group is privileged, and one is not. Same with “cunt” and “dick”. When we’re all living in the post-gender, post-racial fantasyland you seem to think you inhabit, then we can debate whether we should stop using “dick”. Until then, you’re just pulling a horribly trite “yes, but…”, as referenced above.

    “We both know that Penn Jillete had no intention of being sexist”

    No, we don’t. The whole point of the thread is his obvious misogyny. Now go take the 101 course or something, so you don’t keep trotting out the same tired arguments.

  116. amp says

    Guilty until proven innocent beyond reasonable doubt?
    Innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt?

    Do you think that the evidence that has been presented proves that Penn had sexist intent beyond reasonable doubt?

    I doubt it.

  117. Azkyroth says

    The key word is “reasonable doubt.” And as far as sexism goes the 1) use of a word for the female genitalia as an insult and 2) the metaphorical reduction of a woman to her genitalia is damning. Insofar as the defense seems to be “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca!” with none of Cochran’s finesse, and no actual exculpatory evidence has been presented…

    Yeah. I’d say case closed.

  118. Joe says

    If someone calls a male a dick, they get mad because it is a ‘gender based slur’ [sarcasm]. Seriously, get a life. Also, in English, the word ‘cunt’ is widely used as an epithet any gender. On top of that, it seems that he is talking smack about this person because she is “trying to hate people and be superior”- Not because she is unamusing. He also says that she is having to try too hard and is failing at it (sort of like this ‘article)’. Yet another tempest in a teapot.

  119. amp says

    And just to further clarify, I’m not arguing that Jen should be okay with Penn using the cunt BECAUSE she uses the word dick. But that these words should be “allowed” or “socially acceptable” (baring mitigating factors like the presence of children.) to be used unless sexist intent can be agreed upon beyond reasonable doubt.

  120. Tom Singer says

    I, for one, accept your apology.

    As for accepting Jen’s argument, I don’t want to fall into an ad hominem trap. Either the argument is valid, or it’s not, and it doesn’t particularly matter who makes it. I just think it would make Jen’s blog a better read, and her more self-aware, if she acknowledges that she doesn’t always meet her own standard, and examined the repercussions of that.

    That said, if she did swear off penis-derived insults, it probably wouldn’t affect my view of whether cunt is appropriate. I put it in the same category as nigger, and it’s not appropriate. It’s weird to type either of those, even just as examples of the words. In the case of cunt, I’m not sure that the problem I have with it is that it’s misogynistic. I think that it’s just culturally a very extreme word, and I can’t imagine a situation where that level of extremity is appropriate. I suppose I don’t have a problem with British people saying it, because it’s not as powerful a word. Maybe it becomes less offensive over time, much as fuck has (although that has as much to do with me getting older as with culture changing, I think).

    Maybe the fact that I view it as much more powerful a term than dick is partially attributable to cultural misogyny. Maybe it’s worse to be a cunt than a dick because women are inferior to men. If that’s the case, I think it does a disservice to women to continue to treat the word as more offensive than dick, by the way.

    But I call people dicks all the time, avoid calling them cunts, and will continue to do so. So there you go.

  121. Azkyroth says

    Wouldn’t the straightforward interpretation of “Dickbag” be a condom?

    Used condoms ain’t exactly appetizing either.

  122. Adam G says

    “Also, in English, the word ‘cunt’ is widely used as an epithet any gender.”

    Do you have any evidence for this other than your personal experience?

  123. Friendly says

    Procter & Gamble’s Gillette division would probably be very alarmed about “jillette” becoming an insult. It would be nice if they could put out a statement something to the effect of, “Penn Jillette is not affiliated with our organization and we specifically repudiate his statements about gender issues.” (And whatever else he behaves like a lump about.)

  124. Ace of Sevens says

    Wikipedia’s entry does say this. The citation is a book and not readily available online, but my experience watching British YouTubers seems to verify this. Pf course, Penn Jillette isn’t known to speak British English.

  125. Emily says

    This little clipping came from my Facebook wall. Penn read Lindy’s article because he clicked on a link on a personal friend’s wall. He didn’t tweet this. He said it to me.

    I could delete his post, but sadly it will not matter because this is now the world’s business.

    Whatever you may think about the words Penn uses, I may very well think the same things. But I’ve been privileged to see how he actually behaves with at least one non-virtual woman, and he’s a good man when he doesn’t have to be. When it doesn’t benefit him at all. When no one is watching.

    His public persona is for public consumption and you all have your right to your opinions about it, but I’ve never been treated less than kindly by him, and he’s had plenty of opportunity. Please take that into consideration when judging his overall character. Thanks.

    Whatever you may think about the words Penn uses, I may very well think the same things. But I’ve been privileged to see how he actually behaves with at least one non-virtual woman, and he’s a good man when he doesn’t have to be. When it doesn’t benefit him at all. When no one is watching.

    His public persona is for public consumption and you all have your right to your opinions about it, but I’ve never been treated less than kindly by him, and he’s had plenty of opportunity. Please take that into consideration when judging his overall character. Thanks.

  126. Azkyroth says

    Of course it’s widely used as an epithet. It’s used as an insult to women because that one disgusting part they have is all they are, and it’s used as an insult to men because it’s saying they’re like women, which are nothing but those disgusting parts, and being like a woman is a horrible thing.

    See? Totally not sexist.

  127. Azkyroth says

    Do you seriously think children (at least of elementary school age or above) aren’t already intimately familiar with all those words?

  128. Janstince says

    Are you being intentionally thick? Let me spell it out for you a bit.

    Penn Jillette is an asshat. Most people agree with this, whether they think he’s funny or not, whether they agree with his positions or not. Now, Mr. Jillette used a derogatory term that has been used to marginalize women throughout history: cunt. This word has a lot of baggage attached to it. It has an official definition of “vagina”. He is using this term in its derogatory form, i.e. describing a woman whom he is attempting to denigrate. He could’ve easily just called her “unfunny” an left it at that. He could’ve also used a different expletive, like “dumbass”, to describe her. Yet, he chose to denigrate her with the term “cunt”. This term, as explained above, is used to describe women who have stood up against inequality and oppression, and is a signal/code word for “don’t listen to her, she’s being irrational/hysterical/uppity.

    It’s like “nigger” (did I call that? I saw your post further down) being used as a form of oppression. It’s a signal that people use to ignore any opinions, arguments, evidence, and that everything is fine an nothing is wrong with the world, especially anything that would require the privileged to give up any conveniences in order for others to get a fair shake.

    In other words, it’s wrong because a lot of feminists and skeptics have recognized the patterns of speech and thought of those who choose to fight for oppression of others, and have generally decided not to use those patterns in an attempt to make it more obvious who the targets are. That, and it’s extremely hurtful when somebody reduces your humanity to one single aspect and then proceed to stereotype you and marginalize your opinion.

  129. Tom Singer says

    I thought a dickbag was a scrotum, or perhaps a bag full of dicks. Azkyroth’s interpretation of condom seems reasonable, as well. All of them trade on negative images of male anatomy.

    I just made an argument in a thread below that designating cunt as more extreme an insult than dick is equivalent to making the vagina more offensive than the penis. I’m not sure that is a good thing.

  130. Adam G says

    That’s all well and good that he’s super nice when he’s not in public, but the problem here is that he’s a prominent public face for the skeptic movement. If he’s so nice to women all the time in ‘real life’, then why doesn’t he use his prominence to make our movement more inviting to women? He could probably do a lot of good for this cause if he really wanted to.

  131. says

    I’m glad he treats you well. Unfortunately, in the small time that my post has been up, I’ve already received two private emails about experiences people have had about Penn treating women like absolute shit in personal situations.

  132. daystrom says

    “Penn Jillette is a herpes.”

    Thanks for helping people feel worse for contracting a disease!

  133. amp says

    “2) the metaphorical reduction of a woman to her genitalia is damning”

    wow, that is a hell of alot of intent you’re implying, with so little (read: none) evidence to back it up, in what world do you conclude that this was the intent of the insult, to say that that ones value is only equal to that of their genitals?

    especially when the word cunt, like the word dick, has been, is being and will be used in reference to both males and females.

  134. Emily says

    I’d also lie to note that the unfortunate thing about Facebook is that posting something on a personal friend’s wall quickly becomes saying it “on the internet”.

    There is a grey area between saying something on television and saying it in a friend’s living room, and in this particular case it was my living room, so I’m feeling a little violated. And not by Penn, or by Lindy.

    Context matters. If people want to stop supporting him for using the word cunt, of course that’s their business. But please know that he did not tweet it to the world, as if Lindy being a cunt were something everyone needed to know. He said it in a conversation on my wall.

    Lindy has every right to share it, and I’m sure Penn won’t mind it being made public. But if this information becomes wide-spread, my hope is that the context travels with it.

  135. says

    If anything my mental image probably trends toward a bag full of dicks, which I think men and women can agree is terrible. That image says castration is bad, not the dicks.

    Anyway, I think your second point accidentally stumbled across the answer. *I* don’t think vaginas are worse than penises. But cunt is used as a derogatory word precisely because society sees vaginas as worse than penises. And that’s (one of the things) that makes it bad to use.

  136. dave says

    1. The article was not funny. The author did strain to make a few flat jokes. The author also was putting down these commercials and hating on people.

    2. The comapnies in the ads didn’t make the ads. They hired ad agencies, where a group of people including an executive, artists, film crews, computer people, creative people, actors, etc. came together to make the final product. The superbowl commercials weren’t great this year, but they represented the hard work of a lot of people.

    3. It’s play for the author to be unfunny and to rag on these ads and denegrate the work of all the people involved in making them.

    4. It’s okay for Penn or anyone else to call her out for hating on people.

    5. It’s okay to use the word cunt. It is a word, and only has the power you give it. Get over yourselves and your delicate sensibilities.

  137. Emily says

    Well, shall I put a call out for other women he’s treated well?

    If the final tally contains more women who feel kindly toward him than women who don’t, will that determine whether or not he deserves the label of “sexist”?

  138. muletonic says

    “And just to further clarify, I’m not arguing that Jen should be okay with Penn using the cunt BECAUSE she uses the word dick.”

    …and that’s about as tired an argument as they come.

  139. says

    I just want to say, for the record, that I’ve always been done with Penn Jillette, and if I may be so bold, all the not-being-done-with-him by my fellow skeptics and such has been terribly embarrassing to watch. Pure star fetishism and nothing more. That is not to say that Penn and Teller’s early entertainment gig wasn’t fairly good, but off stage and when he tries to win friends and influence people, exude commentary, say something smart or insightful, he’s always been nothing but a bore and a dick. The fact that people have regularly flown to Las Vegas to TAM to see him say stuff is baffling and tells us a great deal about the skeptics movement and is one of the reasons I call myself a skeptical skeptic rather than a mere skeptic.

    Regarding this particular commentary of his, I wonder how valid a critique of someone’s commentary is if the commentary is entirely about X and you’ve not seen/read/or know anything of X. I certainly wouldn’t pay for that! But this is a mere facebook comment so I suppose it was free.

    And notice that my comment here was biting, snarky, dickish and I did it without using the word cunt to open and close it.

  140. Adam G says

    “It’s okay to use the word cunt. It is a word, and only has the power you give it. Get over yourselves and your delicate sensibilities.”

    It’s okay to use the word fag. It is a word, and only has the power you give it. Get over yourselves and your delicate sensibilities.

    It’s okay to use the word nigger. It is a word, and only has the power you give it. Get over yourselves and your delicate sensibilities.

    It’s okay to use the word kike. It is a word, and only has the power you give it. Get over yourselves and your delicate sensibilities.

    See why your argument might be problematic?
    Should all minority classes ‘get over’ the use of certain words, or should the privileged class just stop using the word?

  141. Jason says

    Forget the cunt thing–did he just call someone else unfunny? The kettle responds with a quizzically raised eyebrow.

  142. Palaverer says

    @amp: words like cunt and bitch are not gender neutral. They are used against men to demean them by comparing them to women.

  143. Palaverer says

    That’s just asinine. How great that he’s been nice to you while insulting women everywhere and participating in a culture of oppression. Others’ experience of the man doesn’t erase your experience of him, but yours sure doesn’t erase theirs either. And the rest of us have the right to (a) notice and comment on a pattern of behavior and (b) give or withdraw support to someone who puts himself forward as a leader in our community.

  144. says

    What a great sense of humor Ayn Rand had!

    (As someone who took a chance on “God, No!” let me tell you that Penn is not the world’s greatest expert on what’s funny.)

  145. Eric RoM says

    For those of you active ‘in the movement’, you might want to rethink that whole “he’s an asshole, but he’s OUR asshole” justification.

    Inevitably, you get this kinda shit.

  146. says

    Oh, and I’m done with Penn Jillette too. I have been watching old episodes of “Bullshit!” I never got around to viewing and while at first I thought he was playing the asshole for comic effect, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s just genuinely an asshole.

  147. Tom Singer says

    Presumably we can all order our gender-based insults by level of acceptableness.

    For simplicity, I’ll put them into broad categories of things I’d say in front of my grandmother, things I’d say in front of my mom, things I’d say in front of my friends, and things I wouldn’t say to anybody.

    Grandmom: scumbag (which I understand to derive from condom), sucks (which I understand to derive from “sucks dick”), boob (which I don’t think actually comes from the slang for breasts)
    Mom: dick, bitch
    Friends: cock, pussy
    Nobody: cunt

    I don’t know exactly what to make of this short list. I don’t think it’s obvious that female-derived insults are stronger than male-derived ones, though. I wouldn’t say fuck in front of my mom, but I don’t think sex is worse than penises.

    I’ll add that society seeing vaginas as worse than penises is similar to the argument occasionally put forth for for “reclaiming” words.

  148. amp says

    Of course they more than likely do, i was making the statement that it is less socially acceptable to swear around children, and thus it may count as a mitigating factor in deciding what words you use.

    Also I wanted to reply to: “…are you seriously asserting sexism only counts if it’s intentional?” but for some reason the reply button wasn’t there, so i’ll reply here:

    I did not imply that sexism only counts if it is intended, but rather that if you are going to accuse someone of being sexist, your going to have to bring something more to the table than “I was personlly offended”
    because anyone could be personally offended by anything. Like when you said “the metaphorical reduction of a woman to her genitalia is damning” your implying intent where there is none. and using that made-up intent to justify offense.

  149. Laura-Ray says

    Hey, you only come into contact with herpes (and by that I mean the sexytimes one rather than the almost-everyone-has-it cold sores one) if you are being irresponsible.
    Wear a condom if you do not want to come into contact with Penn Jillette.

  150. Tom Singer says

    I’m not sure why you jump from me pointing out that I would appreciate Jen’s explanation on how this compares to the use of insults derived from the male anatomy to me justifying misogyny because Jen does it too.

  151. Emily says

    How lovely of you to share.

    While we’re on the subject of “the community”, Penn helped me come out as atheist over 10 years ago. Since then I’ve held a lot of hands as women, often young, acquired the courage of their convictions in inhospitable circumstances. I’ve “welcomed” women into atheism in 12-step programs, mental hospitals, on the Internet, and in my heavily Catholic hometown. I’m an old school feminist and am prepared to fight the religious patriarchy wherever I find it.

    But please give Penn credit for every skeptic female I’ve supported.
    You don’t always know what impact someone is having.

  152. Tom Singer says

    I don’t deny that there’s a difference of degree. Jen, on the other hand, said in her original post, “Gender based insults like ‘cunt’ are unacceptable.”

    I suppose you might say that dick is not “like cunt” because of degree, in which case you’d be interpreting the sentence as “Gender based insults derived from women, e.g. cunt, are unacceptable.” Or perhaps, “Gender based insults that are unacceptable in polite conversation, e.g. cunt, are unacceptable, but something like bitch is okay.”

    But I think it’s equally valid to interpret that as “Gender based insults, e.g. cunt, are unacceptable.” That is, “like” was not used specifically to limit the statement. So I asked for clarification. I don’t think that’s blockheaded.

    You’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m not being grossly dishonest.

  153. says

    Whose posting did he comment on?
    What was the rest of the comment thread like?

    Is it unethical to ask for the context?

    Do I have to prove that I hate and have always hated Penn Jillette before I join this dialogue?

  154. eigenperson says

    What kind of context would make it okay?

    I mean, if the rest of the thread was full of white supremacist anti-semitic misogynist twiddle-twaddle, that doesn’t make the post okay. And if the rest of the thread was full of people saying nice things about Lindy West, that also doesn’t make it okay.

    So what does make it okay?

    Sure, if the subject was “Say a nasty and bigoted thing about someone you greatly admire,” I guess that would make it okay. But I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind.

  155. muletonic says

    If by “irresponsible” you mean “having sex”. First, HSV-1 and HSV-2 can both be contracted genitally and orally. Most people are asymptomatic and unaware they have it, but it’s still transmissible. And condoms are not very effective at preventing transmission.

    So, unless your foreplay always consists of running a rather expensive HSV test panel (and no, you did not get tested for it when you asked the doctor for “everything”), or you refrain from oral or penetrative sex, you run the risk of contracting it. Oh, and of course, it’s quite common for it to be contracted due to rape, after which it sticks around as a constant reminder, and limits your choice of future partners. I’d say it’s a rather poor choice for a pejorative.

  156. Adam G says

    You don’t have to hate Penn Jillette to join the conversation…I certainly don’t hate him. I just think he made an error in judgement by saying this on facebook.

    I am curious, though, if you can imagine a hypothetical context in which his comment is appropriate. I tried but failed to come up with one. Maybe you can do better!

  157. Azkyroth says

    wow, that is a hell of alot of intent you’re implying, with so little (read: none) evidence to back it up, in what world do you conclude that this was the intent of the insult, to say that that ones value is only equal to that of their genitals?

    That’s the function of the use of “cunt” as an insult. Intent is not magic. Or do you suppose people who get shot accidentally by people who didn’t know the gun was loaded are somehow less dead than murder-per-se victims?

  158. Caliguy7281 says

    It only “works,” when the audience has the same inherent bias as the speaker. And then I’d highly question the statements effectiveness. Sexist/racist/religious whatever flavor of ignorance you choose, is always subject to receiver bias. Those who believe women are “cunts” are willing to believe she’s a “cunt.” Where as those who don’t see women as “cunts” will see the speaker in a negative light. So the effectiveness is based purely upon the listener, the vast majority of whom(I’d suspect), think that Penn Jillette is an ass.

    That being said I’d like to thank Mr. Jillette for reminding us just how ignorant some atheists are, and that each time someone says something like this it should be turned into a forum, not against the speaker(for that will do very little good) but against the message.

  159. Laura-Ray says

    I’m genuinely sorry about the fact that you were caught up in this. It’s always upsetting to be caught between an outspoken firebrand friend and the people they offend, especially if offending people is half of their job.
    But if I may, a point.
    You mentioned first that this was a private conversation and should be taken in the context of being private. Between friends, as it were. You seem to be arguing that we should not take it seriously because it was not meant for public eyes. I guess I can see it. I don’t agree with your argument, but I can see the logic behind it, we are different people publicly and privately. Some people are assholes between friends- I know people like that. Okay.
    But you go on to say that he has a public persona that he lives by, and by that I assume you mean his reputation of being, let’s be blunt here, an outspoken asshole (and in no way do I mean that negatively, I love outspoken assholes, especially when they’re skeptics). You seem to be saying that he is an asshole in public, and this is leading us to believe that he is an asshole all the time. You say he has always been nice to you (which is great! But not helpful. People are generally nice to their friends- it doesn’t mean they’re never guilty of bigotry to strangers, see Elizabeth Santorum’s gay friends).
    Now let me ask, what context do you think this is? Is it public or private? Is he being an asshole in the living room, or an asshole on the street? He can’t be really a nice guy at heart and only an outspoken asshole in the public eye, and yet simultaneously only use sexually charged slurs when out of the public eye.
    What he can be is a really nice guy who is a big short sighted. What he can be is a guy who did a lot for the skeptic movement but is currently acting really fucking embarrassing to at least half of us. This doesn’t mean what he said isn’t sexist. Just it was a mistake to say dumb shit does not magically turn that shit into gold.

  160. says

    You’re assuming that I’m trying to “make it ok.”
    I just want the context. That’s it.
    I don’t think that it is ever “ok” to talk/write that way. However, I also don’t demand that people talk/write in an “ok” way all the time.
    If they don’t talk/write in an “ok” way, I don’t draw a line in the fuckin’ sand “you’re either with us or against us”

  161. Ysanne says

    How’s that a defense, that “cunt” is also used as an insult for men?

    I’d find it way more convincing if he’d use “stupid dick” by default when referring to a man in a similar situation. Then it’s just “insulting people by calling them the vulgar name for their respective genitalia”.
    Just using “cunt” singling out female genitalia as bad.

  162. eigenperson says

    When someone says a stupid thing once, it’s probably fine, especially if they apologize.

    When someone says stupid things over and over again, that person is the one drawing the line in the sand. And if the line isn’t erased, it isn’t going away by itself.

    Penn Jillette, in addition to saying many smart and funny things, has also said a lot of stupid things (of which this is one). And he doesn’t seem to recognize the difference, even after it is pointed out to him.

  163. Patrick says

    That’s not Islamophobia, that’s common freaking sense. You realize that people have in fact been murdered for taking on Islam? I’d been interested in what Mr. Rushdie and Ms. Namazie have to say about that “Islamophobia.” Christianity isn’t any better than Islam, but due to the vagaries of global history up till this point harsh critique of Islam is a lot more dangerous, as many members of our community would likely attest…

    This should not be construed to defend any other statement or behavior of Penn Jillette.

  164. Laura-Ray says

    Well you certainly don’t have to use such a condescending tone xp

    Look in the comments for the username Emily. She explains it all. And (seriously it’s not that fucking hard) try to read all the comments before giving us your divine judgment, mmk?

  165. says

    Men calling other men cunts is a pretty standard insult in Britain, but it’s every bit as misogynistic because they are not only reducing the guy to a set of genitals, it’s even *worse* because they’re girly genitals, and calling a man womanly in any way is in itself a deadly insult. You know, because women are so much less than men are.

    There simply is no way to call someone, anyone, a cunt without being misogynist. He could have called her an asshole, and that would not have been misogynist, though it would still have been gratuitously unpleasant, and not reflected well on him or any community that sees him as a leader. Cunt, though, is as misogynist as a word can get.

    (Seriously, Penn, you didn’t think the take on the ads was funny, so you heap crude personal insults on the author? If you’re the expert on funny, why didn’t you make a funny riposte? Or… deep shudder… is that what you thought you did?)

  166. julian says

    More or less my thoughts.

    “That unfunny fuck is calling someone unfunny?! Wait! He’s also ragging on them making a living out of ragging on people?! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

    First honest laugh he’s ever given me.

  167. says

    Yeah, I’m not going to read all the comments. What for, I’ve got you fine-tooth-comb-skeptics on the case. “Divine Judgement”? Really? Me? BAM…Nailed it! I was just going for ‘demonic opinion.’ However, I do apologize for the tone. I’m just, ironically, pissed off about all the ‘tone’ wars. I didn’t mean to take it out on you (personally or generally)

  168. Azkyroth says

    Why do you care?

    I care, in part, because I have a daughter, and once she’s old enough to understand these things, I don’t want the way people use the word “cunt” to make her feel like hers, or she, is shameful, disgusting, or inferior.

  169. says

    people aren’t expressing “disapproval.” They’re talking about writing the man off, and writing off anyone who refuses to write him off. That’s not disapproval, that’s a 4th grader drawing a line in the sand; “he’s not my friend, and if he’s yours then you are not a friend of mine either. so naaa :P”

  170. says

    Unless things have changed a great deal while I’ve been away, “cunt” is a considerably deadlier insult in Britain than “prick” by a long, long road. Also, I’m pretty sure Penn is American.

  171. Laura-Ray says

    NP, I’m not actually pissed at you for wanting to know context, you’re not the first who has asked. I don’t think the context matters in this case, but hell, if you do, there it is. Bask in it. Glory in the beauty of contextual evidence, I will not begrudge you.
    I will however give you shit if you have OBVIOUS (read: ALREADY ANSWERED LIKE 10 TIMES) questions because you should really paid attention to see if they’d been asked. So yeah, I’m not pissed at you for wanting to know, I’m pissed at you for being too lazy to find out for yourself AND THEN acting like you’re better than everyone here. If you can’t take the shit that I’m giving you (which, geez, isn’t all that damn much) for that… You might want to find another thread. Greta Christina has kitty posts!

    …Fuck, being condescending is FUN. Carry on, I s’pose.

  172. says


    ps. I don’t think I’m ‘better than everyone else’ I just know I can get you guys to do the leg work for me. That’s not a superiority complex, that’s exploitation. “Laziness”? Maybe. More like working “smarter not harder”, yo.

  173. Laura-Ray says

    My dear, you seem to be the only one drawing a line in the sand. We’re dismissing him as an asshole (He is, and a self-proclaimed asshole at that!), and we’re not dismissing you. In fact, I told you where to look. Go ahead and look there, no one’s stopping you. But it doesn’t change our argument which is that the context for this DOES. NOT. MATTER. He said a shitty thing on the internet, and we can hold him personally accountable for it. The comment, from what Emily said, seems to be standing on its own as a comment, so where it was posted shouldn’t matter since it was public.
    We aren’t dismissing people who like him. I still think he’s funny, and I’m still upset Bullshit got taken off Netflix >:( But I don’t think him being funny gives him a free pass to act however the fuck he wants. And you don’t get to say everyone here is drawing a line in the sand when you (still) refuse to read everything that was said. I come down on the Penn Jilette is a funny guy who has done a lot for the skeptic movement but is a sexist asshole and his actions are just as privy to dismantling as someone outside the skeptic movement. He has been wrong on many occasions, and I don’t think it’s less skeptical or immature to say “Hey, this fucker done some irrational shit!” Those who are defending him as a funny guy aren’t getting shunned (Greg likes him too apparently?) Those who are defending him as a non-sexist are going to be argued with because that’s how this works.
    Dude, I know I said I couldn’t stop you from being condescending and all… But could you at least be a little more right? You make-a dis too eesy /:

  174. Laura-Ray says

    Not researching properly is not synonymous with working smarter. Please don’t get a career in science.
    No Love,
    Person who is also lazy.

  175. Dan Brown says

    I was wondering if someone was going to say this as it was my thought too.

    Here in the UK at least “cunt” is not sexist or misogynistic at all when used as an insult. In that form its meaning is more or less identical to “asshole” and is used in the same situations you would use that but want a much stronger form. In between the two is “Twat”, also not gender-specific when used as an insult.

    They only gain feminine overtones when referring to female anatomy and not a person.

    Both do seem to be said more often by men to men, however that seems to be more of a not-swearing-in-front-of-women thing (damn our victorian past!) rather than because it is implying a lack of masculinity. It implies neither that or having femininity, just that they are being an asshole.

    It is similar to calling someone of either gender a dick. It just means they are being a dick, not that their manly qualities are being called into question.

    I think Penn was correct in criticizing the weak humour in the MSNBC article. It was nit-picking and seeing messages that weren’t intended in the adverts as a cheap shot. He did choose his words badly though, especially as it seems that in the US “cunt” does seem to have gender-specificity.

    So I’ll finish with a joke that seems relevant and shows both forms of the UK version of the word in all it’s glory –

    What’s the difference between Penn Jillette and a tampon?
    Nothing, they are both stuck up cunts.

    I still like him, but thought you might appreciate that while you are bashing his actions :)

  176. says

    I’m searching for actual text of this post attributed to Penn Jillette. Also I don’t see a reference to Lindy in the “Twit Pic”

    I’m not asserting he isn’t guilty here, but I need better proof than this.

  177. says

    Dude, I LOOKED, I read the stuff Emily said, I just needed a little runner like yourself to point out where the context info was. So thanks, I’ll get you the next time I need specific info. For now, I’ve got the info I came for. In conclusion, my opinion about Penn Jillette is… nah you guys don’t get to find out if I like Penn or not, I’ll leave the forming of arbitrary opinions about people to you guys: “He said a shitty thing on the internet, and we can hold him personally accountable for it.”
    I’m going back to editing; the footage is piling up.
    Exciting new episodes are coming up!

  178. Laura-Ray says

    First legitimate gripe I’ve heard tonight.

    …Well there is the fact that this kind of stuff isn’t unheard of from Penn. Not that that’s very good evidence, but still.
    Also someone claimed to have been the person on whose wall this was written. Unfortunately, we don’t have any good evidence that that’s true either.

    So yeah, I’d say legitimate gripe.

  179. Laura-Ray says

    You stop that sweet talking this instant or I might be brought to blush.

    In any case, the opinion I’ve formed for your benefit:
    “I am the most logical in this conversation, my opinion is the one that matters most, I will show this by keeping it to myself and these people will obviously think I agreed with Penn because they’re all silly dummy dums!”

    Honestly, doesn’t matter to me whether you like him or don’t… or even whether you agree with him or you don’t. I guess I’m glad you… like me… or whatever? You just… seem to not have had anything to contribute to the conversation besides a lot of pompousness. So I won’t be your research bitch again unless you buy me flowers first :p

  180. says

    I will Definitely buy you flowers (find me at TAM)! And, yes, you are correct, I have NOTHING to contribute to this conversation. I’m a taker when it comes to issues like this. I know the info I want to get, and once I get it, I’m done. I’m much more loving in person. Good night.

  181. says

    What kind of argument is that? You don’t get off the hook for all the times you wronged women by not wronging them an equal number of times! There are things Penn could do if he cares to right this wrong, but tallying up the times he didn’t call people cunts is not one of them.

  182. Matthew says

    Then again, is it similarly offensive to call a male person a ‘dick’ when he is acting like a jerk? If so, then no problem. If not, then where is the line drawn? My only real objection to this is that it is criticizing his word choice rather than his general jerkitude.

  183. microraptor says

    I quite agree. I’ve seen a few episodes of Bullshit as well as that recent and apparently short lived Penn & Teller Tell A Lie, and at this point it just seems like Penn’s a bombastic windbag who’s got an excessive opinion of himself and very little respect for other people.

  184. Dan Brown says

    In Britain, it really isn’t.

    If someone said “I’ve got to go to fucking work” would you interpret that as a sexual reference? From what I’ve seen of US culture I don’t think you would.

    That is how the word “cunt” is for us. In a biological sense of course we know what it means, but in an insult/sweary context it means nothing other than a great sounding word with impact. There is no implied meaning for or against women by it’s use.

    And as the Wikipedia link a few posts above mentions, we also use it as a positive term too. We can call someone a lucky/happy cunt just as we might call them a lucky/happy bastard. No sexist/misogynistic intent given or taken by either side.

  185. Palaverer says

    @Emily You can credit the asshole elders of my religion for treating me and my family like shit for leading us to atheism. That doesn’t make them decent people. If your (and subsequently others’) deconversion is supposed to make us like Penn, it doesn’t really work that way.

  186. Dan Brown says

    And before someone misinterprets – By “impact” I mean due to it’s relative rarity in mainstream use.

    It is taboo as a anotomical name and that shock upon hearing it transfers even though the meaning doesn’t.

    In polite company of course. It is thrown around amongst friends like the word “fuck” is without anyone batting an eyelid.

  187. Adam G says

    See Emily’s posts above.

    …But please know that he did not tweet it to the world, as if Lindy being a cunt were something everyone needed to know. He said it in a conversation on my wall.

    Lindy has every right to share it, and I’m sure Penn won’t mind it being made public…

  188. microraptor says

    “Yes, I think the full pictures does matter. Penn only seems to friend and follow people he’s close to on Facebook. So I would assume that wherever he posted this he didn’t expect it to be in general circulation.”

    When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talked about his efforts to remove power from state unions to someone he thought was a representative of one of the Koch brothers but who actually wasn’t, did the fact that he didn’t expect his statements to be in general circulation matter?

  189. rbray18 says

    yeah my thinking is a bit scattered. my thought though was mainly a lot of the big name atheists appear arrogant. and i can see why atheists can be seen as elitists based off of people like Penn and bill maher and p.z. Myers. but what do i know i’m a incoherent idiot.

  190. says

    Thanks. Like Laura-Ray says, it’s not very good evidence, but it does provide a bit of corroboration. It does sound like something he would say. He has never seemed to be the type to hold pack any verbal punches, no matter how crude.

  191. trevindor says

    “…we embrace him back.”

    Speak for yourself.

    He’s just another libertarian showing his true colors. Thoroughly half-baked.

  192. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    In what context do you Anonymous Person think having the full picture is important? Determining the course of events or the actions that took place?

    If it’s the former then you are correct in as much as we need to determine the reason why the two parties had a tiff. But that’s is not what is on trail here. Which brings me to the more important latter…

    …if Penn just called Lindy West a fucking boring idiot, then the former comes into play to determine why Penn concluded that. But instead he referred to West as a cunt not once, but twice, which is highly sexist and deragatory. It would be the akin to calling her a “stuppid nigger” if she was black. To writ, this needs no “whole picture” to determine why he said something so offensive other than purely hindsight. But the fact is that irregardless he said something highly offensive is the issue, not the events in which the exchange occured. Since nothing could excuse what he said.

  193. microraptor says

    Complimenting Penn on the times he wasn’t a misogynist is like complimenting Gary Ridgway on the women he didn’t murder.

  194. GaR says

    That’s some piss-poor logic. He calls one person a cunt and now it has been decided that his statement calling one person a cunt applies to a huge collection of people, despite the original statement clearly referring to one person.

    If you want to have an angry at Penn for using the word, then y’know, cool. But you could try being honest about it.

  195. says

    Oh wait? Are you Penn’s “Please keep trying to fuck me! (and don’t pay attention to all those other ladies who ask you not to, my opinion agrees with what you want so it’s the one that matters!)” friend?

    Or does he actually have a gaggle of selfish cheerleaders willing to throw others under the bus so they can be the super special one of the guys princess?

  196. says

    Black people sometimes use the word nigger towards each other in a brotherly manner. It is acceptable to them.

    Don’t you fucking DARE co-opt that for your privileged argument, sweet heart.

    I know a lot of the libertarian assholes don’t give a crap but the black community honestly deserves to not have white assholes co-opt their struggle for bullshit arguments.

  197. says

    Southpark 2 Bullshit 0

    Seriously, think about what he’s saying

    “Well we could go after some big ripe targets…but they might fight back so we’ll pound on anemic ones like hippies who like dolphins!”

  198. says

    Why the flaming lumping frump is it bad for her to ‘hate on people’ for mocking commercials (apparently, I know as much as Penn), but Penn hating on people for hating on people is to be applauded?

  199. Azkyroth says

    Are you seriously comparing expressing personal disinterest in further associating with a person or others who think like him with physical violence?

  200. C. S. says

    Can someone clear this up for me? I think the “Emily” posting here is, in fact, the wife of Penn Jillette. Anyone know if that’s right? (Not sure if she’s coming back)

  201. Allison says

    Yes! I read the beginning parts of “God, No!” and just quit. It just…sucked.

    Jen, thanks for pointing this out. I’m done as well.

  202. rbray18 says

    well i didn’t then either but i hate seeing the spell check red line thing. other wise i could care less about capitalizing anything. whatever ignore me you arrogant asshole that’s your choice.

  203. Eliott says

    Interesting column. I was almost asleep and my girlfriend read this to me, comments and all. This of course led to a very interesting discussion followed by wild insane sex. Unable to get back to sleep I decided to share my thoughts. First, thanks. This blog works better than Tequila. Second, Penn does not represent me as a Skeptic. I represent me. Third, regardless of context, I have no idea exactly what was in his mind when he wrote this note but I know what impact his words had for me and my girlfriend. And just to share, I think Penn is an asshole but I have always thought he was an asshole. This is him being consistent. Last, and in my view most important, if a national blogger with a huge following is going to get pissed off at someone for using language not dissimilar to language she uses, I find it very hard to not use the word hypocrite in characterizing her. Trying to classify some verbiage within the language as more or less offensive is splitting metaphorical hairs. I will not love Jen any less or read her any less but I am disappointed in her. She is better than this.

  204. Kerry Maxwell says

    Of the existing words to describe Penn’s lumpishness, I found Clod to be apt in many respects, particularly by it’s synonyms: oaf, clodhopper, gawk, hulk, lout, lubber, lug, lump, Neanderthal, palooka. If Webster would just add misogynist prick, it would be a perfect fit.

  205. Emily says

    I’m not Emily Jilette. I’m Emily Simon. I’m nobody. I’ve just known Penn a long time.

    I’m a real person, the Lindy West conversation was in fact my wall, and I am in fact sick of this.

    I tried to be nice here, but this has gotten out of hand. I deleted the post, so the comment he made ON MY WALL, not in his own Twitter, or on television, or to you, is now gone.

    Enjoy your evening.

  206. says

    Trying to classify some verbiage within the language as more or less offensive is splitting metaphorical hairs.

    What is metaphorical or hairy about misogynistic slurs?

  207. says

    [citation needed]

    (It will be a happy day when I come on to FTB — at the absolute least — and see someone making claims like this -and- providing the documentation to back them up. I still don’t get how people can think it okay to make a bunch of claims on a site full of skeptics without such documentation and expect a serious response that isn’t this.)

  208. Eliott says

    My point which you so adroitly missed was twofold, 1) The person doing the blogging was at times equally inappropriate if she uses her own gauge because she has used equally poor word choices…do we classify that as less bad taste 2) it’s all inappropriate. Hope that helps you.

  209. Eliott says

    Yes, that’s it, I missed the point. If the point is that you want to frame an argument and drive a point I was never referring to or trying to make, I missed the point. If you would give me the courtesy of reading what I actually wrote and commented about, then I appreciate your thoughts. By the way, the point is, when we start parseing words to determine the line, whether we walk over it or gallop over it, the line still gets crossed. And, when someone gets judgmental as Jen did about which words are more vulgar or despicable then that becomes the point especially when she uses similar descriptors.

  210. says

    Please provide a concrete example of where I have used a slur as inappropriate as “cunt.” And not in the sense of “Don’t say the word cunt.” If you can produce such an example, I will instantly apologize for the past use.

  211. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    You’re a fucking idiot. A privileged, clueless, airhead idiot right out of Central Casting. Congratulations.

  212. Medicated Dormouse says

    It’s true that cunt is not a mild swearword over here, despite what YouTube and films like Lock Stock would have you believe :) But it doesn’t get to be gender-neutral because men use it against men, or because you can play and flip the shock value in informal contexts by calling someone a “happy cunt”. If you call someone a cunt, plain and simple, it is not taken as a compliment. It is understand to be a synonym for vagina, it is understood to be a slur and therein lies the issue.

    So yeah, getting a little tired of The British Defense being trotted out when people get called on using cunt as an insult.

    That said, the screengrab from Lindy’s twitter doesn’t show her as “OMFG he called me a cunt”, so I have a limited resource of indignation on her behalf. I’d keep it to “Guys/Gals, don’t do that” if I didn’t already know that it causes epic internet dramas.

  213. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, you poor put upon baby. Having to put up with people calling your friend out for his jackassery. Come here, darlin’, there, there.

  214. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    . I deleted the post, so the comment he made ON MY WALL,

    Goodness! On YOUR WALL? Land’s sakes! I can only imagine how humiliated and betrayed you must feel, what with YOUR WALL being public and all.

    Lord, what a body must endure these days.


  215. says

    By the way, the point is, when we start parseing words to determine the line, whether we walk over it or gallop over it, the line still gets crossed.

    No, that is not the point at all. This post is about noticing and taking a stand against misogynistic slurs being casually used to demean women (and even men by way of women). Parse that.

  216. Kyle says

    Cool story bro.

    We get it. You have a girlfriend, and you have sex with her.

    Seriously, that really didn’t need to be in your post.

  217. eigenperson says

    Come on, it’s not that simple.

    This is something that was said to her in a semiprivate forum, and suddenly somehow it got out on the internets and everyone is dissecting it. Frankly, I would be upset if a piece of my semiprivate conversation got handled in that way, even if it was what someone else said, and even if I thought it was stupid, and even if it wasn’t really private at all (Facebook :/). I would be especially upset if people then started dragging me into it by speculating about my identity and accusing me, inter alia, of lying.

  218. Kyle says

    I didn’t find the article funny, and I personally don’t have a problem with most of the commercials. Chalk it up to a dark sense of humour, but the cheetah tackling the poor bastard in the tall grass was pretty damn funny.

    That being said, it doesn’t warrant calling the author a ‘cunt.’ Just because you don’t find something funny, doesn’t mean you should say such things. Shame on Penn.

  219. says

    People whom slurs are directed at have always reclaimed them, turning a word intended to insult and degrade into a kind of defiant pride by subverting the original meaning. It becomes problematic when people who belong to the privileged group try to “reclaim” these words.

    It’s not “reclaiming” when a man (Penn) calls a woman a cunt, or a white person calls a black person a nigger, or a straight person calls a gay person a faggot, or a cis person calls a trans person a tranny, or a gentile calls a Jew a kike, or an able-bodied person (Ricky Gervais) uses the word mong or retard… or… or…

    That’s not reclaiming. That’s using the word in its intended historical context, to attack someone who belongs to a minority group, a.k.a. being an arse.

  220. Eliott says

    Again, you are focused on the word “cunt” and Penn saying that word is worse than you calling someone a “dick” or “dickbag”. They are meant to be derragatory, all of them. My context is what I’ve read. It’s all relative and it’s all meant to have an effect. You are determining what is more or less offensive and I think that is hypocritical. You may have a different point of view and have a hierchy of words, I don’t. And Jen, I’m not asking for an apology. I like what you write. I get why you are pissed. But, you can’t have both ends of this issue if you use similar, not the same, language.

  221. Rabidtreeweasel says

    The concept of not being able to take back something you said is not solved by a delete or remove function. It’s your wall of course so you clearly have the right to keep or delete whatever you please.
    I also want to say I totally get you standing up for your friend. It indicates you’re a wise person to invest time in. Also, what someone else says in your company isn’t a reflection on you. I would, personally, consider what it says about them.

  222. says

    Saying that you don’t have a hierarchy of words is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. Words have meaning. Would you think it’s equivalent if I called you a “darn poopy head” or a “fucking shit bag”? Really?

  223. Eliott says

    So, if I don’t accept your point of view and choose not to accept your argument, I get insulted by you, several times by the way. Interesting. You have yourself a nice day.

  224. Kyle says

    Honestly, I re-read your post several times, trying to find the tie-in with your point and the secks with the girlfriend, and I couldn’t find anything.

    It was basically:

    I HAD SEX TONIGHT WITH MY GIRLFRIEND! That I have. In my bed. It was wild insane sex too. (Oh and here’s my thoughts on the article…)

  225. csrster says

    As a Scotsman I consider Americans telling me I can’t call male Tory politicians cunts to be an act of hegemonic yankee linguistic imperialism. They are also, by the way, dicks, pricks, tits, twats, and arseholes.

  226. RowanVT says

    Oh, fuck that.

    I could say ‘nigger’ with all the best intent at heart, but coming from my “burn if you are out in the sun for 5 seconds” pasty white self it will NEVER be okay! NEVER. EVER. It would be screaming “I’m an ignorant, oblivious, over privileged asshat! Lookit me! Look at how stupid I am! AHAHAHAHA!”

    And while it took me quite a while to gain even some inkling of the scope of the shit non-pasty folks have to put up with, I NEVER ever thought it would be okay for me to say that word to ANYONE.

    Just the same as my female friends and I may make comments about how we’re feeling particularly bitchy (read: aggressive/angry/fierce all at once) that day, but a guy calling me a bitch, even if he means it the same way I do is NOT acceptable. This is because while he may *intend* it one way, the fact that it is being spoken by someone with a penis, and who grew up with male privilege, reverts it automatically into a derogatory phrase.

    Pissing outside during subzero temperatures will not make the result an ice sculpture anymore than me saying ‘nigger’ with good intent makes it okay.

  227. Eliott says

    If that is the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever heard then you have led a sheltered life. Penn was wrong for calling someone a cunt, are you any less wrong for calling someone a dick or dickbag?

  228. RowanVT says

    Ooooo yes! Condesplain! A nice, gender-neutral term. Now the question is, will this slightly quell, or further inflame the MRAs out there?

  229. says

    So, if I don’t accept your point of view and choose not to accept your argument, I get insulted by you, several times by the way. Interesting. You have yourself a nice day.

    Elliot, I have no flippin’ clue what you are talking about, and I’m not about to call the Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance for whatever perceieved slight you imagine me to have made.

    Now, are you another one of the people who are in denial here about how calling a woman a cunt, in an attempt to degrade her, is misogynistic? That is the issue at hand.

  230. darwinharmless says

    Whew. What a comment thread to get through. I’m glad @Eliott at least got some hot sex out of it.
    I’ve always been against looking at words rather than ideas, and consigning words to the taboo list. I had endless arguments with my dear old dad along the lines of: Why do you get mad at me when I say “shit” but not when I say “excrement”? They mean the same thing. Just different words. It took Stephen Pinker to explain this to me. Taboo words are stored in a different part of our brain, and only used to add emotional punch. And it’s the emotional punch I find offensive, not the word.
    That said, the word I would like to consign to the taboo list is douchebag. Not because it is offensive but because it is boring and inappropriate and stupid. I mean, when did that become a popular epithet and why does nobody think it is sexist? Do guys need to douche? Comparing a guy to a plastic or rubber bag full of some sanitizing solution, with an attached hose for insertion into a vagina, intended to swish the nasties out of a cunt is simply inaccurate. There’s nothing intrinsically nasty about a douche bag. I’d suggest that it is only the association with cunts that makes a douche bag an object of freakout for adolescent boys, hence it’s popularity on these threads.
    The suggested use of herpes as an epithet has already been denounced, and quite rightly. But please, people, come up with a better pejorative.
    How about: that guy is a septic pustulence?
    Oh, gotta say I like “lump” and “crust”, or would if they didn’t have a gosh darn golly geez euphemism feel to them, a bit like “freaking” or “fracking” instead of “fucking”.

  231. RowanVT says

    By calling a woman he finds unfunny a ‘cunt’? I’m sorry, but that is exceedingly off-putting to me and makes me *never* want to attend an event he is present at. After all, what if he found me unfunny? Would I then get to experience this kind and considerate individual call me a cunt? Oh what a welcoming prospect.


  232. RowanVT says

    If a man only sleeps with *one* other woman aside from the woman he’s married to, does it mean he can’t be considered an adulterer if you can find a bunch of women he *didn’t* sleep with, but could have?

  233. Marshall says

    First, thanks. This blog works better than Tequila.

    For obtaining sex, you mean? Because that’s what the context suggests to me, and that means you’ve got bigger problems than not being able to understand the difference in impact between slurs that are inherently misogynistic in the connotations they possess and insults that denote gender but do not reinforce long standing social inequities. Namely that you use tequila to obtain sex, which should be reason enough on its own to ignore everything else you’ve said from that sentence onwards and simply write you off as a contemptible ass.

  234. says

    He didn’t write “stupid talentless cunt” he wrote “fucking talentless cunt”.

    It’s the difference between being a “humorless cunt” and a “remarkable cunt”.

  235. Matt says

    Anyone who says Islam is off limits doesn’t read the newspaper. Muslims are under attack, both in the culture war and in a half dozen real wars. It’s silly to argue that one can’t “criticize” them, when bombing and torturing them is accepted without question.

    Watch Fox News. Dial up Peter King’s congressional hearings on Muslim loyalty. Google the mosque bombings and the anti-Muslim hate crimes. Look at the insane furor over Cordoba House. The openly bigoted attacks on Keith Ellison. The bipartisan support for mutliple wars in Muslim countries and the assault on their civil liberties. Look at Gitmo and Bagram and the NYPD’s collaboration with the CIA.

    Then tell me that Penn’s statement is not absurd on its face.

  236. Anonymous Coward says

    You expect Penn to actually care? See, uh… I actually kinda prefer gender neutral insults, but I don’t expect Penn to do so. And while I want to see what he responds to this, I think there are larger issues that are more worthy of going ‘You are dead to me.’

  237. says

    No-one needs to douche. It’s an expression of misogyny all by itself. Worse than unnecessary, it’s actively harmful, and based on the fucked-up idea that vaginas are icky and need disinfecting.

    Makes perfect sense as an insult.

  238. rbray18 says

    i did though why you care what i say or think is beyond me. i mean i never capitalize anything and grammar means less than nothing to me. my thoughts and writing is chaotic. i rarely agree with the majority on anything and i don’t worship p.z. like many seem to.

  239. Jason G says

    He used a word. If it had been a guy he would have called him a stupid asshole or a stupid dick. We call men dicks and women cunts, and for the same stupid behaviour. Yes, one is more vulgar–which is weird–but it doesn’t make a person sexist for using it. Grow up. What’s more I read it as him criticizing her for her display of self-righteousness and superiority, all the while displaying no actual talent. This would not even register as rude,.had he been criticizing a man. It surely can’t be sexism to criticize a woman by the same standards you would use to criticize a man.

  240. Sorenson says

    Yep. It became a slur when feminists set out to find something else they could decide was “offensive”.

  241. killertapir says

    Can you not try and pull the ‘we call men dicks’ crap please?

    I and others familiar with this blog network try to avoid all gendered insults including ‘dick’. Just sayin’ don’t drag us down in your rush to defend lumpish behaviour.

  242. rowanvt says

    Research leads me to conclude that a decent sized portion of the misogynist species is nocturnal by nature, oozing out of dens and from under rocks only in the deepest hours of the night in order to spew forth a few phrases when they are unlikely to quickly encounter an individual that would dare to disagree with them and chastise their behaviour.


    Nothing quite like insomnia and watching the tentative verbal defecations of a few assholes.

  243. says

    I have been done with him for a while now. I grew disappointed to see that a number of Bullshit episodes were pretty badly researched, like the recycling one and the second-hand smoke one. Interestingly, the conclusions reached sort of go with a libertarian agenda. I tired of Jillette’s naive libertarianism but these misogynistic statements seal the deal. He’s still more skeptical and thoughtful than most, but not worthy to be a role model. The non-skeptical parts of him are getting too large to ignore.

  244. Summer says

    “Cunt” is a slur. It is an insult directed to the fact that she is a woman. If he had called a guy he disagreed with a “nigger”, “kike” or “fag”, would you think it’s ok?

  245. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    The same when one chooses not to be stupid with all these trolling fuckwits around. /shrug

  246. Pickle surprise says

    Yep, it was that episode on environmental issues that made me reconsider Penn’s scepticism. I noticed, for the pro environment side they would only interview some random Greenpeace hippies and then they would get some corporate shill (who were dressed up nicely, so you know they were right!)to calmly debunk the overblown claims of the hippies. If Penn was truly intellectually honest, he would have interviewed climate scientists, ecologists and environmental scientists. Ya know, people who know their shit. Ironic that the show is called Bullshit!, seeing how ignoring facts and peddling lies because they conflict with your inane libertarian ideology is one of the finest examples of bullshit I have ever encountered.

    To get back on topic, not surprised he would say something like that. Libertarians tend to be completely oblivious to their privilege.

  247. says

    Also, what could any woman have done to merit the insult “cunt”.
    What crime would be adequate?
    What would excuse him using this word against a woman?
    What would it make appropriate to use a word that indicates that being a woman as such is a bad and an disgusting thing?
    And how does that not reflect on his general attitude towards women?

  248. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    I believe there’s word for that Kyle, it’s called hoggling. Which PZ named after one of his more infamous banned dungeon trolls, named Franc Hoggle. And I think the term is used to derive someone who post his personal sexual exploits, that we all don’t really need to know about, befor he proceeds to make some asinine arguement against anyone who would questions social rolls that favors males.

  249. anon4by4 says

    1) Imho is insulting somebody (f/m) with “pussy” sexist because (simplified) it insinuates that all women are weak. I’m not sure if the word “cunt” has similar implications though it might.
    2) I don’t accept

    gender base insults are generally wrong

    without some convincing arguments.

    Derogatory words like “cunt” are used to silent all women

    So if you (Jen or other f) call Sarah Palin a moron you are trying to silence her? Is it working? Or if you (would) call her a cunt? Is/would that be working? Why does one word silence and the other one does not?

    Women who don’t amuse Penn Jillette are cunts

    To claim that Penn Jillette said that is a lie. It’s one piece of evidence that demonstrates the intellectual kinship of feminism and creationism and also shows the incompatibility of feminism and skepticism.

  250. says

    I think you’ve got to be careful with what you mean by “gender based insults”, because in this instance you’re casting the net too wide.

    Certainly, insults based around a person’s sexuality are not acceptable – ‘slut’, ‘whore’, etc. etc., are all despicable, and, as above, calling someone a ‘pussy’ is meant to be emasculating by association.

    However, what you also have to recognise is that a vast number of our language’s swear words could be said to be “gender based” because they arise out of associations with sex or genitals. That’s simply how swearing works. ‘Cunt’ is gender based just as much as ‘dick’ is, but in these cases they are stronger forms of calling someone an ‘idiot’, rather than being insulting because they associate a person with female gender and sexuality.

    This is a minefield that is very difficult to navigate and judge, but at this rate you’ll be decrying every swear word we have because it’s unavoidable that they are to do with sex, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  251. Palaverer says

    You don’t get to ignore the cultural meaning of words, the one that may not show up in the dictionary but that the people who exist in the culture inherently understand. Calling one dude a dick reduces him, and him alone to his genitals. If you want to insult him, you’ve done an effective job.

    But dicks and the men they are attached to are not stigmatized in our culture. With the exception of tasks that are coded feminine (and therefore inferior) we don’t say, “Men just don’t have what it takes to _____” Male genitalia is even code for admirable qualities. “It takes balls to show that kind of courage.”

    Compare that to how women have been considered in our culture. With the exception of tasks that are coded feminine (and therefore inferior) we say, “women just don’t have the physical/mental/emotional ability to handle _____.” Despite the fact that women are a diverse 52% of the population, they are often distilled to walking sex toys/baby makers as a group. To call one woman a cunt, is not to reduce merely her, but to say that women as an entire gender are worth nothing more than what their genitals can do.

  252. charles says

    Darwinharmless @58 said what I was going to say. The favorite pejorative term of Greg Laden, PZ Myers, Lousy Canuck, the whole circle of losers and their followers is “douchebag” – without a doubt a gendered insult. If you want to say that someone is loathesome, compare them with female genitalia, for what could be more loathsome than that? If you buffoons had some consistency it would be easier to take you seriously when you get all offended over BAD WERDZ.

    Jillette kicks ass.

  253. says

    You’re absolutely right here. What so many people lack is an understanding of how language actually works, and, importantly, how it changes. When you talk about swear words as sexual and genital references, you’re being etymologically pedantic and, more important, irrelevant. What matters is the cultural significance that a word has, and “cunt” – at least in my experience, I can’t profess to know its uses around the world – no longer has the association of female genitals.

  254. TheG says

    So, care to explain how Penn not finding someone funny and calling them a name is different than you not finding someone funny and calling them a name?

  255. says

    You obviously don’t understand what a douchebag is.
    Get an education.
    Or at least read, it was explained only a few comments above.
    A douchebag is something that’s not only useless, but also actively harmfull.
    To women.
    It’s also lacking some centuries of historical baggage.
    So, there you are.
    I’ve given you the bowl, I’ve given you the spoon, you only have to feed yourself.

  256. dave says

    Nope, because fag, nigger, and kike have historical baggage. it isnt a matter of delicacy with those, each is indicative of oppression and atrocity. Cunt has no such baggage. Nuance, my friend. Please be willing to look at your belief and allow for the possibility that your stance is askew. We need to be introspectively skeptical, especially on issues like this where many have a gut reaction. Don’t dig in, really consider all the positions…

  257. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    Well, that depends on whether your anal sex partner, either the top or the bottom, likes shit dick or expelling santorum post-fuck. All around, I find fecal matter and sex to mix rather poorly, and while it may come with the territory of being a sodomizing gay man, I’m not entirely comfortable with the insistence in the sceptical and atheist communities that douching is no good for anyone, especially women (vaginal douching is, of course, unnecessary and potentially dangerous) and thus makes a great insult.

    It’s dismissive of the experiences of gay men or of anyone who engages in anal sex and prefers that faeces not be part of the fun. I’m saying that the standard excuse is a very bad reason to use it as an insult. Why not simply excuse it as a gender-neutral insult exactly because anyone can douche, and let’s face it, the result of anal douching is disgusting? Who would want to be a douchebag? Also, douchebags are gotten rid of, they’re unwanted. And despite the result of douching being a shit-free asshole and shit-free anal play, that hardly makes a douchebag a good thing in the end.


    Also, fuck Penn Jillette.

  258. says

    Words that are tossed about freely between friends may not be so casual in another social circle that, most likely, has a completely different etiquette. Words have historical, cultural, ethnic and social meanings that carry more weight than their simple, literal meanings. If you use derogatory language, in certain situations, you should expect push-back or protest.

    The context in which words are used is extremely critical; of course there’s difference between calling a man or a woman a cunt or a dick. If someone doesn’t see that difference they’re either clueless, willfully ignorant or outright obnoxious. None of those character traits reflect well on the person using the derogatory language; the manner in which one person criticizes others reveals significantly more information about the critic than the person the criticism is directed toward.

  259. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    You’re wrong about cunt, Callum James Hackett. It has everything to do with the fact that only women possess ‘cunts’. You have a rather skewed perspective if you see cunt and dick as equivalent. Certainly, they’re both gender-based, but women don’t typically get called ‘dicks’, but men do get called ‘cunts’ and ‘pussies’ and ‘twats’ and on and on. Also, there’s those millenia of oppression, marginalisation and hatred that women have had and are still experiencing to widen the gap.

    In this minefield analogy of yours, you’ve been blown to smithereens. It’s more complex than you seem to appreciate and more complex than even I’ve illustrated here. Don’t play in minefields when you don’t even know what you don’t even know.

  260. Svlad Cjelli says

    I’m immature, so I could do it. But I’m not in the mood. Not particularly angry at the moment, even.

  261. Tom Singer says

    I mean, I don’t particularly care if you use herpes as an insult, but it’s trivial to come up with a situation where you get herpes without being irresponsible. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, tested and disease free, and your partner cheats and gets herpes without you knowing, for instance.

  262. Sas says

    As an aside, I misread “douchebagel” as “doucheangel” and was so captivated I was about to ask you about the specifics of how to use it before I realized my mistake. I think it’d be a good one for people who consider themselves so spotless and superior to others.

  263. Eliott says

    In my view what Penn said is offensive . If he substituted the word “dick” would he have been any less offensive? If a woman had written that note, would it have been any less offensive? When someone is called a “dick” by a man or woman is it less offensive. These terms are used to define someone in an offensive nature. To believe that some are more or less offensive is convenient based on perspective. To add additional context and analysis of a note is also convenient based on perspective. But in the end, Penn was rude to make a point emphatically, but rude and inappropriate none the less. Some here are equally rude to make a point but are able to conjure their words of choice are not “as” rude. I find that to be an interesting portion of this string.

  264. alopiasmag says

    That’s an awesome reply… and that’s basically what I meant when people receive insults like that. Like Azkyroth mentioned earlier… “Lump” could be taken to mean something worse.

    IMO, there are no bad words, just the context on which you use them. I really liked that “Lump” thing… we should use it more often, It could apply perfectly for intolerant stereotypes…

  265. BJ Kramer says


    You used ‘cunt’ four times in this brief article. Presumably, you recognize context matters, or you would not have stooped to using such a hateful (to you) term.

    In light of that, I hope you find the context of Penn’s use of the term illuminating: (from private communication to me on Facebook)

    “… it was written for an old friend who I’ve known for years. She worked with me on the Aristocrats in setting up the Bill Maher shoot. She knows me better than you do. I was talking with friends, and they understood.”

    So he used the term ‘cunt’ in a comment to a friend he knows from working on a movie about the intersection of humor and vulgarity. He was writing about an article that he did not find funny (and worse, the article in question was about not finding the super bowl commercials funny), and used Aristocrats-appropriate terminology to an understanding audience to express his opinion. This is exactly the kind of context that matters.

    [In light of that, one might say he should nonetheless never use terms third parties may misinterpret, or he made a technical failing in not realizing someone could screen-capture and make public something he wrote to a friend. But those are hardly universal opinions, and ones that many reasonable people (like myself) would vigorously reject.]

    So what we have here is a semi-private message where ‘cunt’ was used perfectly appropriately in context to a woman who completely understood, which was then taken out of context, bizarrely reinterpreted to be some kind of sexist remark, and then even more bizarrely twisted into being a blanket statement about all women.

    Penn certainly doesn’t need your apology, but you should at least add an update to the blog post to return a semblance of intellectual integrity to the discussion.

  266. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    Anonymous Person, you misunderstand me, I think. Douche and douchebag are great insults. They’re just not great insults for the reasons that some people here have suggested. They’re great insults for other reasons.

    Also, I don’t expect that I will find that it’s okay when ‘they’ do it, and I expect you mean the people here. Douche and douchebag don’t have to be associated with any gender (or any particular sexuality for that matter, excepting anal play), and that’s my point. I fully expect for the people here, being rationalist, feminist and not dismissive of other minority views, to consider my argument fairy and to take seriously my objection to their stated excuse for the term as an insult and adjust accordingly.

    We’ll see, I guess, but I’m banking on your being wrong.

  267. says

    I mistook a Facebook comment for a tweet, which does make his train of thought make a little more sense since he didn’t realize it would be seen by a lot of fans. I still think he can be held accountable for his words as it was still posted publicly.

    It’s true for everyone: don’t say it on the Internet if you don’t want to be held accountable for it.

  268. Tim Groc says

    Giliell, that is the problem that you face when you set yourself up as the arbitrator of bad werdz.

    You yourself are guilty of using bad werdz, so when someone calls you out, you should own up.

    This is why places such as BlagHag, Pharyngula and Skepchick are starting to become laughing stocks for an increasing majority. It is the glaring hypocrisy.

    I did warn you all several months ago, and you failed to heed them.

  269. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    So, BJ Kramer, Penn’s choice of words is alright in the context that he thought he was talking amongst friends? As long as the wrong person doesn’t hear or see him use the word cunt, he ought never be called out for using it at all?

    That seems fair. I’m sure it’s a relief to bigots everywhere that as long as what they’re saying is meant to be private, they may be fearless bigots.

    Language matters, BJ Kramer, and Penn Jillette is not the arbiter of the connotations of a word like cunt. Whether used in private (which is not where he used it, in matter of fact) or used in a public forum, a word like cunt maintains it’s meaning. I somehow doubt that Penn Jillette was using the word ironically (in whatever sense) or that he mentally eviscerated (and that his interlocutors were aware of such an evisceration) the word of all of its meaning and connotation.

    Simply, there’s no excuse in this sexist world wherein women, not to mention other minority groups, are still marginalised, oppressed and hated, to use loaded language like the word cunt in virtually any context. Certainly, it’s not excusable to use it as an insult and expect to be excused because the conversation was supposed to have been private and presumably amongst people who wouldn’t object to Penn Jillette’s usage. It’s especially pathetic to attempt to excuse his use by claiming that the particular context effectively neuters the word.

    I have yet to see evidence that he didn’t mean to use the word with exactly the meaning the word carries in culture at large. There is as yet no reason to suspect that he meant it in any other way.

  270. Tim Groc says

    BJ Kramer,

    Don’t you realise that Jenn is part of the atheist thought police, trolling the interwebz for bad werdz, even when it is a semi-private message on Facebook, or elsewhere.

    What’s the name of that novel by George Orwell? The name escapes me.

  271. says

    His political ideology has nothing to do with anything; if anything, I’m a supporter of most forms of civil libertarianism, myself. He just happens to be susceptible to various cognitive/psychological biases … namely, that of being a sexist asshole.

  272. Sas says

    It may have less to do with dismissing the experiences of gay men and anal aficionados and more to do with the common use of the term “enema” for anal rinsing. I respect that you may have different experiences with the word, but I’ve never encountered “douche” used for anal rinsing without a qualifier like “ass-douching” which reinforces the idea that “douche” on its own refers to vaginal only.

  273. BJ Kramer says

    You really should write “c-word” if you’re so incapable of understanding that context matters.

  274. Matt Penfold says

    Writing the C-word is no less offensive than writing “cunt”, and it has the disadvantage that it makes the writer look like a tosser.

  275. Matt Penfold says

    You will need to provide evidence to support your claim that “BlagHag, Pharyngula and Skepchick are starting to become laughing stocks for an increasing majority”.

  276. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    Do you have an argument, BJ Kramer, or did you simply fail to parse my post? It’s disingenuous of you to say that I am incapable of understanding that context matters. Unless I’m very mistaken I spent a good deal of my post explaining exactly how context matters.

    In short, BJ Kramer, I disagree with you about which context matters more and have offered an argument wherein I dispute the context you claim the word to have been in and offer that the more important context is wider than the context of an ‘[…] Aristocrats-appropriate terminology to an understanding audience […]’

    So, fuck off or offer something substantive in response to me.

  277. Tim Groc says

    Penfold’s response is rather like the Soviet response of “there is no famine in the Ukraine”.

    But tractor production is up, eh Matt? You can;t accept that your little witch-hunt has become a busted flush. I did warn you.

  278. Matt Penfold says

    You made a factual claim that you are refusing to support with evidence. That is intellectually dishonest.

    If you cannot produce evidence you ought to withdraw the claim. Of course if you want to be seen as a liar, you can simply do nothing. Your choice.

  279. BJ Kramer says

    I basically agree, but it sure seems like there are a lot of tossers out there who have difficulties with context.

  280. Matt Penfold says

    Well you were right, but I cannot really give you much credit since it was always pretty likely he would refuse to offer any evidence.

    Of course his refusal does mean that his claim must be rejected, and with it his whole argument.

    Just once it would be nice if sexist arseholes would offer some evidence, but then I suppose if they did evidence they would cease to be sexist arseholes.

  281. Tim Groc says

    Oh, dear, Matt. What is your evidence for this accusation of a lie.

    A good excuse in the courtroom that. The defendent is lying, erm, but I don’t have any evidence to say so. But anycase, I declare the defendent a liar anyway.

    You’re dismissed.

  282. Tim Groc says

    Must be remember that when I see someone writing the “N-word”.

    I love exposing these fallacious arguments.

    Have you ever used the term “N-word”, Matt?

  283. BJ Kramer says

    “So, fuck off or offer something substantive in response to me.”

    This is a pretty effective way to ensure you won’t have to deal with a substantive response.

  284. says

    Exactly Tom, thank you.

    Not to hijack the thread, but I have oral herpes through no fault of my own, other than marrying the wrong woman. However, it is not everyone has it oral herpes, whatever that is. Herpes is herpes. I was given it as a pre-going-away-present by my first wife right before I divorced her, some 15 years ago. To put it delicately, she did not have oral herpes.

    I was aware my she had it for several years (she first blamed me for giving it to her; I pointed out that I didn’t have herpes) and I managed to avoid getting it for about 6 more years. I guess she reached the point where she felt I had no right to know if she had an outbreak, because one day, my first cold sore appeared. Herpes is more than an annoyance to me; in 1988 I was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, had a splenectomy, and I now have a compromised immune system.

    To get back to the original topic, I just had the worst outbreak of herpes I’ve ever had, complete with major flu-like symptoms. If anyone ever had the right to call a woman a cunt, I would be well within my rights to apply that term to my ex. However, I never have and I never will. She is the mother of my two daughters, so I grant her some degree of immunity. I also believe that any father who uses cunt in a derogatory manner is not fit to be father, especially to daughters.

  285. Matt Penfold says

    The evidence that you lied was provided. I am sorry your limited intellect prevented you from understanding that. I will try to explain in very clear terms so you can understand.

    You made a claim that “places such as BlagHag, Pharyngula and Skepchick are starting to become laughing stocks for an increasing majority.” That is a factual claim, in that you are making specific claims about people’s opinion of those blogs.

    To make such claims honestly you need to have evidence. Such evidence make take the form of a properly conducted opinion poll. You offered no evidence, and when asked for some you failed to provide any. Now someone who is honest would not knowingly make a factual claim unsupported by evidence, but if they were to do so thinking there was evidence they would withdraw the claim when they realised they had none. You have not done that, and must be considered to stand by the claim. Given it is now accepted that there no evidence to support the claim, the claim is untrue and you know it to untrue. Making claims you know to be untrue is lying.

    You lied, you got caught and now you lack the honesty to admit it. Nothing you say from now on can be taken seriously.

  286. Matt Penfold says

    My evidence is the comments you have made here, which clearly indicate you have a problem with blogs who argue women should be treated as people.

  287. Tim Groc says

    Provided? Where? When? Nice try, but an epic fail, matey.

    Oh, and your contention that using the term “C-word” is just as offensive. That means, for example, that on a TV discussion of racism, when someone says “N-word” instead of the fuller version, they are being racist, because the shortened version is “just as offensive”.


  288. killertapir says

    To borrow a quote I’ve heard many times before, yet can’t pinpoint the source:

    “This is not a call for institutionalized censorship, you ignorant jack-asses. It’s a call for self-awareness, empathy, kindness, and possible even **gasp** self-censorship.

    You have the right to say whatever you want. However, I have the right to think you are an asshole.

    For fuck’s sake. Why is this all so hard?

    I swear, people will fight harder against being a decent human being than they will over anything else.”

  289. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    I do, in fact, have a different experience. In the gay community, it’s referred to as douching -and the qualifier anal is unnecessary, you might imagine, among men who also have male anatomy. Enema is rather a more clinical sounding word. I haven’t heard it used outside of the context of unnecessary and dangerous spa treatments in a long time (read: deep colonic), not to mention outside of use with qualifiers like coffee. Which crank was it who espoused the virtues of coffee enemas …?

  290. Jason Goertzen says

    Whether *you* prefer not to use “gender specific insults” is not the point. Let’s agree (for the sake of argument–I think it’s misguided) that we would be better off if gender-specific insults didn’t exist. Alright. You still can’t get from there to “According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.” This is what has been claimed here, and it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn’t matter if we’re supposed to recoil in horror at the use of a gender-specific insult.

    He was criticizing this, specific woman–and not just for “not being funny,” either. You can’t even infer from what he said that he thinks any woman whose jokes aren’t funny “is a cunt.” He thought she was being an obnoxious, self-important, condescending twit–all while trying in vain to be funny while criticizing the lack of humour of others. In my opinion, that’s fair grounds to criticize an individual!

    Had he been criticizing a man for this, nobody would have tsk tsked and said “According to Penn Jillette, if a man makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, he’s a stupid talentless dick.” Nobody would have made this absurd leap. It’s only because he was insulting a woman that anyone even thought to understand his insult as an idiotically broad generalization.

    So I guess it’s fair to conclude, “If a man insults a woman that Jen McCreight likes, he’s being a sexist.” Am I doing this right?

  291. rowanvt says

    I like the idea of douchebag meaning someone who is utterly useless/stupid, and potentially harmful in said stupidity. As a female, I always thought they were a stupid idea anyway, so it fits quite well.

  292. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    This is a pretty effective way to ensure you won’t have to deal with a substantive response.

    Ha! Right, so twice now you fail to respond substantively and this time you’re blaming me? That’s rich.

  293. Matt Penfold says

    By n-word I suppose you are being prudish and coy and actually mean nigger.

    The answer is no in the context being offensive, yes in the context of referring to word in discussions about racism. Unlike you I am not prudish or coy.

  294. Tim Groc says

    You said using the “C-word” was just as offensive as “cunt”.

    You are now trying to wiggle out your hole by claiming CONTEXT.

    As I said – GOTCHA.

    I’m also still waiting for that evidence of my lie.

  295. rowanvt says

    His casual use of that word, even with an “understanding” audience, is still a sign of a deeper problem. My brother and I are exceptionally close, and we call each other all sorts of names (his favorite is emesister, coined while he helped me learn medical terminology for school), ‘cunt’ is one word that would never EVER be appropriate to appear in any form of communication between us. It would never appear between myself and my friends, no matter how close, because the derogatory level of cunt when levied against someone is so high that there is no redeeming it.

  296. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    So, you didn’t read my post at that link above, or you just don’t care that your experience and my experience don’t jive?

    I agree it’s a great insult and it’s actually patently true that vaginal douching is a bad idea (understatement). However, that’s not a great reason to use the term as an insult.

  297. Reflector8 says

    For a number of reasons, I am not a huge Penn fan any longer and was tempted to join you all in the criticism, but…

    I suspect he would find it satisfying that he was able to get a bunch of self-proclaimed skeptics to start defining what is and isn’t offensive for the rest of us. Oh, the irony.

  298. Matt Penfold says

    Oh dear, so much failure to comprehend it is hard to know where to start.

    Jillette was undoubtedly intending to cause offence to Lindy West. In doing so he called her a cunt, which many people find offensive, since they regard it as derogatory to women in general. So Jillette not only offended West, he also offended a good number of other people who were, one presumes, intended to me targets in this instance. Be so sloppy in your use of language as to cause to offence to those you did not intend to offend it just being stupid. There is nothing wrong with being offensive, but it does behove a person to ensure they only target those they intend to offend. If a person cannot be bothered to be selective in their targets, then they rightly deserve criticism.

    Your claim that people are deciding what others find offensive is just silly and I am a loss as to what you were thinking (if indeed any thinking went on) when you wrote it. Jen clearly does find using cunt as in insult offensive, and I know she is not alone in doing so. That she cannot know her own mind about this, which is what you seem to be implying, is idiotic and offensive.

  299. Matt Penfold says

    he also offended a good number of other people who were, one presumes, intended to me targets in this instance.

    Should read:

    he also offended a good number of other people who were, one presumes, not intended to be targets in this instance.

  300. sambarge says

    Actually, I don’t give a flying fuck through a rolling doughnut what Penn Jillette thinks or what he finds satisfying.

    However, if he gets personal satisfaction from knowing that people think he’s an asswipe, then I think he’s in for a treat.

  301. Matt Penfold says


    I am offering you one last opportunity to provide evidence to support your claim. I have shown that your refusal to do so makes you a liar. However I am willing to withdraw that claim if you provide evidence in reply to this comment.

    If you do not offer evidence then I will consider the charges you lied to be further substantiated, as I am sure will other here.

  302. sambarge says

    I, for one, don’t want to censor asswipes like Jillette; to stop them calling women “cunts.” It makes the asswipes easier and quicker to spot.

  303. Tim Groc says

    “Why not just say Nigger”.

    I thought you said CONTEXT matters? Stop flip-flopping.

    Anyone can see that I’ve exposed you. GOTCHA.

  304. Nathan says

    It’s not even remotely the same thing. The big difference is cultural context. “Cunt” has a long history of being used primarily in a sexist manner, as a way for people with privilege to put down people without it. “Dick” is used by both genders, and has never been an expression of privilege.

  305. witless chum says

    If you want to believe we’d be having this discussion if Penn’d called her a fucking fuckheaded ass-licking no-talent shit-eating hellbeast whose mother was hamster, you can go right ahead.

  306. Tim Groc says

    Until you provide evidence of my lie (where and when) it is you who will be considered a liar, as I’m sure many others here and elsewhere will agree.


  307. Matt Penfold says

    Well I gave you plenty of chances to offer some evidence and you refused everyone of them.

    It is clear you see nothing wrong with making a factual claim you cannot back up.

    Given you cannot even managed this basic level of honesty, I have nothing more to say to you, other than to tell you I consider you a liar who should fuck off.

  308. says

    You’re probably thinking of Mallorie Nasrallah.

    But, yes, it seems that no matter how appallingly a man behaves, he will always have his bevy of Special Females™ (as in, “I’m not like those other disgustingly gurly women!”) ready to defend him.

  309. says

    I didn’t state that “dick” and “cunt” are equivalent, the latter is obviously much more offensive. If you look around though, you’ll notice that women DO get called dicks, and they get called all kinds of things traditionally associated with men. Why? Because as sexism gets eroded, so do the sexist connotations of swear words *but* the swear words don’t vanish along with the sexism.

    What I’m advocating is that people actually take a look at the context. Not everyone means to use “cunt” in the same way, so not everyone can be judged in the same way. The problem is that people have got their cause and effect screwy – language and connotations change, so words that were once sexist can remain in use but stop being sexist, so it is anachronistic and short-sighted to claim that people who use such words are sexist themselves.

    If anyone has an overly simplistic view of the issue, it’s those who pretend words have immutable definitions. You seem unaware of your lack of linguistic knowledge.

  310. says



    Oh!–you do know that fag hag has been reclaimed, don’t you? And it isn’t being used to disparage anyone as the title of this blog. It is like the use of slut in Slut Walk or bitch in Godless Bitches. You probably should mull over it some more just to make sure you understand.

  311. Tim Groc says

    You have still not backed up your assertion that I was a sexist. I have given you several opportunities to do this. It is clear you don’t, and can’t, address this point.

    Like you, I guess this means I can dismiss you as a liar and tell you to fuck off.

    Oh, and I exposed your hypocrisy and flip-flopping over your use of context over bad werdz.


  312. witless chum says

    “Don’t you realise that Jenn is part of the atheist thought police, trolling the interwebz for bad werdz, even when it is a semi-private message on Facebook, or elsewhere.”

    My totes favorite part of 1984 is when Obrien writes a harshly worded blog post about something Winston Smith said.

    Or MAYBE someone criticizing you on the internet is somewhat slightly different that a totalitarian government taking over every facet of life and enforcing it with executions and rat-administered face chewings.

    You know how I know atheism is right and there’s not an afterlife? Because the ghost of George Orwell is not constantly poltergeisting peoples’ computer monitors upside their heads after reading how they misinterpret his work in the most fuckheaded manner possible.

  313. Nathan says

    Are you really suggesting that the word “dick” has, at any point in its history, been used as an expression of privilege as one of its primary usages? I would be willing to bet that most of the original usage of “dick” as an insult was used by men against other men. It has certainly never been used by women to oppress men as a class.

  314. BLITHER says

    “Cunt” is not a gender-based swearword, Americans. Realise this soon, please. It’s getting very irritating reading you be bad at Words.

  315. Emily says

    Not that anyone cares at this point, but BJ’s description of what happened is completely accurate (except that I really had nothing to do with helping with the Bill Maher/Aristocrats thing, outside of being present and enthusiastic; Penn radically overestimates my participation).

    Have you ever had a friend who, upon finding out that you like Celine Dion, said something like “OMG, I hate her. She’s worse than AIDS. I want to throw her off a cliff.”

    It was like that. Penn has been yelling at me for years about shit I like that he doesn’t. He was saying this, TO ME, in the context of a long history. Lindy herself seems fine with it, as she is the one who clipped and re-posted the insult you are all reading. I don’t fault her for that in the least, since it was still in context – on Facebook, for the delight of her friends.

    But posted here, it looks like he just randomly posted to the world about what a cunt Lindy is.


    Judge the facts how you like, but if you’re skeptics, I can only hope you’d at least pretend to care about the actual facts.

  316. says

    Leaving aside your cluelessness about how language works, Penn criticizing someone else for

    her display of self-righteousness and superiority, all the while displaying no actual talent

    is an archetypal case of a pot calling a kettle black.

  317. Nathan says

    Callum James Hackett:

    Sorry. You were saying that as sexism disappears, the sexist connotations of those words disappear. Since “dick” was the only other curse word you used in your post, I assumed that was your example. If that’s not what you’re talking about, what words are you talking about? Because I have no idea.

  318. Matt Penfold says

    Jillette called Lindy West a cunt.

    A significant number of women regard the word cunt as being offensive, since they regard it as derogatory term used to insult and marginalise women.

    Jillette know that a significant number of women hold that view.

    None of the above should be in least controversial, or even open to much in the way of debate. One could argue Jillette is not so aware, but only by submitting he is ignorant to degree many would find untenable.

    Knowing that the word cunt offends a significant number of women he still used the word, indicating that he does not care that people other than the target of his insult are offended.

    Offending people you do not intend to offend, and not caring, is not how decent people behave.

    Is this clear enough for you ?

  319. muletonic says

    That isn’t a wild claim, it’s common knowledge among anyone with cursory knowledge of STIs. I never said “condoms don’t work”. Condoms decrease the risk. They decrease it by about 30% on average, but mostly it only protects women. The links which you posted, but didn’t read, confirm this.


    I would call that “not very effective”. It is, therefore, asinine of you to call everyone who contracts genital herpes “irresponsible”.

  320. says

    Oh right, no, I wasn’t using “dick” as an example of that. One word which has lost all of its intensity over the years but which used to be a sexually charged insult (partly against both sexes) is “cuckold”.

    There are two problems with this example. First, it’s not strictly ‘sexist’, but sexism as a concept is relatively young, so it’s not surprising that we might be speaking of a first generation of words shedding their sexism. Nevertheless “cuckold” demonstrates that it’s not without precedent for a word to lose its intensity.

    Second, it has obviously had a much longer time for its impact to erode, but the longer we cling to sexist connotations where people don’t actually intend to be sexist, the longer we make the process of erosion. I see little point in trying to censor words with etymologically sexist origins, as the words are too deeply embedded in our culture. Acknowledge the history, but forge new meanings and directions for them, and don’t criticise people for anachronistic definitions.

  321. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    “This is why places such as BlagHag, Pharyngula and Skepchick are starting to become laughing stocks for an increasing majority. It is the glaring hypocrisy.”

    Oh really? So does that mean the sites should change their position to this increasingly ignorant majority you claim to exist? What a ridiculous assertion. These sites are likely the ridicule of a majority of creationists, does that mean they have to change their position to suit creationist conclusions too? That’s not science, its pandering to stupidity.

  322. Jason Goertzen says

    No, please. Enlighten me. Don’t leave aside the meat of the discussion–since it’s *about language*–to make an unrelated point, as though it makes Jen right.

    If Jen had criticized Penn for being a hypocrite (since he often makes pretty lame jokes, then laughs raucously at them) I would have agreed. She didn’t. She criticized him for being sexist. I don’t see evidence of that in what he said.

    So please: what property of language was I missing that made anything I said incorrect?

  323. Brownian says


    If you’re able to type for the lack of thumbscrews, then you’re not being fucking censored by thought police, no matter how many times you cleverly try to reference 1984 like you’re the only fucking person to read the goddamn book.

    “Oh! Oh! Someone disagreed with me! It’s like I’m a victim of the Stasi! Also, I read 1984, just like a full third of high school English students! That makes me an expert on totalitarianism, so I should know!”

    Anyway, as Matt asked you several times now, provide evidence for your fucking assertion that “This is why places such as BlagHag, Pharyngula and Skepchick are starting to become laughing stocks for an increasing majority.”

    It’s clear that you can’t. Perhaps Matt is wrong to call you a liar, but I’m not wrong to note that you’re a fucking whiny idiot who supports his bullshit assertions with vague references to the anonymous masses that secretly agree with him.

  324. Eliott says

    Just for the sake of clarity…it is my girlfriend that uses the Tequila for me…but you took it for granted it was me using it for her…so your hypothesis is ineffectual as it is irrelevant…Typically…people spend 85 % of a conversation thinking of what they are going to say…except in your case where you make facts up just to fit your theory…no less interesting…as for the rest of your note…well…i guess you had a need to be insulting because you have an inability to view differing points of view in a logical manner and create a logical argument and fail to see humor…and you are psychic…wow…I wanna hang with you.

  325. says


    That is called an enema, not a douche. And it seems that this “douching” to which you refer is your own hangup. It does not transfer to all gay men or to all other people interested in anal sex.

  326. Sili says

    I’m afraid Teller is cut from the same cloth only perhaps more intellectual (which only makes it worse). He made a point of signing himself as a Libertarian when he wrote in favour of Simon Singh some years ago.

  327. Russell G. says

    I’m not familiar with Lindy, and I could take her article or leave it, but for the life of me I can’t see why it pissed him off to such an extent that he used abusive insults against her repeatedly. I’ve written some pretty negative reviews of books and movies, but I’ve never seen the need to use that kind of language.
    I used to think Penn was hilarious, but these days he reminds me of Vladimir Zhirinovsky with his supposedly “witty” over-the-top yelling and name-calling.
    As other people on here have pointed out, their Bullshit show on climate change was a huge disappointment. They ran the Bullshit show into the ground.

  328. Eric RoM says

    PJ always struck me as a typical loudmouthed, large bully. He appears large (hard to say on TV), and he’s certainly loud.

    Wasn’t he in the movie “Wall Street”? If he’s the character I think he was, genius casting.

  329. Emily says

    Why yes, it is. I’m shocked and saddened that this incident has caused you to label such a profoundly decent person as “not a decent person”.

    And as long as we’re painting with broad strokes, I’m also saddened that this incident has caused me to become cynical about the skeptic feminist blogosphere, something I’ve supported passionately and vocally in the past.

  330. Rabidtreeweasel says

    Really? Years? I’m so sorry. I’d probably be immune to it by now too, but that still doesn’t make it ok.

  331. says

    Language is not algebra. Equivalent terms cannot be substituted at will, and still carry the same meaning. Words carry their own weight and baggage, which is why human language is so nuanced.

    Almost everyone knows this implicitly. It’s why “shit” and “feces” are different words, with usage patterns that overlap only fractionally. It’s why calling a woman a vagina (the actual equivalent of calling a man a dick) is merely rude, but calling a woman a cunt is the worst epithet you can throw.

    In English, there is no male equivalent to the word “cunt”.

  332. Sas says

    Well, it may be a regional thing or something. The gay men I’ve known always called it “enemas” and one also used “ass-douching” as a joke. Among women I’ve known who liked anal sex, I never heard it called anything but “enemas”. I don’t doubt that amongst the people you know “douche” was used for anal, but until I read your post it never even occurred to me that it would be used that way.

    Ugh, and I regret to say that coffee enemas are still alive today. I used to work as the coffee buyer in a “natural foods” store, and I was asked more than once which coffee blend would be best for enemas. Yuck.

  333. Munk-in-da-haus says

    Its quite clear that they are not interested in the facts. Someone, somewhere, in a personal conversation used a prohibited word and must therefore be tied to the stake as Witch of the Week.

  334. Brownian says

    For a number of reasons, I am not a huge Penn fan any longer and was tempted to join you all in the criticism, but…

    It’s like you almost had an original thought and then reconsidered, leaving your comment so insipid and devoid of content that it’s a mystery why you signed your name to it as if you were an individual worth remembering. If you’d used ‘groupthink’ and ‘thought police’ as well, you’d have achieved the trifect of internet comments so generic that they constitute a reverse Turing test. Ask your mother if the OB/GYN slapped herself so as to stay awake during your obviously boring birth.

    How’s that? Betcha Penn would have found the above funny. Is that ironic to you? Nevermind, I’ll ask one of the extras from Metropolis, each of whom showed more personality on film than you.

    I suspect he would find it satisfying that he was able to get a bunch of self-proclaimed skeptics to start defining what is and isn’t offensive for the rest of us. Oh, the irony.

    That your picture? White guy, nondescript, remarkable only in that he’s exactly middle of the curve for slightly overweight? Complaining about others defining whether the word ‘cunt’ is offensive?

    Why, I’ll bet you’ve got all sorts of clever and original thoughts on the irony of other people defining whether or not you find the word ‘chink’ offensive.

  335. Marshall says

    Well shit, I’m sorry that you communicate in such an ineffective manner and that you didn’t provide enough context for that particular statement during your irrelevant aside about your surely enviable sexual escapades, but I DID address the more relevant point about your attempts to equate two words for incorrect reasons. Also, accusing me of irrelevancy here smacks of hypocrisy, what with your boastful “IGOTSASECKSPARTNER!” statements.

  336. Eliott says

    Actually, you jumped to a conclusion based on an aside and had nothing to do with my communication. You just decided to make an assumption, incorrectly as it were. As to the point, your focus is different than mine. You want to make one word have more weight than the other. I believe that is unreasonable. You don’t. That’s fine. It’s the nature of diverse dialogue. Regardless, Jen doesn’t get to call people dicks or dickbags as she readily admits to doing earlier in the post without being hypocritical. It smacks of holier than thou. There is not a way I m aware of to assign value to words of hurt. So, we get into a different debate that attempts to add more weight to one word than another.sorry, doesn’t work that way.

  337. says


    ” The favorite pejorative term of Greg Laden, PZ Myers, Lousy Canuck, the whole circle of losers and their followers is “douchebag” ”

    Show me one link where I’ve used that term. Show it to me now.

    Oh, what, couldn’t find one? Interesting. Why do you tell lies? Why do you make stuff up? Do you also crush baby kittens? I’m thinking yes to that.

  338. Marshall says

    Upon further reflection, and after reading your most recent comment, I think you’re right: I DID jump to a conclusion, and I DID make an unwarranted assumption. I apologize entirely for having done that. I should know better, and I will make a greater effort not to do that in the future.

  339. Laura-Ray says

    If anyone is bothering to read this, point conceded. I honestly misunderstood your phrasing. Thing about privilege- you don’t notice it till people point it out. But hell I joined this community just as much to be proven wrong as not. So, sorry if I offended anyone. ::genuinely apologetic:: :(

  340. Brownian says

    Jillette kicks ass.

    That was a nice touch, after your use of ‘losers and followers’. It’s almost as if you had the attention span of a goldfish and the consistency of breccia, but that couldn’t be the case since you were just railing about such stuff, so you must have been using it ironically or some such bullshit.

  341. Laura-Ray says

    Since no one is likely to read my post buried in comments, wanted to say I’m sorry for my use of herpes. Legitimately. But I got schooled proper, and now I’m a little more aware of my privilege, and that’s kind of why I follow these conversations anyways. So… If you were offended by something thoughtless I said, I’m legitimately sorry, thank you for calling me out, I was wrong.
    Man I hope someone reads this. I legitimately spent like an hour writing it :( I suppose it’s just some poetic justice.

  342. muletonic says

    No offense taken here. I just wanted to point out that HSV really sucks for a lot of people, and they already feel stigmatized, even though it’s very often really not their fault. Now we know, and everyone wins!

  343. Matthew says

    Thanks for the clarification. I hadn’t actually heard it used as a slur against specifically women before; I’d only heard it used as the female equivalent of calling someone(male) a “dick”. Who knows, maybe I live in one of the few areas where it isn’t used. Or maybe I don’t get out enough.

  344. rowanvt says

    That would be the difference between “You are an unfunny fag/nigger/chink” and “You are an unfunny asshat.”

    The latter expresses annoyance at the individual referenced by “you”.
    The former expresses disgust at the very nature of the person for being what they are, and turns the speaker into a raging asshat.

  345. Matt Penfold says

    Clearly you and I have very different concepts of what makes someone a decent person. Still, if you think calling women cunts is being decent, I cannot stop you.

  346. Matt Penfold says

    Its quite clear that they are not interested in the facts. Someone, somewhere, in a personal conversation used a prohibited word and must therefore be tied to the stake as Witch of the Week.

    Oh dear, how stupid can you be ? Using Facebook is not considered a personnel conversation. It is dishonest of you to claim it is, but par for the course for those who defend sexism and misogyny. I would suggest you, and Emily, apologise but I suspect neither of you would seen why you should. Which in itself tells us about your standards of decency.

  347. Antonov An-225 says

    Are you gonna make any substantive arguments, or are you just gonna continue to drive-by troll?

  348. Antonov An-225 says

    Speaking as a woman and someone who is all too aware of the historical and social baggage around the word “cunt:” fuck you.

  349. rowanvt says

    I’ve had cold sores since I was 9, thanks to Mom’s then-boyfriend who didn’t let her know he had a cold sore when he kissed her. I, being 9, kisses Mommy and voila.

    I always keep careful watch and would never kiss my boyfriend if I felt even the slightest hint of a breakout.

    On a semi-unrelated topic, I’ve been in “remission” on the cold sore front for about 8 years now. I realised around age 17 that every time I ate salty foods while I had a cold sore, it seemed to go away much faster (tissue trauma leading to increased immune response?) and so began actively applying salt to my cold sores. Tasty anecdote. Butyegods, the salt it BURNED. O_<

  350. Eric O says

    I was a big Penn fan several years ago, but over time, it’s become harder and harder to listen to him. Sure, he’s smart on some issues and he’s a fine comedian and magician, but he makes me facepalm on far too many occasions for me to look at him as some sort of skeptical role model.

    I disagree with his libertarianism. I can hardly take anyone seriously if they genuinely think Ayn Rand was on to something. I was bothered by how he chose ideology over skepticism when doing his shows on the environment and second-hand smoke. And now, Penn seems to be completely oblivious to his male privilege and doesn’t seem at all interested in applying skepticism to this issue.

    It’s just gotten to the point where I can no longer take this guy seriously. I don’t have to agree with a skeptic on every single issue for me to appreciate them, but there’s a point when their lack of skepticism on certain issues becomes far too prominent to overlook.

  351. Teh kiloGraeme says

    @ Tim Groc:

    Grow the fuck up. It’s like reading a conversation from an 8 year old in the playground.

  352. Tim Groc says

    Brownian. He also called me sexist. I asked him to point out where and when, and he can’t. That’s because Matt Penfold is a liar.

    They then exposed his double standards regarding the use sub words for swear words.


    So stop fucking crying and urge Matt to come with the evidence to back his assertions.

  353. Tim Groc says

    I wonder if some of this anger and delusion comes from the fact that you can’t control somebody.

    The same goes for Emily Jillette. She is obviously considered a “gender traitor” by you people just because you can’t control her.

  354. Emily says

    “Clearly you and I have very different concepts of what makes someone a decent person. Still, if you think calling women cunts is being decent, I cannot stop you.”

    My concept of “what makes someone a decent person” involves behaving decently, which I have personally watched Penn do, repeatedly.

    At this point, considering how violated I feel by this whole process, he’s treated me with significantly more decency than anyone here has, including the owner of this blog.

    As for calling women cunts rendering one “indecent”….well, I called everyone on my Facebook feed cunts yesterday. So apparently I should not have bothered taking care of my dying mother, recycling, paying my taxes, raising my son, loving my mate and friends, voting for democrats, or spending hours upon hours of my life fighting for women’s rights like abortion or equal pay. I guess I shouldn’t have bothered identifying as a card-carrying feminist for over three decades, beginning with marching for the ERA alongside my mother while still in grade school.

    I shouldn’t have bothered with all of this, because my use of a word is all the window you need into the fundamental question of my decency.

    Guess I’ll adopt the indecent life I was born for now. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

  355. Tim Groc says

    What’s this? Another BlagHagger with no point, no clue, and no evidence to present.


  356. rowanvt says

    What’s this? I rarely read this blog but the title caught my attention? What’s this? I have a brain that I actually actively use? What’s this? I’ve mentioned this subject to my boyfriend, brother and male friends currently online, and they all agree that calling a woman a cunt is incredibly sexist and misogynistic?

    Capslock is not cruise control to cool, or correctness.

    You are an asshat. Nothing you can write will show you to be anything other than an asshat. That you automatically assume shit about me proves you are an asshat.

    Try not wearing your ass for once. It may allow blood to flow back into your brain properly, so that it might stop rotting.

  357. Palaverer says

    I don’t think this point has been made yet:

    Let’s take Emily’s view for a moment that Penn is not a misogynist, does not think women are inherently inferior, and was sharing an inside joke with a friend in a semi-public space. He thinks the highest of women and did not mean to denigrate them in any way. If she was the only other person who heard the joke and she understood perfectly his intent and did not felt uncomfortable with it, would any harm have been done?

    But when others hear the joke, people for whom the joke was not intended but who become privy to it because the person making the joke did not ensure that it would not be heard by others, two kinds of people are affected deeply. One group includes the people who have been hurt by this word by having it used from anything as a silencing tactic to accompanying full mortal peril. So one question to ask yourself before making such comments, without being sure that such a group will not overhear them, is “Do I want to be the kind of person who carelessly hurts innocent people?”

    The other is the group that does think women are inferior. Misogynists hear jokes like this and they are validated in their world view. They gather more evidence that their thinking of women is right and normal. The next question to ask yourself is, “Are those the kind of people I want to emulate and ingratiate myself to?”

    For a fantastic examination of the kind of effects I’m talking about please, please, read Shakesville’s primer on laughing at rape jokes.

  358. F says

    The word assumes that there is something wrong about women, so wrong that it is an insult to have a word for women’s sexual organs applied to the target.

  359. Azkyroth says

    The problem is, “libertarian” without qualifiers hasn’t meant “civil libertarian” for, at minimum, longer than you’ve likely been alive. The term has been hijacked by a philosophy best described as “narcisso-capitalism,” and it’s stupid not to acknowledge that and work around it. Otherwise, it’s like supporting the American Family Association because, well, you like families and believe healthy families are important.

  360. Lita says

    Maybe it wasn’t originally, but it certainly has become that, and it’s pretty clear that’s why Penn chose the word.

  361. Azkyroth says

    1) “Cunt” refers to a body part that only women, generally speaking, have. Ergo it is gender-based. QED.

    2) Non-American Anglophones: Unless you either start pronouncing “colour” so it rhymes with “hour” or learn how to fucking spell it, don’t lecture us on language.

    Err, sorry.

    Unlaess youu aithre start prounouuncngi “colour” sou it rhymse with “hour” our laern houw tou fucking splle it, doun’t laecture us oun langugea.

  362. Azkyroth says

    I don’t see why. Of course you don’t understand. Your skill in not understanding is clearly world-class. Why practice on us?

  363. hkdharmon says

    Has anyone considered the possibility that Penn Jillette is an asshole, and thinks it funny when people are offended? Maybe, when he disapproves of something, he thinks the most entertaining way to express his disapproval is in the way most casually hurtful to the object of his ire. Everyone has character flaws. Maybe this is one of his.

  364. anat says

    When I post on Facebook and comment on a protected post I wouldn’t automatically assume that it would be for public consumption for the entire internet.

    Anything you say on Facebook is potentially public. That’s Zuckerberg’s policy – he believes if you don’t want the entire internet to see something don’t put it on Facebook. What is private today may be public tomorrow. This is why I don’t have an account there.

  365. Mantis23 says

    I agree. It sounds like he didn’t get that West’s article (which I found pretty amusing, but seemed mostly to be a vehicle for the ad videos included) was written completely tongue-in-cheek. She was being funny, not actually angry about the ads. But wait–Penn’s FB comment DOES mention her jokes. So why did he suggest she not watch the ads if she dislikes them? Nonsensical, indeed.

  366. Mantis23 says

    BJ said: “Nobody would be complaining about Penn’s Facebook comment if he had merely called her a ‘moron’.”

    Exactly. Because the word “moron” would be insulting the writer’s intelligence, not insulting her gender. Seriously though, if you’ve read even a tenth of the comments here and still don’t get it, you probably aren’t going to.

  367. says

    Have you ever had a friend who, upon finding out that you like Celine Dion, said something like “OMG, I hate her. She’s worse than AIDS. I want to throw her off a cliff.”

    My friends aren’t empathy-free assholes who would think that terminal diseases and violent deaths that affect people in the real world are funny.

  368. BLITHER says

    No, it hasn’t become that. Americans are the ONLY English-speaking people in the world who think this, though thankfully not all of them are so simple.

    It has never been gender-specific and still is not.

  369. NJohnson says

    I hate posts like this. The general idea of the post is spot on. Penn Jillette is a misogynist that doesn’t deserve our respect, but the title is exaggerated, taking away from the post. He didn’t call women who don’t humor him cunts; he called Lindsey West a cunt, for a post he found humorless and took offense at for its superior attitude (which makes his post ironic as well as offensive).

    The fact that he thought it was ok denigrate the writer that way is bad enough that it does not need to be extrapolated to include all women. This in fact distracts from the main point.

  370. says

    Put up or shut up.
    Oh, wait, you can’t, just like the other times you made those claims about anonymous “people”.

    I think that Emily Jillette is an empathy-free asshole. Which is unrelated to her possession of two X chromosomes or a vagina. She owes me nothing for the fact that I also have those things, she can’t betray me or my gender. Yet I’d still stand up for her if people started to throw misogynist slurs at her.
    I doubt that she’d extend the same curtesy to me, but, well, as I said, I consider her an empathy-free asshole.

  371. says

    This is an extremely important point. Regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on, people have got to drop the hyperbole and hysteria (if I’m allowed to use that word, it has a sexist etymology after all…).

  372. Eric O says

    It’s kind of complicated. I used to follow his podcasts and video blogs, so I can say that his position on climate change is something like: “the scientists are probably right, but I don’t know enough about the subject to take a strong position. Even if they are right, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the government should enact regulations to slow it down or prevent it.”

    An admission of ignorance doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that it seems like willful ignorance to me. He made a Bullshit episode that uncritically gave voice to climate “skeptics”, and although he didn’t take their side outright, he presented their views as if they were legitimate critiques of the scientific consensus.

    If Penn is ignorant about a subject, he should not have made a TV episode about it until he and his team did a better job at researching it.

  373. rowanvt says

    So a ‘cunt’ is *not* a vagina? Does this mean that a dick/prick/cock is *not* a penis?

    Of course not. It is a gendered insult because it refers to something one gender has that the other doesn’t.

    You live in a strange strange world if you think that isn’t so.

  374. Munky-in-da-haus says

    Oh please, your pals at PZ Myers blog have never said anything similar I suppose. Your high horse is made of hypocrisy.

  375. muletonic says

    And if it were a non-American who said it, your comment would make the slightest bit of difference. As it is, you’re talking crap.

  376. muletonic says

    And presumably it was with his encouragement that James Randi made his own embarrassing statements about climate change. Penn is a prime example of how an otherwise moderately intelligent person can still be hugely susceptible to confirmation bias. Cato Institute reports are probably his holy books.

  377. Tualha says

    Ooh, a real live mansplainer! Not that they’re an endangered species or anything – more like a nuisance exotic overrunning the blogosphere – but look, kids! They’ll be extinct one day (I hope), so take a good look while you can!

  378. Curt Nelson says

    Very few of us know enough about the science surrounding any “fact” to take a strong scientific position on it, but we believe in science, so we take it on faith that what the vast majority of relevant scientists tells us is going on is probably going on.

    When someone doubts a scientific consensus, they should either explain where the science went wrong, or why science can’t answer the question (when it has gotten us to where we are today).
    Confirmation bias is one thing; lack of respect for science is another, much worse, thing.

  379. grimm says

    so just to be clear, if we s/cunt/idiot/w everything would be fine? The hang-up is on See You Next Tuesday?

    s/cunt/idiot/w means substitute cunt with idiot throughout.

  380. ratty says

    “Yep. According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.”

    …You realize that anyone with basic reading comprehension can read Penn’s comment and realize that’s not true.

    Why do you love straw men so much?

  381. ratty says

    They’ve attacked people who have attacked back and didn’t want to stop there.

    But there’s a massive difference between “insults/criticizes back” and “makes death threats”.

  382. says

    He has a firm religious belief in Libertarianism. No amount of fact will ever deter him from his ideological belief that free market is always right and government is always wrong. He said as much on his radio show many a time.

    Penn is not a skeptic in the least.

  383. Allie says

    Should we give Penn a prize for sometimes being nice? Is that how low the standard of behaviour is now? “I mean, he isn’t a raging asshole ~all the time.~ He’s even been nice to me WHEN THERE WASN’T ANYTHING IN IT FOR HIM.” *gasp*

    Seriously. Just stop.

  384. Allie says

    Posting reply here to say Microraptor wins the ~entire thread~ with that Gary Ridgeway comment…

  385. Allie says

    Jesus, that is appalling.

    [And the ignorance too—calls herself a Kantian moralist but doesn’t even know what the Categorical Imperative is. wtf???]

  386. SouLLeSS says

    Everyone offended by the word cunt please don’t come to Australia because I just ran my last few conversations through my head and there wasn’t one without use of the word. In fact I have exhausted all the other words I know in this post and any second now I will have to fall back on cunt. Seriously don’t come to Australia.

  387. Azkyroth says

    “Gender-based” doesn’t mean only women get called it. That’s almost as dumb as “centRE.”

  388. says

    This article is a piece of shit.

    “Yep. According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.”

    Where did he say or imply that? He criticized her style of comedy, which he thought was really lame and amateurish. That doesn’t mean he believes any woman who fails to make him laugh is a cunt. Apparently he only thinks someone is a cunt if they fail that ridiculously hard at making him laugh.

    “…yet he can go on tirades like this…without even watching the ads that the article is poking fun at. What happened to becoming informed before taking a position?”

    He was criticizing the article’s comedic style, not the content of the ads. You don’t have to watch the ads to recognize the article’s shitty style, especially from the perspective of an entertainer like Penn. His opinion of the article’s comedic style was informed when he read the article.

  389. Curt Nelson says

    I agree, it is wrong to conclude from PJs comment that he thinks any woman he doesn’t find funny is a…

    He is horribly vulgar and mean, though. “How about not watching?” he asks. Well how about not reading, Jillette? How about sparing everyone from your vile thoughts. How about you learn some science?

  390. amanda says

    Don’t worry. There aren’t many people out there that would willingly want to go to Australia.

  391. grimm says

    You know what’s awesome about this blog? How this “liberal” blog brings out so much implied and explicit insulting of those “discussing” its content. Awesome. Glad we’re tackling the issues to promote freedom of thought and expression.

  392. dave says

    To all of you: get over yourselves. Yes, women are treated unfairly, but seriously, get over yourselves. Cunt is a word. It is offensive for any of you to compare it to nigger. Absolutely offensive, ridiculous, and egotistical. And Antonov An-225, fuck you too. That’s rational discourse. Idiot.

  393. davroslives says

    Even if he’d insulted her without using gendered insults, thems fightin’ words. Lindy West kicks ass

  394. Just a man says

    “How about sparing everyone from your vile thoughts.”

    He did. This was a comment from his private Facebook.

  395. Just a man says

    Isn’t it hypocritical for you to call him a pig in this context? You’re all complaining about his use of abusive/bigoted language, and then you call him an arrogant pig… Just seems backwards to me.

  396. Just a man says

    “Skeptics” remain devoted to their religious commitment to the State. No amount of evidence will ever convince them that the government can do wrong or that people can choose how to live their lives.

  397. Gnumann says

    The short answer:
    The pigs don’t mind.

    While I happen to like pigs very much, and therefore thinks it’s very unfair towards the pigs to be likened to Penn Jillette – the pigs don’t read and don’t understand too much English.

    If your in your little demented mind have gotten into you that pig is a gendered insult, you’re wrong.

  398. davroslives says

    If these were private thoughts, he would have messaged them. He did not. This would be visible to anyone who was friends with the person he commented on. And visible to pretty much anyone else who cared to look. Facebook statuses and comments are “private” in the same way that a twitter feed is “private” if no one knows to look for it. He is shouting into the aether, and someone other than the original recipient heard him.

    Welcome to the internet.

  399. says

    Did any of the Free Thinking Skeptics on this comment thread ever bother to find out if Penn actually said this? He didn’t. Doesn’t even own the Facebook account the comment came from. Too rich.

  400. Curt Nelson says

    Really? Wow, we’re all just pawns being played by The Man like strings in a harp. If he HAD said that though, I would stand by my comments!

  401. muletonic says

    Citation needed. If this were true, his wife presumably would have mentioned it, not to mention the person whose wall it was posted on.

  402. says

    NOW there a request for citation? Hahaha. What about being skeptical originally? It’s up to the accused now?

    Take a look at his Twitter thread today and you’ll see he says it’s not him. But more importantly, look at the Facebook page and clearly he’s not the owner.

    Don’t you think somebody at least should have questioned it? Skeptics, indeed.

  403. muletonic says

    What in the world makes you think that https://www.facebook.com/penn.jillette isn’t him? Are you saying someone else stole his phone and is uploading pictures of him and his kid, and has been extensively pretending to be him for years? How did the person whose wall it was posted on (see #41) mistakenly think she was friends with Penn Jillette on Facebook, when she knows him in real life? Why did his wife respond directly to this, defending her husband’s words?

    Your claims don’t make no sense.

  404. says

    Since I don’t have ready access to the source, I cannot say which “Penn Jillette” fb account it came from (there are two). That’s why I asked him directly via twitter:

    Me: “Are you saying that you do not own the Facebook account that this attribution came from? That would be hilarious.”

    Penn: “That’s correct.”

    Perhaps he is lying. I think he is probably telling the truth. But either way, don’t you think the asking was worth it for a freethinking skeptic?

  405. microraptor says

    Right, because it makes so much sense that someone would make a fake Penn Jillette Facebook page that’s good enough to fool some of his real life friends, keep them fooled for years, and the first time Penn actually says anything about it is after an offensive comment that sounds like something he’d say gets posted.

    Who was it that was having problems with skepticism, again?

  406. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Why is it that you misogyny-apologists never READ before posting? Do you know beforehand that you’re trying to polish a turd, therefore knowing anything about the topic is pointless? Or is it because a woman typed the post, therefore its automatically not worth actually reading it?

  407. curt nelson says

    So the hoax was a hoax, and I fell for it – the second one (maybe the first one, too?). Shaunwolfe was punk’d and in the spell of the lie Shaunwolfe was all superior, wagging its finger at The Skeptics for being susceptible to deceit. Made you look! Ha!

    Either Shaunwolfe and Jillette deserve the glory that comes with winning a game of made you look, or Jillette is a liar in addition to being the kind of person who would write that post.

  408. Eric O says

    Of course the government can do wrong. Find me a liberal – any liberal – who says otherwise. It’s just that liberals realise that the government is a double-edged sword. Governments can be very effective at oppressing people, but they can also be effective at helping people who would not get help otherwise. The trick is to create checks and balances on government power so that it does more of the latter.

    And of course people should be able to choose how to live their lives. There are limits, of course; even libertarians see the value of using government power to limit the freedom of people who harm other people. However, “harm” extends beyond assault, murder, and property crimes, which is something that libertarians don’t seem to get. This is why liberals tend to support environmental regulations, fair hiring practices, and the like.

  409. KG says

    That’s a bare-faced lie. I’m British and “cunt” is, despite the lies British misogynists like to tell, a gender-based insult in Britian just as it is in the USA.

  410. KG says

    Jesus wept, I get tired of that lie, Dan Brown. I’m British, and it is simply false that “cunt” is not a misogynistic insult in Britain. False as in “not true”, nor anywhere near the truth. The fact that it can be applied to men as well as women does not mean it is not misogynistic. It is generally regarded as uniquely offensive – far more so than “arsehole”, or “dick” or “prick” (I’ve never heard either “dick” or “prick” used against a woman, incidentally). I simply don’t believe you can’t see that it’s misogynistic that the most offensive insult you can hurl at a person of either sex is also a name for the female genitals.

  411. KG says

    No, I don’t expect Penn to care, because he’s a misogynistic scumbag. Why does that mean it shouldn’t be pointed out that he’s a misogynistic scumbag?

  412. patrick says

    So because you and your brother aren’t comfortable using the word cunt with each other, no one else can use the word cunt with each other unless they’re being hateful towards women?

    If you’re allowed to use the word ‘cunt’ to refer to someone else saying the word ‘cunt’ and not have hateful sexism be implied, then why can’t Penn Jillette use the word cunt, in a semi-private conversation, with someone who knows will not interpret the word “cunt” in a hateful, sexist way.

    Are you judging Penn to be sexist based on any other criteria than the use of this word in a private conversation? Are you SURE it has to be representing sexist intent? You can say “well it had to be sexist to use that word to refer to someone”. But you’re using that word, and you’re not representing sexist intent right?

    There is a colossal double standard going on here. Dozens of people criticizing Penn are using the word ‘cunt’ without any fig leaf like ‘c word’ so obviously they don’t think the word is inherently hateful and sexist in any context.

    I have used the word “nigger” in conversation many times. Not as a means of disparaging a race but simply to discuss the term in context of racism (like I’m doing here).

    I would not use the word “nigger” around someone I didn’t know because I would not like to misrepresent myself as a racist, and someone who didn’t know me would not know me well enough to know that I don’t hold racist views, and using the word “nigger” would broach social norms that would indicate that I do hold racist views, and I don’t want to misrepresent myself OR offend anyone else.

    The only purpose of words is to convey meaning. In private contexts, all societal values of words go out the window and its only the values of the two people communicating that matter.

    What we have here is a private conversation taken out of context, and deliberately assuming that the use of the word “cunt” in this instance (unlike the dozens of other instances in this forum), represents sexist disparagement, and not say a colloquial insult devoid of sexism.

  413. patrick says

    He was replying to a long, private message chain to someone he knew extremely well, and this excerpt was screen captured and posted online out of context.

    However, we don’t need context, and the fact that it was private conversation to someone who would have a greatly different interpretation to those words than a stranger who was never intended to see them, is deeply irrelevant.

    Penn Jillette said a woman was a cunt. Penn Jillette hates women.

    Even though, its impossible for individuals to have different meanings and intentions. Even if they know their meanings and intentions, and the person they’re talking to also knows those meanings and intentions, however it may appear to the outside world is exactly how it is.

    All decent people constantly talk as if they were talking to an open forum, even to their closet friends, leaving no room for exaggeration, hyperbole or irony, lest that be confused for sexism by some random stranger

  414. patrick says

    Do the words dick, dickhead, prick, cock, bell-end etc assumes that there is something wrong about men, so wrong that it is an insult to have a word for men’s sexual organs applied to the target?

    I’m sure they don’t. I’d be interested in hearing whatever the rationalization is though.

    Mayhaps its that all gender based insults are wrong (and when penn calls people dicks he’s sexist towards men as well). Or maybe its because the word dick hasn’t been used to oppress men for centuries.

    However if dick hasn’t been used to oppress men for centuries, why is it still considered an insult. If cunt is bad because women are seen as bad, surely dick should be a compliment? Could it possibly be that as well as having certain gender based connotations, they are also just born from a certain base animalism. For example gender neutral insults of a similar vein include asshole, fucker etc

    Could it also be that within the confines of a conversation, words can have meanings separate from their broader cultural context?

  415. patrick says

    “What a remarkably stupid cunt. Why did I read this? Strained comedy that does exactly what she’s busting. Horrible. How about not watching? This is just someone trying to hate people and be superior and having to work really hard at it. She does the same fucking joke 4 times and pats herself on the back for it. I’ve never seen any of these ads, and never will, but what a fucking talentless cunt.”

    So Penn insults someone (in a private conversation) he thinks is being hateful and superior (and unfunny) = According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.

    I’d say that’s a fair summary. Well done Jen, another sterling piece of journalism.

  416. patrick says

    Penns twitter post was :

    “except I didn’t post that. They pulled it from someone else”

    Doesn’t necessarily imply that’s not his account. It could be a photoshop or something else. It’s not entirely clear what “pulled it from someone else” means.

    So far we have one twitter post vs 1 screenshot of a facebook message.

    Neither especially reliable testimony, but I’m sure if it does turn out its not legitimate, then all the ill will thats been poured out against Penn Jillette in this thread will be quickly hoovered up with some heartfelt apologies, so its no worry.

  417. Palaverer says

    I’d be interested in hearing whatever the rationalization is though.

    But not interested enough to read any of the comments posted before me.

  418. SPlCKSNSPECKS says

    Since the Free thought blogs renovated and became the headquarters of the feminist assault squad, the level of discourse has really taken a dive, in both blog posts and comments. Aren’t we supposed to be talking about skepticism and secularism, instead of finding a misogynist scapegoat to hate on week-in week-out? It seems every post I read on blag hag is a hit piece on someone who said something that could be interpreted as misogynist, or sexist, or just plain has a different view on how to achieve gender equality.

  419. glenn coupling says

    2) Non-American Anglophones: Unless you either start pronouncing “colour” so it rhymes with “hour” or learn how to fucking spell it, don’t lecture us on language.

    Err, sorry.

    Unlaess youu aithre start prounouuncngi “colour” sou it rhymse with “hour” our laern houw tou fucking splle it, doun’t laecture us oun langugea.

    Wow, an American lecturing the rest of the English speaking world about the correct use of the English language.

    I’m imagining a man (or woman) from Quebec lecturing a Parisian on the proper use of the French language. That’s how banal, ignorant and ethnocentric your post was, well done.

  420. says


    If you think something is bad, make a point of not doing it. Set an example. Be the role model.

    If gender based insults are unacceptable, then the name of this blog should also be unacceptable.

    Complaining about other people’s bad language falls on stony ground when you call someone you disagree with a “toad”. Regardless of their actions, state your disagreement, and why, but save the name calling.

    Instead, be the role model.


  421. Methodissed says

    Penn’s childish rant and hateful language are emblematic of his political mindset. He really can be a dick (note the appropriately applied genital reference).

  422. SPlCKSNSPECKS says

    Looks like the Feminist attack squad could not just keep their attack to Penn, now they have to go and harass his friends to get their daily 5 minutes of hate.

  423. Chiroptera says

    Did any of the Free Thinking Skeptics on this comment thread ever bother to find out if Penn actually said this? He didn’t.

    Ha ha ha! Boy, if this is true, will we ever feel foolish!

    But I also notice that there has been another side to this argument: those who not only thought Penn used the word, but were also defending his use of the word. And with stupid and silly arguments at that! A double dose of stupid there, eh?

    Or, what? Is only one side is silly and stupid?

  424. Chiroptera says

    SPlCKSNSPECKS, #98: It seems every post I read on blag hag is a hit piece on someone who said something that could be interpreted as misogynist, or sexist, or just plain has a different view on how to achieve gender equality.

    Maybe you’d be better off not reading Blag Hag?

    Aren’t we supposed to be talking about skepticism and secularism….

    Maybe you’d be better off seeking out those blogs that do talk about skepticism? I’m sure they’re out there.

    I mean, in the same amount of time it took you to write and submit your complaint, you probably could have Googled a blog/news/discussion site more to your liking.

    If the topics here are what the rest of us want to talk about, what’s that to you?

  425. Chiroptera says

    Oh, and Ed Brayton has a post up about basketball. Can we expect SPICKSNSPECKS to go there to complain? Or is he/she more tolerant of some non-skeptic subjects than others?

  426. SPlCKSNSPECKS says

    You are right, i should go elsewhere, i normally do. I was linked here through someone’s facebook. I’m just commenting on the fact that this blog in particlar generally talks less about skepticism/secularism than it does attacking other skeptics for saying things percieved as sexist/misogynist/disagreeing. In the ones i have read, rarely does the the blogger rationally address the issue, preferring personal attacks.

    Sure you guys are entitled to talk about whatever you wish on this blog, i am entitled to put forth my comment on it too.

  427. PermanentStaycation says

    “i am entitled to put forth my comment on it too.”

    Not for long; disagreement and alternative points of view are not welcome on FFTBs and will result in a banning.

  428. Azkyroth says

    Seriously. “Banal” implies “commonplace” and I see the insufferable smugness of certain commonwealthers about their ass-backwards provincial linguistic conventions shouted down far too infrequently. “Ignorant” implies that there are relevant facts of which I am unaware and that my position is wrong; the massive phonetics fail of British spelling conventions DOES render the aforementioned smugness misplaced, and there are no plausible facts which would justify it. “Ethnocentric”…perhaps slightly, insofar as my perspective IS in part informed by what I’m accustomed to, but far less so than the post to which I was responding, which asserted, apropos of nothing, that the fictitious British connotations of “cunt” were the “correct” ones merely because they’re British.

    Now, if you want “banal,” “ignorant,” and especially “ethnocentric” consider the implicit assertion of your post (and the one I was responding to) that the English, for purely historical reasons, have a special entitlement to dictate the proper usage of the language to everyone else, nou mattre houw fcuking stupdi thae rulse are up with which thaey coume.

  429. Glenn Coupling says

    Azkyroth says:
    February 12, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    You’re kinda stupid, aren’t you?

    I can only interpret your lack of legitimate response as an admission that you realised your post was ignorant and ethnocentric, and as a face saving measure you threw back an ad hominem.

    Thanks for playing, my Trans-Atlantic friend.

  430. Glenn Coupling says

    My bad, you did end up responding.

    You admit that your experiences are based on your own environment, but then act as if the US English is the objectively correct, English is not a Formal language, it is natural. You might be better of speaking in Perl if you want to avoid any ‘ass-backward’ (ass meaning donkey, asshole meaning the hole of a donkey) linguistic conventions.

    So what you did was take what was a valid point, i.e that cunt is only female-centric in the US, it is true. I will agree that since Penn is an American, it is not relevant. No one acted as if the British version was the objectively correct one(as far as i could find), a few people seemed to point it out, As a forked language however, it certainly does come off as ignorant parodying different conventions, that clearly do not make sense to you, they certainly make sense to all of us in the other English speaking countries)

  431. Glenn Coupling says

    Also damnit(or would that be dammit?) These conventions hold a rich history of dozens of cultures and languages assimilated into English, the Angle, the Saxon, the Latin, the bits a pieces borrowed from languages and cultures all around the world. You can act smug towards this, you can be indifferent like a philistine, you can wish for a drab formal language. Or you can appreciate the rich history and amalgamation of culture that the English language represents, and be given a sense as to the origins of those words by looking at the spelling, or listening to how they are produced in the larynx.

  432. says

    I have enjoyed Penn and Teller for a long time as I really enjoy their act, however except for watching one or two episodes of Bullshit about topics I am interested in I have had very little interest in Penn’s skeptical chops. I have never understood why he would be anyone’s role model or why so many embrace him so fully. There are so many other choices that are so much more interesting and better choices.

  433. Chiroptera says

    SPICKSNSPECKS, #104: I was linked here through someone’s facebook.

    If you felt this blog was misrepresented, then maybe your complaint is better left on your friend’s Facebook page.

    Otherwise, if you came here knowing what people have been talking about, then I don’t really understand your complaint.

    Me, I’m guessing that you’ll stick around a little longer and leave more comments. You might prove me wrong, though.

  434. SPlCKSNSPECKS says

    If you felt this blog was misrepresented, then maybe your complaint is better left on your friend’s Facebook page.

    It wasn’t my friend who put the atheism and skepticism logos all over this site

    Otherwise, if you came here knowing what people have been talking about, then I don’t really understand your complaint.

    That’s fine by me, I’m sure others will be able to comprehend it.

    Me, I’m guessing that you’ll stick around a little longer and leave more comments. You might prove me wrong, though.

    Yes, i will. But will i really?


  435. Rosemary says

    I’m an Aussie and “cunt” is a female-orientated swear word there, also. My New Zealand friends see it that way, too. Wear the hell do =you = live?

  436. Far Kennel says

    Definitely not gendered in Australia.

    In the last 20 years i’ve lived in Aus, i’d have to say that 90% of the time cunt is used it is from a man, directed at another man. It generally means just a shitty person(which i believe is different from the US definition, which may indicated being somewhat girly too. I don’t know) It’s basically the extreme version of calling someone a Cockbag, arsehole, dickhead, knobend, sack, wanker, tosser, bellend, shithead, etc.

  437. says

    Wow Jen,

    What a dishonest dick – yes you Jen. Lindy West (who the joke was about) TOLD YOU that it was a joke among friends. Penn would never use it in another context. But you, in your hate filled blindness wrote this blog post full well knowing. Look at Lindy West’s twitter feed and you will see where she linked to that and said it was a joke.

  438. supernova says

    Well, from my experience in Surrey, England. “cunt” is used to insult both genders, whereas “dick” is usually only used when referring to a guy (the female counterpart probably being “bitch”). “cunt” is used sparingly, being considered worse than either being called a “dick” or a “bitch”. Draw your own moral conclusions about what words aren’t or are acceptable, but it is a bit of a double standard to get uppity about “cunt” purely because of its referring to female genitals, when the more widely used “dick” never evokes this sort of reaction. Not that I’m defending Penn’s rant, regardless of the exact words used it was very nasty.

  439. robertq says

    You turds are absolute idiots. This is how democrats think of women, as mindless, robotic cunts. If they impregnate you they want you to murder the child so they don’t have to support it financially, and they get the public support of heterosexual women-hating lesbian groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood to boot. Plus the ethnic cleansers get the benefit of public affirmation while eraticating the “negro” population that they despise. When will you wake up?

  440. pipenta says

    NPR had an interview with Teller, not long ago, about magical trickery and cognitive science. Listening to Teller crow about how the scientists looked to him to learn, how what he was doing was so much cooler than the drudgery the scientists did, took me aback. None of it was offered in a tone that implied tongue-in-cheek. It smacked of narcissism.

    I think the reason Penn & Teller have been embraced by the skeptical community is because Penn was pretty loud about his atheism at a time when there weren’t a lot of folks who were. We have to give him that. Granted, Penn is loud about everything, and that can be refreshing, until it isn’t.

    But again, to give Penn credit, he has said, more than once, he finds it a little horrifying that people look to him for his opinions on politics and such. He is just an entertainer. And he is LOUD.

  441. JJ Gadoosh says

    You cunts really need to get on board with freedom of speech. Guys, it’s catching on!

  442. Philip Legge says

    You trolls really need to get on board the “being a decent human being” train… it’s already left the station without you, do try to catch up!

  443. rob gundaker says

    cunt is definetly a female swear word. in fact the vikings had a favorite area in england that they thought had very beautiful women, it was thier favorite place to stop and rape the locals, they called it kunt. now it is known as Kent.

  444. David says

    A lil tardy to the party, but whateva…

    This article extrapolates the HELL out of the post. Just because someone comments on ONE SPECIFIC PERSON, that does not mean that the words extend to all people of that group. “According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.” That’s not what he said. He is clearly commenting on one specific person who he finds to be a talentless hack. He’s not saying that ALL unfunny women are stupid talentless cunts. Making things out to be more than they are is a tactic of the politician.

    The only reason people are getting all in a tiff is because he used the word “cunt”. Big whoop. It’s one of the only words left that people allow to have shock value. Don’t let the word have such value and it won’t be offensive anymore.

    This kind of writing is expected from a “journalist” at Fox News or a GOP politician, not a well-respected atheist community figure. It’s articles like this that make me skeptical of the true intentions of the atheist community… or at least certain members of it anyway.

    I normally don’t read these blogs, and articles like this are the reason. The only reason I found this is because it was linked to by another blog, which was linked to from a thread on Facebook about a fight between Dusty Smith (awesome guy) and The Amazing Atheist (misogynistic douchebag) about Memorial Day.

  445. ruadhan jmcelroy says

    > The term has been hijacked by a philosophy best described as
    > “narcisso-capitalism,” and it’s stupid not to acknowledge that
    > and work around it.

    Yes. Oh my glob, you’ve put it perfectly.

  446. ruadhan jmcelroy says

    You haven’t explained how “cunt” is any less gendered in Oz; you’ve only explained how sexist your local culture is.

    Oh, and the etymology of “cunt”? It’s always been a euphemism for female genitalia.

  447. ruadhan jmcelroy says

    Except that it’s always been gendered. The fact that it’s used regardless of the gender of the person it’s directed to simply speaks, and rather loudly, of the sexism of the person saying it.

  448. ruadhan jmcelroy says

    That doesn’t really explain that “cunt” is ungendered. “Bitch” is clearly gendered, no matter who you call one.

  449. ruadhan jmcelroy says

    But William Penn was a Quaker who maintained good relations with the natives of the land that became Pennsylvania, and his wife administered the colony after his death.

  450. redragebar says

    This is why heather cares this is being talked about:

    “I am the lead singer of Penn Jillette’s NoGod Band”

  451. Peter says

    Most of the time, I agree with Jillette’s skepticism positions but disagree with his crude, abusive language. I’m no puritan, and the “F” word doesn’t bother me, but there is no excuse for directing sexist or racial slurs at people.

  452. says

    While I myself don’t use the “c” word because it’s crude and offensive – it IS the female equivalent of the “d” word for men, is it not? And I see Feminists using that “d” word all the time online. Isn’t there an argument that Penn Jillette is actually treating women equally in using that word? (i.e. it’s considered acceptable to reduce men to a male sex organ as a slur, so he’s being gender progressive by doing the same to women).

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