Animals, Women and Terms of Abuse: Towards a Cultural Etymology of Con(e)y, Cunny, Cunt and C*nt

  • Piers BeirneEmail author


That sexism and speciesism on occasion operate in concert has been well documented in animal studies, in ecofeminism and in green criminology. This article shows that for much of its history, the taboo term cunt has embodied terms of abuse that are at once both sexist and speciesist. In opening up a new direction in the analysis of intersectional oppressions, this article examines how the burden of this dirty work has been carried by species represented by terms such as bitch, bunny, cow, fox and pussy. In uncovering this history, this article constructs a cultural etymology of cunt, finding that: (1) the term acquired its full vitriol only when speciesism was shackled to its latent sexism; and (2) only when its speciesist aspects were censured and rendered obsolete did its abusiveness toward women begin to ebb. The article concludes with a warning: Those who nowadays aim to rehabilitate cunt and reclaim it on behalf of women should be mindful that this project can proceed only if it ignores the history of how this binary term was enabled and intensified by human violence against other animals.



For their generous comments on an earlier version of this article, the author is most grateful to Kathy Davis, Maurice Herson, Linda Kalof, Caitlin Kelty-Huber, Raymond J. Michalowski, this journal’s anonymous reviewers, and its editor, Avi Brisman.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern MainePortlandUSA

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