Being a Woman & Using Certain FOUR-letter Words by Valentina Khan

Throughout my life I refrained from hard core cursing and substituted certain four letter words with modified publicly suitable words. I just didn’t think it was becoming of me to curse, but if and when I did do it it was about something pretty major, and I would softly let it out.

Being a woman and holding yourself with “old world” elegance means to negate any kind of cursing. I’ve always thought that until the last four years of my life. My cursing content has gone up 10 times since I became a mom. Suddenly it felt so much more potent to add f-ing to the word tired. Or instead of saying, “wow, that really sucks” and replacing with “that’s bullsh!t.” My choice of curse words has no boundaries anymore as it once used to. I feel sad about that. Like I’ve lost discipline–but in a way I also feel liberated.

It’s now a new year. The season to make changes to makes oneself better and to make progress to a healthier state of being. I could say, OK I’ll go back to my innocence, so to speak. I’ll refrain from cursing, since it’s totally taboo in my family to begin with, not really appropriate in my field of work, philanthropy, and simply not lady like. It really isn’t. But, I still enjoy it when I feel like using those words. 

It’s also fun to emphasize a feeling with a four letter word sometimes. I don’t know how else to go around that. Of course, I’m not walking around substituting those words every single breath for every single thought I have, but when the context calls for it, it just rolls off my tongue. Whereas before, I would be really off put if I heard it come out of others’ mouths. I used to think, Couldn’t this person use a more appropriate word? Do they not have any respect for themselves let alone their audience, or discipline that they just go to the lowest denominator of the English language and use foul language? Yes, I used to think like that. I don’t know what happened to me. But I’m now that “lowest denominator” user from time to time. Maybe getting older, and feeling more comfortable in my skin. Perhaps motherhood, working life, not resting and relaxing as much as I once did, maybe a little on edge at times, perhaps are all taking a toll on me. But whatever it is, using certain inappropriate lingo is sometimes called for and necessary.

I’m not promoting foul language use, but rather voicing my opinion on the topic of women using certain language to express themselves. In my view the freedom of expression is so expansive, from beautiful imagery and words to callous images and harsh language. Expression is layered. The ugliness of language is also a form of relaying something from within that can be necessary to really emphasize a feeling. Similar to how one choses words when speaking with passion about something beautiful, it also works when one chooses the lowly words to explain something they disdain or love. I do think it is a fine line however, especially for women in society – even more so for females with higher levels of education and socioeconomic backgrounds. The standard is set high to represent oneself with the level of education and background accordingly. When a woman falters and “lacks” the discipline with her language she then risks losing her prestige in her community. I might feel uncomfortable if a woman I admired in academia, for example, used super bad language in her class. By super bad I mean like the “c” word. However, if she threw around the F-bomb or Sh!t, I wouldn’t be as offended but probably just taken aback given the setting.

It’s a fine line being a woman and “going there” with inappropriate language. It is definitely a risk, and one I’m not sure is totally worth taking all of the time – but it is worth it to be true to yourself. So if in fact you have the inclination to express yourself, finding yourself at a loss of words except for those from the traditional “taboo” list, I say, Own it! Just say it and don’t feel ashamed (if you do, because I do, still!). Ultimately it’s a choice, and all dignity and elegance are not lost just because the choice of words fluctuates from day to day. So for all my lovely ladies out there who uphold themselves to a degree of class and elegance but sometimes let out your emotions by way of some choice words, I just want you all to know I won’t judge you anymore – I’m right there with you.


Valentina Khan, JD, MA is the Managing Director for Investors Philanthropic. She was born & raised in Orange County, California. She grew up in North Tustin, a supportive and kind town to which she attributes her love for diversity & doing community work. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California Bachelor of Arts, received her Juris Doctorate at Taft Law School, & continued her education with a Masters of Arts degree from Claremont School of Theology. She is the visionary and co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, & was a contributing member to the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, both of which are non-profit organizations that focus on building bridges of understanding, compassion, and friendship within the interfaith communities. Valentina is  the creator & teacher of Dance Barre ® a fun ballet barre fitness method, a yoga enthusiast, and lover of fashion and travel. She speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Farsi, Urdu, and (semi-fluency) French.

Categories: Feminism, General, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , ,

7 replies

  1. My mother thought belly was a dirty word, but I learned say f*** and sh** when I was in my 20s, a few times I shocked my students when I inadvertently used those words in the classroom. Good or bad, I don’t know, but those words do seem just right sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I f***king love this post. I heard most four letter words first from my father, an Episcopal minister. When I added them to my vocabulary my mother told me I sounded like a guttersnipe. My children tell me they learned to swear by listening to me in the car. I attempt to use these words judiciously to add the right accent and spice.


  3. Swear words are so expressive and say and mean so much more that polite expressions. Use them freely when warranted is my motto. Thank you, great post!


  4. I’m disappointed in today’s “four letter words” and attempts at cussing. Used to be that “F**K ( “*” so Facebook doesn’t ban me) had some power and energy when used. Today, some people insert it into every sentence two or three times, or use it in trivial matters. “Sh*t” now has it’s own emoji. I find any words referring to sexual organs, male or female, to be objectionable because our bodies are sacred and precious.
    No, we need to develop new curses – words with power that can surround our disgust and anger and throw it out there for a witness against offenders of human dignity and respect. I need to work harder at this. Right now the best I can muster is “my mother’s LOOK”.
    Words are meant to express feeling and meaning. Use what does that. Anyone doesn’t like it, tell them to “f-*k off”


  5. When I was in graduate school, all my friends and I swore all the time. F**k was our favorite word, to which we added goodies from Shakespeare and other authors. (See? There’s a use to studying literature.) Now my favorite cussword is DRAT. If it was good enough for W.C. Fields, it’s good enough for me.


  6. You f*!king rock Val! I have a daughter with what I call a “trash mouth” and I get flustered with her at times due to her choice of words. She throws the f-word around so it has lost its power to bring intensity of emotion to her verbal expressions. I’m all for using a curse word when it’s necessary to really convey one’s emotion, but agree that judicious use is best. And i admit, i sometimes fail at this myself. Obviously place and audience must be taken into consideration as well. But if it works, it’s hard to be overly judgmental. However, there are definitely bad words that I hope to never hear and cringe when I do. Some words should not be uttered, no matter what!
    Well said Val. I miss seeing your beautiful face and being around your magical soul.


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