What's Up With Engendered Language on TV?

by Maitri Suhas

This weekend Amy Schumer revolutionized television, and most people didn't even notice. In a joint effort between Amy Schumer and Inside Amy Schumer executive producer Dan Powell, Comedy Central approved the use of the word "pussy" on the network. The seemingly casual announcement of the un-bleep is actually a huge, huge victory. Inside Amy Schumer aggressively attacks several women's issues, from body-shaming to sexual assault in the military, so it's important to be able to use such language. Much of the language banned by the FCC is engendered, so not only is it a victory for Comedy Central but for the (hopefully) eventual equality for language on television. (Bear with me, because this post is gonna get profane).

As Bustle's own Kadeen Griffiths wrote of the landmark news, it's also a point in Comedy Central's corner for hearing Powell and Schumer's call for change: "Some networks might not even bother to respond to such a letter at all. The fact that Comedy Central took action over the course of a single conference call really speaks wonders about them and proves that a show like Inside Amy Schumer is on the right channel." According to the FCC, most of the language deemed "obscene" and inappropriate for television are lewd and sexual in context: "It is a violation of federal law to air obscene programming at any time. It is also a violation of federal law to air indecent programming or profane language during certain hours." Though it's fairly impossible to navigate the FCC's website (hooray for government Internet content), BuzzFeed put together a comprehensive list of many banned words on TV.

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On the list, besides "pussy" are several synonyms for a woman's vagina. You CAN say vagina on television, however. Though dick used to be on the list, it's now allowed on network television. Some of the milder euphemisms are still banned, such as "snatch," "pink" (yep, "pink" — context is key), "twat," and "clit." Though "cock" is also on the no-no list, there are way more words referring the female anatomy that are not allowed to be uttered without a bleep, then those referring to a man's.

Language is so important and powerful, and now especially, what can and cannot be said on television and web-produced shows is becoming more influential on common vernacular. Even though Comedy Central airs such subversive shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Key and Peele, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, they still have to align to certain guidelines. And because the list of banned words contains so many alternatives for the word "vagina," it creates and maintains the stigma and demonization related to a woman's body.

That's why serious attention should be paid Schumer's very funny show; she's subverting boundaries and slowly revolutionizing the language. The more artists and comedians like Schumer can change the conversation that makes the language of female sexuality as neutral as the language about men's sexuality, the better. Hopefully more networks will follow suit.

Image: Getty Images