Grab It While You Can

(Necessarily, discussion of (female) body parts and plain talk about them. A warning if you’re especially sensitive about these matters.)

In today’s mail, a piece of mail art by Ryan Tamares:


An amendment of an image that’s been making the rounds, in response to the spoutings of Squire Grabpussy. Fuck yeah!

From The Guardian on the 10th, by Nicole Puglise, “‘Pussy grabs back’ becomes rallying cry for female rage against Trump: The Republican nominee’s boasts about groping women has inspired a combative meme as women vow to ‘grab back’ on election day”:

Donald Trump received considerable backlash after his comments on grabbing women “by the pussy” resurfaced from a video that was leaked on Friday [October 7th].

The Republican nominee’s use of the word “pussy” inspired one of the strongest reactions, with women expressing their outrage online and creating posters, T-shirts and a song hammering home the message that the #PussyGrabsBack on election day.

… Some shared images of the Trump campaign’s famous red hats, instead with the phrase “Grab em by the pussy” in white embroidery.


The “Don’t Tread On Me” flag from the American Revolutionary War


and the Obama “Hope” image were also adapted for the cause.

Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club, turned the phrase into a widely shared image with a cat in mid-snarl, crediting Amanda Duarte with the sentiment. Bennett, Duarte and Stella Marrs, who created the original image of the cat, and Female Collective, a feminist brand and online community, have turned the image into a T-shirt.


(The basis for Ryan’s card.)

As for matters pussy, I’ve been over this territory at some length (following on news reports about the band Pussy Riot), in a posting of 8/19/12, “The pussy patrol”. Highlights:

… there’s some evidence that the ‘vagina’ sense of pussy has recently [in 2012] become very prominent indeed.

I used a Google Ngram search on a pussy (which I judged to be biased towards the ‘cat’ and ‘weakling’ senses) vs. her pussy (which I judged to be biased towards the ‘vagina’ sense) to investigate the frequency of taboo pussy. Both expressions occur at very low frequencies until 2000, when her pussy shoots up precipitously.

Supporting the idea that vaginal pussy has recently become much more frequent is another Google Ngram search, comparing kitty and pussy. For a century or so, both  occur at modest frequencies, with pussy a bit ahead; then in roughly 1990, pussy starts taking off, and it shoots up in 2000.

These are counts from books; a shift towards vaginal pussy would have taken place earlier in informal writing and in speech. But in any case, vaginal pussy is now prominent indeed, to the extent that many people, I suspect, would prefer to avoid feline pussy. (Pussycat continues, but mostly in metaphorical uses rather in literal use.) So Pussy Riot is in fact problematic for people concerned about linguistic modesty.

Now a digression on the tangled semantic web of the word pussy, from OED3 (Dec. 2007).

… It starts with cats, and then radiates in different directions, including to women in general, then (presumably by metonymy) to the vagina and to women as sexual objects. Once the word was used for women, it was open for referring to men with feminine characteristics (effeminacy or merely weakness), and then, more or less inevitably, to gay men, though this isn’t a particularly frequent sense. Things eventually shook down to three main domains of meaning: ‘cat’, ‘weakling, coward, sissy’, and ‘vagina’.

Oh yes, the title of this posting.  A play on the song title “Get It While You Can” (Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman), made famous by Janis Joplin. You can watch a 1970 tv performance by her here. With get or grab, it’s about affection, not assault.

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