Of Mat and Men: Taboo Words and the Language of Russian Female Punks

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Michael Douglas Furman


Through ethnographic data and discourse analysis, this article exposes the presence of
sexist practices within an ostensibly egalitarian Russian punk scene in Saint Petersburg.
Specifically, this article examines how female punks use mat (swear words like “fuck,”
“shit,” “whore,” and “cunt”) to transgress hegemonic notions of femininity, while at
the same time performing a masculine ritual that Russian punks highly value as subcultural
capital. This article examines linguistic practice surrounding mat and demonstrates
that mat is not “male” but instead performs stances of authority and masculinity,
which are in turn associated with gender. The article’s close examination of linguistic
practice among female punks helps elucidate some of the ways that punk women attempt
to claim authority within a scene that otherwise physically and socially marginalizes
them. By drawing on the ethnomethodological theories of indexicality and stance,
the analysis shows how micro instances of mat simultaneously interact with—and draw
upon—macro conceptions of the traditional gender order. Because mainstream gender
norms strongly proscribe women’s use of mat, punk women can effectively exploit this
cultural proscription to create distance from mainstream conceptions of femininity
while simultaneously exploiting their subversion of the traditional gender order to accrue
subcultural capital. Rather than separating linguistic practice from macro discourses
on gender, this article traces how macro conceptions of the gender order help structure—
and are structured by—talk in interaction. As such, this article provides critical
insight into how micro instances of mat interact with macro conceptions of the gender
order to create an alternative punk femininity.

Article in English.

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2018-10-1-5-28


Language and Gender, Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, Language and Ideology, Indexicality, Stance, Russian Punk, Ethnography, Pussy Riot

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