By Doctor Comrade
[This article contains no links to examples of "cuck" being used because I don't want to provide web traffic to right-wing hate speech. Trigger warning for homophobic and racist slurs.]
Our language is awash in terms men use to criticize, undermine, or call into question the sexuality and masculinity of their peers, like fag and faggot, beta, homo, queer (though it has been reclaimed by LGBTQ activists), poof, tranny, and others. But one new term has captured the right-wing imagination and become the default slur deployed by many right-wing activists: "cuck," short for cuckold. Its recent usage indicates that right-wingers are particularly insecure about their masculinity, their place in the world, and the burgeoning multicultural society that is forming around them.
In American right-wing discourse, "cuck" has largely replaced "fag" in many ways (though "fag" is far from dead). Particularly, it appears like you can call someone a "cuckold" on the air and in serious print, but you can't call someone a "fag" anymore. Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart have been using the term "cuck" to attack both conservatives and liberals for being weak or unmanly, yet it seems unthinkable that either Limbaugh or Breitbart would dare to use "fag" anymore.
Of course, "cuck" fits into a long lineage of homophobic, racist, and sexist attacks on political opponents. Impugning someone for their sexuality or insinuating that they are homosexual is a way to undermine their manhood and masculinity, to imply that they are weak and feminine, and to say that they like being dominated by other men. In many ways, "cuck" resembles "fag" in this usage, implying that a man who is a "fag" or "cuck" is weak, feminine, and dominated by other men. Similarly, "fag" is also used as a suffix to attack liberals, as in "libfag," much in the same way "tard" is used to imply someone is mentally handicapped, like "libtard" (or the more generic "fucktard"). "Cuck" is now also used this way ("libcuck" or "cuckservative").
But the mere observation that "fag" can no longer be said in polite company is not a sufficient explanation for why "cuck" has seemingly replaced it. In actuality, "cuck" is a much better encapsulation of the current political fears of white supremacists in the current socio-political climate. Cuckolding implies several things: fear of women's abilities to choose to have sex with someone else, fear of other men stealing something (like property), fear of outsiders, and fear of powerlessness.
And because of these implications, when it is used as a slur against another person, it actually demonstrates the internal beliefs of the person saying the slur. Being cuckolded is their worst fear, so they project it onto the people they don't like. They earnestly believe that being cuckolded is the worst possible thing the could ever happen to a man, which is what makes it an insult in their beliefs, and which shows that they fear being cuckolded above all else.
Donald Trump has given these insecure men a paragon of masculinity to rally behind. Trump talks about his supposedly large penis and his sexual prowess while stating that his opponents are weaker men with small penises. Dave Weigel noted in the Washington Post that white supremacists have revitalized the term "cuck" in support of hyper-masculine Trump: "White nationalist Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute explained Trump’s appeal [:] 'he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.'” Words like "displacement" demonstrate how afraid white men are of losing their economic, cultural, and sexual superiority. They resort to slurs like "cuck" because it is emblematic of their own insecurity, the fracturing of the white hegemony over immigrants and blacks. They see "cucks" as race traitors, unable to stem the tide of colored peoples taking what white people are supposedly entitled to. And finally, they fear the possibility that they themselves could be cuckolded by ethnic minorities, and they then turn this fear into a rallying cry.
We should examine the implications of the term itself. For one, "cuck" demonstrates an essential fear of women's liberation, the idea that a woman could choose to abandon a man in favor of a different man (who, importantly, may be a man of color). "Cuck" is a deeply sexist insult because it implies that its recipient is unable to control "his" woman, and worse, that he is so unmanly that she would turn to another man for sexual satisfaction. Moreover, it posits a paranoid version of female agency in which women are deceptive, manipulative, and untrustworthy, and therefore need masculine men to ensure that they don't exercise their sexual agency.
Another point is how "cuck" implies ownership over women and property more broadly. Not only does "cuck" suggest that men are so weak that they can't control women, but that they are also unable to protect their property from "displacement" or theft by immigrants and other interlopers. This is indicative of bourgeois ethics in which capitalist property relations must be protected against challenges from outsiders. It's a common bourgeois response that is inherently linked to fascism: the articulated fear of victimization written onto existing beliefs about the sanctity of property.
This fear of outsiders is why "cuck" has been so readily adopted by white supremacists. As I observed a couple months ago, the term "cuck" is used against people who betray their race and class. Class and race are central to white supremacist views because class is racialized, as in all whites are supposed to belong to the master class: "when immigrants threaten property, they threaten the supremacy of whites as a class. This is one of the ways [white supremacists] articulate a warped version of class consciousness: that whites must unite as a class in order to protect property, territory, ethics, and national security."
Lastly, the term "cuck" is a fear of powerlessness, of the inability to control a woman and prevent men from taking her away. If being cuckolded is the ultimate insult, the worst possible scenario, it is because this is what the cuck sayers fear about themselves. If whites don't unite as a race and a class, then they are vulnerable to being cuckolded. Joan Walsh collected several examples of white supremacists explaining why "cuck" is so fundamental to their ideology. These quotes all sound like white men who are afraid that white people are not as powerful as white supremacists believe. In essence, "cucks" demonstrate the vulnerability of all white men because of deceitful women in need of control and devious foreigners in need of eradication. The fact that both deceitful women and devious foreigners exist proves that white supremacists are completely impotent.
Calling "cuck," just like yelling "white power" or "Sieg Heil," is the ultimate betrayal of the white supremacist belief structure because it shows just how weak and petty and pathetic white supremacism is. It shows that white supremacists are powerless, that their ideology is unconvincing and fragile, and that their activism is doomed. It demonstrates just how afraid they are of losing, and how close they are to finally being snuffed out. "Cuck" is a term that implies more about the speaker than the target, what their deepest fears are, and how easily they can be defeated.