Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

Cunt (250)Synopsis: An ancient title of respect for women, the word cunt long ago veered off this noble path. Inga Muscio traces the road from honor to expletive, giving women the motivation and tools to claim cunt as a positive and powerful force in their lives. In this fully revised edition, she explores, with candidness and humor, such traditional feminist issues as birth control, sexuality, jealousy between women, and prostitution with a fresh attitude for a new generation of women. Sending out a call for every woman to be the Cunt lovin Ruler of Her Sexual Universe, Muscio stands convention on its head by embracing all things cunt-related. This edition is fully revised with updated resources, a new foreword from sexual pioneer Betty Dodson, and a new afterword by the author.


Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, by Inga Muscio 8.0

I am a feminist. Scoff all you want. There is a misunderstanding that feminism is equal to rabid man-hating. My perception of feminism is equal opportunity and equal rights for men and women, with the understanding that women still, to this day, don’t get both in all circumstances.

The focus of feminism is on women because our society is based in a patriarchal structure. And yes, sometimes this means concerted efforts and overcompensation to bring balance. But this doesn’t mean stripping men of their rights and opportunities. The end goal is to make it equal for both.

This is why books like ‘Cunt’ appeal to me. I figure that, by reading from a feminist perspective, it can help to fine-tune my views and sensitize me to issues or nuances that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. It might not convert me, but it at least might make me receptive, which is already a start.

In ‘Cunt’, Muscio makes a case for and attempts to reclaim a word that has been used in a pejorative manner for time immemorial. The idea is that the word didn’t always have a negative connotation but has been purposely co-opted – as have many other words that hold the power to bring women together.

I must admit that I’m not political enough to fully understand all the arguments but I think I understand the implications. It’s very much akin to the reclaiming of the word “nigger”, but the difference is that Muscio argues that “cunt” is employed both to describe a part of the body and woman as a whole.

The bulk of the book is broken down into three section: The Word, The Anatomical Jewel, and Reconciliation. The biggest part is the second section, which covers many subjects including menstruation, abortion (in which she talks about her own self-induced abortion), contraception, prostitution, self-love, judgement, and rape.

I agree with a lot of what she’s saying, but what takes away from her credibility is that she often tends to make assertions that are from the gut, not supported by any evidence of any kind. One of my favourites was these weird assumptions she makes about Jesus and Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. Really? Says who?

She can sound new agey and get pretty militant. This will connect with certain types of people, but in those cases she likely will be preaching to the choir. All others may very well be put off by her approach, which involves talking about women’s connection with the moon, her belief that only health decisions made for women by women should be considered, …etc.

I understand what she’s saying but it feels too extreme, perhaps too one-sided. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her rants would be translated as man-hating in some quarters. Even I wondered at times and had to recall that she has had relationships with men. But she never has anything positive to say about men in general; ‘Cunt’ is inherently female power with no balance.

I have no major problem with this, of course, but it gets to the point where she is demeaning of men’s sexuality in her cheerleading of women’s boundless sexual power. While I agree with her that women are the more powerful of the two, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to vilify men to make her point. Having said this, her audience is clearly women, not men.

And homosexual women, first, then heterosexual ones. (Hmmm… how open-minded.)

‘Cunt’ is a soapbox for Muscio and that’s perfectly fine. But if you want to change the world sometimes you have to moderate your message to make it more accessible – without altering its essence, naturally. ‘Cunt’ discusses truly important issues, but with such a narrow target it will only find a limited audience – and even then, this audience may not digest her bitter pills.

Then again, I wonder if anyone but the already-converted will be drawn to a book called ‘Cunt’ in the first place.

Post scriptum: Since this is primarily a movie-related blog, I thought I’d share with you a list of films that she feels are empowering in some fashion: The Bandit Queen, Born in Flames, Butterfly Kiss, La Femme Nikita, Freeway, Gloria, I Shot Andy Warhol, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Pippi Longstocking series, Set It Off, Thelma and Louise, and The Watermelon Woman.

She also included a list of women filmmakers worth checking out, but I didn’t recognize any of them. And, strangely enough, she didn’t include Catherine Breillat, Jane Campion or Deepa Mehta. Considering that the book was published in 1998 they should also have been mentioned. Then again, perhaps her interests are too rooted in the fringe to be aware of these tremendous filmmakers.

Her loss. Not yours, or mine.

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