Book review: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

As a 22 year-old woman who’s been calling herself a feminist for years, my views on the word and what it means are always evolving. Similarly, my views on my body, my sexuality and what it means to me to be a woman are also evolving. Inga Muscio’s Cunt: A Declaration of Independence has been on my to-read list for a very long time. All through my years as a women’s studies minor at UNH, I’ve had this book at the back of my mind. A few weeks ago, I finally ordered it, and last week, I began reading it.

I finished Cunt last night and already, I can tell you: this book changed my life.

Everyone should read this book: male, female, other. The revised second edition contains an extensive afterword which deals with a number of issues that are present in the original text, from the exclusion of trans* individuals to the suggestion that Inga Muscio, somehow, is pro-life (what? Let’s get something clear, people: pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion. No one is pro-abortion, okay?). The added introductions by Betty Dodson and Derrick Jensen are hilarious. This book puts your cunt into your hands and, in many ways, shows you how to make love to it.

A word to the wary: Cunt is not a how-to masturbation guide. Don’t worry. For that kind of information, you can peruse the Internet at your discretion. Cunt does offer discussion of masturbation, including blatant discussion of the clitoris and its purpose (pleasure) as well as the g-spot and many different types of stimulation, from heterosexual penetrative sex to fingering to toys. It talks about sex in a healthy, safe way, all while reclaiming the word “cunt,” which has been bastardized into a negative term for femininity.

Newsflash, everyone: I call it a cunt because I like how it sounds. Who wants to use “vagina” in a sext? No one. Muscio also points out in the first chapter of Cunt, after a lengthy discussion about how the word “vagina” sounds (and I support using this word, because it should be used, because women exist and women have rights and vaginas are not offensive, but damn) that the word “vagina” is derived from a word meaning “sheath for a sword.” She then concludes, “Ain’t got no vagina.” I have to agree.

Muscio’s book also talks about other serious subjects, including menstruation and the woes of cramps, the importance of aligning your cycle with the moon (with the purchase of a lunar calendar and patience, this is apparently possible — I intend to try very soon), and the absolute atrocities performed upon the cunt by man-made products like tampons and pads. She suggests sea sponges, which are reusable and better for you; during the course of reading this particular chapter, I opted to order a Moon Cup online (which has yet to arrive, but once it has and I have used it, I will be sure to post about it. Thanks, Lottie, for the original suggestion).

Later, she delves into the unpleasant but important subjects of rape, rape culture and violence against women (later amended in the afterword to include men, children, and people who fall elsewhere on the gender scale). Muscio talks about whores, lesbianism, vegetarianism, capitalism, friendship, feminism, romance, family, and more. She admits her shortcomings, that she hasn’t experienced many of the topics she covers, and approaches each subject from a perspective of empathy and importance, never putting one thing above another. I can honestly say that the structure of Cunt is part of what makes it such a delightful read.

Muscio’s writing is refreshing and funny, serious at a turn but always intriguing and engaging and fabulous. Her particular voice permeates the entire book, whether she’s speaking from personal experience or academic research. Eventually, you’ll find yourself using the word “cunt” in your own terms (if you don’t already, which I did, but do even more after reading) and when people in the break room at work or the cafe next door give you dirty looks for reading a book with a dirty title, you won’t mind. In fact, today when I told my mother she should read Cunt, her response was, “The book with the bad word?” I laughed and said, “Cunt? Yes, that one.” (And my mother and I are pretty open with each other, but it still felt like a moment.)

This review has gotten slightly off track, but the point is: read Cunt. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Overall rating: 5/5 stars
Recommended for: e v e r y o n e

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Book review: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

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