Cunt: A Declaration of Independence proudly proclaims that every woman can, and should be, the “Cuntlovin’ Ruler of Her Sexual Universe.” From its intriguing and brazen title itself, author Inga Muscio relays to readers she has no qualms about addressing the stereotypically off-limits issues of the world of feminism. Muscio does not disappoint. She unabashedly delves into traditionally taboo topics, deconstructing the negativity commonly shrouding women’s issues, including menstruation, alternative reproductive control, orgasms, prostitution, and rape. Cunt offers a series of personal stories made accessible through Muscio’s colloquial style, engaging the reader in a conversational dialogue. Muscio’s 2002 declaration of independence has since become increasingly mainstream over the past decade, as the topics of female empowerment and self-love necessitate attention and a more comprehensive understanding.
Muscio immediately declares, “Cunt is very arguably the most powerful negative word in the American English language.” The word cunt carries such dense malice that it is palpable simply typing the word, let alone speaking it. Muscio vows to change that. She informs the reader of the former sacred meaning of words delegated to female anatomy, including cunt and vagina, tracing their transmutation from honorable titles, to demeaning slanders. Vagina, Muscio reveals, loosely translates into sheath for sword. Muscio contends that she “ain’t got no vagina” before embarking on a manifesto of female empowerment, inviting her readers to join her in the rejection of female oppression, instead uniting under the common banner of womanhood.
Muscio’s piece powerfully reclaims derogatory terms by returning their ancient, sacred meaning to the titles, while renouncing societal standards that breed hatred and repulsion towards women. Cunt provides detailed insight on the functions of women’s vaginas, with extensive writing devoted to the various stages in a woman’s menstruation. Muscio’s forthright and transparent discussion of women’s bodies thrusts the reader into a world in which women are cherished for their natural bodily processes. The days of whispered requests for tampons in the girls’ bathroom are over. Muscio implores women to become familiar with their bodies, in celebration of the exquisite, nuanced, rhythmic nature of their cycles. Muscio even suggests hosting menarche parties for girls to commemorate their first periods as a way of welcoming them into a loving, powerful relationship with their bodies. Cunt outlines how validating an intimate knowledge and acceptance of one’s body truly is.
While Muscio discusses the importance of self-love, she urges her readers to actively resist the industry that propagates hatred towards women. She exposes the skewed business behind women’s health, revealing that almost exclusively men dominate the field of women’s products. Men labeled menstrual items “feminine hygiene products,” implying that women are inherently filthy, as opposed to magical and natural.
But tampons are just the start. Muscio tackles issues of rape in a deeply evocative chapter that resonates with women in physical, emotional, and mental realms. The film industry repulses Muscio, who expresses indignation that Hollywood has the audacity to not only typecast women, but transform violating, brutal scenarios of rape into sexy scenes, warping the reality of it. Muscio calls upon women to boycott movies that portray women being raped, encouraging viewers to actively voice their rage. Her fury over the dehumanization of women in film is contagious as she reminds her audience that rape and the degradation of women should not be commonplace. Muscio’s writing adopts a vitriolic tone in parts of the book, even polarizing her readers at times. Yet, her animosity towards the systematic oppression of women is understandable and makes for a compelling, inspiring read. Cunt’s success in pushing the reader to come face-to-face with his or her own system of beliefs on feminism is arguably Muscio’s greatest achievement.
Cunt: A Declaration of Independence dismantles the idea of women’s issues as shameful, abnormal, and secretive. Muscio praises women’s lives, narratives, and bodies, encouraging them to do the same by taking proud ownership of their own. She affirms that, “Women can be kicked when we are down, but no one is stupid or strong enough to kick us when we are standing up, all, together.” Muscio’s raw, intimate writing reminds women the power they possess to change their narrative into ones of love and acceptance, while maintaining the necessity of unity and resilience in a culture that actively suppresses women’s natural gifts. Cunt is a stunning, evocative book that will awaken anyone, with or without a vagina, to the magic they bear.
Inga Muscio is an American writer who has penned Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Rose; Love in Violent Times, and Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil; My life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society. Muscio is a public speaker and can be found hosting events on college campuses addressing racism, sexual violence and feminist issues. Born in 1966, Muscio’s commitment to revolution is present in all her work, as she propels social change through empowerment and activism.