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Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

4.2 15
by Inga Muscio, Betty Dodson

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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. With humor and candor, she shares her own history as she explores the cultural forces that influence


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. With humor and candor, she shares her own history as she explores the cultural forces that influence women’s relationships with their bodies.

Sending out a call for every woman to be the Cuntlovin’ Ruler of Her Sexual Universe, Muscio stands convention on its head by embracing all things cunt-related.

This updated edition features a new foreword by Betty Dodson, an introduction by Derrick Jensen, a new afterword by the author and an updated and expanded resource section.

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Live Girls
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
845 KB

Read an Excerpt


A Declaration of Independence

By Inga Muscio Seal Press (CA)

Copyright © 2002 Inga Muscio
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781580050753

Chapter One

Cuntist Mystique

I came across the power of "cunt" quite accidentally. After writing an article for a newspaper, I typed in "word count," but left out the "o." My editor laughingly pointed out the mistake. I looked at the two words together and decided "Word Cunt" seemed like a nice title for a woman writer. As a kind of intraoffice byline, I started typing "Word Cunt" instead of "word count" on all my articles.

    The handful of people who saw hard copies of my work reacted strongly and asked why I chose to put these two words on my articles. After explaining my reasoning to editorial assistants, production magis, proofreaders and receptionists, I started wondering about the actual, decontextualized power of "cunt."

    I looked up "cunt" in Barbara G. Walker's twenty-five-year research opus, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, and found it was indeed a title, back in the day. "Cunt" is related to words from India, China, Ireland, Rome and Egypt. Such words were either titles of respect for women, priestesses and witches, or derivatives of the names of various goddesses:

In ancient writings, the word for "cunt" was synonymous with "woman," though not in the insulting modern sense. An Egyptologist wasshocked to find the maxims of Ptah-Hotep "used for 'woman' a term that was more than blunt," though its indelicacy was not in the eye of the ancient beholder, only in that of the modern scholar. (Walker, 1983, 197)

    The words "bitch" and "whore" have also shared a similar fate in our language. This seemed rather fishy to me. Three words which convey negative meanings about women, specifically, all happen to have once had totally positive associations about women, specifically.

    Of the three, "cunt" garners the most powerful negative reaction.

    How come?

    This was obviously a loaded question to be asking myself, 'cause the answer evolved into quite the life-consuming project.

According to every woman-centered historical reference I have read--from M. Esther Harding to bell hooks--the containment of woman's sexuality was a huge priority to emerging patrifocal religious and economic systems.

    Cunts were anathema to forefather types. Literally and metaphorically, the word and anatomical jewel presided at the very nexus of many earlier religions which impeded phallic power worship. In Western civilization, forefather types practiced savior-centered religions, such as Catholicism. Springing forth from a very real, very fiscal fear of women and our power, eventually evolving into sexual retardation and womb envy, a philosophy and social system based on destruction was culled to thriving life. One of the more well-documented instances of this destruction-oriented consciousness is something called the Inquisition. It lasted for over five hundred years. That is how long it took the Inquisition to rend serious damage to the collective spirit of non-savior-centered religious worshippers.

    The Inquisition justified the--usually sadistic--murder, enslavement or rape of every woman, child and man who practiced any form of spiritual belief which did not honor savior-centered phallic power worship.

    Since the beginning of time, most cultures honored forces which were tangible, such as the moon, earth, sun, water, birth, death and life. A spirituality which was undetectable to any of the human senses was considered incomprehensible.

    One imagines victims of the Inquisition were not hard to come by. Women who owned anything more than the clothes on their backs and a few pots to piss in were religiously targeted by the Inquisition because all of women's resources and possessions became property of the famously cuntfearing Catholic Church. Out of this, the practice of sending "missionaries" into societies bereft of savior-centered spiritualities evolved.

    Negative reactions to "cunt" resonate from a learned fear of ancient yet contemporary, inherent yet lost, reviled yet redemptive cuntpower.

Eradicating a tried and true, stentorian-assed word from a language is like rendering null the Goddess Herself.

    It's impossible.

    Ancient, woman-centered words and beliefs never, like, fall off the planet. Having long done taken on a life of their own, they--like womankind--evolve, and survive.

    Chameleon style.

    For women this has involved making many, many concessions, such as allowing our selves, goddesses, priestesses and words to be defined and presented by men.

    Many words found in woman-centered religions, such as cunt, bitch, whore, dog, ass, puta, skag and hag, along with the names of just about all goddesses--over time--assimilated bad connotations. As matrifocal lifestyles became less and less acceptable, "cunt" survived, necessarily carrying a negative meaning on into the next millennium.

Words outlive people, institutions, civilizations. Words spur images, associations, memories, inspirations and synapse pulsations. Words send off physical resonations of thought into the nethersphere. Words hurt, soothe, inspire, demean, demand, incite, pacify, teach, romance, pervert, unite, divide.

    Words be powerful.

    Grown-ups and children are not readily encouraged to unearth the power of words. Adults are repeatedly assured a picture is worth a thousand of them, while the playground response to almost any verbal taunt is "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

    I don't beg so much as command to differ.

For young girls in this society, coming into the power we are born with is no easy task. As children, our power is not culled out of us as it is for boys. Still, culling power is--above and beyond all social conditioning--a very surmountable task to which womankind collectively rises higher each day.

    But we need a language.

    A means of communication demands and precedes change.

    I posit that we're free to seize a word that was kidnapped and co-opted in a pain-filled, distant past, with a ransom that cost our grandmothers' freedom, children, traditions, pride and land. I figure we've paid the ransom, but now, everybody long done forgot "cunt" was ours in the first place.

I have lived the past couple years of my life writing a book called Cunt. When people ask me what I do, sometimes I bypass the whole conversation and say I'm a taxidermist. Reactions to a book called Cunt always lead to an intense grilling. Ain't never encountered ambivalence. At this juncture, I am still absolutely unable to gauge reactions to this word.

    Living with the title of this book as such a huge fixture in my day-to-day life has been a very weird anthropological study unto itself. "Cunt" is a bad, bad word, but damn if it don't intrigue people when it's the title of a book instead of a meanspirited expletive.

Since everybody already knows that the diabolization of "cunt" is an absolute reality of our language, nobody has to waste time and energy defending its honor.

    A cunt by any other name is still a cunt.

    "Cunt" is a highly satisfying word to utter on a regular basis.

    Every girl and lady who is strong and fighting and powerful, who thrives in this world in a way that serves her, is a rockin', cuntlovin' babe doing her part to goad the post-patriarchal age into fruition.

    "Cunt" is the crusty, disgusting bottle in the city dump pile that is bejewelled underneath and has a beautiful genie inside.

Here is a nice story about the transformation of destructive negative, crap-ola into constructive, positive brilliantiana.

    Once upon a time, civil rights activist Dick Gregory went into a restaurant and ordered some chicken. Three or four men who wore pointy white hoods for their nighttime fashion statement presently came into the restaurant and said, (I'm paraphrasing here) "Yo, boy. Anything y'do tah dat chicken, we're gone do tah yoo."

    Mr. Gregory looked at the chicken on the plate before him and was silent.

    The men repeated, "Anything y'do tah dat chicken, boy, we're gone do tah yoo."

    Everybody in the restaurant stopped what they were doing and stared.

    Mr. Gregory sighed, picked up the chicken and gave it a big ol', sweet ol' kiss.

Perhaps, as some "historians" may have it, I fabricated the historic considerations in reassessing the way we presently perceive "cunt."

    Even if "cunt" were simply four spontaneous letters someone strung together one day 'cause his wife didn't have dinner on the table when he got home from a hard day's labor offing witches or indigenous peoples, it is still our word. Demographically, the women who have no chance of negatively being called "cunts" throughout life can be found in totally cloistered nunneries and maybe Amish communities.

    Based on the criteria that "cunt" can be neither co-opted nor spin-doctored into having a negative meaning, venerable history or not, it's ours to do with what we want. And thanks to the versatility and user-friendliness of the English language, "cunt" can be used as an all new woman-centered, cuntlovin' noun, adjective or verb.

    I, personally, am in love with the idea.


Excerpted from Cunt by Inga Muscio Copyright © 2002 by Inga Muscio. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Inga Muscio is a writer and public speaker addressing the issues of sexism, racism, sexual violence, and feminist issues. She teaches writing and appears frequently on college campuses. She lives in Southern California.

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Cunt: A Declaration of Independence 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a feminist I found this book highly insulting to my agency and intelligence. The author seems to take everything in life as a personal insult to her, rather than considering more practical options to things she views as problems in our society, she jumps to extreme solutions, for example she protests the sanitary product industry by refusing to catch her period blood and celebrates our womanhood by displaying art made out of menstrual blood. The author is the type of extremist that makes women pursuing equal rights look bad.
csaint More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing pop. feminist book. Feisty and outspoken, Muscio drives home the point that women should embrace their female parts and become bold and appreciative of the biological canal to life. The writing in this book will inspire and compel all women to learn more about their female parts and become more enriched and whole because of it. This book jump starts the forgotten feminist fire that lies buried within all women.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has started a complte life-change for myself, and my mother. I have become more in touch with my body, my past, and my future, as a woman- as well as becoming more understanding of my mother and the few woman friends I have. I can't praise this book enough! Whether you are a mother, a daughter, a husband, a brother, a friend- whether you are male, female, trans-gender, androgonys or anything in between- this book is a must read!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the most amazing pieces of literature I have ever read in my life. As a male I did find some of the references somewhat odd at times, but then again this is probably the author's point, that men simply neglect to acknowledge the things that woman deal with, from periods to abortion. Aside from being an educational experience, the book is hilarious; it pokes fun at some of the most ridiculous things in life that we as people do, and really grills the pharmaceutical industry for profiting off of the uncontrollable once a month habit of uterus shedding. It also offers some suggestions to fixing many problems, unlike many readings of today which ramble on and complain, the book lists many alternative ways of life to combat the garbage we deal with daily. ¿This Book¿ (I can't say the titled because it violates the review rules?) is a great book for anybody, regardless of their religious or political positions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cannot give enough praise to this book. It was recommended to me from a beautiful, strong, powerful female friend of mine and...there aren't enough words. Anyone out there who is looking for an entertaining read or who need a boost in self-esteem, an ABSOLUTE recommendation. Put down whatever title you're reading right now and find this book!! It will forever change the way that you see yourself, women, even men, tampons, and abortion. It's a short, light read and I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that the book was forceful and one of the few times that I couldn't put down a book that was not fiction. If you are interested in women's issues and in resources for women who care about these issues this book is fabulous.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books you have to read if you are a man who wants to have relationships with women. Oh my God . . . the things I took for granted before I read this book. The book was well written and entertaining; hard to put down . . . but also it changed my life and given that a majority of the population is female this book changed my life for the better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That sums it up. Critical thinking or insightful writing are both completely absent here.
elilbitz More than 1 year ago
I liked the the author's witticism in the beginning, but it soon turned into a negative, expose of personal ir-responsibilities seemingly justified by her candor and in-your-face style. It came across as a shock-value read, and I refused to finish it. I found her attitude negative, immature, self-justifying, ranting and not empowering at all. I'd prefer a more peaceful and empowering writer on this topic. Somewhat analogous to race wars and Malcolm X pre Mecca. For ME, the message is best delivered via MLK Jr's peaceful and approachable manner.