Last weekend, for a lark, I decided to join a water aerobics class with my mother-in-law and a bunch of her friends. As we bounced and scissor-kicked around the pool on our floating noodles (don’t ask), a few of the ladies got to inquiring about my husband’s and
my writing careers. I told them that we had a new project: Nicky and I had been assigned book
In her book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio strives to pull the word out of the gutter and reclaim it for every woman. Her crude but surprisingly effective method is simply to use the word a lot and hope to desensitize you to it. She uses the word as a noun: “For me, personally, anyone who didn’t have a cunt and tried to look at my cunt in an exam room would get a silly slap upside the head with a cold speculum”; as an adjective: “I’m the cuntlovin’ ruler of my sexual universe”; and even as poetry: “A cunt by any other name is still a cunt.” (Is it working on you yet?) According to Muscio, the word has origins in several different cultures, including India, China, Ireland, Rome and Egypt. Apparently, it was originally used as a respectful title for women, and it’s only in modern culture that the word has taken on negative connotations. Muscio’s research here is a little sketchy, but it may not be her fault. I checked the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as several modern dictionaries, and not one of them listed “cunt” as a word.
So Muscio wants to define it for us. Fair enough. But where to start? She suggests the answer lies in women getting to know more about their own “anatomical jewel.” Picking up where Our Bodies, Ourselves left off, she encourages fellow cuntlovers to buy a plastic speculum and some
KY jelly, grab a mirror and get acquainted with their vaginas. She also advocates a de-sanitation of menstruation, in which natural sea sponges, rags or a “blood towel” take the place of overpriced, factory-produced tampons. The sea sponges are re-useable, she explains, and are “fun to
Despite her love of latex, Muscio hasn’t always been lucky with birth control. She writes that she has been accidentally pregnant three times. On the first two occasions, she had abortions, but the third time she decided she didn’t want to go through it again. “I didn’t want to be with this man and I shouldn’t have fucked him, but it was his birthday and he was obviously fun to romp with and blah dee blah blah blah . . . I promptly decided there was to be no grotesque waltz with that abhorrent machine.” She spoke to a naturopathic physician, as well as to a friend who was a “masseuse and scientist,” and eight days later, she induced a miscarriage:
Well. How, um, convenient. And how revolutionary: who needs RU-486 if all you really need is tea and a massage?
Sometimes you wonder where all of these proclamations are going, but then you get to the part where the author says, “It is perfectly socially acceptable for you to write down every thought you’ve ever had about anything from your gorgeous prize wisteria, to the insane relationship you have with your hair, to your all-consuming love for the clitoris then slap the words together with some cool pictures, make five hundred copies and sell them to every woman you do and don’t know for a buck a copy,” and suddenly you realize that this is not a book to take overly seriously, but rather it’s a flurry of remarkable observations and even a few glints, here and there, of inspiration.
Cunt may not be the book that brings its namesake into mainstream vernacular, but it does provide insight into the mind of a true free spirit. That’s really all the book promises, anyway. What more can you expect from a writer who, in her author photo, is wearing a fuzzy hat with bunny ears?