Cunt: A Book Review


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I will never not be grateful for hormonal birth control and the fact that I can legally have my uterus sucked out with a man-made vacuuming device if I don’t want to be pregnant. Therefore, I am unlikely to start tracking my period with a lunar calendar (because I am currently on hormonal birth control, so my reproductive system follows whatever schedule I tell it to) or induce an abortion using herbs like parsley and pennyroyal, anytime soon. Never say never though, because I do think the whole menstrual and lunar cycles aligning thing sounds pretty cool.

Despite the above, I liked Cunt. 

I love buying books, although I am trying to teach myself to use the library for more than just DVDs and knitting patterns and borrow them more often, but needless to say, I never feel guilty dropping a (sometimes hard-earned, sometimes ever-dwindling) dime on book. I bought Cunt: A Declaration of Independence because it was one of those things I just stumbled upon in the Women’s Studies section of Barnes & Noble, and I had recently found a two-year-old gift card that made it cheaper to buy at the store than from Amazon (I never pay full price for books, and neither should you!). So I snapped it up and started reading it that night, despite already being knee deep in The Divine Comedy (which I have been reading on the back burner for a little over a year now and just might never finish) and Bonk by Mary Roach. (I have since finished Bonk, which I loved, but started reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea about midway through Cunt. I don’t think I picked up Dante once the entire time.)

I found this book off-putting at times, especially when I first started it. The first thing I came across that rubbed me the wrong way was an error that Inga Muscio later corrected in the afterword at the back of the book. Not all women have cunts, or the reproductive organs that often come along with them, but Muscio essentially defines women by such things early on in her book. That bothered me personally because this book is concerned with, but not largely about, female anatomy. Therefore, while the topic is discussed, I don’t believe that it should be a prerequisite to personally identify with such discussion to be considered a “cunt” as described in the book. If you feel your gender is female, regardless of what your biological sex is, you are a cunt (if you want to be).

And, as I mentioned, Muscio recognizes and corrects this in her afterword, which I greatly appreciated.

The word “cunt” itself is obviously a focal point of the book. This could bother some people. There are plenty of people I know that would enjoy a book of this subject that hate the word “cunt”. They don’t say it, they get offended when others say it, and they find its use generally repugnant. Some people I know would like this book because of its use of the word “cunt”. They like the word, they’re all about reclaiming it, and they use it as often as possible with the goal of making it socially acceptable one day. And then there are lots of people I know of that wouldn’t pick up this book or any one like it, and love using the word “cunt” for no other reason than to put down women in one of the most offensive ways they can think of. 

After all, our society allows “cunt” to be an extremely powerful word. Think of other words that are derogatory terms for women, like “bitch” and “whore”. They can be (and are often) used on network TV, without the blink of an eye, on a daily basis. But the word “cunt” is reserved for expensive pay channels and R-rated movies, and even then is used incredibly sparingly (certainly much less than the word “fuck”). For this reason, “cunt” feels like a very potent word. You don’t hear it a lot, so when you do, you know that someone is really saying something. And unfortunately today, the most likely situation is that they’re saying something offensive about women.

For people that feel that way about the word “cunt” – that it’s the biggest and lowest blow they can verbally give to a woman, and relish in the power of taking someone down in four letters like that – I am extremely grateful for Cunt. If anyone should read this book, it should be them.

I am none of the above as far as the word goes. I have never been afraid of it, and used to like saying it a lot (dare I admit that it was once an endearing nickname given to me by a friend?); I even bought a belt buckle on Canal St. bearing the word my freshman year of college. I almost never say it anymore, and rarely have the desire to, and I don’t think reading this book has changed that. Maybe it’s because I haven’t thought of calling someone a cunt the right way. Or maybe it’s because I don’t like most slang terms for anatomy (I can probably thank my R.N. stepmother for that).

There are so many things in this book that either rang completely true with me, or completely opened my eyes on a subject. I have to admit that I have never in my life given as much thought to violence against women as I have since this book started me thinking about it. I don’t believe that chess is the key to female power but I do believe that developing strategical thinking skills is, regardless of how one chooses to do so. I definitely do not believe that hormonal birth control is “chemically induced oppression”, but I certainly agree that there are other contraceptive options that can be just as effective and it’s important for women to know them.

The problems that I did have with Cunt won’t allow me to love it, but those problems are few. I recommend it as a good read to every woman, and any other person open to the Cuntlovin’ Revolution. You might not agree with every word in it, but you’ll definitely have cunt on the brain!

5 thoughts on “Cunt: A Book Review”

  1. The women’s center at RCNJ had Muscio come and talk at the large luncheon during Women’s Herstory Month. It was unfortunate that she wrote such a book, which had to fight our asses off to be allowed to put on posters and in the hallways at school. yet she barely mentioned it. Rather she talked a lot about a revolution in South America and mumbled a lot. It was disappointing.

    The book was interesting and it was definitely one of the turning points when I started to really understand HOW gender queer and uncomfortable being called a “woman” I really was. I liked learning more about women’s bodies yes, but the book really made me personally feel even more dissociated from my body.

  2. I can definitely understand how this book could make you feel that way. I really don’t feel that I am genderqueer in any way; I strongly identify as a woman, and I still felt the discomfort you mentioned. I think I partly feel it for others, and I feel it for myself when I think of “What If?” situations. Whenever I come across literature that so boldly asserts what it is to be a “woman”, I can’t help but think things like, “What if I didn’t have my breasts anymore? What if I have a hysterectomy? What if I never become a mother? Would I still be a woman as per these standards?” Such strict definitions make me feel claustrophobic.

  3. exactly…

    and if you want to include it, I’d just put my name, ammre. I don’t really have a name and the top is a tag line form the ani difranco song “32 flavors”

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