Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

ISBN: 1580050751
ISBN 13: 9781580050753
By: Inga Muscio Betty Dodson

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About this book

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. In this fully revised edition, she explores, with candidness and humor, such traditional feminist issues as birth control, sexuality, jealousy between women, and prostitution with a fresh attitude for a new generation of women. Sending out a call for every woman to be the Cunt lovin Ruler of Her Sexual Universe, Muscio stands convention on its head by embracing all things cunt-related. This edition is fully revised with updated resources, a new foreword from sexual pioneer Betty Dodson, and a new afterword by the author.

Reader's Thoughts


I should have been an easy audience for this book; after all, I accepted the blurb's premise almost a year before I picked up a copy. I'm a cunt; I've got a cunt; the etymological root of vagina means sheath for a sword; I don't define women by men. Sure, I'm there. I've been there for years.But by Curie's irradiated notebook am I sick of spirituality and togetherness being woman's domain. We can absolutely talk about sea-sponges instead of tampons but lets not pretend that our half of the culture isn't just as naturally inclined to the throwaway mentality as the menfolk are. Western medicine may have problems ingrained in patriarchy, but it has also doubled the average lifespan, so before we go back to herbs and massages, lets talk about a public option, please. That's where my cuntloving feminism resides. Muscio brings up Marjorie Post as a CEO who ran her corporation like a man would, saying that as women we should do things differently. Frankly, I think women in general--being people--are just as prone to exploiting others for profit margins as any other demographic group. The doublethink required to call women out to become predators instead of victims and then turn around and talk about the groovy, all encompassing goddess-hood of who-in-the-where-now really turned me off.Also, while I hope it does not affect my rational judgment of the argument presented, it is difficult for me to read a book so--artfully phrased. "Words be powerful," Muscio says early on in the book. She clearly chooses the sentence structure because the rhythm trips the reader and makes one focus on the point. Except it makes me focus on trying not to write an essay on the importance of verb tense instead of reviewing her book. In conclusion, too many apostrophes and ashrams, not enough etymology.


i was reading this book and a middle-aged woman, accompanied by her husband, on the subway, asked me (timidly) what I was reading. I smiled and shrugged and flashed her the cover. She giggled. "I saw the title of the chapter," she said. I flipped back a few pages to see what the title of the chapter was. In big, bold print I saw it: "Blood and Cunts." I giggled. The middle aged woman giggled. Together, we giggled. For the sake of interactions like this, everyone should read this book in public, all the time.

G.R. Reader

I more or less went down on my knees and begged Inga not to do it, but some people are inherently self-destructive.


Inga Muscio begins with the origins of the feminine labels utilized in our society and how they used to be positive terms descriptive of a strong sex. From there, she tackles freedom, abortion, rape, self-preservation, self-confidence, gay/lesbian issues, transgender issues, and the problems with America. She's heavy on opinion and light on documentation, but Muscio crafts a compelling argument. I am a white, American male. This book was not written with me in mind. I think I may have gotten more out of it than any tried and true feminist would, though. Feminism is something I have never truly understood. I have never looked at women as anything but least, I thought I hadn't. This book brings to light all of the subtle wrongness and unfairness and injustice perpetrated towards women that is just accepted as a part of our culture. While I read this, I started looking at things differently. I have greater respect for the power and strength of my wife, my mother, my grandmother, and my friends for simply existing in this society. The section of the book focusing on abortion was revealing. Muscio explains the importance of retaining the right to procedures that are painful, unpleasant, and depressive. In the section on rape, she points out the inherent problem with women in this country feeling "lucky" that they haven't been raped yet. This book is a learning experienced trapped in pages, a guidebook and a call to arms all at once, not just for women, but for all people impacted by the negative social influences running rampant in American society.I wish Muscio would have had references for her facts. I am reluctant to believe anyone's boasts, especially those as dramatic and important as her's. Her writing reads like a blog, filled with too much familiarity and made up words. I never appreciate those features.P.S. I won't say the word because I'm a white male and I don't think I have the right to.


Inga Muscio is not concerned with being your friend. She is also not concerned with grammar, punctuation, or seeming academic. She is, however, concerned with righting the world’s wrongs and ending sexism by embracing the word ‘cunt.’As a Women’s Studies/Creative Writing double major, I spend much of my time reading, writing, and critiquing feminist literature. Oftentimes, the academic can be too dry. ‘Cunt’ is many things, but dry it is not. The personal is always political, and Muscio’s manifesto is framed around her own personal stories. She speaks about inducing her own abortion in one of the most powerful pieces on reproductive rights that I have ever read. Personalizing her stories drove home her point in a way that academia would have lost on its reader. However, I found her stigmatizing and inconsistent. She often contradicted opinions that she had very forcibly stated not five pages before. She attempts to take back the word cunt by reveling in the history, the power, and the literal meaning of the word. I enjoyed the way that she defended the power of the word, reappropriating the positive connotations that the patriarchal society twisted to hold negative, anti-woman denotations. She states, “moving from phonetics to etymology, ‘vagina’ originates from a word meaning sheath for a sword. Ain’t got no vagina.” As somebody who wishes to write similarly personal creative nonfiction pieces, the way Muscio deconstructs even words is significant. It makes me realize that any critical essays I write must examine not merely the effects of a superstructure, but the superstructure itself. While her radical politics vary from mine, her writing style is unique and she certainly has something important to say.


I read the first edition in high school and it was a complete paradigm shift for me -- it completely opened my eyes to looking at the world through a more critical lens in regards to socialization, power structures as they relate to historical context, and the harsh reality of women (as well as the privileges I had enjoyed up to that point in my life being male, gay or not). During high school, this book's impact was nothing less than a foundational block of my worldview.This expanded and updated second edition primarily has an addendum: an afterword where Muscio addresses how her thinking on the subject has expanded, especially as she received questions from admirers of her book about the position (or lack therof) of transwomen in her womanifesto. Having her delve into the issue of transpeople and gender nonconformity, especially after I've befriended many transpeople after high school, was very refreshing. In fact, even though this time around for me I was more dubious of several parts of the original text, I enjoyed the book more entirely because of the issues she addresses in the afterword. Her inclusivity of more people on the margins (or on the margins of the margins) as well as many added comments on the need for alternative news sources and an examination of the widespread nature of abuse in American society mirrors my own evolution of thought and experience.The original text is still a good read, and even though some of it is not always logical or sometimes ventures into impractical ideals veering astray into lost woods, it still contains many important nuggets for everyone to consider about themselves and their relation to our society. I almost wish she could revise the original work and introduce the new thoughts in the afterword into the appropriate places, but it's still a good addition.


I just re-read Cunt because I was feeling sorry about the lack of (conscious) feminism in my life lately. This book was a great kickstart. Muscio's book deals with both the word "cunt" and the body part it has come to represent. She spends a short time explaining some of the word's origins and how it came to be so reviled, then launches into multiple chapters on cunts themselves: what they are, how they work, how they have been abused, and what women can do to ensure their respect. I would have liked to learn more from this book about cunt's etymology and how it came to be considered one of the filthiest words in the English language. However, the second section of the book, "The Anatomical Jewel," is amazing and inspiring. Muscio's style is very personal; she uses her own experiences to open doors onto various topics (menstruation, rape, abortion), and it's hard not to be drawn in by that narrative style (as opposed to a more clinical treatment of the subject). It also means this book is incredibly subjective, but Muscio is open about that. She admits that her ideas won't work for everyone and is careful to warn readers that she is not authorized to give medical advice. But one of her main points is that women's bodies have become too reliant on a male medical system. Muscio wants women to be educated about their own bodies and options so we can make informed choices instead of blindly funding corporations who claim to know what's best for our bodies. She uses her own body to illustrate how that rejection of status quo worked for one woman. Her chapters on menstruation and rape were especially inspiring to me. I often find myself cursing menstruation, and I know I'm not the only one. But how earth-shaking could it be if women stopped being ashamed and angry at our bodies every time we bled? What kind of difference could we make in girls' self-esteem if we refused to buy into the idea that women's bodies are inherently dirty and suspect? And Muscio's chapter on rape is real, heartbreaking, and infuriating. She moves from stories about women she knows being raped into railing against Hollywood movies that glamorize rape, and she closes the chapter with her ideas for how women can band together and fight rape and rape culture in America. Muscio's voice irritated me at times, because it seemed too "tricked-out;" I just wanted her to write without trying to make it sound like she was my best friend or adding font flourishes. Sometimes the way she wrote felt gimmicky. But I get the sense that that's just how she is-- she's big and colorful and unapologetic, and that can be abrasive and polarizing. Overall, though, this book is inspiring. It makes me want to join or form feminist groups, boycott movies and companies, learn more about myself, teach other people, and re-read more great books. And it makes me want to write my own "womanifesto" and start taking control of my life in a more conscious way. I want you to read this book so you feel inspired (or at least shaken up in some way), too.


The title may be offensive, until you are educated on the origin of this now westernized term to degrade women. Inga has her moments that can definitley be considered extreme. Or maybe just crazy. :). Or possibly even not very, well, hygenienic....but she is also strong and intelligent, and perfect in her ability to be a strong self empowered woman. It is amazing to see how a women can be happy and self efficient when so many individuals of other generations, or cultures, can view a seperate gender as weak or not capable. Inga addresses these issues through various marketing that triggers women to be nothing more than commercialized materialistic drones. The way the government has still yet to give equal pay to women who are efficient and competetive, and they way we are addressed overall through a world of cultures. Again, there are ways that Muscio may come off extreme, but that is necessary in order to communicate an idea to our otherwise kahki life style, and really, what brilliant mind isn't a little crazy?


What I appreciated most about this book was the afterward, updated several years after the initial publication, and reflecting much maturity. For me it was by far the best part of the book, and we see how the author has broadened her scopes and become less reliant on unnecessary crutches (excessive use of 'cuntified' vernacular, cutesy segues...)My biggest complaint with this book is what I felt was a dismissive presentation of 'whoredom' (class and societal pressures that inform the decision to enter into sexual prostitution). I felt the primacy she gave towards the sex-goddess slant was unbalanced and immature.All that said, it was a book that prompted thought, discussion and action, and continues to do so, and that is always good.


A major thing to keep in mind about this book is its passion -- it is an undoubtedly passionate book. However, I think that same passion -- particularly when it works itself into a fine red rage -- may also be debilitating in its attempt to communicate. While leafing through various reviews, from the enamored to the loathing, the best phrase that comes to mind as a characterization of the book is this: "Just one good, long rant from an out-spoken girl friend."In part, I am inclined to agree. This book does not profess itself as formal or scholarly, but rather, accessible to a particular audience -- young feminist women, between late high school to early university level. Or so those are my thoughts. If the author's note of the second edition doesn't tip you off as to the informal nature of the book ("All that said, the author continues to be free to talk some serious shit.") then you're probably in for a surprise with an ample peppering of cuss words and slang. And I think, to expect the book to be formal when it clearly never thought of itself as such, is unfair -- ad hominem in nature if people are attacking Muscio's style rather than her ideas which, in the vein of essay-writing, is more important than say, a literary style. But eh, I guess for some people it's just that important on an individual level.In regards to the ideas themselves, Muscio covers a wide variety of subjects. Acknowledging the fact that there are probably hundreds, even thousands of books, articles, and journals written every year on any one of the individual topics that Muscio covers -- from language to the body to abortion to rape -- I would say it is unfair to expect a narrow expertise that details the ins and outs of any one topic. Sacrificing depth for variety, Muscio's work is, again, good for introductory purposes but still riddled with many gaps. Muscio acknowledges some of these gaps in her afterword of the second edition, specifically in regards to the case of transgendered individuals, but not, in my personal view, all of them. Anyway, onto my actual thoughts of the book itself. Returning to passion, the keystone of this work, it left with me two very strong impressions. One is Muscio's unconditional love and support for the self-empowerment of women. Reconciling the language to be more favorable and inclusive of women, reconciling sexuality and body, advocating for strongly grass-roots movements where action is the cornerstone of this empowerment -- all of this strikes me as nothing but an extolling the value of loving and protecting oneself with all the hippie flavor. On the other hand, it's almost a shock to see this genuine, zealous affection turn to such inspired loathing. While Muscio explicitly states that she does not hate men in both her original publishing and in her second edition, a reader would be hard-pressed to be convinced of the validity of those statements through the greater portion of the book. In her lack of specificity as to who exactly she is leveling her anger at -- rapists and corporate CEOs aside -- she comes across as being quite intolerant of that other half of the population with whom all women must communicate and interact with on a daily basis. As Muscio herself says, "It takes two to tango." At the same time, I think Muscio's wholesale, blind support of women, based solely around that gender identity, neglects to take into account individuality for both men and women. Supporting women-based industries by the sheer fact that they are female-centered -- automatically assuming that, because women are the leaders of these businesses, they will automatically have in mind the welfare of their workers/consumers based on the common thread of gender -- is a noble thought in its suggestion but takes a broad brush to fine lines of distinction. While she touches on the importance of money and realizes the overarching influence of capitalism, the full extent of this juggernaut economic structure and its impact in relation to gender barely touches the tip of the iceberg in Muscio's 'Cunt'. Then again, as I've mentioned before, variety in place of depth is one of the major features of this book. Muscio's book is a genuine and honest effort at calling attention to the structures and ways in which women have yet to achieve complete equality with relation to our fellows on the other side of the gender divide, an effort which I can appreciate in itself. Nevertheless, there are many points of divergence in opinion between Muscio and myself and thousands of others who have read 'Cunt' -- but isn't that always the case with feminism? This is the sort of book that I can see being used in an introductory manner, inciting grassroots activism, but for the more discerning and critical in gender studies, I would recommend something of a different caliber.

Amber manning-harris

i think everybody in the world should read this book. a straightforward look at how women have been treated through the ages, and how we live our lives in the present day. it opened my mind to issues i am immersed in everyday but continue to take for granted. this book helped me love myself just a little bit more, respect my sisters successes and failures, and to finally come to terms with my mothers raising. if only we could all live in world with more cuntlove in our hearts. a book for anyone with a mother, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, or daughter.a work of masterpiece.


I picked this up at the book bin and upon bringing it home my roomate informed me "Don't read that, it'll just make you hate women." This probably resulted in my reading it much faster.At any rate, I didn't get much of a shock from this book. The main section is a polemic full of body love, fairly common feminist ideas,a swarming heap of anecdotes, and goddess worship. My feeling on that was "ok" given a) how much more reasonable and crowd-appealing it is than something like the S.C.U.M. Manifesto and b) how much less reasonable it is than all the other feminist material I've read.I could pick it apart more, but I won't bother: there's a lot of critical reviews of the book on here by women already that hit pretty much every point I could think of.Well, except that I think Muscio should probably have stated earlier in her book that she's got no medical background and that her education is limited her her MacBook (with internal modem!) That might have stopped this review from happening: MAN KNOWS ALL ABOUT YOUR LADY BITS! ALL.ABOUT.THEM.


I'll admit, I picked up this book solely because of the title, but what this book seemed to be about was what made me buy it. What I THOUGHT I was gonna read was a long, detailed history of the word "cunt" and how it's meaning and connotations have changed over the course of its history. This was how the book seemed to be marketed, since that was mostly what the little back-cover blurb focused on. Since this is one of my favorite words in any language, and since I'm a whore for language in general, obviously I thought this was going to be a great read. Unfortunately, the marketing and reality of the content of the book didn't quite pair up. Even after reading it, I'm not sure I could give an adequate description of the overall point this author is trying to make. The word origin section is the shortest section in the book, and it's completely lacking in concrete details. The rest of the book lacks clear flow, cohesion, and and has the worst editing I have ever seen in a widely-published work, with the most awkward line breaks I have ever seen in anything. This woman is a SUPER feminist, who takes the stance that men aren't needed for anything and that women should just let their period blood flow down their legs every month. Also, I had a hard time reconciling her stance against birth control with her detailed descriptions of how horrible two of her three abortions were. I don't necessarily fault her as a person for that, but it's not quite the same path of girl-power I myself tread. Overall I found this book completely alienating, both in content and presentation.


Warning: This book is pretty vulgar. I suppose the title could have tipped you off. Oddly, I expected a more academic book. A look at the word its history and its affect on our society. Muscio is anything but academic. She is an artist, and the book is filled with personal anecdotes and her thoughts on life. There is no stuffy distance between her and her writing. Her approbation of menstrual blood made me uncomfortable (she enjoys watching it splash to the floor). Her retelling of her 3 abortions, the last of which was a supposed triumph of the power of positive thinking and sisterhood, made me really glad I teach about condom use and birth control on a daily basis. But eventually, around the chapter on rape, she kind of won me over. Women come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Some smart, some not. Some weak, others extremely strong. All of us are affected by the extremely violent subjugation that is rape. It limits our freedom, our security and our collective sense of self. I’m willing to bet every woman in America has had some experience with rape. Either personal, or a friend, family member or news story has shaken them. What are almost worse than the act itself are the silence and the shame that go with it. The most obvious counter attack, she explains, is noise. As a united front we need to put our foot down. If a rapist is known, gather 30 women on his front lawn and tell him straight out that his action will not be tolerated. Let everyone at his workplace know what he’s done. Same for spousal abuse, or any act of violence against women. If all women united in this, who would be hiding in shame? I never really thought of myself as a feminist. We are all equal. This book helped me see some of the sexism that still lingers in our society. It showed me that there is work yet to be done in order to obtain our god given equality. That’s enough for me to overlook the sloppy writing style.


I know a lot of people who loved this book, so maybe I just missed something. I hated reading it because the chick wrote in a way that made it seem like she was the first person to ever come up with any of the points that she made. It was very boring.

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