Planet Waves | Excerpt from Cunt by Inga Muscio


Excerpt from Cunt | By Inga Muscio
Copyright ©2000 by Inga, all rights reserved

Back to Review by Maya Dexter

"Cunt" is very arguably the most powerful negative word in the American English language. "Cunt" is the ultimate one-syllable covert verbal weapon any streetwise six-year-old or passing motorist can use against a woman. "Cunt" refers almost exclusively to women, and expresses the utmost rancor. There's a general feeling of accord on this.

Except for some friends who know all about this book, no one calls me a "cunt" to communicate what a cool and sublime human being they think I am. Up until a certain time in my life, I never employed "cunt" to express respect or admiration.
.......I qualify these statements because my relationship with "cunt" is no longer what it once was.

One day I came home from third grade and asked my pops, "What's a wetback?"
.......With resignation and a sigh, Dad elucidated a brief history of "wetback." He concluded, "Don't you ever say it."
.......A list of words I was similarly not to utter was forthcoming: nigger, beaner, kike, wop, jap, injun, spic. The only formal cuss word included on his roster was "cunt."
.......Coming as I did from a family where us kids were allowed to strew profanities like rice at a wedding, I was mighty affected by all this. Why, in my father's way of thinking, could I call someone an asshole, but not a wetback nigger cunt?
.......The foreshadowings of a mystery.

In my childhood home, the 1965 Random House Dictionary was as much a part of dinnertime as laughter, arguments 'n wanton table manners. Throughout dinner, my siblings and I were required to spell and define new vocabulary words. It was a custom I enjoyed very much.
.......I was raised to appreciate the power of words.
.......Little did I know that when I grew up, out of the billion and one words in the 1965 Random House Dictionary and beyond, there would exist no word that I could use adequately to describe myself.
.......This wouldn't be much of a problem except that there are millions of me's: articulate, strong, talented, raging, brilliant, grooving, sexy, expressive, dancing, singing, laughing women in America, of all shapes, hues, ethnicities, sizes, sexual orientations and dispositions.
.......We are everywhere.
.......But what are we.
.......The only dimly representational, identifying term that advocates truly authentic recognition for the actual realities of women in this world is "feminism." This is a relatively youthful word. Our actual realities, on the other hand, are rooted deep. We are born with them in our hearts.
.......Inherited them from our mothers.
.......Under the influence of this dilemma, I've asked myself if there might be a word as old, as universal and as deeply rooted as women's actual realities in patriarchal society. Hidden somewhere in the English language, could there be a word with power steeped in our history, a word which truly conveyed the rage and hope of all women?
And lo and behold, I return to the one formal cuss word in Pop's roster:


.......This book is about my reconciliation with
.......the word
.......the anatomical jewel.


In Part I of Cunt, "The Word,", I assert that the context in which "cunt" is presently perceived does not serve women, and should therefore be thoroughly reexamined.
.......English is considered the "universal language" because it represents the victors of history's present telling. Seizing this language and manipulating it to serve your community is a very powerful thing to do, and-based on a variety of specific elements, such as ethnicity, musical tastes, credit limits and/or sexuality-it is done a lot in America. Creating a general, woman-centered version of the English language, however, is just insanely difficult.
.......Womankind is varied and vast.
.......But we all have cunts.
.......While one word maketh not a women-centered language, "cunt" is certainly mighty potent and versatile contribution. Not to mention how deliciously satisfying it is to totally snag a reviled word and elevate it to a status which all women should rightfully experience in this society.
.......When viewed as a positive force in the language of women-as well as a reference to the power of the anatomical jewel which unites us all-the negative power of "cunt" falls in upon itself, and we are suddenly equipped with a word that describes all women, regardless of race, age, class, religion, or the degree of lesbianism we enjoy.

Part II, "The Anatomical Jewel," examines why having a cunt in this society just might be worse than being called one. Our cunts bleed and have weird, unpredictable orgasms. The birthing process is painful and messy. Lordisa knows what our cunts are up to. Generally speaking, we don't understand them, we don't like them, and we often think they're ugly.
.......A different, more sublime way of looking at this is that our cunts are the symbolic and physical zenith of our existence.
.......When our cunts bleed, we are bleeding people. Clairvoyant dreams visit our sleepytime heads. Sometimes, the swaggering braggadocio of human males causes our wombs to clench up in spasms of pain. When cunts have stupendous orgasms, we may reel for days, and have a fetching smile for every person we meet when we're walkin' down the street. When cunts get filled up with sperm, women sometimes get pregnant and experience either the trauma of aborting, or the courageous and underappreciated tribulation of devoting the rest of our lives to another human being. When men fuck our cunts against our will, we often feel like a diarrhea shit has been offed upon the very essence of our soul, and may live the rest of our lives cleaning it off in whatever way we see fit.
.......An aisle in all American grocery stores is devoted to various commercial products, dreamed up by corporations owned and operated by men, which are designed to "care for" and deodorize cunts. An entire branch of Western medicine, male style, exists because of the infernal, confounding magic of cunts. Doctors who treat cunts have special names.
.......Famous cunts in history have caused empires to rise and fall.
.......Sex industries throughout the world enjoy exorbitant profit margins because of the wonderful things cunts do and represent.
.......When women endure cultural customs such as clitoridectomies, chastity belts, Mississippi Appendectomies (i.e., forced sterilization), infibulation, forced prostitution, slavery and rape, cunts are where? Why, in the spotlight of course.
.......Yes, though they often play supporting roles to cocks, cunts deserve star billing in the marquee of every woman's life.
.......Cunts are very important.
.......Unfortunately, cunts are important to all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.
.......Cunts are not important to women because they are the very fount of our power, genius and beauty. Rather, cunts are important to men because they generate profits and episodes of ejaculation, and represent the precise point of vulnerability for keeping women divided, and thus, conquered.
.......History, the media, economic structures and justice systems have led women to the understanding that delighting in a love affair with our cunts will get us no further than Sitting Bull, had he opted to have a passionate love affair with the Seventh Cavalry.
.......Which, of course, he did not.
.......Why should Sitting Bull love the Seventh Cavalry? The Seventh Cavalry consistently represented the undoing of his people.
.......Why should women love their cunts? They, too, consistently represent the undoing of our people.
.......The main condition here, of course, is that the Seventh Cavalry did not reside between Sitting Bull's legs.
......."The Anatomical Jewel" makes up the bulk of Cunt. The fact that women learn to dislike an actual, undeniable, unavoidable physical region of ourselves results in a crappy Sisyphean situation, warranting an intense focus of attention.

Part III is called "Reconciliation." One definition of reconciliation is the re-establishment of a close relationship that has experienced estrangement somewhere along the line.
.......My cunt is mine.
.......In order to re-establish a close relationship with my cunt, I must take responsibility not only for what is me today, but for everything it has become due to the seemingly endless throng of spin doctors, past and present. My cunt serves me in ways cavernously unrelated to generating profits, procuring episodes of ejaculation in males and representing the precise point of vulnerability for keeping women divided and thus, conquered. It is therefore my responsibility to insure this reality resides at the forefront of humanity's consciousness when history is rewritten once again.

We women have a lot of responsibilities.
.......Here are a few:
.......Seizing a vocabulary for ourselves.
.......Actively teaching ourselves to perceive cunts -- ours and others' -- in a manner generating understanding and empathy.
.......Taking this knowledge out into the community.
.......Learning self-protection.
.......Seeking out and supporting cuntlovin' artists, businesses, media and role models.
.......Using our power as consumers.
.......Keeping our money in a community of cuntlovin' women.

We arrive at reconciliation by confronting learned, internalized misogyny and re-educating ourselves on our terms. Three of the most important aspects of reconciliation involve fighting with our minds, art and money to create a cultural consciousness that supports and respects all women. The power and potential of these weapons-minds, art and money-are exalted in Part III.

Closing Regards

One of Cunt's aspirations is to contribute to a language and philosophy specifically designed to empower and unite all women.
.......I do not, however, expect my personal experiences necessarily to pluck on the heartstrings of said all women.
.......I am white, so many complexities of individual and institutional racism are not present in this book like they would be if I were, say, a Filipina-American writer whose ancestors founded a ranch outside of Houston before the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848.
.......I am a lesbian who wouldn't oppose a tumble in the hay with my housemate's boyfriend's twenty-year-old brother who lives in Peru and is achingly beautiful, so likewise with rigid structures of hetero- and homosexuality.
.......I am an American citizen from a mid-middle-class family that was supported solely by the sweat of my mother's brow. As such, I have never been without shoes, food, education, shelter and other fine trappings of subsistence.
.......When I was three, an accident with a street-cleaner bristle blinded me in my right eye. I've lived through the deaths of my father and youngest brother. I started writing as a child to survive a spiritually blinded landscape. I obsessively devoted my life to writing so I wouldn't go insane after my brother died. I'm a vegetarian, but I like watching people eat spareribs.
.......All this greatly influences my perspective. As does a prayer my mother has hanging in her kitchen, now, then and in the hour of her death: "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
.......From the poetry of Sappho to the zines of riot grrrls, personal experience has proven to be a very effective way for women to communicate. Sharing individual knowledge contributes to the whole, and has been a foundation of women's power, in cultures spanning the globe, since time out of mind.
.......Here in America, at the dawning of the post-patriarchal age, a growing understanding of our differences and commonalities continues to emerge full force. Because we now have more means to communicate than ever before, histories based on personal experience are increasingly poised to unite all women.

Women are blue-black as the ocean's deepest knowledge, creamy white 'n lacy blue-veined, freshly ground-cinnamon brown. Women are Christian motorcycle dykes, militantly hetero Muslim theological scholars, Jewish-Chinese bisexual macrobiotic ballerinas and Chippewa shawomen who fuck not just lovers, but Time and Silence too.
.......Women are drug addicts, anti-abortion activists and volunteers for Meals on Wheels. Women have AIDS, big fancy houses, post traumatic stress disorder and cockroach infested hovels. Women are rockstars, Whores, mothers, lawyers, taxidermists, welders, supermodels, scientists, belly dancers, cops, filmmakers, athletes and nurses.
.......There are not many things which unite all women.
.......I have found "cunt," the word and the anatomical jewel, to be a venerable ally in my war against my own oppression. Besides global subjugation, our cunts are the only common denomiator I can think of that all women irrefutably share.
.......We are divided from the word.
.......We are divided from the anatomical jewel.
.......I seek reconciliation.++

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