Inga Muscio does all women a favour by demystifying the word that we've been trained to fear for our entire lives; cunt.
In Cunt: A Declaration of Independence she traces the word back to its' ancient origins and finds that it used to be a title of respect for women, priestesses, etc. But her research doesn't stop with the word alone. Inga explains how the fear of women and their sexual power evolved into the lack of equality we are struggling against today.
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.
She then goes on to further educate women about our own bodies, starting with, you guessed it, our periods. Because to know oneself, truly is to love oneself.
I must say, as I started this chapter I did a little eye roll. I was looking for a topic a little more [excuse the word] juicy than periods. Plus, I pride myself on my knowledge of the female menstruation cycle (which is very much self-taught, because let's face it, our sexual health education has never been the country's highest priority). Inga drew me in with a very relatable story of her first period and all the myths that were taught to her in school. I had to remember that she wrote this book in 1998, which meant that she must have been experiencing this in the late 70s. This chapter not only taught me things (all the feminine hygiene corporations are owned by men) it showed me how far we've come with menstruation acceptance and knowledge. In the 1970s no one believed that menstrual cramps were even real! And now, a movie about periods just won an Oscar! So that's where we are now.
Inga continues into the glory of female contraceptives which, you guessed it, are also manufactured by men and wreak havoc on our bodies. Abortions are her next topic and she recounts her own horrific experiences in the early 90s that makes you squirm in discomfort along with her.
Things get a little darker in her next chapter about sex workers and the terrible lack of rights that we have in place for them. Then there is the heaviest topic of all that takes up 30+ pages, rape. In this chapter, she recounts stories of friends and idols of hers that were raped. She even shares with us the story of her mother being raped, a story that she first heard when she was in her twenties. In many ways, that alone inspired her to write this book.
The underlying message of this book is all about power.
Power of self-love - get to know your body from the inside out, don't be grossed out by it, don't be scared of it, don't be confused by it.
Power of education - learn about your menstrual cycle, female contraceptive and the male run corporations that produce female products, learn about your history as a woman from relatives and your grandmothers, learn self-defence.
Power in numbers - come together with the women in your communities and talk about all the things that we are told to keep hush-hush. Start a book club with this book. Vow to only consume female literature and art, or only buy female made products.
Inga reminds us that women are powerful and necessary and freaking glorious! She also shows us where we have been wronged over the course of history, and how our story changed into what we all believe today.
Everyone who identifies as a woman should read this book. I truly believe it is essential. Pick up your copy here.