Pull out Inga Muscio’s “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” in any public place and it won’t take long for the bewildered stares and questioning to begin. Even asking for it by title at Border’s is a thrill. But there is more to Muscio’s book (now in its second expanded edition) than shock value.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, “Cunt” is not a demeaning porn novel. Nor is it a comprehensive feminist manifesto, or a guide to the female body. Neophytes to femenism would benefit from less biased texts, such as “Woman: An Intimate Portrait” or even “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” Muscio’s book is simply what its title implies: a declaration of independence.

Feminists and non-feminists alike may ponder how any so-called declaration of independence for womankind can use this hateful word as its title. Indeed, Muscio goes to great lengths to explain the history of the now taboo word.

Nonetheless, Muscio takes it upon herself to appropriate the often-debasing word for female empowerment. While women are “taking back the night,” they are also “taking back cunt.” Muscio’s straightforward style sweeps the reader up in full rallying support. She argues: “Besides global subjugation, our cunts are the only common denominator I can think of that all women irrefutably share.”

“Cunt” outlines several other responsibilities for women that she expands upon per chapter in the book, including self-education, educating others about “cuntlove,” learning self-protection and using consumer power to support (ahem) cuntlovin’ businesses.

In her newly added post-Sept. 11 rantings about homogenized media, blind consumerism and the abhorrent political situation in Washington, she urges readers to take action, seek out non-biased media sources and strive to impact the government. Muscio includes a comprehensive “cuntlovin’ guide” with alternate media sources and “pro-cunt” organizations.

For readers unwilling to support only woman-run businesses and only read books by female authors and only listen to music by female artists for at least one year, as Muscio urges, this book may be overbearing and unrealistically prescriptive. However, those with open minds and a willingness to contemplate Muscio’s ideas will find the book informative and perhaps even inspirational.

4 Stars

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