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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Speculum of an Older Cunt
by H. Kassia Fleisher
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Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, by Inga Muscio.
Seal Press, Seattle.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I disagree with absolutely nothing Inga Muscio writes in Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (Seal Press, 1998).
     There's not a damn thing wrong with anything she's saying there. Really. I support the book 100%, think it should be required reading for all humans who are still part of the US film industry's favorite demographic.
     That said, it's time I recognize that somewhere along the line, I became an old broad. A long time ago, the whole goddess thing deflated for me. I mean, really -- the whole god thing was a disaster in the first place. The notion of replacing one totally fucked metanarrative with a new and improved (but potentially fucked) metanarrative -- this held limited interest, even though I could appreciate the attraction of bonding with cosmic forces and feeling powerful while bleeding during a full moon.
     I oversimplify for effect, of course.
     And the whole cervix-gazing thing, that was all right as far as it went, which wasn't very far, I must say, not without strained eyes and a neckache. And while I'm on this subject, where is the feminist collective of scientists whose major contribution to the planet will be to redesign that fucking torture device we call a "speculum"? (We can launch a cunt into space, but we can't build a g-spot-friendly speculum.) But anyway, sure, a couple of decades ago I did the whole "taste yourself" thing. And really, young bodies do need to be encouraged to Know Thy Temple, etc. Of course we must all be taught to respect a body for which our broader culture has no respect -- and of course we must stop and think about our relationship to bodies, given a social context that exploits bodies for consumptive and capitalist profit. Sure. Right on.
     And yes, by all means, western medicine blows, patriarchal intervention in reproductive freedom is a horror, and herbs can promote an abortion if you really really concentrate all your lovely female life energies into rinsing away that fetus. I am behind her on that boycott of the massive male-profit-driven industry designed to complicate and destroy a woman's loving relationship with her cunt. You go, grrl.
     And yes, if I had youth to do all over again I'd definitely do it as a bisexual and avoid as much of that nasty masculinist energy as possible. I completely agree that "collectively -- when an entire society is sexually repressed -- phenomena such as war, rape, racism, greed and wholesale shitty behavior are considered acceptable."
     Like I said, everything Muscio has ever said is completely neat, cool, and far out.
     If what she doesn't talk about coheres into a super-self-absorbing-tampon cacophony for an old broad like me, well, that's just an old broad like me.
     Her location of the cunt as a site of commonality for all women, for instance, is an interestingly unresolved chord. She complains, and don't we all, about the lack of generous vocabulary with which women might describe themselves -- and then concludes that women may be of varying races, classes, sexualities, abilities, and layers of wonderfulness -- that "Womankind is varied and vast. But we all have cunts."
     Do we? I wonder how intersexuals, transsexuals and transgendered peoples -- a significant, and significantly erased, population of humankind -- would respond to this. I applaud this attempt at taking back from the patriarchy the right to synecdoche, and the right to define ourselves as our parts, even as I wonder whether mimicking masculinist metonymy really forwards our cause of self-definition.
     But OK, for the sake of discussion, let's assume for now that all women have cunts. Do, and should, all women maintain the same relationship to their cunts? At all life-times? "Generally speaking," Muscio writes (and she is always correct), "we don't understand them, we don't like them, and we often think they're ugly." She suggests a change in attitude. "A different, more sublime way of looking at this is that our cunts are the symbolic and physical zenith of our existence."
     Justifiable hyperbole, I'm sure, but even if we lower the heat on the sublimation a tad, do I really want my cunt to be the symbolic and physical center of my universe? Would that be personally and collectively healthy? Will we be able to locate real social reform in that sublime?
     Well, hell, I'm sure it's a good start for people who are still deciding what this thing, this big bulky thing that seems to follow your brain around, what this thing is and what to do with it. So in this way, as I keep saying, I support Muscio's work absolutely. When she argues, in the most moving section of her book, that cunts need to understand their (masculinist) opponents in order to protect ourselves from rape -- and that learning chess will teach us to "think like the predators" -- well, that's me applauding in the back row. For the short term, forewarned is forearmed. But what systemic revision results from surrendering to the opponent -- by agreeing to engage in the oppositional relations from which the enemy himself profits?
     And of course Muscio is also right to key on language as a primary weapon in the rape of bodies. I applaud her desire to take the word back. Just last week, a galpal called me up and was bitching about some bitch, and when she said, "She's such a cunt," I was actually confused for a moment, since Muscio has convinced me that Martha Stewart's cunt is A Good Thing. We should all be so confused when "cunt" is deployed as a derogative. Only a cunt would call a cunt a cunt. (Pardon?)
     Indeed, Muscio confesses that the chapter that gave her the most trouble was "Acrimony of Cunts." Women have been coached to be hard as hell on one another, and crone-cunts are the front line in the control of kid-cunts. Patriarchy loves a catfight, because nothing buttresses a patriarch's perch better than setting the chickens to pecking at each other. Thus, you will note again, I agree with every damn thing Muscio says. I think she's wonderful and I hope she writes five more books just like this one.
     By way of enacting my strong support for her work, permit me to raise some issues she might pursue, for instance, in Volume 2. Volume 2, I'm sure, will not reinforce our youth-obsessed culture by defining cunt solely as a well-lubed, breeding bleeder; rather, it will discuss, in sage retrospect, the ways in which a cunt's relationship to her part changes over a lifetime. Volume 2 will consider myriad alternative cultural constructions of cunt, including non-white, non-western, non-middleclass relations to that part. Volume 2 will complicate the cunt/no-cunt binary, will explore the cuntpart in relation to the whole (pardon the homophone) person; and will not assume a concept of wholeness not experienced by all, such as cunts differently abled. Thus, Volume 2 will undo the alienations inherent in the elevation of breed-cunt as unifying theory.
     The problem is not with ourselves, you know, but with our forms of navigation. The dick has long served as the definer of (our) society, has long been the needle illustrating cultural magnetic north, the needle we all measure progress against. Replacing dick with cunt, or even equalizing dick with cunt, contributes little, for the long term, to envisioning a relational future, one of infinite variance and reciprocal mutuality, one in which "equality" would be a moot point, since opposition would not be the dominant paradigm. Real reform will require a social organization with the ability to locate a more celestial means of social navigation.
     But yes, meanwhile, in the short term, the young among us must take back their cunts and the discourses thereof, while us old cunts will, I'm sure, write our own old-cunt-narratives, narratives with which Muscio will, I'm sure, wholeheartedly agree.
     Just as this old cunt agrees, 100%, with hers. Way to go, cunt.

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