‘C-word’ controversy paves the way for feminist author’s visit
By Danielle Pope
“It’s like cockroaches and those prehistoric horsetail weeds — when a word is that ancient it leaves a feeling in your gut, even if you don’t know why,” says Inga Muscio.
Muscio isn’t afraid of the word she’s referring to, but the controversial author is perfectly used to people who are — in fact, she’ll be starring as Camas Books’ guest speaker this Friday because of it. But while Seattle-based Muscio has received support worldwide, her famous work c**t: a declaration of independence has been banned from many a bookstore due to its saucy title. (Editor’s Note: After much debate, Monday decided not to spell out the controversial word).
The word doesn’t just make newspapers squeamish — even Victoria postering company Metropol would not print a poster for the event with the emboldened title and book excerpts, though they did print an edited version highlighting the author’s name and works.
“It’s very challenging getting out the word about this event, because a lot of people don’t necessarily know who Igna Muscio is but, when they hear her book title, they know exactly,” says Comrade Black of Camas, who’s organizing the event.
Black was especially disturbed by the resistance he met in Metropol, especially given the posters produced for Monty’s Showroom Pub, which show women in degrading positions.
“It’s absurd to me that it would be OK to put up a poster of women in soaking wet white t-shirts and sexualized, objectified positions, but it’s not OK to show the image of a big daisy with the lower-cased word written inside it,” Black says.
Steve Webb, head administrator of Metropol, says that the company has a “fragile” relationship with the City of Victoria. While he emphasizes that Metropol’s role is not to censor, he adds that they have a duty to ensure that posters are “tasteful.”
“It’s important to note that we didn’t flat out refuse to post the event, but we saw where there could be a problem, and we wanted to find a way around that,” Webb says. “We’re street-level marketing, and we’re right in people’s faces.”
Metropol did poster for the band Fuck You Pigs, which was met with some resistance from the City and eventually the posters were taken down. Still, Webb says artists are free to artist expression, and “you can’t expect a band to change its name.”
“I find it absurd that a word that comes from an ancient derivative meaning goddess could take on a worse meaning than a word than means to inflict violence onto someone: fuck,” says Black, adding that the transgression shows what society has done to women.
Muscio says she was raised in a female-strong household and always felt comfortable using a term that symbolized women’s sexual power. Still, she understands not everyone does.
“When people say they won’t publish the word, I almost have to laugh and say, ‘that’s so mortal of you,’” she says. “That word predates all of us by about 4,000 years, and it will be here long after. It will trump your ass — of course you’re going to be afraid of it.”
Muscio encourages women to take back the word in an effort of reclamation, and countless women have flocked to her flowering ideas. Still, Black acknowledges that words will always have strong connotations to different generations — much like “queer” is easily taken up by today’s young generation, whereas “gay” was the most acceptable years ago, he says, adding that the reverse is not necessarily true.
Even my own mother gasped when I told her about the book. She gave me her typical, “Oh, Danielle,” reserved for any daughter’s most absurd behaviour. A few hours later, she wrote me an email.
“In time past I decided that was the most rude, derogatory term describing the worst type of woman. I tucked it away where that word and my reaction to it has been wrapped up in cobwebs for 40-some-odd years. So much has changed in four decades and perhaps one should review reactions to terms as time progresses,” she wrote. “The problem is that these things are often never brought out. Thank you for your questioning mind and making me dust off my embedded reaction, at least for review.”
As Muscio herself has said, questioning may be the most empowering tool we have. M
at Camas Books (2590 Quadra)
Friday, May 20,
7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The event is free.