Controversial Feminist Author Speaks

Mollie Reilly

On Monday night in Golden Auditorium in Little Hall, feminist author Inga Muscio spoke to approximately thirty women and men about the modes of oppression plaguing American ideology, namely racism and sexism.

Muscio, a third-wave feminist and activist for civil rights, emerged on the literary scene when her first book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence was published in 1998. The work dealt with many key issues for women, including abortion and rape, and was widely successful. Muscio’s second book, Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist Imperialist Society failed to capture the attention that her first work received.

Speckled with her native Californian colloquialisms and pop-culture references, Muscio’s lecture consisted of readings from her previously published works and a speech entitled “Feminism, Racism, and the Death of Democracy,” which was the main focus of the night.

The first piece was an excerpt from Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, and used a sarcastic tone to emphasize the existence of racism in a post-Civil Rights Era America. Muscio pointed out how movements against oppression have become polarized, with each group pursuing its own interests but not looking out, or fighting for, the rights of others. Muscio next read a piece entitled “Why I Love America,” written as a response to critics who have accused her of not being patriotic.

Finally, Muscio spoke about the connections between racism, sexism and the American political system. Muscio was moved by a documentary she watched on Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign. Running as a black woman, Chisholm faced great opposition and could not build a large enough coalition to receive the Democratic nomination. However, Muscio pointed out, Chisholm paved the way for future female candidates, as well as candidates of color.

Muscio went on to profess the importance of not compromising with oppression. She said America is still a racist, misogynistic society, but Americans should not settle for this status quo.

“I’d rather face death from a strong position than death from compromise,” Muscio said. “We grow up learning to compromise with oppression. We’re compromising with oppression, and we call it freedom.”

Emphasizing that racism and sexism are not separate issues, Muscio lamented the lack of interest in her second work. She had hoped that the fans of her first work would be interested in a book about racism, as the issues are so closely intertwined.

“We can’t understand sexism until we understand racism,” Muscio said. “Anything else is bad math.”

Muscio then shifted her focus to the 2008 presidential race, focusing on Democratic candidates Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She accused Clinton of not fighting for women, and of compromising her values. While Muscio was clearly in favor of Obama, she expressed fears that others in power, as well as the apathetic American public, would blur his message of change.

“He’s not Dumbledore, you know,” she said.

Muscio ended her lecture with a blanket indictment of the United States as a culture that needs to accept itself as racist, and then start to make changes in the right direction. She also asked the audience to consider what sort of world we would live in if Chisholm had been successful in her presidential race.

While Muscio’s presentation was well received by many audience members, others were less impressed by the writer’s oration.

“I was expecting a coherent and captivating speech about feminism and politics, along the veins of Arnie Arnesen’s lecture earlier this month, and was sorely disappointed,” sophomore Julia Quintanilla said of the lecture. “Her gratuitous use of expletives and ‘um,’ ‘like,’ and ‘you know,’ were a complete deterrent.”

During the question-and-answer session following the lecture, many jumped to Muscio’s defense when audience members accused the author of fabricating information and overstating the prominence of racism in the United States. Muscio denied these claims, and even admitted her own inherent racism to prove her point.

“Once you accept you are racist,” Muscio said, “you can begin to understand how racism operates in your heart.”