Inga Muscio’s Rose: Love in Violent Times is a heart-wrenching journey, with ups and downs, depressing moments mirrored by inspirational ones. It is beautiful, and though it largely continues with Muscio’s usual themes of feminism and antiracism, I would file this book under “ecofeminism” as well.
Muscio’s latest, published last year, picks up where her classic Cunt: A Declaration of Independence left off. Rose is divided into two sections: Violence and Love. It’s written in Muscio’s standard conversational yet highly informed tone, touching on history, culture, and anecdotes from her own life, seamlessly sewing it all together in a beautiful, diverse patchwork quilt. “Violence” talks about violence in our culture, engrained as it is, and speaks much about rape and safety.
In the book, Muscio theorizes that rape and destruction of the earth are connected, a basic part of ecofeminist theory. She compares rape and sexual violence to losing connection with the natural world, carelessly living in it while ruthlessly controlling it, from clear-cutting forests to destroying fragile ecosystems, home to wildlife as well as people:
Looking at the past two hundred years in the US, people have moved further and further away from nature and their own humanity, meanwhile endlessly replicating the power model of raping indians and the land, and enslaving entire populations of human beings. Rape is intrinsic to slavery; they go hand in hand. You cannot have slavery without rape. Rape is necessary for total control, emotional compliance, and breeding purposes. Humans rape—each other and the earth—to compensate for the isolation in our hearts and the deadened emptiness in our souls.
Muscio goes on to say that nature feeds the soul. Being a part of, as opposed to being in a dominating position over, the natural world is life-affirming and life-fulfilling.
Part two, “Love,” focuses on everything from word usage (she spends a good amount of time just dissecting biases in the dictionary) to the violence we consume by eating food thoughtlessly, like purchasing a meal of factory farmed-meat in a styrofoam container. She again uses history and family stories from her youth to carry her points home. It is also a call to arms, a thread to hold on to, a rope of hope the reader may climb. Love is what we need if we are ever to stop violence in its tracks.
Rose is a wonderful book, and despite its heavy subjects, is not a depressing read. (That means a lot coming from someone who gets easily stressed merely reading articles on climate change.) Rape is a difficult subject, and while some parts are indeed hard to read, the book as a whole makes the reader feel empowered and, even, uplifted. Muscio sees both the horror and beauty in the world. Rose is jarring and thought-provoking, and a high on my recommendation list for ecofeminist literature.