The truth about the word “Gypsy”

I spoke to Brut media about the harmful use of the racial slur “Gypsy” and “gypped.” I see the word used so often in writing, media, brands, and few people know that it refers to the Romani people, and reinforces negatives stereotypes about us like nomadism, curses, thievery, and promiscuity. Many Americans believe that the word Gypsy actually means thief, nomad, curse-thrower, or ‘slut,’ and this erases Romani identity at a crucial time while we are fighting for our rights, and associates the real Romani people with theses stereotypes. I am proud of my Romani heritage and I want people to understand who we are. I’ve written many articles on other aspects of Romani culture, which you can find on my Writing page. If you know someone who uses this word, even if they think they are using it in a positive way, you might like to gently and lovingly educate them on the power of language and the history of this slur. Thanks for watching!

Watch the video below
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Your Guide to a Smart and Not-Appropriative Halloween Costume

I’m re-sharing my “Halloween Savvy” tips in Quail Bell Magazine for coming up with a smart costume and not appropriating the shit out of marginalized cultures like Natives and Roma (or “Gypsies,” the racial slur we’re more commonly known by). Skip the Pocahottie mini-dress and Sexy Gypsy blouse and skirt, and put together something clever, which really is a much sexier way to play it after all. If you ever wondered why appropriative or exoticizing costumes matter, I also touch on that with some fascinating/upsetting history about the “sexy” stereotypes. Plus, I’ve got some ideas for if you want to dress up like a badass character or real person who isn’t of your race but you’re not sure how to proceed.

In the featured image is is my last costume, Little Red Riding Hood Who Killed the Wolf Herself. Taking an empowering, dark, or funny spin on a beloved folk story is always interesting and innovative, and it doesn’t hurt anyone or reinforce racist stereotypes. It’s just pure fun.

This year, I’m going to be a punk-rock unicorn, which is my take on Audre Lorde’s book, The Black Unicorn. Lorde is one of my favorite poets, and a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” It should go without saying that it would be crazy offensive and downright weird to try to make my skin darker to become Lorde. It’s much cooler to have my costume embody what I love about her– her writing. My dressed-in-black unicorn will also have a touch of Stormy’s horse Skydancer thrown in from Rainbow Brite because damn I loved her sassy thunder and lightning spitting hooves! I think Audre Lorde would be into that too.

Click here to read my article

Mystic Lady: An Interview with Katelan Foisy on Wolfwych

I already loved this Wolfwych interview with Katelan Foisy before I noticed that she very kindly listed this blog as a reference for Romani folklore and culture. Foisy is an artist, witch, writer, model, fortune teller… she does all of it, and lives her life with an admirable sense of purpose and ritual. She’s also of Sinti heritage, like me, and one of the most delightful and generous people I’ve ever met. During the Romani Arts and Letters Conference at NYU, I gave a talk on the importance of her work and the work of Selma Selman in reconfiguring the archetype of the “Gypsy Woman,” and included the PowerPoint here: Portraits and Performativity. If you would like to read a thoughtful and beautifully crafted interview with her about her artwork, life, magical work, fortune telling, and reading list, then here you go, and you’re welcome. Enjoy! https://wolfwych.com/2017/07/20/mystic-lady-an-interview-with-katelan-foisy/

I’ve gotten some of my best divination from cut-ups and some very good practical advice. It rearranges the brain to see what isn’t there. I’m also a fan of working with technology to increase energy. We are creating magical worlds with our internet presences so when I’m doing a working, I will photograph parts of it, edit the image to enhance the feeling of the work and put it up online. I feel that the love and buoyancy that pours in from that helps to boost the energy within the working. It’s one of the reasons I take so much care in the aesthetics of the working. If each working itself is it’s one piece of art, the care put into each work becomes part of the magic in that particular working. This method is what works best for me but each practitioner will have their own method. For instance I work with land magic a lot. If I’m doing a working for immigration I will take that person with me on a journey and the we will walk the path of those that came before us. I believe we need to know the history of the land before we can work our magic there. That may be one thing that I find odd about some modern day practices and with people in general. We tend to forget our history but the real magic lies underneath the pavement and deep within the soil, it lies in land memory. –Excerpt from interview

Image by Katelan Foisy, featured in WolfWych

 

The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy’ in Bitch Magazine

Seriously, can you imagine any other racial slur titling a TV show in 2017? Luckily, the show, Gypsy, was cancelled the very day that Bitch Media published my essay, “The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy,'” but the casual use of this racial slur continues. So if you ever wondered why it’s not ok for people to say “gypped” to mean “to cheat,” why you can’t make the word “Gypsy” mean whatever you want it to mean, or where the magical, sexy, thieving, wanderlusting “Gypsy” stereotypes come from, then read this.

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/gypsy

 

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Image of the Gypsy Netflix posters with anti-racist grafitti from Bitch Media 

Book Review: Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen Sollée is a Must-Read

I was delighted to review a book I love, Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen J. Sollée, for BUST.com. Here’s an excerpt:

As a Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers, how could I fail to be intrigued by Kristen J. Sollée’s book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists. It’s a scintillating, wry, and accessibly academic overview of the witch archetype in relation to the European and American witch hunts, and to the festival of misogyny in current American politics. Sollée, a professor of Gender Studies at The New School, teaches a popular class on the same topic. In the book, Sollée explores the deadly interplay of women’s financial and social autonomy, and sometimes sexual liberation, during the inquisition and the days of colonial America. Today, though sex and power can still be damning for women, they can also be quite a combination for activism and protest art.

In my review, I discuss the ways in which my own experience with witchcraft relates to Sollée’s work, and the ways in which she acknowledges that so much of modern Paganism is often unapologetically appropriative, and what can be done to initiate that healing. I should explain that my first line,”A Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers….” refers to the very ordinary magic of herbalism, energy work, and prayer that many Roma practice. My grandmother claims the title witch because it is understood by outsiders, and I do too. And while I am an English professor, writer, and editor, I also work the family trades, fortune telling and dancing, still practiced by some Roma. Like all Roma, I am not one thing. Romani people aren’t inherently magical, and most would be reluctant to claim the words “magic” and “witch” the way my family does, because these practices are not out of the ordinary. They are everyday healing, and I think that’s what Sollée is saying in her book too. The witch/slut archetype are very human, and that humanity is extraordinary in its tradition, practicality, and power.

For the full review on http://www.bust.com, follow this link: http://bust.com/books/193139-witches-sluts-feminists-kristen-sollee-review.html

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Loving the book in a lacy cami

My “Madness is Remembering” essay is published in Prairie Schooner!

I’m happy to share that “Madness is Remembering,” my essay awarded the Penelope Nivens Award by the Center for Women Writers and Elissa Washuta last year, is now in the Summer 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner. The essay is about love, cyclical violence, Romani (“Gypsy”) culture, inherited trauma, and survival. I’ll be in there alongside writer and friend Brenda Peynado, so make sure to check out her story too! The summer print issue will be available to order soon!

Portrait by Aurora Rose and John

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This photo is part of a series by the photographer Aurora Rose de Crosta. More on this later. She and John took many portraits, and I chose this as my favorite and answered this short interview to go along with it. Check out Aurora’s and John’s work at www.auroraandjohn.com. They are a beautiful and talented pair who I am so honored to have worked with.

1). Why did you choose the outfit you did? What about it represents you the most?
I chose this outfit because it’s one of my favorite dresses to wear when I dance. I like to perform a combination of Romani dance and Bellydance, but actually the dress is a Mexican wedding dress from the 1970’s from my favorite vintage store, The Odd Showroom, which was operated by the artist Amity Joy. I am a writer, perhaps first and foremost, but my grandmother taught me her Romani (“Gypsy”) family trades fortune telling, dance, and healing. The word “Gypsy” is a racial slur and reduces us to stereotypes, a dangerous thing in the midst of the current Romani human rights crisis. We are more than fortune tellers and dancers– I am also an English professor, writer, artist, editor, and activist– but these old trades, born of persecution in the centuries after our ancestors left India in the great diaspora, live on too.

2). Do you in general like being photographed? Why?
Yes and no. I did some very small-time modeling when I was young, and I suppose I got used to it, and now I’m a professional art model and have my image rendered in a number of mediums over and over again. If you believe in astrology, I am on the Cancer/Leo cusp (a touch deeper into Leo), and I suppose my relationship with having my picture taken reflects this. I don’t actually know anything about astrology though. I like being a part of an artist’s work, but sometimes it’s hard to look at my own image.

3). How did you feel during the shoot?
Aurora and John were so kind and creative and gave me loving direction while encouraging my own spontaneity. What a joy to work with! Deniz Ataman did my makeup, and she made me feel so glamorous. I loved that we shot in my bedroom too– the whole thing felt so intimate and sweet, and I felt supported in being myself, in all my odd multitudes.

4). Why did you choose the photo you chose?
I am a writer, and I fancy that in this photo I have a crazy face like Jean of Arc in Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879) painting (my paternal grandfather’s favorite), when the angels are telling her what her calling is. When I was a child, I believed that writing was my purpose, and it gave me a reason to live with a fire that I flattered myself by likening to Jean of Arc’s fire. I still might believe that.

5). Were there any particular images you hated? Why?
Anything remotely unflattering I will always hate because my vanity runs wide and deep.

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Joan of Arc, Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879, The Metropolitan Museum of Art