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

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“I’m not indecent!” –Bettie Page, sex-positive feminist before it was even a thing

I tip my tiny burlesque top hat to you, Bettie Page.

Page, risen from poverty and trauma, grew up to ignite her own successful career and a sexual revolution. Charged multiple times with indecency, her battle cry, “I’m not indecent” dared to elevate women’s naked bodies, no longer impure or passive-and-possessed.

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Image source: http://www.seantcollins.com

Tori Rodriguez’s fantastic article in The Atlantic, “Male fans made Bettie Page a star but female fans made her an icon” takes a good look at Page’s life, career, icon-status, and the upcoming film Bettie Reveals Allhttp://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/01/male-fans-made-bettie-page-a-star-but-female-fans-made-her-an-icon/282794/

“…Bettie Page Reveals All, a new movie about her life, is the first film to tell her story in her own voice—in fact, she’s the narrator. Based on a series of interviews with Academy Award-nominated director Mark Mori several years before her death, the film recounts how—despite a childhood in Nashville, Tennessee rife with neglect, sexual abuse by her father, and extreme poverty—she managed to graduate at the top of her high school class, earn a college degree, and forge her own career. Page also reveals details of her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, which included 10 years spent in a psychiatric hospital after abandoning her modeling career….” –excerpt from The Atlantic

“I’m not indecent!” frees Page from the role of victim as well– sexual abuse tells the survivor that there is something wrong with his/her body and that his/her body is solely for someone else’s pleasure, yet Page goes on to confront sex and sexuality not as an object, but as a career woman of agency and sex-positive expression.* That’s not to say she didn’t suffer. We know she did. That’s not to say that burlesque and modeling are always routes to empowerment and healing. We know they aren’t. And still, I can’t help but see Bettie Page’s career as a giant “fuck this noise” to sexual repression and the oppression of women. Her icon-presence radiates strength, even when she’s “hog-tied and gagged.” We still look to her for pin-up power-ups.

“….for many women, Page symbolizes self-confidence, unapologetic sexuality, and bold authenticity.”

“‘Bettie’s female fans often feel a deep emotional connection with her, which I think says a lot about the rigid expectations women still face,’ Mori says. ” –excerpts from The Atlantic

And so, my refrain: I tip my tiny burlesque top hat to you, Bettie Page. Live on in glory.

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Image source: http://www.pinuppassion.com

*If you’re interested in sex-positive empowerment for sexual trauma survivors, you may want to check out Healing Sex: A Mind Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines.