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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love by Betsy Prioleau

Get Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love by Betsy Prioleau here.
This book is my self-esteem bible.

The title suggests using one's sexuality to gain power. The book goes so much deeper than that, though.  Our femininity is the source of our strength, much as a man's physical build is his.  Rather than stifling this, and resorting to either Madonna or whore archetypes, Prioleau suggests we use the whole of our femininity, from our innate empathy to our resiliency. She cites neatly organized and well-researched examples of several different types of women: nonbeauties, seniors, intellectuals, artists, government leaders, and adventurers.  These women are all towering examples of self-possession, there's not a damsel in distress in sight.  Prioleau doesn't sugarcoat either, every mini biography gives a clear view of all of the subjects’ formidable strengths, but includes their myriad of failings. 

SIDE NOTE:  Seductress is written with enough erudite diction to require even the most avid logophile (someone who loves words) keep a dictionary handy.

Repeatedly, Prioleau circles back to the ancient goddess(es) and how women in history have channeled them.  I'm not well-versed in matriarchal history or lore, and I was at first a bit of a cynic about this. Stepping out of the mental habits and opinions formed by my upbringing, and opening my mind to the ideas rather than the lore, allowed me to distill the underlying message from this book. If you have strong moral opinions, or a strict religious upbringing or belief that is hard-set, you're probably not going to like this book. The author crushes the double standards of men and women in power that go outside a monogamous relationship and lauds the women for using an intoxicating blend of mind, body and heart to get what they deserve. JFK, many powerful men carried on a sordid affair (or several), but they're still venerated.  Women who do so are attacked and insulted.  Rather than mire herself in the debate around morality, Prioleau rises above it. She states the facts, and enumerates the effects.  Some have said that these women are master manipulators.  I find that’s only true in as much as every human being is a manipulator.  These aren't scheming social climbers or gold diggers.  These are women that knew what they wanted, what they needed, and suffered no bull to get it.

Regardless of upbringing, looks, age, original social standing or lack of money, these women rose to notoriety and gained the respect and adoration of their peers.  No matter who you are or what you look like, this book proves over and over the truth of the old cliche, "Looks aren't everything." If you lament that you're getting old, your face is plain, your pockets are empty, or your body is far from the ideal - READ THIS BOOK.  Instead of plaintively or aggressively wailing that society accept you as you are, you own who and what you are.  Society can hang itself.  Slights and barbs don't hurt so much because they are the weak arrows of the unfulfilled and the insecure.  Don't think this is a matter of just suddenly thinking you're self-possessed.  False bravado won't cut it, insecurity isn't hidden by sassy statements and a bitter attitude.  It can only be found by brutally assessing ones-self and staring into the parts both beautiful and hideous. Prioleau understands that, which is why her examples are so vivid. Of the thousands of women she researched, she mined the most formidable figures that impacted society and sometimes history - by fair means or foul.

Like many of the women Prioleau chose to spotlight in her book, the author has an awareness of self, a sharp mind, and understanding of the bisection of male and female society.  I guarantee just about every reader will disagree with the author at one point or another. I found that opened up the possibility of stimulating debates with others. Regardless of whether you agree or not, the intrinsic truths stand out.  Women, not just men, have hamstrung other women.  Feminism has gained us a more equal footing, but has managed to confuse and undercut men.  We don't need their power, we have our own. We don't need to wear men's suits, unless we want to. We don't need to harangue, nag, emasculate or subjugate men - it's alienating, and while it may gain power, it does not gain affection.  We need to assert our own minds and the strengths that complement theirs. We need to work beside and sometimes around them. We need to understand our needs - physical, emotional, and mental - and acquire satisfaction with the knowledge that it's deserved, without apology.  We must know our self-worth, our strengths, understand how others think, cultivate our minds constantly, and pursue all of our passions with unreserved joy. THIS is what makes an enchantress; that self-possession and savvy that spellbinds the people around us.  

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