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  • Writer's pictureLaura Perry

Book Review: Kissing the Hag

"The Unacceptable Nature of Women." That's the part of this title that made me want to read Kissing the Hag. Because heck yeah, modern western society has a lot to say about the unacceptable nature of women. And what it says affects not just women but also men, nonbinary adults, children... it affects the weave of our whole culture.

Kissing the Hag is an exploration of the many facets of that unacceptable nature: the virgin, the whore, the hag, and more. How any aspect of femininity that doesn't fit in with society's expectations is vilified, demonized. How that damages us all.

The book is written from a predominantly cis/het point of view, and I am neither, but I still got a lot out of it. And though the author often addresses comments to an apparently female reader, I think this is an issue that touches people of all genders. Because we're all doing our best to navigate a complex set of expectations based on who others think we are or think we ought to be. And those expectations limit everyone's ability to be authentic and whole.

Kissing the Hag is not the kind of "angry feminist" book that was so common a few decades ago, and I'm thankful for that. Although there's still plenty to be angry about in the Big World, this book is a more nuanced exploration of what it might be like if women and other female-presenting people were not only allowed but encouraged to express their true selves, free from the restrictions of a society that requires us to be sexual, but only in certain amounts and manners; attractive, but only in certain ways and situations; exactly the right amount of submissive, not too much or too little... the impossible razor's edge of standards.

The author ties the book together with an Arthurian tale, which adds a nice flavor to the text. But what I liked most was the in-depth look at each of the "forbidden female" archetypes. They allowed me to feel my way to the edges of my being and explore a lot of possibilities. That's a valuable journey for most anyone.

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