Breasts and Books: The Knowledge of Charmed

This is my ode to Shannen Doherty’s nipples.

The jewels of her perky breasts peek through slinky dresses and tops. Free from bras, the nubs are still bound by cotton or silk. Only outlines of nipples are clear.

I want to see more.

CharmedWhile I am sexually attracted to breasts, my desire for nipples released from fabric is also a spiritual statement. Witchcraft, unlike most organized religions, celebrates the female body, from areolas to vulvas.

Before I became a witch, I struggled to love myself. I’ll spare you most of the bloody details, but I will say I have suffered intense migraines and cramps – monthly pain that people born without a uterus will never completely understand and people without uteruses have tried to keep me from receiving the medicine I need to alleviate this pain.

The Charmed Ones have powers that could not only combat external oppression related to reproductive rights, but also lessen or obliterate internal pain. Yet, the show – as an accurate reflection of society – locates femininity in clothes. There is a recurring theme of Prue, Phoebe and Piper borrowing outfits and, frankly, I love to see the dresses almost as much as the nipples.

Periods are rarely, if ever, discussed on Charmed. Menstruation, while not as attractive as breasts, is a central part of female existence, one that remains when clothes are stripped away.

I want to see more about blood.

My bloody life began when I was a preteen. Shortly thereafter (before I was sexually active with men), I went on the pill. I began to study witchcraft around the same time. While manufactured hormones regulated bleeding and lessened pain, I learned about my natural yonic power.

I’m a very eclectic witch; my beliefs align most closely with Wicca (and I enjoy the Wiccan phrases and traditions on Charmed, like “so mote it be” and handfasting), but I have researched many different forms of magic, from alchemy to voodoo. The diversity of magic attracted me partially because I am multiethnic.

Femininity must be wrapped in designer threads.

In my studies, I found goddess religions and matrilineal societies that honored and celebrated menstruation. Women were knowledgeable about the power of their blood, blood that cycles with the moon. One lesson that stuck with me, as I have some Native blood, is how sweat lodges – often male spaces – were created to mimic moon lodges: places where women would gather to work medicines during their moontime.

For many television heroines, periods are off-screen phenomenon, and the women of Charmed are no exception. While Prue, Phoebe and Piper may agree that there is no such thing as a too-tight dress, being skyclad – practicing witchcraft without clothes – is regarded with squeamishness. There are no charms for cramps shared among the sisters.

Femininity must be wrapped in designer threads.

Part of this obsession with clothes is due to American television standards; nakedness is “bad” and should be censored. The other side of this is consumerism – femininity, located in clothes, is something that can be marketed, bought and sold.

I want to see witchcraft divorced from capitalism. I want to see the naked female body revered and honored, feminine blood considered sacred.

While I advanced in my craft, I ran into trouble gaining access to the pill. Not only did I have to endure uncomfortable pap smears, I had to pay out of pocket for the experience. I quickly learned that I could not afford the annual exams and monthly medicinal costs. My female experience came with too high a price tag. Without Planned Parenthood, I would have suffered pain male legislators will never endure.

Yet these legislators tried, and keep trying, to keep me from getting the pill. Witchcraft cannot be used to vanquish men who want take away the ability to control my body; “harm none,” a part of the Wiccan rede, includes not hurting misogynists. On Charmed, the women are not allowed to use their powers on mortals, no matter how evil they are. This part of my ethics – with many of its complications – is mirrored in the show.

Book_of_Shadows_(Charmed)I have sought alternatives to the pill – ancient, natural remedies – and I have had moderate success, but nothing has worked as well as the pill in regulating my flow and easing my pain. Furthermore, it should be my choice; no man should be able to tell me which medicines I can and cannot take.

No man will ever see the female body like I do, but I think exposing a little more blood will inspire empathy instead of legislation.

While Charmed does not include knowledge of the female body beyond the superficial (gorgeous women’s clothes that display pert, attractive nipples), it does value female-authored books. The Book of Shadows is written by generations of women and consulted every single episode by Prue, Piper and Phoebe. The Charmed Ones also craft their own spells and add to the book.

My practice – mostly solitary – is centered on books and writing. One shelf of my bookcase is crammed full of magical texts and I’ve checked dozens more out of various libraries. I write spells and prayers as well as academic papers on magic.

Occasionally, outside sources are consulted on Charmed. Phoebe’s college education includes learning about spell-crafting; Prue researches the Triad and other demons on the Internet; and Leo, a white lighter (or guardian angel for witches), offers his knowledge of the supernatural. But the central text – adorned with a yonic symbol – is given as much power as religious books that condemn women.

One of the main reasons I turned from Christianity is the story of Genesis. I could not be part of a religion that punishes women – and all of humanity – for seeking knowledge. While the snake is free of biblical associations in Native traditions, I have also worn a snake ring for about as long as I’ve had my period because I believe that knowledge should be tempting. As an educator, I lead women to knowledge; I am the snake.

In this way, I am both yonic and phallic. But, as a witch, I have learned to prioritize the feminine, to value my bloody life.

———

Marjorie holds an MFA from Mills College and currently works at U.C. Berkeley. She occasionally tweets @metaphorjunkie.

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  • jhavs27

    Meanwhile, a man writes an ode to Shannon Doherty's nipples and is sentenced to die on the bloody cross of the internet.

    I know this wasn't the intention of the article, but I found myself wondering what the result would have been had a man written it. Perhaps I'm just dense, but the of elevation of the female form doesn't seem to have a cogent end within the system of thought relayed by this article. It appears to be discussed for the author's satisfaction. If the desire for the female body arises from some higher metaphysical place in Wicca, what is the result of that? Is Shannon Doherty somehow elevated beyond the objectification of her form by having an ode written to her nipples?

    Pornography elevates the female form for the sake of gratification and objectification. I can't, at the core of its seeming intent, see what this article does differently besides wrap it in mysticism and shambling rhetoric about the female body being important.

    Perhaps, I'm judging this based on a metaphysic that assigns value to a work of feminism based on its ability to elevate the soul of a woman. We should all be proud of our bodies, but what, beyond the body, does the substance of this article seem to exalt? Thoughts?

    • http://twitter.com/RowanKaiser @RowanKaiser

      HERE IS AN IMPORTANT INTERNET TIP:

      If you're replying to an article written by a traditionally underrepresented group with the argument that it would be a bad thing if a person from a traditionally powerful group had written the article, PLEASE DELETE YOUR COMMENT AND FEEL SHAME.

      If you don't understand why that might be the proper course to take, it would be wise to find a patient friend to talk about why that might be the case.

      If you actually think that men are underrepresented and even oppressed by not being able to talk about nipples enough, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR ISP AS TO THE BEST AND FASTEST WAY TO CANCEL YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION. You might even get a partial monthly refund!

      Thank you for your consideration.

      • jhavs27

        Thank you for the tip. You are most kind for offering it.

        However, I feel that using the comparison as a rhetorical device to illuminate what I see as a lingering objectification of the female body is not wrong. You might have misunderstood my argument in favor of leaping on this. Using one's minority status to support claims is sophism. I merely meant to point out that I feel the article is hiding behind its feminine origin in order to say something that most people already don't agree with in other contexts, and, perhaps, if you had been charitable enough to examine the content of my statement rather than banning me from using my chosen rhetoric, you might have understood this.

        I apologize if I've somehow caused offense.

        • http://twitter.com/RowanKaiser @RowanKaiser

          It is wrong. It's a terrible rhetorical device. And speaking of sophistry, have you SEEN how you write?

          • JumpingIn

            If you ignore the first two sentences of jhavs's initial post you can bypass the comparison to male perspective and still maintain a perfectly cogent argument.
            Before one cries censorship of homosexual attitudes; the fact the author is attracted to women is not the issue.
            However, as the fact is not overly relevant to the core of the piece, I feel jhavs's point is that the opening seems to be there without contributing to the argument.
            Sure, "This is my ode to Shannen Doherty’s nipples." makes for a more attention grabbing interesting lead than just "Witchcraft, unlike most organized religions, celebrates the female body, from areolas to vulvas.", but was there something else more relevant that could have been in place?
            Personally, I didn't have a problem with the piece. I do have a problem with RowanKaiser attempting to shut down any chance of discussion with his own poor rhetoric.

          • http://twitter.com/RowanKaiser @RowanKaiser

            "Discussion"? Dude's jumping in with MRA arguments, then masking it under piles of pseudo-intellectual verbiage. His points about pornography were even more embarrassing than his "think of the mens!" opening. Please. I'd rather make fun of misogynists than have a facade of "good rhetoric."

          • jhavs27

            I will admit to you that my opening statement, perhaps, does something that I never intended (apparently, as you have informed me, provide grounds for an MRA argument). Because of this, I wish I hadn't written it quite this way, but I could not have predicted that you or anyone else would have been disposed to view my statement in a way that I myself did not view it. I'm sorry to you and your caps lock button for any trouble this caused.

            I know this sounds irrational since this is the internet, where scum and slander abound, but I was actually kind of hurt that someone I respect dealt with me and my argument the way you did. You didn't even try to understand what I said, and you, definitely, didn't respond in a way that was constructive even had I espoused misogynistic views, which I still hold cannot be drawn from my comment in its entirety. I would personally be ashamed to have said anything truly misogynistic, and I will be extremely considerate in the future when approaching the type of rhetorical territory that I tromped through in my initial comment.

            FInally, although I'm confident enough in myself, my ability to think critically, and my ability to communicate my ideas in writing to have no need of defending my merits as a writer, human being, or intellectual to you, I would encourage you, especially as someone who young college students like me look up to, not to make personal attacks on people who are, at least, trying to talk about what they think while seeking to gather opinions. Why did you come at me with a mace instead of helping me understand if you thought I was so wrong? I openly asked for the thoughts of others. You offered nothing but your boot. Considering who you are, I felt crushed by your response. You completely trampled a chance to enlighten someone who respected you and, maybe, just needed a little help with the way he was couching his ideas.

            I doubt you care how a no good, antagonistic, misogynist, pseudo intellectual thinks or feels, but here it is all the same.

  • Gerald

    LOUD NOISES!

  • Gerald

    Here's another important internet tip: when you start throwing around all caps you come off like sort of a tool, even when you're right.

    Rowan, I agree with you more often than I don't. But adopting "strident" as a default tone makes it feel like you're trying to pick a fight. Maybe shoot for "calmly explaining" before the all caps foot-stomping. It probably won't work, but it's worth a shot.

    • http://twitter.com/RowanKaiser @RowanKaiser

      sure, most of the time I will, but this time, I went all-in on "Men's Rights Activist trying to concern troll his way through the issue," which calls for stridency. Minor chance I was wrong, in which case, I might have offended someone who expresses perhaps accidentally misogynistic arguments through antagonistic piles of verbiage. In which case…darn.