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POP INTERVIEW: Feminist Publisher/Author Felice Newman

Felice Newman, publisher of Cleis Press since 1980 and an author herself, wishes to change the modern day attitude regarding feminism as a naughty word.

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“Feminist” in 2013 isn’t exactly a compliment. At least, not to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and others who deny any connections to the word or its movement in public statements. Ironically, if it weren’t for feminists, none of these young women be able to earn the incredible sums of money they do each year. Felice Newman, publisher of Cleis Press since 1980 and an author herself, wishes to change the modern day attitude regarding feminism as a naughty word.

Felice Newman

You started out as a poet. Who are your favorite poets? What about female poets?
My favorite poet is Mary Oliver—though I am excited to have discovered Richard Bianco, Obama’s 2013 inaugural poet, who wrote so eloquently of our one, shared world. I would think they they would like each other, too.

Back in the 1970’s, you started a small feminist publishing company. What kind of materials were submitted to you then? What impressed you with some manuscripts that made others churn?
I was a cofounder of a very tiny feminist press, Motheroot Publications, in the mid-70s. We asked Adrienne Rich for permission to print a small chapbook of an essay of hers that we loved, Women & Honor: Some Notes on Lying. We kept that little chapbook in print for many years, first through Motheroot and then Cleis. I admit to not really remembering what our slush pile looked like back then. But I can tell you that when Cleis Press started in 1980, we were most impressed with books that spoke authentically of women’s lives from the first person point of view. Books that gave testimony to women’s experiences, both struggles and victories. The first book we ever published right from the slush pile was Voices in the Night: Women Speaking About Incest. This was before The Courage to Heal, and there are nothing, absolutely nothing on the subject. We sold many many thousands of copies of Voices in the Night.

Do you think it is possible to embrace women’s traditional roles and feminist ideals at the same time? Can these two worlds work together in one’s personal life or entertainment?
I love this question! There is abosolutely nothing wrong with sex roles—as long as you have the freedom to choose the one(s) that resonate for you. As Adrienne Rich once said, and I may be paraphrasing, “There’s nothing wrong with privilege…as long as everyone has it.”

Let’s assume a man or woman is new to reading LGBT literature. Which books should he or she pick up within the lesbian catalog?
Within the lesbian catalog: First, the Best Lesbian Erotica series. If you want to know what makes a lesbian a lesbian (!), start with erotic stories like those in the Best Lesbian Erotica series. After all, this is where you will find women writing unabashedly of their desire for and experiences (both real and imagined) of sex between women. Then, I’ send that reader right to my book, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us. There is no better guide to lesbian and bisexual women’s sexuality. I say that as both the author and the publisher—and as a reader of books about sex. The reason I wrote this book is that I had been waiting years to receive such a book proposal. It never happened. I know the book was needed, so I decided to write it myself.

Felice Newman1

For straight people, why might they too be interested in reading LGBT books? Some people seem embarrassed being seen near the aisle.
Well, LGBTQ books speak authoritatively and authentically about sexuality and gender. It’s hard (even today) to sift the good info from books which really pander to the shame-based, sex-negative status quo. So I would encourage everyone to look to LGBTQ books for a fresh take on their own sexuality. After all, as humans we have far more in common you we may think.

What is the worst thing someone ever told you about your books? How did it make you feel great? Because criticism sometimes does that to you, leading you on a power trip when you know you’re doing something right enough to be controversial.
There was a time when some feminist publishers and some feminist booksellers were quite dismissive about what Cleis did, because they considered erotica and sex guides as not a politically legitimate contribution, to say the least. During their own leans times, they would say, well, of course YOU’RE doing okay, you publish sex—as if we were exploiters cranking out crap for money. We were doing better than many of our sister publishers, but we think it’s because we were publishing books people wanted to read. And doing it well. And respecting the varied reading interests of our audience.

What do you see as the parts of life in America where women are most oppressed? Outside this country, which countries in your opinion need progress?
I’m going to speak about America and not other countries, simply because it’s so easy to point to other regions for examples of oppression. Women are oppressed in the US because as long as we are on the defensive regarding access to contraceptives and abortion, we will spend much energy and money trying not to lose what we’ve already gained, with not enough resources left over to push forward on basic issues like income equality. Women still don’t earn as much as men.

Do you think feminism is still around anymore or was it something that ended in the 90’s?
Feminism is definitely still around, though perhaps some people don’t want to label themselves with the word “feminism.”

Celebrities

Watching Mayim Bialik Learn TikTok Dances Is Pure Joy

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It is so fun watching this mom’s viral dance moves blossom.

Nowadays you can’t go on social media without being introduced to some new viral dance craze and I am only salty about it because I was given the curse of two left feet. Once in awhile, however, I come across a video so entertaining that me and my sense of incoordination can’t help but to put our jealousy aside and let the amusement take over. And that has happened with Mayim Bialik’s latest post on her YouTube channel.

While we know the actress from her charmingly quirky roles in the hit tv shows Blossom and The Big Bang Theory, Bialik spends her days like most moms just trying to keep up with the latest trends that have her children so captivated. In her video entitled “My Son Teaches Me TikTok Dances” the mom of 2 makes it her mission to learn some of the viral dances sweeping the popular app from her teenage son. Bialik starts the video by calling the app “Tik-Toke” so you know we are in for a treat. The Ph.D (yes she has a Ph.D in neuroscience) then describes Tik Tok as being “impossible” to explain only for her son to quickly inform her that this is a very simple explanation of how the app works. It’s going well. Oh and Bialik is wearing a Pokémon t-shirt throughout the entire video…which should automatically make her TikTok famous imo.

Rather than just join the app and potentially humiliate herself and become a meme, Bialik decided to post her dance attempts to her own channel. Who would dare meme this queen!? The tv star then goes onto learn and demonstrate some of the most viral videos we’ve seen recently such as “The Renegade” and “Say So.” The video will keep a smile on your face for the entire 10+ minutes and is definitely worth sharing. We need all the good vibes we can get nowadays and trust me they don’t get much better than this!

Check out the charmingly quirky video below!

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Celebrities

You Can Now Purchase An Official Big Cat Rescue Mask From Carole Baskin

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More like Carole Maskin’.

Are you a cool cat? More of a kitten? Either way, you can now jump on the Tiger King craze and purchase an OFFICIAL Big Cat Rescue mask for yourself. Carole Baskin and her big cat organization took to Facebook over the weekend to promote their newest bit of merchandise. Capitalizing on the pandemic-induced need for masks, the Netflix star boasts two different color options available for purchase. For just $11 (before tax and shipping) you can choose between a black or leopard print mask emblazoned with Carole’s favorite tag line, “Hey all you cool cats and kittens.” Truly a steal for anyone obsessed with the buzz worthy docu-series.

In case you’ve forgotten, Carole is the arch enemy to Joe Exotic as portrayed in the Netflix docu-series Tiger King. She’s been making headlines lately as the series has launched renewed interest in the “disappearance” of her second husband. After watching the series, fans began speculating that Carole’s ex-husband didn’t disappear, rather that she murdered him. Just this week, reports were made that the signature on her ex-husband’s last will and testament may have been forged. Because of all these allegations, the case of Carole’s missing husband has been officially reopened.

But all that’s neither here nor there because there are adorable, trendy masks for sale! If you would like to jump on the craze and snag a mask for yourself, check out the post below!

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Broadway

Lin-Manuel Miranda Just Shared The Original Demo For ‘Moana’ Hit Song And It Features A Big ‘Hamilton’ Star!

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Another gem from the wonderful world of Miranda.

If there are two things musical lovers are forever grateful for it’s Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Disney scooped up Miranda to write songs for the 2016 hit film Moana which told the story of a young princess chosen by the ocean to reunite an ancient relic with a powerful goddess. Unsurprisingly, the film’s standout song “How Far I’ll Go” won the Oscar for “Best Original Song” because everything Miranda touches turns to gold. What’s even more exciting than the award winning content Miranda creates, however, is the glimpses into the creative process he often shares with fans. After Hamilton became a smash hit, Miranda shared countless original demos and compositions of songs from the musical just to show fans the growth of his creativity. Well, moments ago Miranda took to Twitter to once again give us a peek into his process but this time it’s for the hit Disney film.

While Hamilton was still in it’s pre-Broadway run, Miranda was writing songs for Disney. He enlisted the help of his costar Phillipa Soo, the original Eliza Schuyler, to record the demo for “How Far I’ll Go” from their dressing room at the Public Theater. Finally after all these years, Miranda has decided to share the demo with us and it’s enough to make any theater geek freak out! In his tweet he apologizes for making the demo so “high” but applauds Soo because she “can sing ANYTHING.” And by the sound of this demo she really can!

Check out some Disney magic…or Miranda magic…or both(?) by listening to the original demo below!

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