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Why do we celebrate Bettie Page?

bettie_page_2
Bettie Page

Bettie Page may have been the poster-girl of every man’s fantasies back in the ’50s but we as a society should be well aware that women who allow themselves to be exploited sexually are often the victims of sexual trauma.

Page was no exception. As a child she was sexually abused. As a teen, she was gang raped.

Bettie Page in a different kind of pin-up.
Page in a different kind of pin-up.

That might explain why Page, later, divorced three times, abused drugs and reportedly lived a tormented life. But we (see today’s NYT story) continue to glorify her as a sexual icon. This is what we can expect in the age of Paris Hilton.

Even more disturbing is the Times crediting her with setting “the stage for the sexual revolution of the rebellious ’60s.” The sexual revolution was NOT about freeing ourselves from sexual inhibitions, althought that was much-needed in our puritanical society; it was about freeing women from the narrow confines of gender roles that our patriarchal society thrust on us.

Rest in peace, Bettie. I’m sorry that you never got the real love and respect you deserved.

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One thought on “Why do we celebrate Bettie Page?

  1. This commentary bothers me. Are you criticzing Bettie or society at-large? Bettie is an American Icon. I think most of our Icons have overcome unspeakable events in their lives, but to speak of only those events solely devalues their mark on the world. What’s ironic is that the horrible events she sufferred which caused her own personal boundaries to break-away (though egregiously involuntarily) also led to the breakaway of the corsetted boundaries sufferred by of American women at the time. That’s how change happens. That’s how great art happens: it challenges one’s view, one’s experience, one’s own boundaries, then later it becomes Iconic. Ultimately, she was brave and dared to tell the world, ‘it’s only our bodies, it’s only a picture, get over it’. She made her own choices. She paid dearly for them, but she made them. I don’t know why I’ve always been so drawn to her. Maybe the dichotomy of her girl-next-door vulnerability, and her in-your face sex-appeal: a double-whammy that scared the hell out of men because back then we weren’t ALLOWED to be sexy in public. You were a good girl, or a bad girl. Not both. She was prosecuted for this. I hope she didn’t take that to her grave. I hope she died with the full force of the self-respect and bravado she gave so many of us. You greatly disrespect and mock her wishes by posting that mug-shot. Take it down and let her truly rest in peace.

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