Women and horses have a complicated relationship: Women both identify with horses emotionally—connecting with the freedom they represent—and gain power from their ability to control them. One compelling example of this paradoxical relationship in women’s involvement in Wild West shows and the American rodeo.
Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show, founded in 1883, featured pragmatic cowboy skill paired with romanticized and largely inaccurate depictions of life in the American West. Cody was a showman through and through, offering a certain amount of flamboyance and flair to the decidedly unglamorous, and often harsh, history of the cowboy and the frontier. Cody’s show included American Indians, however they were exoticized and portrayed as violent and aggressive, reinforcing problematic ideas held by many white Americans.
There was some truth to Cody’s Wild West show, though. Skilled performers, including women like sharp-shooter Annie Oakley (at right) and real-life cowboys exhibited their undisputable talents, making way for our modern rodeo competitions.
Born on August 13, 1860 to Quaker parents Jacob and Susan, Phoebe Ann Mozee early life could not begin to foreshadow the wild adventures she would have. As she grew up, Annie’s penchant for hunting became local legend and she started to garner fame and respect in her region for her excellent shot. After winning a competition against a traveling performer and sharp-shooter who she would later marry, Annie Oakley was catapulted into a life of world-wide fame all the while sticking to her guns—both literally and figuratively.
Here at the Bitch Community Lending Library, we're spending the spring talking about sex work. Last Tuesday, our book club got together to discuss Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry edited by Annie Oakley. In April we'll be discussing Unequal Desires: Race and Erotic Capital in the Stripping Industry by Siobhan Brooks, and in May we'll read Rent Girl by Michelle Tea. If you're in Portland, come to our book clubs! But regardless of where you are, if you're looking to put a few books that explore the sex industry on your bedside table, you should read along with us.
If there are other books about sex work that you would like to recommend to readers, leave them in the comments!