There is an extraordinary contrast between the outsider’s stereotype of the Gypsy woman, and the ideal behaviour expected of her by the Gypsies themselves; the two are more closely connected than the conventional opposition between fact and fantasy, the real and the ideal. The relationship is reflected in the Gypsies’ beliefs in female pollution. This cannot be satisfactorily explained through the Gypsies’ internal organisation alone, but can be properly understood only when set in the context of the Gypsies’ external relations and of the more general pollution taboos between themselves and outsiders or gorgios (to use the name given by Gypsies to all non-Gypsies).1 I also examine how the Gypsy women use their special relationship with outsiders to resolve problems of formal subordination to men. The disjunction between the outsider’s stereotype and the insider’s ideal, expressed in pollution taboos, is to some extent bridged by an exchange of fantasies between the women and men of opposing groups.