Women and their Bodies, I

To be a woman is to be feared, to know fear. To hold the two simultaneously within yourself, to know that your body, by the sheer fact of its existence, will be terrified by the society that claims to be terrorised by it; that the patriarchy deems women’s bodies so awful, so monstrous, that it seeks to limit and control their power. These people not only hate women, but are afraid of them; scared of the capacity for women’s bodies to be unruly, unclean, unknowable.

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The Resurgence of the Monstrous Feminine

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Women and their Bodies, II

What better way to justify the ways in which we break her?

The female body has been codified as disgusting, defective – leaking, bleeding, oozing – from time immemorial. She limps, incomplete and half-finished, across Aristotle’s theories, a deformed ‘monstrosity’ and a ‘misbegotten man’; stalks through the Talmud on Lilith’s jackal-feet, flying through the night on her bird wings to sate her demon’s appetite; drags her heavy body through Greek mythology, crowned with curls of snakes.

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Women and their Bodies, III

She’s simultaneously too-much and less-than; little more than an underdeveloped man, a foetus too weak to grow entirely, pale and fragile as an orchid. It’s this that Freud evokes when he writes ‘Probably no male human being is spared the fright of castration at the sight of a female genital.’ For Freud, the female body is defined by its fundamental lack: uncanny, strange, and unfinished.

It’s why so many euphemisms for the vagina focus on the female genitals as a wound: cleft, axe-wound, gash – the woman is always a site of violence.

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HANNAH WILLIAMS

Despite the sheer and uncommunicable amount of violence enacted upon the female body throughout history, it’s woman as terroriser, as beast, that we keep coming back to.

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Monstrous-Feminine

If women are unsupervised, then what might they be doing? What might they be wearing? What could they become? What if, instead of being powerless and pliable, they learned that they could fight back? What if the woman who lies next to you at night, folds your laundry, cooks your meals, is merely hiding her claws and scales and razor-teeth and licking her lips with her forked tongue, counting the wrongs you committed against her – against all women – biding her time.

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