thoughts on goddesses and monsters

a rant/essay inspired by books about wild women

am i a creation goddess or a destruction goddess? am i both? is there a difference?

i put “wild women” into the search on my library’s website and got a variety of results. 

one book of wild women were nature writers. why did they feel so tame to me? maybe because they were just reporting. influencing but not doing? was i jealous that i never pursued a career in the natural world? or is it the fact that even though i identify as wild (feral at the very least) i do not identify as a women? (or is it that i don’t identify as feminine?) and often find myself annoyed by the more frivolous characteristics of women? 

another book of “wild” women was a random collection of quotes. as soon as i read a quote indicating that women who don’t wear makeup are lazy, i closed the book and returned it to the library, my opinions on the frivolous characteristics of women confirmed.

reading another book i found while looking for wild women stories, women and other monsters by jess zimmerman, i realize i never fantasized about being the princess, the damsel in distress. i devoured faery tales like a fiend, but i never thought about being the princess. so what drew me to faery tales? the dark side of them? the suffering through life for some kind of reward? definitely the magic of them. i have never outgrown the magic found in faery tales…or the darkness.
while reading zimmerman’s book, and something i’ve come to realize while working on my own projects, i am drawn to the antagonists of mythology like a bear to honey. i love the idea of being a siren or a medusa. i identify with being a punishment to mankind. the idea of it intoxicates me. i don’t want to be the princess…i want to be the witch. 

what the fuck, right? 

but to take the male gaze and use it to destroy those lookers. turn them to stone? that is magic. 

once during my life i did succumb to the male gaze. i consider it the low point of my life…it only lasted, what? like fifteen or sixteen years? it started when my soul mate broke up with me because i was a fuck-up at relationships. i hopped a greyhound from hip & cool austin, texas to get off in not so hip & cool lexington, kentucky. i was heartbroken and my self esteem was in the toilet. 

i started dating a redneck and was too easily influenced to start shaving off my body hair and wearing underwear and being generally more “presentable”…for him.

i embraced…or, rather, attempted femininity. waiting tables in short skirts (but still wearing doc martins)…losing weight…wearing tight tops to show off my far from ample bosoms—but also my naval ring!

this went on for years even after i left kentucky for wisconsin. then i became a mom and was told by my preschool age son that i better shave my legs (after a just a couple of days of growth.)

i promptly threw away my razors.

fuck the male gaze.

you know, sometimes i get to a public place and realize i have no idea what i look like that day? mostly i just hope i don’t have any boogs hanging out. i don’t worry someone might not be attracted to me. i assume no one will be. i’m unencumbered by the male gaze. it’s a warm and safe pocket for me. low stress. low maintenance. perfect.

my best guess for my being often oblivious to the male gaze is, again, that i do not consider myself a woman. i mean, i know on a logical level that i am a woman. i used to menstruate, i have breasts, i have the plumbing assigned to women and used it to gestate and give birth four times. yet…i feel a disconnect. i feel like womanhood is a club i was not invited to join. i have felt this way for as long as i can remember. when i was around five, i remember thinking i knew i was a girl…but i did not know i was not a boy. 

little girls were a mystery to me. watching them…and then watching women as i got older, they continued to be a mystery to me. i still obsessively watch female friend tv shows and movies, as if i will glimpse the secret that keeps me locked out. 

friendships with girls…and then women as i got older, left me feeling like i was pretending to be someone else. the minute a woman speaks to me, i take on a role. like i’m actually a non-woman in drag and afraid that i am not passing.

i say a non-woman, because i do not consider myself a man either. like the cliche that women like to put on people like me, i am more comfortable being friends with men. i am one of those “not like other girls.” at first, men are easy. at first, men are mostly just fun. it only gets tricky when they start thinking of me as a woman. i have had boyfriends of sisters and friends hit on me way too many times under the assumption that i would be a good idea seeing as i like to drink beer and make inappropriate jokes. i know my being a good idea would get old fast. that it’s a bad idea. they are with a woman and want to cheat on her with me…because i am like them? but with boobs and a vagina? 

plus, i wasn’t hanging out with them to get laid. i just wanted an easy friendship that didn’t mean i was always on guard, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. but friendships with men usually ended when i didn’t suck their cocks after all.

in zimmerman’s book, the only book about wild women that i found i could actually get into (so far), she talks about how easy it is for a woman to be considered monstrous, that the ideals for femininity are a thin line. 

women are supposed to be fragile. dainty.

i am not. i was once called a “stout young lad” by a man with alzheimer’s that i was caring for when i was twenty. it really didn’t bother me that much. after all, i don’t think of myself as a woman. i am me. big hands, big feet, built like a linebacker. these are the genes i inherited from my father. not my mother’s bird bones and small features. i was happy to get my dad’s build. he was unstoppable. my mother on the other hand, was breakable. i did not want to be breakable. i saw what it did to her.

i don’t mind being a monster. i like it. it’s fun to upset people and cause them discomfort by doing something as simple as not shaving my pits. however, i find i want to be a beautiful monster. mostly because beauty means power. there is a power to beauty that i regret i did not take more advantage of when i was younger and convinced i was hideous (but really was not.) when i was in my twenties, i shaved my head and dressed in boy’s clothes because it would be ridiculous for someone like me to pretend to be pretty.

“So when I said, ‘I don’t like romance,'” writes zimmerman, “it was the equivalent of a dieter insisting she just doesn’t want dessert. I did want it–I just thought it wasn’t allowed.”

this is something i struggled with all my years. embracing my cynical self because i thought my romantic self would come off as ridiculous…laughable…. if i admitted that i wanted to be loved, i would be a joke. i looked at myself and saw a hideous misfit. who would love me? better to make fun of romance and be cruel to any man who pretended to love me.

i call myself a siren…or now a retired siren…because of what i do to the men who are crazy enough to be drawn in by my song. i crash them on the rocks. i destroy them. all of them. 

i seduce them with my sexuality (that i have no problem admitting to…sexuality is not the same as beauty) and then i ruin them. i’m even proud of this. proud that i have made so many men cry. that i have made so many men miserable.

the only man i can think of that i respect is the one who, after one night together, told me he didn’t want to pursue a relationship with me.

i said, because i had heard it many times, “you just want to be friends?”

and he replied, “no. i don’t want to be friends.”

i never saw him again. he survived the rocks of me. good for him. the others were not so lucky.

i don’t plan on crashing any more men on rocks because i don’t plan on being in relationships with any more men who deserve to be smashed on rocks. hence the “retired siren.”

but then reading the chapter on harpies in zimmerman’s book had me grinning at the harpies’ terror inflicted on men. i would love to be a harpy. i want to sprout wings and terrorize the male driven world with my pretty face and grotesque womb (surely it is pretty fucking grotesque after four kids.)

my new life goal: to have not the men i date fear me; but to have all the other men fear me. especially the ones who think i have not earned a place as a writer and an artist just because i am a woman, thereby “inferior” to them. and if i am put on the same plane as them, or–god forbid!–if i am more successful & influential then they are…then surely i am a scene stealing harpy. 

i wouldn’t mind at all being that kind of monster.

i think i am a goddess of creation and one of destruction…but i am also a monster because i want to create what most people think should be destroyed, and i want to destroy what many have spent their lives creating. i am wild whether i write about nature or not. i am wild because i refuse to draw attention to my face and want you to look at my brain instead. i am a monster because i won’t stay put in my role as mother and long ago fled my role as wife. i am a monster because i refuse to stop trying to change the world. 

the illustration above was inspired by/borrowed from one of the illustrations in women & other monsters, illustrated by samira ingold

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