Cover Photo: image via Carole Raddato/flickr
image via Carole Raddato/flickr

Claim Your Complexity: The Monstrous Upheaval of the Chimera

“When you’ve spent all your life smothering your contradictions, their eruption can undo you.”

This is Role Monsters, a series on monstrous female archetypes by Jess Zimmerman.

Myth and folklore teem with frightening women: man-seducers and baby-stealers, menacing witches and avenging spirits, rapacious bird-women and all-devouring forces of nature. In our stories and our culture, we underline the idea that women who step out of bounds—who are angry or greedy or ambitious, who are overtly sexual or insufficiently sexy—aren’t just outside the norm: They’re monstrous. Women often try to tamp down those qualities that we’re told violate “natural” femininity. But what if we embraced our inner monsters?

Jess Zimmerman is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature. Her essays and opinion writing have appeared in the Guardian, the New Republic, Slate, Hazlitt, Catapult, and others. Her book Women and Other Monsters, on feminism and mythological creatures, is forthcoming in March 2021.