Cover Photo: image via Martín Julio Vázquez/flickr
image via Martín Julio Vázquez/flickr

What If We Cultivated Our Ugliness? or: The Monstrous Beauty of Medusa

“Medusa’s ugliness grew and grew, becoming something greater than herself but still part of her legend.”

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?

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Why would you do that to yourself?

Well of course, If I’d looked like that, I might have believed in myself too. I might have tried harder. I might have spent less time berating myself for my flaws.

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.