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?
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.
Enter your email address to receive notifications for author Jess Zimmerman
Confirmation link sent to your email to add you to notification list for author Jess Zimmerman
More by this author
“Our anger exists to scourge the world, and to save it. Not everyone wants it saved.”
“Most cultures have a female monster who preys on pregnant women and children. In ancient Greece, her name was Lamia.”
More in this series
My family enjoyed “The Fifth Element” without seeing how queer it was. Did that mean they could not see how queer I was?
Perhaps the certainty that you are not the monster—that no matter what you do, you will never become the monster—is what gives rise to monstrous behavior.