The Monstrous Female Ambition of the Harpy
“When women grab for space men thought reserved for their use alone, those men will surely call us foul.”
This is 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?
The New York Times
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.
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“Our anger exists to scourge the world, and to save it. Not everyone wants it saved.”
More in this series
“Most cultures have a female monster who preys on pregnant women and children. In ancient Greece, her name was Lamia.”
Esther, you are a queen not because of your physical perfection, but because of the horror and rage you transformed it into.