Cover Photo: Detail of Aeneas and his Companions Fighting the Harpies, by François Perrier / Image via Wikimedia
Detail of Aeneas and his Companions Fighting the Harpies, by François Perrier / Image via Wikimedia

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?

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photo via Daniel Norton/flickr

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photo via Dun.can/flickr

Aeneid

 The New York Times

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Jess Zimmerman is a writer and editor who lives with a dog and a human in Brooklyn. She has written for Hazlitt, the New Republic, the Guardian, the Hairpin, the Toast, Aeon, and others, and identifies as Chaotic Good. She subtweets at @j_zimms.