When It Is Considered Monstrous Not to Want Children, and Monstrous to Want Them Too Much
“Most cultures have a female monster who preys on pregnant women and children. In ancient Greece, her name was Lamia.”
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?
Media scrambled to report the facts: Less than 0.1 percent of abortions take place past twenty-four weeks; virtually all are wanted pregnancies that encounter heartbreaking medical obstacles; the procedure doesn’t “rip the baby out of the womb”; it isn’t a baby yet anyway. None of that mattered, because none of that was the point. The point was to paint women who have abortions as baby-murdering 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.
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