The Price [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *

seakelp

The Price

Older than the ocean floor she slithers across,
the sea-witch rummages between her cartilaginous breasts
for the shell that stores the latest tongue
and voice in her collection.

Not the first fish I taught to waddle onto land,
she snorts to the anemones.
Not likely to be the last, neither—
and every damn one of ’em convinced
evolution’s just a party trick.
A ploy to meet cute boys.

She’d outdone herself on this one, too:
No talking. No singing. No dancing
without the girl feeling like there are razors
in her shoes.
Absolutely NO take-backs.

Settling her head into the wattles of her throat,
the sea-witch peers, sightless, into the cold ocean night.
Can’t nobody say as I didn’t warn her,
she harrumphs quietly, before pulling the tongue
from its shell and taking
a first bite.

~a.i.


END-NOTE: I have long thought of The Little Mermaid as one of the more cruel and telling fairy tales Patriarchy has gifted us with yet: a young girl gives up her ability to speak, and agrees to excruciating physical pain, simply as the price of seeking love? It ain’t no mere ensorcelling that nabs her voice, either. The sea-witch literally cuts her tongue out. And then our mermaid princess can’t even score the love she sought! Not only does she not get the “happily ever after” Disney grants its Ariel and her thrilling-as-wet-toast prince; in Hans Christian Andersen’s original, her “happy ending” consists of turning into a vacuous “Spirit of the Air” and finding herself tasked with blowing cooling breezes at humans for the next 300 years, in order to earn herself a soul.

(Maybe it’s just me, but by year 75, I figure I’ve turned my back on the whole “gonna get me a soul” dream and am just praying to be turned back into sea foam. Even the most self-abnegating emotional laborer’s gotta find three centuries a bit long, no?)

Anyhoo, that’s been my read on this little ditty about a fish and her prince since forever…until I recently came across a compellingly different take.

Continue reading “The Price [The villainess series]”

Cunt.

Most days, my morning starts with coffee.

Other days, it begins with finding myself being equated to a Nazi mass-murderer by some random online stranger, who happens to disagree with me about the need and function of public protest in any functioning democracy.

So, yeah. That.

I wondered, as I stared at my computer screen this morning: why am I the one in this exchange feeling trapped and tongue-tied? Why this stab of pain at witnessing the shameful barbarism of another human’s ill-informed—and ill-intended—imagination?

I have been trying to write about shame for days, y’see. The way it clots the throat. The way it steals intent and stillbirths action.

When functioning properly, shame polices the edges of propriety. It’s the tool our social herds use to cull those whose behavior transgresses the untransgressable. But often when we speak of it this way directly—“Have you no shame?”—we are merely evoking the presence of its absence, trying to summon the effects of a boundary on someone who has long since abandoned our thought-to-be-agreed-upon rules.

Shame is a double-edged knife, sharpened even through its hilt. It cuts in unpredictable directions, as often burying itself in the flesh of the sinned-against as in that of the sinner. More often, perhaps.

Still unsure what I’m getting at? Ask any rape survivor.

Ask if they felt shame.

sheela-na-gig_kilpeck_church_sequence

Continue reading “Cunt.”

Red

I had the dream again.

Eyes too impossibly wide, teeth too impossibly sharp, slavering tongue and hot breath too close against my face and I cannot even scream as the huntsman’s scrabbling claws rip deep into my belly.

Woke up drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets. Panting.

I lay rigid in the dark and waited for the room to stop spinning.

* * *

Joseph Campbell was asked once why he didn’t account for stories about women when developing his archetype of the hero’s quest. “Women don’t need to make the journey,” he replied. “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”

And if she is the place people got to already?

What does she do then?

* * *

poppies

Continue reading “Red”

Oracle

 

john_collier_-_priestess_of_delphi-2


Oracle

The Pythia, Oracle at Delphi, was (scholars report)
the most powerful woman of the Ancient World,
sought out by royalty and commoner alike to answer their questions
and predict their fates, prognostications she offered them
in dactylic hexameter as elegant and epic as any Homer wrote

though (others footnote) every fortune the Oracle uttered was claimed
to come out as hysterical raving in need of translation by her priestly keepers—
acolytes of Apollo and collectors of the payment each pilgrim brought
in tribute to the God and to his Voice—

the truth lying, as it always does, somewhere between
frenzied gibberish and enigmatic prophecy,
between priestess and priests
between woman and man. Continue reading “Oracle”

Brief Political PSA Regarding the Inadequacy of GOP Responses to Most Recent Evidence that their Presidential Candidate Gleefully Engages in Sexual Assault

Quick reminder:

We as a society are no better served by benevolent sexism than by overt misogyny.


[Relevant background, for any who may have missed and wished to view the latest “bombshell” evidence that the Republican candidate for President—a serial adulterer who raped his first wife, stands accused of raping a 13yo girl, and sexually harassed scores of women employees, in addition to those he outright assaulted—is less politician, more rapey, racist, bigoted mass of sexist pond scum. NB: while the video clip released by WaPo does contain “vulgar language,” far more problematic is the sexual violence Tromp (sic) describes and enthuses over.]

***

Yo.

GOP Leadership?

Take note:

I have no more interest in being “championed and revered” by my government than I have in being crotch-grabbed by it. [1]

“Hitting on a married woman” is not on par with sexual assault, not even close—a point easy to miss if your primary concern is with insults to “our wives and daughters” rather than to half the American citizenry. [2]

And when you express your concern as “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner”—then spend the rest of your weekend huddled in presidential debate-prep with the man who so described us—you confirm that window-dressing matters to you more than substance. That you are willing to see me as a p***y to be grabbed, just so long as that p***y-grab is not talked about. [3]

In sum:
Do not revere us.
Do not pretend to own us.
Do not clean up your language in our presence.

Just stop pretending you are not an equal sh!tstain on our polity to your man who would be king.

To borrow the words of Jessica Valenti:

SEE YOU ON NOVEMBER 8th, ASSHOLES.

/PSA


[1] Thanks but no thanks, Paul Ryan.

[2] Swing and a miss there, Mitt Romney.

[3] Awww. The feeling of disdain is mutual, Reince!

Movie Matinee: A Series of Unfortunate Admissions

I suppose this doesn’t qualify as much of an admission—seeing as how I’ve written on this subject before, albeit briefly—but I adore and despise the romantic comedy genre, in equal measure.

From the romanticization of stalker behavior to the gaslighting of every leading lady, romcoms are the adult version of “he only pulls your hair because he likes you.” They’re stories snatched straight from the playground, dressed up with schmaltzy soundtracks and marketing targeted to women under the snarky diminution of ‘chick flick’.

Cuz not only will Hollywood not make us decent movies, society’s gotta mock us for taking enjoyment in those scraps we are offered. [See also, for a book-centric analysis of this soft bigotry of the romance.]

My next also!not!shocking! admission?

I find hating romantic comedies part and parcel of enjoying them.

In fact, “Once you’ve mocked romantic comedy clichés, you are free to indulge in them” is itself a pervasive romantic comedy cliché, as Chloe Angyal once pointed out. (By the by, Dr. Angyal is both an active and vocal feminist critic…and herself so romanced by the romantic comedy that she wrote her dissertation on the genre, and its relationship to post-feminist Hollywood feminism.)

One of my favorite mock-worthy clichés is the obligatory makeover of the heroine.

Pretty-Woman-rude-shop
Julia’s pre-madeover look: Underwear as outerwear, held together with safety pins.

The Ur-Romcom in this respect remains Pretty Woman, a flick my college roommates and I used to watch over and over in our dorm room—but only up through the shopping scene, after which we would each drag our sartorially-satiated selves back to our desks. Athough newer movies have done it differently, none has done it better.

1999’s She’s All That, which holds its own place in the makeover pantheon as Most Glasses-Removal That Were Ever Removed*, even paid homage to these roots.

shes all that
Self-referential romcom mocking: Achievement unlocked. 

[*I acknowledge this film’s status, even as I maintain my own soft-spot preference for the glasses-removal scene in the Australian delight Strictly Ballroom: where our heroine is enticed to remove her glasses—and apparently cure her own nearsightedness for the remainder of the movie??—not because she will look better with them off. But because she will dance better.

Nothing says “two left feet” quite like 20/20 vision, I guess.]

Now, to see a truly genius act of romcom makeover-cum-gentle self-mocking of its own tropes-cumPretty Woman shout-out—all served up with a side order of genre gender-bending, no less!—for my money, nothing comes even close to this scene from Warm Bodies, a Romeo-and-Juliet retelling in which the House of Montague is played by zombies.

Including our undead hero: Continue reading “Movie Matinee: A Series of Unfortunate Admissions”