The Feminine Wild
I had to remind myself of this fact many times as I wrote my novel Lunatic Fringe, just as I have to remember it in my day-to-day life as a human woman wandering the world.
Society is geared towards removing us from our animal instincts. Particularly for women, who are daily told that we shouldn’t have body hair, sweat or smell bad, swear, be violent, fight back, get angry or emotional, be too tired, too hungry or too horny. It tells us we should be smiley, agreeable, docile, efficient and satisfied with whatever we’re given.
That’s a lot of shoulds.
Often, we accept these things as facts of life rather than letting them get us down. But, in my weaker moments, I rage against the proverbial machine. I wrote Lunatic Fringe to help exorcise some of my loathing of the way women are told to ignore our monstrous sides.
Lunatic Fringe follows a young woman who goes off to college and encounters ferocity in the form of radical politics and some mean-ass werewolves. To me, the metaphor was so simple. Women as werewolves, I mean, come on. Who else changes moods with the moon?
But I’ve found some pushback, mostly from guys who get skeeved out at the idea of “rough, hairy women.”
Speculative literature works best, in my mind, when it not only opens our ideas to fantastical possibilities, but when it illuminates parts of life and self that are already there. As women, we all have our animal. She stalks in silence, barely contained behind our societally-acceptable veneer. At times we let her out- when making love, when making war, when our family is threatened or when we need to just. let. go.
But even then, we hold something back. I believe we do this because we know the power she has to create, and to destroy. That animal within us can do some mighty damage, and we know it. She is the mama bear that will beat down anything that approaches her cub. She is the lioness that stalks and runs down the prey in the Savannah. She is the pack leader that preserves the rigid hierarchy and protects what is hers. Powerful stuff, that. Best keep the lid tight and heavy on all that bad-assery lest we let something slip.
I would, however, like to see women let that beast break free a bit more, to see the beauty in her power and in her passion. What would it look like for your werewolf to take hold and run headlong into your unspoken desires? Would you trample an old version of life that didn’t serve you? Would you screw everything in sight? Would you gather your sisters and howl until your throat was sore? Would you run naked through the night unafraid?
There are instincts within us, there are drives that are passionate, fierce and sometimes terrifying. Sometimes it’s good to keep them caged. And sometimes it's best to let them take us over and see what comes next.