The Feminist Lean

Remember when I posted about the weird things that prompt story ideas, and I asked you all to share yours?

Remember when one of my loyal followers came by and mentioned a story she’d written based on a road she’d seen called Hungry Hollow Road?

Wanna read that story? 😉

Well, you can. You can find A Womb of One’s Own by Diane Dooley in the Summer issue of Golden Visions Magazine.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Dooley’s work. She writes horror, so obviously we have that in common. But, what I also see occasionally in Dooley’s stories–and particularly this one–is a lean toward feminist horror.

Now, this is a term that I’m not fully prepared to define. So don’t ask me. 😛  Honestly, I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure anyone can. I know I have yet to find a definition that fits, leading me to believe that it’s not so much about the definition, than it is about the discourse.  The conversations surrounding it. Touching it. Even if you never hit it exactly on the nose.

Stay-at-home mom, work-outside-the-home mom? Tramp stamps? A step backward? A step forward? Who knows. I sure don’t.

Virginity, monogamy, menstrual cycles, pro-choice, pro-life, breast size, waist size, body hair….All I know is that I sure like talking about it.

I can say, for me, feminist horror  is anything of a dark nature about the image or role of women in society. Our society. Alien society. Any society, really. It doesn’t matter.

I can cite some examples of authors: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood.  Or stories: The Yellow Wallpaper,  Rosemary’s Baby, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Changeling, Birth, The Birthing House (that last one there could be equally about masculinity, but I won’t muddy the waters here)…anyway, I could go on and on.

I’d say about 1 in 3 of every story I write could be seen as feminist horror. More than likely you’ll find my main female character is either pregnant or just had a baby. Or wants a baby and can’t have a baby, or is forbidden to have a baby, or is being used to produce babies, or…well, you get the picture.  Because, to me, that is one of the things that defines being a woman. Not the ability or desire to have a baby, I know not every woman has that, but more the fact that we were equipped and designed to do it. And that gap there between what our bodies were made to do, and what we in fact decide to do with them.

Can’t have a baby? Well, there’s all kinds of guilt surrounding that. Whether you feel it or not, someone is bound to try to make you feel bad about it.

Can have a baby? Wonderful! But you know you are never doing it right, right? (see how far my eyes have rolled back when I say that? 😉 )

What do you mean you don’t *want* children? Shame on you. You bad, bad WOMAN. (Ha–I bet you thought my eyes couldn’t roll any further back in their sockets! LOL)

Anyway, regardless of whether it should be or not, the subject of childbearing and child rearing is RIPE with the basic elements of horror–fear and anxiety. Failure. In whatever way you define it. And, ultimately, it’s just one facet of the whole feminist horror thing. It just happens to be one of the ones I find the most interesting.


6 thoughts on “The Feminist Lean

  1. Absolutely fascinating stuff. What do you think about the issue of women coveting the baby from another woman’s womb? That’s led to some horrific stuff in the real world and echoes the idea of the idea of feminine “purpose” and “identity” in our society. Just got a flash of a man who craves another man’s penis and acts on the craving.

    Anyway, I stopped by to congratulate you on your July Joy at Write 1 Sub 1. You hooked me, it would seem 🙂

  2. Stephen, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, coveting another woman’s baby? Absolutely rich with feminist horror themes >:) A man coveting another man’s…um…manly parts 😉 …well, I wouldn’t write it, but DAMN, I’d read it if you did. LOL

  3. Interesting. I tend to forget about babies when thinking of a woman’s role in society–and then someone reminds me that, yeah, we can do that. Actually I don’t think I’ve written a single female character in terms of her ability, desire or lack thereof, to conceive a child.

  4. This is a really interesting blog piece. It’s funny, because my character Melissa, in The Banishing, suffers through a lot of mental and physical abuse. I had a reader contact me, pretty much saying “You make women look bad in society.” How, though? Thousands, upon thousands, of women suffer domestic abuse, or are treated as sexual objects. I actually enjoyed exploring this sort of thing – not to glorify it, just to show it exists, and to show that women who put up with it aren’t simply weak women. Thanks for the interesting read!

  5. Thanks for the plug, soapy!

    You said: “Anyway, regardless of whether it should be or not, the subject of childbearing and child rearing is RIPE with the basic elements of horror–fear and anxiety.”

    Or how about complete terror, bathed in blood and writhing in agony (giving birth to my second child.) And the feeling of extreme vulnerability when I was hugely pregnant, unable to run or fight back if I needed to. So much rich horror inspiration and material there.

  6. Thanks, gals!

    Laurel — It’s funny because I’ve been writing this subject matter since before I even had kids. I thought perhaps it had only been after…but when I stop and think about it, I realize, no — apparently I’ve been fascinated by the female body and the concept of procreation in general since I was a kid.

    Fiona — You know that’s a hard balance. Exploring without glorifying. And one that you think you may have struck — only to find out that the reader adds his/her set of experiences to it while reading and interprets it differently. (which is part of the fun of writing, I think, but also frustrating if they don’t see things the way you intended 😉 )

    Diane — Yes! You are picking up exactly what I was laying down there. I didn’t even touch on that feeling of vulnerability. That’s HUGE. Good addition.

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