2nd Global Conference
Evil Women: Women and Evil
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
Sunday 1st December 2019 – Monday 2nd December 2019
Prague, Czech Republic
ABSTRACT AND PAPERS
Using images and old stories, I explore the need for blame and blaming which is often found to be strongest amongst the disempowered.
If ‘Women are perpetually circumscribed-defined limited and controlled’ (see: firstname.lastname@example.org) throughout history women’s lives are revealed as constrained to a degree that goes beyond economics governing social strata. Control was exerted on women simply because of their sex. Whenever gendered attitudes are unacknowledged as equally part of political discourse, social construct has remained unexamined. In the past this allowed individual experience of difficulties to be regarded as caused by malevolence. Struggling with disappointments and fears a common belief in ‘bad-luck’ would allow projections: superstitions, omens, spirits, to account in part for the lack of control women experienced over their lives, starting with their reproductive health and leading to their restricted potential and limited public roles. These projections allowed a reaction to unseen social forces that both informed and governed the lives of women.
Following on from the widow’s curse, with its spite and invective, this development will consider how such projections can be positive (imaginary friends, maternal projections) or negative (spiteful spirits, household devils). Such liminal presences, which exist beyond domestic life, could be read as apolitical challenges to the domestic sphere that has long been considered the only safe norm for women.
Using my experience of being an unwanted daughter, I walk through the gallery of imagery, some real, some only existing in my imagination, to pull out the associations and attitudes which surrounds this maternal history and spend time with those presences who move between the interior and the exterior world, among the unfortunate disembodied recipients of female invective and blame.
Becoming the Monster: Constructing Identity Beyond the Bad Girl – A Performed Dialogue
women, femininity, identity, role models, resistance, bodies, monstrous feminine
We form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose, and sometimes we have to reject those vocabularies, or actively develop new ones.
The teenage girl constructs her identity amidst a chorus of conflicting voices. She both replicates and resists the patterns of good girl/bad girl as displayed by earlier generations, trying to figure out who she is and how she might live in her body, in the world.
Evil women – bad girls – defy the binary definitions of good and bad, both in body and spirit. They are the bad feminist, they are the Sea Witch, they are the art monster. But when we claim the monster as our role model, we commit her (and ourselves) to the constraints of the patriarchy – replicating a predetermined way of being a girl. There must be a way to define ourselves beyond these constraints. How does one become the monster?
Feminine personality comes to define itself in relation and connection to other people, Nancy Chodorow wrote. Teen identity is constructed via research, rehearsal and performance: the trying on of multiple possible selves. One person’s performed identity becomes the benchmark that others measure themselves against.
Like Courtney Love, who said she didn’t want to be with the band, she wanted to be in the band. We all want to belong. We all want to stand out. How sharply we carve the edges of ourselves to fit.
This performed dialogue allows Bec and Simmone to draw a line through theory and personal experience, bringing the voices of academia to life, and imagining them in conversation with ourselves and the women whom we have resisted, used as role models, or temporary dreamed ourselves into being. Our piece is set in the nexus of the body and the self. We incorporate autotopography and self-representation as shaped by shared cultural objects to interrogate existing modes of replication and resistance, and try to imagine the monstrous shape of our true identity.
“Evil Isn’t Born, It’s Made”: Redefining the Fairy Tale Villain for Contemporary Televison Storytelling
Natalie Le Clue
Nelson Mandela University
Nelson Mandela University
Most fairy tales, based partly on traditional folklore, contain narratives that follow a similar formulaic structure. Most of these narratives have a hero, a damsel in distress and the everpresent opposing villain. The villains, or antagonists, share several commonalities across the various narratives as well as one over-arching trait of evil.
In these traditional structures the villains are portrayed and presented as unconditionally evil. However, as television viewers have become more intuitive, and demand for more sophisticated narratives have increased, contemporary portrayals of villains, as in the television series Once Upon A Time (Horowitz & Kitsis, 2011- 2018), have shifted away from presenting villains as one-dimensional and restricted characters. Instead, the construct of evil is depicted as a multifaceted and evolutionary trait of the character. Whereas previously evil was the fundamental core of the character it is now presented as a fluid concept. This paper investigates how the construct of evil, and therefore the villain, has been redefined through a contemporary television narrative.
The Evil Queen is, arguably, one of the most recognized fairy tale villains and is the archetypal evil antagonist. Hence, this character will serve as the foundation for the analysis in this paper. The story of Snow White and the Evil Queen has been told for centuries. Since the Brothers Grimm popularized it this tale has been about Snow White versus the Evil Queen, or good versus evil.
However, while the tale is arguably one of the most known fairy tales the world over, in reality in the Brothers Grimm’s 1812 and 1857 versions and Walt Disney’s 1937 film little is known about the Queen. It may be argued that as a character she lacks a contextual background and does not enjoy any development throughout the narratives mentioned. It may further be argued that if this character were to be analysed according to Vladimir Propp’s character theory, it would conform to only one of Propp’s seven available character types; the villain. However, the character, as portrayed and presented in ABC’s Once Upon. A Time, allows for application and identification of more than one of Propp’s character theories.
The manner in which the narratives of contemporary television series and films are developed for today’s audiences could be seen as motivation for the adaptation and transformation of the Evil Queen.
Thus, it may be argued that the creators and writers of Once Upon A Time have abolished the stereotypical presentation of the villain character type by providing a background to the character, an identity beyond her evil deportment, and a family. In this way, the Evil Queen character type is redefined and a blueprint for the villain is created.
Was Snow White’s Mother Really Evil?
Haifa University, Israel
Fairy-Tales, Evil, Witch, Envy, narcissism, aging, change, Women, Motherhood, Daughter.
Evil mothers may be the most powerful female characters in fairy tales, therefore in this lecture I wish to focus on the mother’s point of view in the well-known tale ‘Snow White’.
When reading this tale from the mother’s point of view, it depicts the difficulties women encounter as they begin to age. Through creative means, the story actually depicts feminine experiences that the psychoanalytic theory has not yet conceptualized. In this story type, the good mother of the early years who sought the best for her daughter, died figuratively or actually and the “new” mother of the adolescent girl became a satanic mother. She couldn’t bear the narcissistic injury she experienced when forced to notice the initial signs of aging, therefore she tried to undo the unwelcome changes by attempting to turn back time. The confrontation she initiated with her daughter, can be perceived as the means to avoid dealing with the dread of dying. The mother’s envy and hate towards her daughter served as the means to prevent her from acknowledging the unwelcome changes in her life, unconsciously she chose to defend herself by believing that this new and unwanted reality can be reversed by eliminating her daughter.
In the Brother Grimm’s popular ‘Snow White’, the mother’s only option is fading from her daughter’s life by dying in a painful way, but in many traditional versions other possibilities are displayed.
These traditional versions shared amongst women, serve as a platform to voice the complexity of motherhood. The existential anxiety women encounter in adulthood in the face of physical, mental and social change can be devastating at first, but these stories also show that mothers have an option to undergo transformation, that it is possible to find ways to avoid destructive reactions and to develop psychologically and socially in later adulthood.
A Retelling of an Evil Queen in I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen
Central University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Dalit woman, Evil woman, New woman, retelling, injustice, violence, aggression, power, boundaries, rebel
Evil represents fear and threat and “Evil woman” represents the fears of a patriarchal culture which considers the “new woman” a threat to the virtuous functioning of society as she is thought to bring treason and subversion. Evil woman is equated with monster like Medusa, a physical and moral monster with snakes in place of hair because she has power to break the shackles of oppression. Medusa can turn men into stone by mere looking. An evil woman is perceived as uncaring beast who can murder if provoked.
Dalit Women in India are thrice marginalized—being woman (low gender), being Dalit (low caste) and being poor (low class). Gender makes them sexual object at the hands of patriarchy and caste further downgrades Dalit women in hierarchical social order and makes them powerless. When a Dalit woman raises her voice against the Dalit patriarchy/ patriarchy she is looked upon as an evil woman who has moved beyond the defined boundaries and hence to be punished.
Against this background the present paper analyses the life narrative I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen (1996) as a retelling of the life of a Dalit woman, a rape survivor, who turned into a notorious dacoit, an “evil queen” who chose revenge on her rapists and exploiters. I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen is a narration of violence against Dalit women and a cry of aggression and rebel of a Dalit woman against injustice.
Dark Mothers – Remythologization of Motherhood in Elfriede Jelinek’s Lust, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, and Charlotte Roche’s Mädchen für alles
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
mothers, motherhood, infanticide, matricide, myth, remythologization, Medea, Medusa
Since the establishment of the two separate spheres of the public and the private in the nineteenth century, Western society has been relying on an all-pervasive ideology of the altruistic mother. Reinforced by Christian imagery of the Virgin Mary and an obligation to live up to her (and to avoid being lined up with Eve, the birthmother of the original sin), this ideology has been holding mothers in a passive state within the patriarchal system reducing women to their “natural” destiny of motherhood thus stabilizing the power structures of the male/active – woman/passive dyad.
Literary descriptions of dysfunctional motherhoods tend to fall back upon the image of the monstrous archetype of the dark mother as described in psychoanalysis. Here, the actual potential of the mother as life-giver and creator is suppressed to the abject. Alternatively, literature draws on classical topoi such as the Medea myth, were deviant mothers are demonized and serve as scapegoat for the wrongdoings of the agents of the official sphere. The angel of the house falls from light into darkness, becomes monster, shows its evilness.
By employing dichotomies of good and evil, angel and monster, light and darkness, the virginal mother of Christ and the murderous Medea, narrations about mothers who break away from the ideology of the immaculate and passive nurturer often evoke the exact frames they seek to question. Where narratives challenge the established semantization of myths and employ alternative myths for the description of mothers, a gradual change in the framing of the evil mother can be detected.
The paper consists of three case studies on Elfriede Jelinek Lust, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, and Charlotte Roche’s Mädchen für alles. Focusing on Jelinek’s retelling of the Medea myth, Levy’s reinterpretation of the Medusa-plot, and on Roche’s choice of alternative myth from the antique as well as from pop culture, I demonstrate how the novels appropriate myth to their descriptions of divergent motherhood and thus how they create a frame more adapt to the maternal perspective on dysfunctional mother-child relationships.
The Grotesque Women in Myths Normalizing and Politically Utilizing their Bodies as Agential Tools
The English and Foreign Languages University
Western myth, Eastern myth, misshaped woman, agency, female body, grotesque
The myths from East and West show significant distinction in terms of context, nature, social structure, gender equations, etc. But the female characters, wherever they are located, explicate their inability to control their own body. The Western and Eastern myths wrought woman in such a way that she is either distorted for being seductive or being beautiful or for sake of chastity. But the mystified and misshaped species turns to be disastrous. Medusa though being ugly and distorted tries to retain an entity that is feared by any other men, Maenads were treated as mad woman but they were possessing immense strength in their ecstasy and Kannaki, betrayed by her husband and later joining him in heaven, is not given equal treatment anywhere but shows her strength as a woman by slaying off her breasts. Āndāl Devanāyaki proves herself as redeemer of womanhood once her breasts are slayed off by the King Mahinda of Sinhala. The distorted and disoriented presentations of women figures, thereby emanating fear, where social and cultural constructs affirm phallocentrism through segregating the grotesque or attributing abnormality, in order to maintain or retain power. The attempt is to delineate how female deities/ mythical characters demand agency and use their body politically though they were strategically misshaped and mystified.
Causes of Natural Calamities: Evil Embodiment of Feminine Figures in Early China (475-221 BCE)
University of Cambridge
China; Late Antiquity; Women; Evil; Geographical Gazetteers; Supernatural Beings; Calamities; Mythical, Societal, Ecological System
Chinese ancient geographical gazetteers contain fabulous accounts of geography and mythology that reflect an envisagement of the universe by people of the late antiquity. Each of these accounts follows similar patterns that usually start by recording the geographical features of landscapes, contents of hydrology and ethnology of these regions, before proceeding to retrospect fragmented stories of bygone legends. Notably, these accounts also describe the regional ecological system that is special for its broad array of fantastic animals. But apart from these animals, supernatural beings such as revenants are also recorded as part of the ecological system. Compelling enough, these supernatural beings usually take up the form of femininity, portrayed as ghastly or ghostly figures that remained undead due to certain unpleasant reasons. Notably, they act as a source of apprehension to people as their existence usually brings along fatal calamities that present as threats to their surrounding environments. Following these premises, this paper attempts to explore the ideology behind the contextualization of femininity as the direct representation of calamities. By conducting a detailed study of selected ancient geographical gazetteers, this paper outlines a preliminary picture of those supernatural beings that present as female spirits. It tends to scrutinize the aesthetic and symbolic ground that provokes this connection by referring to textual sources that suggest a generic fear towards femininity as it is usually perceived as the source of strange societal phenomena. Finally, by reviewing the characteristics of these feminine supernatural beings, this paper unveils the idea of female evilness shared among people during the late antiquity. Such a reexamination of oriental ancient geographical gazetteers is expected to contribute a broader discussion of female godly figures from a comparative lens.
Old Witches on the Movie Screen: Evil Women and Witchcraft in the Horror Movies of the 1960s
Gabriela Müller Larocca
Federal University of Paraná (UFPR – Brazil)
Witchcraft; Female Evil; Evil Women; Horror; Cinema; Sexuality; Gender; Witches; History
Published in 1487, the Malleus Maleficarum, one of the most influential witch hunter’s manuals, reinforced the connection between witchcraft and women. Juxtaposing a negative image of womanhood, product of virulent antifeminine and antisexual traditions, with witch accusations, the authors described this felony primarily as a female rebellion. Women were said to be potential witches because of their evil sexuality and nature. In a short time, the stereotype of the witch-woman, capable of the greatest blasphemies and atrocities, spread through the West, fueling persecutions, trials and historical suspicions of the feminine.
Despite the end of the witch-hunts, the evil witch did not disappear, remaining alive in contemporary imagery through books, films, and television. In horror movies, the witch is a recurring antagonist, and the old representation of the feminine connected to supernatural, evil, and demonic forces persists on the screens. Witchcraft became increasingly popular in horror during the 1960s, in parallel with the awakening of the second-wave feminism, reinforcing the need to monitor female empowerment and liberation. In such films, witches are beautiful and strong-willed women, yet malignant, deceitful and seductive, guided by revenge and hatred, requiring strong masculine control and severe punishments.
This paper presentation, product of a PhD research in progress, proposes to discuss notably three movies from the 1960s: Black Sunday, The City of the Dead and The Witches, elaborating on how the cinematographic horror addresses old and complicated issues about women, evil, sexuality, and witchcraft. The study aims to examine how these films and characters have roots in a millennial antifeminine discourse, thus dialoguing with traditions that link women to Evil. The primary intent is to debate the culture of the female Evil sustained by the witch figure and incorporated by the horror audiovisual, which perpetuates a negative view of women, reproducing suspicions and historical discriminations.
It Came from Beneath the Subtext: 1950s Cinema and its Celebration of Deviant Women
Liverpool Hope University
1950s America may be perceived as a contradictory time in which subversions lurked not too far beneath its smooth surfaces. For many, the economy boomed: the range of commodities available and disposable income for their purchase were unprecedented. The archetypal way of life was perceived to be domestic bliss in the rapidly developing suburbs, as men commuted to work in the family automobile while their wives stayed at home to raise their children and keep house, aided by innumerable labour-saving devices. The repressions of this lifestyle were soon investigated by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) and later represented in fictional texts including Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room (1977), as well as TV series such as Mad Men (2007-2015).
Although these texts look retrospectively at the 1950s, seething undercurrents to do with gender and sexuality can be seen in contemporary cinematic representations of the small town, such as Picnic (Joshua Logan, 1955) and All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955). On screen analyses of gender and repression were particularly fraught within science fiction, a genre which seemed to epitomise the decade’s guilt and anxiety both at unleashing the atom age and facing the ‘red scare’.
Despite apparent suburban confirmations of the hierarchical supremacy of the heterosexual male, films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man (Tom Arnold, 1957), literally and metaphorically contested this. The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (Nathan Hertz, 1958) presents a woman whose drinking and supposed mental instability make her seem an archetype of the ‘neurotic housewife, and whose husband succeeds in having her placed in a drug induced coma, chained to her bed – perhaps a literal depiction of the repression faced by her real-life peers. A chance encounter with an alian force causes her liberation and murderous revenge on her cheating husband.
This paper will examine the ways in which 1950s cinema may be read across the grain to celebrate ‘deviant’ female sexuality and behaviour.
Fire, Blood and Ashes: The Evil Women of Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, popular culture, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Melisandre, women of Game of Thrones, evil women in Game of Thrones, the mad queen
Art, culture reflects society, reflects life. Anything that is popular runs the risk of being internalised by those watching it and reflecting in their understanding of life as we know it.
Any piece of art, especially a movie or a show, gets popular because the generation in context relates to it in some form or the other. This relation may be a desire for fantasy and escape leading to movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings becoming as popular as they have been – a throwback to a magical past or the possibility of magic existing right behind a wall in London.
Amidst all this popularity, what is cloaked is a message or a voice of sorts for the generation it is made in, a reflection/connection to life as we see it right then.
How women are shown in popular culture is the best reflection of how women are seen and treated in real life. If there was no similarity between what we saw in real life and what we saw on screen, the chances are that it would have spawned some angry rhetoric and pointed criticism. But that this criticism and rhetoric comes mostly from a certain section of the audience, essentially points to the fact that there IS a problem, but there aren’t enough people to address it. Not yet, at least.
One of the most popular shows of this decade – Game of Thrones, just wrapped up in May. The last season of the show garnered a lot of flack for its lacklustre storyline, plotholes and hurried conclusions of many main characters. But what stood out the most were how shoddily the women characters were treated despite being THE most important characters in the saga. While one of the characters – Cersei was built as evil from the word go, Daenerys was shown descending into madness and borderline evil within the last three episodes. The red priestess Milesandre, initially shown as evil, is given the chance to redeem herself in the climax of the season.
Game of Thrones’ definition of evil women is relegated to the simple definitions of cruelty and ambition. If you want to protect your children and are cruel for that, that still makes you evil. Ambition makes you evil, self-preservation makes you evil. Ambition and self-preservation are not traits expected of women, but only of men, in Game of Thrones – they are either subservient queens, happy to take a small part of the kingdom or they are lovers and consorts who don’t have much of a say in the scheme of things. The aberrations are the lone female knights or
lethal assassins – either defeminised through most of the show to be given one moment of sexual awakening.
The problem in Game of Thrones and how it shows its women is multi-layered. But the biggest problem lies in their definition of evil women, and this is what the paper will look to delve into while drawing parallels and examples from other fantasy fiction narratives and literary theories.
The Mother Figure in Faulkner’s Novels
Iris A. Knieling
Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iassy, Romania
Mother figure, Eros and Thanatos, innocence, experience, sexuality;
In this presentation I attempt to write about the intricate nature of the female protagonist in the work of William Faulkner. The Faulknerian male characters are unsettled and often situated between madness and blind passion. However, the controversy is associated with the female role in the novels. In Love and Death in the American Novel, Leslie Fiedler considered that Faulkner had a typical misogynist attitude towards his female characters who are either immoral and doomed or blindly loyal. In literary criticism, his attitude is not singular. However, L. Fielder fails to understand the complexity of the Faulknerian perspective.
At the beginning of the century, in Austria, an Expressionist painter shocked the Viennese public with his artwork in which were represented human bodies in a very sexual and grotesque manner. After more than 100 years, in London, some of Egon Schiele`s nudes were banned in the subway banner because they were considered too racy to be shown to the Londonize public. Similarly, Faulkner was confronted with a public that was still not prepared for his masterpieces. The public did not receive well the greatest of his novels, such as The Sound and the Fury. Both Schiele and Faulkner have a sense of otherness in their artwork.
The connection between the work of the Austrian painter and Faulkner`s female characters is realised through two principles from the psychoanalysis, Eros (Life Instinct) and Thanatos (Death Instinct). The balance between the urge to live and the need to die represents the foundation of Schiele`s work, and it is also found in characters such as Eula Snopes, Addie Bundren or Lena. Both the male and the female are trapped between life and death wish, but women are affected more by it due to their active or unconscious maternity. Even if Faulkner is genuinely a modernist, the Ancient tragedy and the mythology were two important sources of inspiration. Consequently, the Faulknerian female characters are living in the middle of modern society but they are sharing a powerful bond with their ancestors. They ability to bring and destroy live.
Infanticide and Demonized Women of Tokugawa Japan
infanticide; demonization; premodern Japan; reproduction
Infanticide was not rare in numerous historical and cultural contexts, and Tokugawa Japan was no exception. While this era is typically characterized with the relative peace and the development of various cultural practices (e.g., arts, crafts, and theater), it was also the period in which a large percentage of the population struggled to survive. In particular, farmers tried to maximize their chance of survival and possible long-term economic success by keeping the family size small, and infanticide was one of the methods used. This paper examines widely disseminated anti-infanticide texts to analyze the depictions of women who committed infanticide. This study found that in contrast to contemporary debates over the early margin of life (e.g., abortion), the framing of anti-infanticide narrative in the Tokugawa period did not entail either the issues of reproductive rights or sanctity of emerging life. Instead, what was salient was the moral entrepreneurs’ attempts to invoke the sense of shame by demonizing their characters. The most widely circulated text of this genre argued that those who committed infanticide had the heart of a demon, and that the woman who killed her own child would not even hesitate to murder other people’s children. Authors of such texts also claimed that infanticide was an aberration from nature, and those who practiced it were less than animals. While the language of criticism was strong, the goal of the campaign was not the ostracization of these women from the community. Instead, these texts were designed to have women internalize a sense of guilt and agonize over the idea of being a demon.
Shame, Guilt, Responsibility? Working with Women Who Use Force in a Family Context
University of Melbourne
women who use force, domestic violence, intervention with women, healing
SHAME, GUILT, RESPONSIBILITY? WORKING WITH WOMEN WHO USE FORCE IN A FAMILY CONTEXT Women’s agency in the context of domestic and family violence (DFV) is a complex and contentious issue. While the dominant pattern of DFV is male violence perpetrated against women, there are some women who use force against members of their families. These women are not a homogenous group, but the ways in which they use violence and abuse in their relationships generally differ from the dominant patterns of male violence towards women in terms of ‘motivation, intent and impact’. Most women who use force are themselves survivors of DFV either in their current or past adult relationships, or through childhood experiences in their families of origin. They are motivated by a range of reasons including protecting themselves and their children and asserting their dignity; and face severe relationship and societal consequences. This paper reports on the Positive Support and Healing creates Innovative Forward Thinking program (+SHIFT) being piloted in Australia, where the service response is in its infancy. The groupwork and case support program provides opportunities for women to enhance their protection and support strategies, heal from past or current trauma, and explore viable alternatives to using force. The SHIFT is one from passive victim, to an active agent who makes decisions on her own behalf. Many women have taken responsibility for everything, and the group helps them take on more appropriate levels of responsibility. With a deeper understanding of the context of their actions, they are able to honour themselves for navigating the chaos in their lives, and transition out of the shame and self-blame they feel for their use of force. Women’s voices about their experiences of the program will be central to the presentation, which will also include audience participation in one of the pivotal activities in the group program.
End of the Line: The Gothic Terror of Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom
University of London
Feminism, toxic, masculinity, racism, terror
Sylvia Plath is most well known as a Confessional poet and the author of the Künstlerroman. The Bell Jar. However, the recent publication of her short story Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, in which a young woman exercises her free will for the first time, enables us to further contextualise Plath as a Gothic writer and the story itself as a work of Gothic terror.
Within Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom exists the “version of white, bourgeois” ideology that grounds the female Gothic tradition, as described by Diane Long Hoeveler. Mary Ventura herself is victimised by the patriarchal family as her father ushers her onto a train to Hell despite her protests. It is through rebellion and defiance of both her father and ‘the boss’ that Mary orchestrates her own liberation from the train, an act that reinforces my reading of the text as Gothic terror, as it is intellectual, imminent, and ultimately, one of escape.
Faber’s publication of Mary Ventura draws attention to the unpublished prose located in her archives, which merit further scrutiny. The restricted nature of the archive means research on these stories is limited; the rest of her unpublished prose remains largely unread and unknown.
This paper seeks to locate Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom as a work of Gothic terror, particularly its use of Female Gothic and subversion to escape patriarchy and infanticide.
On the Russian Orthodox Monastic Writings “About Evil Wives”
The monastic writings on “Evil Wives” are especially prolific in Church Slavonic Manuscripts from Rus’ in the extended medieval chronology (to the 17th century in Eastern Europe). These misogynistic passages are included in such famous medieval manuscript collections as Prolog, Izmaragd and many others. Although they have roots in Medieval Syriac and Sinaic literature, and in Pseudo-Chrysostom, the monastic manuscripts from Russian territories are quite original. Many of them are freely available on-line at: www.old.stsl.ru/manuscripts/ (such as manuscripts n. 39, 187, 202, etc.) but the non-normative Church Slavonic language presents difficulties even for most Slavic readers, and for Russian laic women among them, who ordinarily are the majority of attenders at Russian Orthodox ecclesiastical services, and thus the major financial contributors to this church. Such women are too rarely accepted to professional studies in theology, and prefer to avoid giving their input on Russian monk’s misogyny (e.g., M. Kagan-Tarkovskaya ([https://www.booksite.ru/civk/data/slovo.pdf]). Men in cassocks have attempted to defend these attitudes on numerous grounds, as A. Kuraev did (see https://predanie.ru/book/71851-zhenschina-v-cerkvi/] speculating on nun’s misandry), or even to exhort men treat wives harshly (A.Tkachev did (https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/1107566.html?page=9 in 2016). One of the reasons for kindling such misogyny today, and in former times, was the conviction of men to raise their families for the sake of keeping the monasteries filled. It is suspicious that there is no positive female personage in the Russian monastic literature, and the monks state: the woman must be silenced, a sentiment which already makes her a possible candidate for abuse both by laymen and clergymen. It is painful for any woman to be compared to wild beasts and snakes, who are preferable to women in the opinion of some monks. I intend to defend women, who were victims of their position in this society.
Only Evil Women Embrace Sexual Freedom
Sex Work, Feminism, Empowerment, Curating Environments, Peer Programming, Sex Positive, Sexual Agency, Shame & Stigma, Connection, Domestic Violence
Women, sex, and sexuality have long been taboo subjects to bring together. Women who embrace sex and sexuality have been called countless derogatory names, loose stature in communities and are pushed to the bottom of the social food chain. Men, on the other hand, are often celebrated or lauded for their sexual prowess and experiences. When we think of women who engage in sex for money, we would often categorize them as evil; lacking morals, rejecting societal values about what a woman should be and seizing their own personal power. This workshop will explore the issue of “evil women” through the context of choice-based sex work and its intersection with domestic violence, something that no one, no matter how “evil” they are consents to experiencing.
This interactive session will explore our understanding of choice-based sex work as something that only evil women engage in and how that excuses or allows domestic violence to be ignored or tolerated. Pulling on examples from the BElieve in YOU program, a Sagesse initiative for women at the intersection of sex work and domestic violence, we will delve into experiences of domestic violence and the increased shame and stigma for this population. We will explore our process of supporting these evil women and how to we work to remove that label within society and most importantly for the women themselves.
Women in Literature: From the Golden Age to Contemporary Wirting in Crime Fiction, Women Writers, and Detectives as the Most Evil Threat to Social Gender Conventions
Maria del Mar Delgado Ricci
Historically, societies were built upon systematic structures in which the division of roles were essential.Women and men fulfilled specific places that came along with gender subjugation and discrimination as a consequence, and traditional crime fiction brought up its stories from within the same conventions. Women writers broke through classical crime fiction at the beginning of the twentieth-century, bringing up new roles for women inside their stories, having an important influence on the readership at the time. Worried about how corrupting these new perceptions could be, men writers tackled the problem reinforcing stereotypes, depicting men as unbreakable heroes and women as either the victim, the cooperative housewife or the evil threat,this in order to maintain things as they thought were right. Notwithstanding, things have changed with the time and societies work in different ways, women still see themselves facing misconceptions, physical abuse and discrimination based on the same gender ideas; issues that women writers keep fighting throughout their contemporary detectives and stories trying to have a social and cultural positive impact.
The following paper aims to present the way in which women’s transgressions in crime fiction have represented a threat towards social and cultural conventions around gender roles; transgressions that have been shown by patriarchal perceptions as mistaken behaviours perpetrated by evil women. Going through some of the most representative writers and novels within the genre, from The Golden Age to Contemporary detective writing as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple , Lawrence Sanders’ The Deadly Sin , Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Dennis Mina’s Still Midnight, it is aim to analyse gender conventions and expose how women have gone beyond social and cultural boundaries, along with the way in which crime fiction, a traditionally male dominated genre, has dealt with it.
Witch Hunt – The Media’s Obsession with One Infamous Canadian
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Canada
female offender, manslaughter, media, bias, trial coverage, sentencing, double standard
This exploratory paper reviews media’s fascination with one of the most infamous women in Canadian history. Karla Homolka was found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of two Ontario teenage girls in the early 1990s. Her husband, Paul Bernardo, was convicted on a number of charges associated with these deaths, including sexual assault and first degree murder. The paper traces the initial print reports of the arrest, trial and sentencing of Karla Homolka; the application of the “Ken and Barbie” moniker as a description of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo; and the characterization of Karla Homolka’s sentencing as the proverbial ‘deal with the devil’. The media continued to pursue Karla Homolka well after she had completed her 12-year prison sentence and was released into the community. The media’s evolution in their coverage of this case is described, and it is argued that Karla Homolka’s treatment by the media was, and continues to be, an example of the kind of biased coverage that illustrates the gendered manner in which violence is conceptualized in our society, and calls into question the structural and systematic condemnation that is directed towards those women who commit violent crimes. This paper emphasizes that the lens through which the media covers violent crimes for which women are accused and/or convicted is often cloudy with vitriol and malevolence. Next steps in the investigation of this media coverage are discussed.
Reading the Contours of Evil Women in the Hindu Epic Ramayana
University of Jammu
Patriarchy, Evil woman, Myth, Ramayana, norms, rebel, resistance, articulation, space, Feminist theory
The patriarchal notion that a man should be active and aggressive and a woman should be passive, weak, and submissive, subject to protection and control by men is embedded in Hindu mythology. Even today a woman who expresses herself as powerful and opens her desires and works as per her will, not caring for societal norms is regarded as evil which means immoral/unholy because she voices her sexuality, sinister/ vicious because she raises her voice, dark/black hearted because she believes and bonds. Indian mythology has a host of horrid women, exploring a wide range of representations of the so called ‘evil women’ through female demons, witches, designing seductresses, scheming queens and old hags, who have earned these nomenclature because of their rebellious nature, resistance, articulation, demand for space, moving against the norms, etc.
Against this background the paper is an attempt to critically analyse the three famous women: Kekai, Manthra and Srupnaka from the Hindu epic Ramayana to highlight how binaries of good/ bad, virtuous/evil, passive/aggressive, silent/ articulate are created in context of women which not only subjugate them but the tags move on from one century to another, from one generation to the next generation to condition women to be bound to the patriarchal chains despite education and empowerment.
Off With Their Wombs! Cultural Representations of Women’s Rebellion Against Childhood
Freie Universität Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin
Cultural studies, literary studies, mythology, archetypes, infertility, maternity, abortion
The current violent debates over the rights of women to abstain from motherhood have revealed profound cultural anxieties about the roles of women as mothers. Laws that protect the human rights of unborn babies at the expense of the human rights of living women draw their cultural power from a long history of motherhood archetypes that permeate societies worldwide. However, there have always existed representations of women who deny their prescribed gender roles as mothers. Often, these women are figured as objects of ridicule, but a certain variant on this myth particularly underpins many representations of female evil. This paper traces the development of a specific anxiety-inducing archetype: the woman who not only doesn’t want children, but wants to destroy children.
Although its roots can be found even in ancient myths and texts, this perception has still a significant base. Hence, this paper will analyse various examples to define and criticise how motherhood and the active hatred thereof relates the representation of women in various mediums, in addition to analysing in a chronological order how infertility and anti-fertility is presented as an incentive to cruel behaviour. This paper takes a literary and cultural studies approach to the development of the narrative of the evil infertile woman, illustrating its development from its mythical, Biblical origins to the figuration in the contemporary canon: specifically the nineteenth-century Great Expectations and the twentieth-century body of Disney’s fairy tale adaptations.
This broad selection of highly influential and well-known cultural texts is intended to illustrate the ways in which this narrative has permeated contemporary culture, and, thus, its role in the cultural underpinnings of contemporary maternity debates.
Conceptions of Mad Motherhood and the Innocent Criminal: Infanticide in Romantic Poetry
University of Colorado Boulder
infanticide; motherhood; Romanticism; poetry; psychoanalysis
The mother figure has long been hailed as a sacred figure across cultures from the Madonna to Mother Earth. The ideal mother has been traditionally considered to be the primary caretaker of all domestic matters and, above all, her children. But there is more to motherhood than simply caring for a child: the mother experiences an irrevocable entanglement between her soul and her child’s that may rupture her identity and general psychological state. Romantic poetry explored the sort of madness a woman experiences as a mother, particularly in those who are driven to commit infanticide. In this paper, I analyze three Romantic poems—“The Thorn” and “The Mad Mother” by William Wordsworth and “The Suliote Mother” by Felicia Hemans—that describe infanticidal mothers with completely different circumstances that contribute to an unsound mind. These Romantic poetic representations of mad mothers are significant in that they work to create deeper understandings of the biases against infanticidal mothers as well as make readers more sympathetic to the women’s implicit and explicit justifications for psychosis and/or infanticide. I will consider the neurological changes a mother experiences in the postpartum period, brought on by breastfeeding specifically, that can manifest into psychosis; additionally, I will also draw attention to statutes and court cases concerning infanticide that damn the mothers of illegitimate children. Wordsworth and Hemans play with the dialectical tension in these poems between true innocence and true guilt, asking the reader to resolve it through sympathy rather than handing down a verdict; therefore I will utilize the methodological approach of psychoanalysis with a heavy emphasis upon feminist and trauma theories to examine the concept of the innocent criminal within the context of these three women whose extenuating circumstances considerably alter their judgement and psychological states.
Beyond Mandatory Motherhood: How Childfree Women Use Digital Spaces to Redefine Femininity
University of Tasmania, Australia
Childfree, childless, digital community, femininity, gender, identity, kin-making, motherhood, reproductive futurity.
In overwhelmingly pronatalist Western society, having children continues to be perceived as an essential element of conventional womanhood (Gillespie 2003; Rich 1978; Veevers 1980). Typically, women who choose not to procreate are constructed in media, popular culture and prevalent discourse as aberrant, unnatural, selfish and unfeminine (Blackstone & Stewart 2012; Carey et, al 2009; Edwards 2015). Such stereotypes can lead childfree women to feel stigmatised and isolated, particularly if they have few other childfree peers in their lives.
However, online communities can provide a place of connection to a likeminded group of otherwise scattered individual, where self-identified “childfree” women find support, solidarity, and the opportunity to discursively form a new ways of doing femininity. This paper argues that childfree digital communities on sites such as Reddit and Facebook offer women a space to redefine femininity without the hegemonic feminine marker of motherhood. In particular, users of these sites embrace the “deviance” ascribed to childfree women as a point of pride and identity, and in the process begin to construct a new model of womanhood.
Through a feminist lens, I engage with Donna Haraway’s notions of kin-making, Lee Edelman’s work on reproductive futurity; and existing scholarship on voluntary childlessness and identity, as well as examining historical depictions of childless women as witches, sorceresses and wicked stepmothers. Members of childfree digital communities invert these evil stereotypes through language that instead ascribed aberrance to parents and children through derogatory terms such as “mombies”, “breeders” and “spawn”. Childfree users shares exasperated, angry and/or humorous anecdotes about childfree life as a means of making community and asserting identity by opposition, and I argue that this kind of discourse, while abrasive, allows women space to define new femininities beyond the pronatalist restrictions of mandator motherhood.
Run Away, Sell Your Soul and Become a Witch: Rejecting Twisted Morality and Cruel Convention in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes
Witchcraft, Religion, Orthodoxy, Feminism, Radical, Morality, Literature, History
In the early 1900s, the term “witch” began to evolve away from a label forced upon divergent, suspicious and vulnerable women into a term of self-identification. The end of the Victorian era saw a major upswing in occult interest. Occult societies formed, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; periodicals such as The Occult Review and Lucifer began spreading ideas, theories and practices, and the public consensus on orthodox morality was changing. Along with the turmoil of the first world war, this resulted in a morally greying landscape in which Sylvia Townsend Warner could write Lolly Willowes. Published in 1926, the radical novel tells the story of a spinster who rejects the constraints of society, flees to the countryside and becomes a witch.
My paper will analyse the paradoxical divide that Lolly Willowes exposes between good and evil as these concepts related to women in the early 1900s. The objective evil of Satan, who provides women with power and freedom, is contrasted against the righteous conventions of orthodox society that shackle women into restrictive roles. Like those accused of witchcraft throughout history, Lolly is punished for divergence.
In the lecture “After Strange Gods”, T. S. Eliot argues that writers who present their own moral perspective, untethered from the orthodoxy of the church, dilute and corrupt our understanding of good and evil. People are naturally impure and require the guidance of God and the church to be moral. Lolly Willowes satirises and combats this kind of position by exposing the church’s immoral treatment of women: ‘It had pleased Satan to come to her aid. Considering carefully, she did not see who else would have done so. Custom, public opinion,
law, church, and state – all would have sent her back to bondage.’1 For women, what is the
good in being good?
From Evil to Empowering: Reclaiming the Witch in Western Literature
RWTH Aachen University
witches in literature; witches and witchcraft; fantasy literature; female empowerment; feminine evil; female villains
The figure of the witch has long been one of the most recognizable cultural expressions of feminine evil. Established in Renaissance literature and cemented in the popular consciousness through fairy tales, the wicked witch reflects ongoing anxieties about women who transgress the social order: those who reject the role of the caring, altruistic mother and wield power outside of the domestic sphere.
This paper argues that the evilness of the witch in Western literature is rooted in notions of (un)acceptable femininity. Therefore, when the social role of women changed in the 20th century, so did literary depictions of the witch, resulting in the portrayal of witches as complicated, empowering, and heroic figures in fantasy literature today. In order to explore the evolution of the witch, I will first discuss the roots of the wicked-witch stereotype in Renaissance and fairy tale tradition and then consider the developments in the 20th century that have led to the literary rehabilitation of the witch. This will include a closer look at feminist revisions of canonical texts that embrace witches as powerful women who refuse to be contained within the roles assigned to them by the patriarchy as well as postmodern texts that question the wicked witch stereotype through parody. Finally, I will highlight the part that Hollywood films (especially those of the Disney industry) have played in shaping the iconography of witchcraft and how these films have acted as a major conservative influence that has kept the wicked hag-witch alive up to this day even as literary portrayals increasingly reject her.
Forgiving Witches: The Case for Pardons and Memorials
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
witch, witch hunt, witch execution, pardon, memorial, Medieval Europe
The word witch conjures up a black-cloaked figure with a pointed hat flying on a broomstick, often with green skin and a hooked nose: the epitome of feminine evil. During the height of the European witch hunts (about 1450-1750, with the greatest intensity 1550-1650), an estimate 40,000-60,000 witches were executed (Hutton 1991; Levack 1987). Although some men factored into this death toll, estimates are that 75-80% of witches executed were women (Gibbons 1998). Fear and persecution of witches dates to Ancient Rome, but the more systematic Medieval purges were the result of complex social forces, including rapid social and economic changes, the Reformation, and the Black Death (Federici 2014). Those perceived as witches, often poor, older, single women, were easy scapegoats.
In the last few decades, both the depth and accuracy of archival research on Medieval European witch trials has improved. Drawing on this research, this paper examines the place of witch executions in the contemporary context. Although most people recognize the injustice of most of these executions, few countries have granted legal pardons or erected memorials to their victims. Notable exceptions are the official pardons granted in 2004 to 81 witches executed in Prestonpans, Scotland, and the erection of the stunning Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Norway opened in 2011 by Queen Sonja commemorating the execution of 91 witches. Since 2001, Hartmut Hegeler has been making slow progress campaigning city-by-city in Germany for pardons. As he states: “We owe it to the victims to finally acknowledge that they died innocent… but this is not just about the past—it’s a signal against the violence and marginalization of people that goes on today” (Allen 2011). Why is the acknowledgement of these injustices so slow coming? What fears do we still harbour about witches?