Abstracts and Papers

Evil Women: Women and Evil
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference

Saturday 1st December 2018 – Sunday 2nd December 2018
Vienna, Austria


ABSTRACT AND PAPERS


An Analysis of the Modern Image of Manon Lescaut from Des Grieux’s Descriptions in 20th Century Films and TV Dramas
Mariko Kasahara
The University of Tokyo

Key Words:
Manon Lescaut, French literature, movies, TV dramas, “femme fatales”, 20th century

This presentation argues and proves that the images of Manon Lescaut were interpreted differently in the films and TV dramas from the contemporary context, especially of the 20th century. We further argue that the masculinity of Des Grieux, the quasi-stroyteller of the original work, is extremely underestimated.

In the original work written in the 18th century, Manon Lescaut was described from the perspective of her male lover, Des Grieux, as a typical representative of “femme fatale.” Thus, her image is frivolous, foolish, and easily manipulated by men was depicted only from his perspective.

However, she has appeared in nearly 50 secondary works of ballet, opera, and film, and her image has varied greatly in these works. From the late 19th century, there were indications of changing her image to an independent woman.

Particularly, in the 20th century, owing to the birth of films and TV, around stage works and approximately 10 films and 4 TV dramas depicted her story. In these works, she has more than one lover, as she does in the original work; however, her fault derives from not only her but also her lover Des Grieux or the current of the times.

To portray this clearly, many of these works have been set in modern times instead of in the 18th century, and Des Grieux’s weakness has become more of a focus.

This paper analyzes the structure of storytelling in the works, as the reasons for Des Grieux’s descriptions of her frivolity, and his characterization of himself in the original source with reference from critics about the works.

Finally, we explore the changing image of Manon Lescaut from the perspective of contemporary characterization of Des Grieux.


From Femme Fatale to Femme Noir: A Celebration of Evil
Jacqui Miller
Liverpool Hope University

From its crystallisation in The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1942), film noir created the fabulously evil character of the femme fatale or femme noir, summed up by Murder, My Sweet’s (Edward Dymtryk, 1944) Anne Grayle of her femme noir stepmother, Helen: ‘big league blondes. Beautiful, expensive babes who know what they’ve got, all bubble bath, and dewy morning, and moonlight. And inside: blue steel, cold – cold like that, only not that clean’. Film noir’s classical phase ran until Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958), but re-emerged as neo-noir in the 1980s, in films such as Body Heat (Lawrence Kasden, 1982), Kill Me Again (John Dahl, 1989), and The Last Seduction (John Dahl, 1994).

Like all cinema, classical and neo-noirs are a reflection of their times, and the figure of the femme noir may be interpreted as a projection of anxieties created by female behaviour. It is no coincidence that film noir emerged during World War II, a time when women entered the workplace to take over jobs vacated by men at war, and those men feared the sexual freedom enjoyed by the women while their partners were away. As described by Quart and Auster, the femme fatale was ‘that particular symbol of anxiety that bedevilled so many GIs – the unfaithful wife’ (2011). The femme noir emerged at a time when women were gaining much greater social and professional freedom, and, unlike the classical femme fatale, was depicted in positions of power in the workforce. This paper will make a comparative analysis of the femme characters in Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944), and the neo-noir, The Last Seduction, which self-consciously references Wilder’s film, assessing the greater empowerment of The Last Seduction’s Bridget/Wendy, and why she is able to escape punishment for her evil, and why such evil is celebrated by a female audience.


Quadruple Trouble: The Foul Witches of Kill Shakespeare
Buket Akgün
Istanbul University

Key Words:
Shakespeare, Kill Shakespeare, witches, feminist theory, reception studies, mythical reception, comics studies

This presentation will focus on the graphic reception of William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and the Weird Sisters in Conor McCreery, Anthony Col (writers), Andy Belanger (art), Ian Herring (colours), Kagan McLeod (cover), Chris Mowry, Neil Uyetake, and Shawn Lee’s (lettering) 12-issue comic series Kill Shakespeare (2010-2011). It will discuss their graphic reception as representations of evil women in contemporary popular culture. Although Lady Macbeth never meets the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she is the mistress of the three witches in the comics. In the comics Lady Macbeth is also a femme fatale who exploits and subverts the male-forged representations of femininity and masculinity for her own political agenda. Indeed, the four witches together dominate the entire comic series; they penetrate every single issue from the cover of the first one to the final panel of the last one by taking on various forms or through numerous objects. They blur binary oppositions by transgressing the boundaries between human/animal, fair/foul, and reality/apparition. They are portrayed as manifestations of mythical monstrous females such as Lilith, Hecate, Medusa, and Harpies. Using the evasiveness and fluidity of the female language and body, they claim not only the semiotic chora, domain of the mother, but also the symbolic order, domain of the father. Their aim is to drag the male characters, including the Wizard-God-Father figure William Shakespeare, back to Kristeva’s semiotic, the pre-linguistic stage of infanthood, and rob them of (phallogocentric) discourse and (political) power.


Female Violence and its Perception as Evil
Helen Gavin
University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

Maria Ioannou
University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

Incidents of violence in which women are the victims has reached high proportions, but reports of this violence and its prevalence are given in gendered and sexualised terms. Sexual or domestic violence are not the only forms of aggression that women receive, despite the impression given in reportage (cf World Health Organisation,2010; US Center for Disease Control, 2013).This serves to hide other forms of violence, and engender the idea that women are always passive recipients. Recent research and statistics suggest that this position is erroneous, but also that women who commit violent acts are not viewed in the same light as their male counterparts. Female aggression is seen as less prevalent than male aggression, but in fact, there is a general understanding that, although crimes rates are generally falling, violent acts by women are on the increase. The confusion might be due to the varying definitions of aggression, and the conflating of types of violence and physical severity of the actions. There are, therefore, gender-based differences not only in the frequency of violent acts, but in the type and outcome. Aggression and violence, for women, are highly complex issues, beyond (and before) the striking of blows. Violent women are moreover, seen as complex beings with unfathomable and therefore suspect, motives, unlike the, apparently, clear-cut motives of money, power and sex ascribed to men.

The rise in female violence has unclear reasons behind it, although there are several hypotheses discussed in the literature of forensic psychology and criminal justice. It may be that the rate is increasing only in relation to a very low base rate, or that changes in reporting and investigating policies for violence have criminalised behaviour that would previously not have been recorded. It may be that women/girls are engaging in violent behaviour more frequently than in the past, due to shifting gender roles and the changing perception of gendered behaviour. Whatever the reason, it is clear that we cannot assume that violence in women is the result of evil, any more than we can in men.

This paper will attempt to focus on these hypotheses, by examining female aggression as an emotional, physical or psychological response to the world in its own right, rather than poorly expressed imitative behaviour. Each hypothesis, and ways of addressing them, will be examined in order to evaluate previous and current understanding of female aggression, both in scientific and criminal justice/policy approaches. In addition, the perception of violent women, and what drives them, and how that perception colours the investigation of female criminals will be considered.


Of “Bitter” gardens and “Unsafe Edge(s)”: Why Baby Kochamma turns Evil in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things
Pushpinder Walia
BBK DAV College for Women, Amritsar, INDIA

Key Words:
gender, power, patriarchy, oppressors, evil, transgression

The dynamics of power play and the dialectics of gender put forth interesting paradigms/patterns of Evil in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things. Baby Kochamma, the evil aunt instrumental in destroying the world of the protagonist Ammu and her seven years old twins, actually represents the society’s dominant patriarchal ideology, internalized in her own self, and illustrates how women themselves become self-alienated as gendered subjects and are very often the most immediate as well as conspicuous oppressors of their own sex. And so it happens that when Ammu, whom Roy describes as having an “Unsafe Edge”, a young “die-vorced” woman, a Syrian Christian who married a Hindu, finds fulfilment in her relationship with Velutha, an abysmally low caste “untouchable”, Baby Kochamma is incensed; yet her denunciation of Ammu’s passion for Velutha is not really borne out of a sense of moral outrage. Rather, it is because Ammu fights with a fate that Baby Kochamma has herself ‘graciously’ accepted, that of “the wretched Man-less woman.” After all, Baby Kochamma’s life is defined by her futile life-long infatuation/love for Father Mulligan, the Catholic priest whom she tried to win by “weekly exhibitions of staged charity”, and by “using the Bible as a muse,” even entering a convent(making herself thoroughly miserable) in the process! Realizing the improbability of Baby Kochamma finding a husband, her father lets her earn a diploma in Ornamental Gardening from Rochester. Yet, the only garden that Baby Kochamma creates is “fierce” and “bitter” – signifying the frustration of a woman whose “aching heart” Father Mulligan carries “on a leash” throughout his life. Hence, the proposed paper seeks to explore the sense of evil and fear of transgression delineated in the study of Baby Kochamma, in the larger paradigm of gender and power play underlying the textual discourse.


Women as Evil Mesmerizers in Arthur Conan Doyle and Ramesh Chandra Dutt: A Cross-Cultural Study
Shreya Chakravorty
Budge Budge College, Kolkata, India

Key Words:
mesmerism, women, evil, gender, power, reversal

Mesmerism – the ‘pseudo-scientific’ method of healing physical and mental ailments – which became extremely popular in Victorian Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century, had also ignited the creative imagination of many late Victorian authors including Arthur Conan Doyle. But moving away from the notion of a gendered hierarchy in a mesmeric bond, Doyle has dealt with the theme of the ‘woman’ as evil mesmerizer in two of his short stories, ‘John Barrington Cowles’ (1885) and ‘The Parasite’ (1894). The notion of female subjectivity is infinitely complicated in these stories where men are left vulnerable at the hands of sinister women antagonists who can even go the extent of exterminating these men if unreciprocated in love. The powerful woman as mesmeric operator is, in fact, more alarming because she possesses the technology, but no knowledge about the sources of her power, and can therefore lend herself to evil forces under subjection to those who remotely manipulate her. But the female mesmerizer labours under the illusion that she is in charge of her own will. A similar trope is deployed into action by the colonial Indian writer Ramesh Chandra Dutt in his historical romance Madhabikankan (1879). It will be not be an overstatement to say that his brush with British culture around this time had inspired Dutt to seamlessly intermingle the mesmeric trope with indigenous Indian healing methods in his work. It is surprising to find how he creates the outlandish character of the Tatar girl Jelekha in his novel to portray the character of the evil seductress with hypnotic powers. Like Kate Northcott in ‘John Barrington Cowles’ and Helen Penclosa in ‘The Parasite’, Jelekha is also destructively passionate. The consequences of her inordinate passion are also equally disastrous as her English counterparts’. My paper will attempt to capture the cross-cultural representation of women as wily mesmserizers thereby elucidating upon the association of woman with evil in relation to mesmerism.


Beautiful, Enticing and Deceptive: The Reception of the Female Body in the Byzantine Illuminated Book
Mati Meyer
The Open University of Israel

The overarching question of the male emotional reception of the female’s desirable body in the Byzantine illuminated book is at the core of the present study. In this essay I argue that emotions such as pleasure, shame and anger, and the fear of becoming emasculated, which the desire for the female body may have stirred in the readership of illuminated books can be discerned in the signs of the “barbarism” inflicted on the images of Eve, Delilah, and Judith. I also contend that these signs—erasure, rubbing, scraping, and effacing—which were probably motivated by anger, are the telltale evidence of a presumed emotional experience and emotive reception of these images on the part of an overwhelmingly male readership. The viewer’s emotional engagement with the images was facilitated through the senses of sight and touch. Both would have enabled the beholder, whether in the secular or the monastic realm, to respond to the stimulus of the painted female body.

Two features distinguish the present essay from other studies of “barbarism” in illuminated books. First, I specifically analyze female characters intentionally damaged and thus move beyond the scholarship that addresses primarily male figures, and, second, I endeavor to understand the erasure acts in the context of the history of emotions and gender, which differs from the interpretation that considers them principally as expressions of devotion and piety.


Capgras Syndrome and the Case of Bridget Cleary
Kristin L. Bone
Independent Researcher

Key Words:
Bridget Cleary, Capgras Syndrome, Changeling, Faerie, Irish myth, Capgras Delusion, Michael Cleary

A Murder Most Foul:
Capgras Syndrome and the Case of Bridget Cleary

Are you a witch or are you a fairy?
Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?
– Jump Rope Rhyme

In March of 1895 at the age of twenty-six, Bridget Cleary was brutally murdered by her husband, when she was ‘burned to death in her own kitchen.’ Hastily burying her body to cover the crime, her family spun a story and, ‘using the idiom of oral legend, said she had been taken away by the fairies of nearby Kylenagranagh Hill and a changeling—a non-human substitute—left in her place.’ At the forefront of this story was Bridget’s husband, Michael, who had come to fully believe Bridget had been taken by fairies after she had fallen ill days before and:

assisted by several male neighbors, had touched her with a hot poker, drenched her with urine, forced her to drink concoctions of herbs in milk, and held her over the kitchen fire asking insistently whether she was in fact Bridget Cleary or a fairy changeling.

This belief, known as Capgras Syndrome or Capgras delusion—defined as the belief a loved one has been replaced by an alternative being—and the chilling consequences which follow, is described as ‘exceedingly rare’ by Thomas Grater and Ulrich Kraft, and found most commonly among the myth, superstition, and history of Ireland.

This presentation will examine the case of Bridget Cleary, the events which transpired to cause her husband and others to believe she had become what is commonly known as a ‘changeling’ and the events ultimately leading her death.


Male Gaze and Female Monstrosity in Beowulf: the Two Femmes Fatales
Almudena Nido
Universidad Isabel I (Spain)

Key Words:
Beowulf, gender studies, female monster, evil women, male gaze, film studies, Modthryth, Grendel’s mother, Anglo-Saxon, Old English

In Zemeckis’ Beowulf (2007) Grendel’s mother’s new embodiment makes her the most fearsome menace for the hero as her naked female body constitutes the main anxiety in an otherwise epic male world enslaved by an ongoing fight for power and lust. Her body is both the site of her power and her submission to male power in an apparent entrapment for female agency. Beauty and sexuality may seem alien elements in the configuration of female monstrosity in Beowulf, probably added to cater new audiences’ expectations.

Nevertheless, these problematic elements that are visualized in her naked body—able to terrorise the revisited male society of Beowulf but seemingly too un-heroic in the comparison with the poem—find their corresponding source in a different female figure in the Anglo-Saxon poem. Modthryth normally ignored in film versions and even by Beowulf critics has been steadily associated with the female monster thanks to the unrest she creates when she refuses male gaze.

The violent queen and the female monster cause male gaze and desire to become trapped, tempted into obliteration by the same shudder of terror. Both female figures appear open to male observation but are lethal in their subversion of gaze and the perversion of male desire. Death and horror lie underneath the surfaces of flesh and skin that the gaze observes.

This paper explores the ambiguity of beauty under male gaze and the interconnections with power and the resulting new configuration of the female monster and the repeating anxieties that are present in the original poem and that still communicate fear of the feminine in the latest film adaptation of 2007.


The Daughters of Lucifer
Gabrielle Everall
Melbourne University

Key Words:
The Daughters of Lucifer; Creative Writing; Seven Deadly Synnes; Wrath; Furor; Gluttony; Gula; Avarice; Avaritia; Sloth; Acedia; Poetic Prose.

Furor is the first daughter of Lucifer. She is wrath. Her father banned her from his funeral. She is the type of woman ratepayers and the PTA organize meetings against. She is angry because of the evil committed against her. She was gang raped in hospital the year previous. Leading her to myriad social problems: slashing of tyres; bog laps and Jim Beam; piss rings; burn outs; internet trolling; banning from local cafes; throwing the decks of DJ wankers to the ground; holding up the local IGA; abusive text messages; death threats.

Gula is the third daughter of lucifer. She is gluttony. They tried to put her on a diet, but she didn’t want to be a model super or otherwise. She just walks into Woolworths tries to locate an aisle, opens up their product and just eats.

Avarita is the fifth daughter of lucifer. She is a feminist academic who is fiercely opposed to austerity measures, any austerity measures. You can tell it is her by her bling. Her area is post-colonial literature. Regularly her stiletto traverses the dark skin of her lesser prince’s back (her Turkish boyfriend). This with out many overseas trips necessary for the continuation of her post-colonial research became the neo-colonization of the world.

Acedia is the seventh daughter of lucifer. She is sloth. She is a tired, sluggish, disheartened and impoverished post-graduate student. She is the pre-menopausal squalor of the female scholar who lies in a pool of her own blood while watching The Bold and the Beautiful. Nobody wants a bleeding woman. Nobody wants a bleeding woman with a bleeding heart. Everybody loves God’ blood. They drink from his cup every Sunday. While the blood of a woman is synne.


Evil Women and religion: A Dialogue in Poems
Allene Nichols
University of Texas at Dallas

Key Words:
Religion, Lady Macbeth, Guinevere, Poetry, Christianity, England, Scotland

My presentation will be a series of letters in the form of poems between two well-known fictional women, Lady Macbeth and Guinevere, that interrogate the ways that religions construct a set of female norms and provide a language of opposition (good/evil), which women then use to position themselves in relation to a particular religion. Guinevere will be one of the first Christians, fiercely devoted to her faith. Lady Macbeth will be the last of the pagans, resisting the new religion. The two women have been friends since childhood, when they were fostered together, but their relationship experiences increasing tension as Guinevere sees Lady Macbeth as sinful, and therefore evil, which hurts Lady Macbeth. She responds by claiming the role of “evil woman.” A second tension will be within Guinevere, when her affair with Lancelot forces her to evaluate her own relationship to evil. I have included an example of my poetry below:

Lady Macbeth Speaks

My life has been circumscribed by these thick walls,
by the sound of my own footsteps from kitchen to marriage bed to nursery,
by the petty gossip of bored women and the bile of undigested sweets.

Had I been born a man, to strength and swords, instead of crying babes
and fainting ways, to fight and win or fight and die, but fight, with
war paint and wilding cries, I would not have turned to the dark magic
that boils inside me and bred this ambition,
this shadow demon that can only rule through another.

You say I’m heartless,
who would bash out the brains of my babe if it were to suit me.
And it would suit me.
These men have pinned me and silenced me
and turned their swords to me without pity.
Why, then, should I show any?


The “Good Bloke” Versus the “Evil Woman”: The Role of Rhetoric in Public Perceptions of Murder and other Violent Offences
Laura Button
The University of Melbourne

Key Words:
women, serious violent offences, media, language, murder.

This paper analyses the public discourse relating to women who are perceived to be “evil”, specifically women who commit serious violent offences ranging from murder to torture and war crimes. This paper draws largely on recent Australian examples such as the Margaret River (Western Australia) murder/suicide case (2018) and also draws comparison from historical examples (female guards of German concentration camps) and more recent examples including the role of women in prison facilities such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

In order to assess the reasons behind public fascination and beliefs regarding women who commit violent offences, this paper argues that the obsession with “evil” women comes from the gendered assumption that women, as an inherent part of their femininity, are “transgressing’ their gender (role/s) when they commit violent offences. The positioning of women as primarily caregivers and nurturers (despite the many other roles women hold in society) continues to drive an image of women who commit violent crimes as contradicting their assigned role. This perspective fails to account for the criminogenic reasons why women offend and directs public discourse from considering evidence-based crime prevention policies. At the same time, this perspective scapegoats men’s violence, by assigning responsibility to poor mental health and persists with the belief that they are “good family men who just snap”.

This paper will consider the media‘s portrayal of “the good bloke” when men commit murder or murder/suicide against their family members in comparison to the labelling of women as “evil” when they commit the same or similar offences. This paper will analyse the gendered differences in the language used to describe perpetrators of violent crimes and assert that this plays a significant role in the continued misunderstandings around women and violent offences.


Representations Of and Responses to Women who Kill in African Fiction
Adebola Abosede Fawole

– No abstract available –


Empirical Reflections of Female Evilness: Popular Literature in Qing Dynasty China (1644-1912)
Junfu Wong
University of Cambridge

Key Words:
China; Evil; Justice; Freedom; Social Movement; Collectivity; Egoism; Middle Ages; Religion; Postmodern

Evil in the twenty first century has transformed beyond the explicit realm of physical violence by craftily taking up the latent form of rhetorical and conceptual ideology, hiding behind the mask of moral values such as justice or freedom. Chinese society, an epicentre of social movements, has witnessed the arisen of this form of evil. By penetrating through the thick layer of fragmented rhetoric, this paper attempts to unveil the evil rooted in contemporary social movements in which student organizations claim a grandeur cause of resuming democracy. Nevertheless, behind all those glowing images, these student organizations are extremely exclusive, emotionally driven as all opposing opinions will be refused as the manifesto of political stooges. Such a badge is a representation of violence created by a collectivity that shows a striking resonation with the religion in middle ages, a period signified by intellectual decay because of extreme dictatorship. It is exactly the point at which a sense of structuralized violence is attached, overtaking the rhetoric by voicing through a filter overwhelmed with alienated and distorted moral values. In short, by defining this phenomenon as the recurring of the religious terror in middle ages, this paper claims that the exact evilness of these protest movement lies in the fact that their participants are not striving for a collective interest as they claimed to be. But in total contrary, they are performing an extreme egoist act through which a consumerist social identity is granted to fulfil the savior complex that help define their importance as an individual in the social structure. It is the evilness of becoming the overnight god who reactivates middle ages radical religious autarchy in which evil illusionary adversary is created for gaining authority. By reading this paradoxical confrontation of evils, this paper further elaborates the facets of evil as a mandatory force that manipulates individuals through collectivity.


The Yakshi as the “Monstrous Feminine”: An Examination through some Malayalam Representations
Mamatha Karollil
Ambedkar University Delhi

Key Words:
yakshi, monstrous feminine, psychoanalysis, discourse analysis, India.

The notion of the monstrous feminine offers an important and useful route to examine gendering in any society. Examined by feminists in diverse social and historical contexts, and through a range of idioms, the figure is a trace of what should not be. It is never the norm. It functions in the realm of fear, disgust, ridicule and also seemingly paradoxically, desire.

This paper examines the ‘monstrous feminine’ in certain vernacular representations, particularly focusing on the Malayalam speaking region, Kerala, in India. The figure to be examined is known locally as the yakshi. Spread over various types of representations such as myths folk-tales, songs, novels, cinema, and even even ritual performances in local contexts, the yakshi looms large in the region’s horrifying and seductive imaginations, dreams and fantasies. She is at once alluring and fear provoking, in her devouring, castrating sexual power and prowess. A figure at the margins- literally and figuratively- of society, defying prescriptions of acceptable femininity, the yakshi seems to represent the under-side of respectability, the other of ideal-femininity.

This paper attempts to read the figure of the yakshi through a feminist psychoanalytic and discourse analytic lens. It attempts to uncover the psychic-hetero-patriarchal functions served by the fantasy. Reading against hegemonic portrayals, it attempts to recover the yakshi as a figure of feminist resistance.


“Are You Food, Or Are You Sex?” Mimetic Desire, Sacred Violence and Precarity in Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon
Mairead Casey
National University of Ireland, Galway

Key Words:
Horror, gender, sexuality, violence, Girard, religion, precarity, postfeminism

Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016) presents a lonely, fragmented, urban landscape, rife with corruption and exploitation, without history or community. Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a teenaged transient from Georgia trying to break out as a model in the fashion industry only to become the object of obsessional rivalry, violent desire, and ultimately cannibalistic sacrifice at the hands of an all-female beauty cult. This narrative arc complies with René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire and ritual sacrifice; the idea that desire is inescapably imitative of a third party or ‘model’, leading to rivalry, jealousy, and cycles of reciprocal violence within a community. Order is restored when this violence is refocused on a scapegoat for communal sacrifice. I argue Refn consciously and visually evokes Girard’s philosophy on ritual sacrifice and human evil in this film and renders it in a specifically postfeminist, neoliberal context. The Neon Demon takes place in present-day Los Angeles without reference to any existing religion. It presents beauty as a uniquely feminine attribute that not only has real, capitalist currency but an eerie ontological value within the film-world. Beauty is presented as having the potential to corrupt the individual who possesses it and the members of the modelling community that covet it. In my paper, I argue mimetic violence is presented as a particularly gendered experience of competition and precarity arising from late-capitalism where female characters are forced to consider themselves as commodities and other women as rivals for limited resources in a post-recession global economy.


The Monstrous Girl: Teen Witches, Abjection and the Horror of Femininity
Miranda Corcoran
University College Cork

Key Words:
Femininity, abjection, horror, monstrosity, witches, witchcraft, adolescence, gender, sexuality

From the adolescents embroiled in the Salem Witch Trials to contemporary Hollywood films like The Craft (1996), teen witches have always exerted a uniquely potent power over the popular imagination, embodying, as they do, anxieties about female sexuality and the supposed immorality of women. Drawing on Barbara Creed’s highly influential formulation of the “Monstrous Feminine,” this paper seeks to explore the cultural construction of adolescent witches as abject, uncanny, and potentially evil figures. While the female body has often been associated with abjection and monstrosity, accruing associations with pollution, miasma and the restless, wandering womb of the hysteric, adolescent femininity is often depicted as particularly uncanny and fundamentally transgressive. Indeed, adolescence is frequently constructed as a liminal space, a transitory period in which the borders between childhood and womanhood are effaced, while menarche brings about a similar erasure of the boundaries between interior and exterior, self and other, subject and object.

In popular culture, the transgressive nature of adolescent femininity regularly manifests in the form of the teenage witch, an archetypal figure who enacts a host of anxieties about burgeoning sexuality and the supposedly uncanny nature of female biology. Focusing on a diverse array of adolescent sorceresses – including Ray Bradbury’s “April Witch,” the teenage protagonist from Roger Eggers’s film The Witch (2015), and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s dark reimagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch in his recent comic-book series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – this paper will argue that the teen witch, as a cultural figure, is emblematic of ingrained societal fears about the physically and biologically abject nature of the feminine. This paper will discuss how these adolescent witches – through their capacity for physical transformation, their connection with the spiritual or diabolical, and their positions on margins of society – recall the manner in which our culture abjects the feminine, constructing female sexuality as inherently sinful by categorising the witch’s “evil powers […] as part of her ‘feminine’ nature” (Barbara Creed, Horror and the Monstrous Feminine 76). In these texts, the transgressive power of the teenage witch expresses the threat posed by the disruptive power of the feminine to the ordered symbolic realm of law, order and society. Moreover, by explicitly linking the witch’s capacity for subversive malefice to her nascent sexuality, these texts construct the teen witch as a locus for deeply-held societal fears about sexual and moral transgression. Within these texts, the intersection of adolescence and witchcraft speaks to the historically-potent belief that female evil, rather than being incidental to womanhood, is instead inextricably linked to femininity.


The ‘Feminine-as-Monstrous’: Using the Whore Narrative to Unpack Representations of Militarised Femininity Gone Awry
Stacy Banwell
University of Greenwich

The ‘feminine-as-monstrous’: using the whore narrative to unpack representations of militarised femininity gone awry.

The militarized woman is sexy, but not sexual or perverse. She is tough, but not violent. ‘She can fight…but cannot inflict torture…The new militarized femininity expects a woman solider to be as capable as a male soldier, but as vulnerable as a civilian woman (Sjoberg, 2007:93). Drawing on cases of women’s involvement in military and quasi-military organizations – both in ‘real-life’ and in fictionalized accounts – this paper unpacks the use of the whore narrative to explain female sexual violence. I will explore this along two pathways. Firstly, we will examine the real-life involvement of Lynndie England, Sabrina Harman and Megan Ambuhl in the sexual abuse, rape and torture of male prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Secondly, I will discuss the film Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and its setting in a Nazi Medical Camp. The eponymous antagonist is a blonde, blue-eyed Aryan Nazi dominatrix. She is a female villain – or, in a somewhat crude and literal framing, a feminazi – who sadistically castrates men.

In both examples, we are presented with images of a tortured and feminized male body. This challenges the familiar male victimizer/female victim model. In order to preserve the dichotomous construction of masculinity versus femininity, the powerful female body has to be presented in undesirable ways (Banwell and Fiddler, 2017). This is done through dehumanization: the ‘feminine-as-monstrous.’ It is also achieved through sexualization. According to the whore narrative, female violence is a result of the following: an insatiable need for sex with men; men’s control and ownership of women’s bodies; and, women’s inability to have sex with men (Sjoberg and Gentry, 2008).

In this piece I argue that this narrative at once vilifies and demonises violent women, while denying their agency and diminishing the threat they pose (both real and reel). This reproduces heteropatriarchal control.


Communicating Sex as Part of a University Curriculum
Paul G. Nixon
The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands

Key Words:

Sex, University Education, Communication, Technology and Social Media

Sex as a subject assumes a peripheral role in university curricula, despite its central importance in the lives of many students. New forms of communication are opening up the sexual world, normalizing behavior, once taboo and often hidden.

We recently introduced an elective module on Sex in the Media into our European Studies Bachelor Degree Program. The cohort for the module were exchange students from a range of countries, educational and socio-cultural backgrounds. We encountered some difficulties convincing others that this was a relevant subject and one fit for discussions with young adults. We will also reflect on the discussions we had as a teaching team and how the communicative strategy which we designed has been upheld or revised as a consequence of student feedback and our own observations.

Using structured questionnaires distributed at three key moments during the teaching program, we attempt to discern if the level of confidence to communicate around sex is enhanced by studying the subject in a supportive, sex positive environment. This is supplemented by a number of structured interviews carried out after the module concluded. We will seek to ascertain amongst other questions:

• If students feel more able to openly discuss sexual matters and, if so with whom? friends, fellow students, parents, sexual partners?
• Which aspects, if any, do they still find difficult to discuss openly?
• Which methods of communication have students found most comfortable and which the most challenging?
• Are there gender based differences in the level of comfort in communicating with some groups, parents, friends, partners etc, given that perceptions, although slowly changing, can often differ based upon their gender and/or sexual orientation.
• How do they define sex?
• What are their views on the use of ever more sophisticated apps such as Legalfling, Flirtar, Happn & Pheramor


 

Ugly in Public: The Grotesque Politics of Sexualised Naked Protest
Alexandra Fanghanel
University of Greenwich

Key Words:
Protest, nakedness, ugly, feminism, objectification, grotesque, abject, politics

The popularity of the naked protest as a form of political intervention shows no sign of abating. From non-human animal rights protests, to naked bike rides, to anti-rape campaigns, naked protest has become a political trope par excellence.

Feminist critiques of these protests – which often mobilise the naked female body in a state of violence to convey their politics – have highlighted how the naked protest has the potential to exploit women, and sometimes folds into the very exclusions or injustices that it purports to address. Indeed, the objectification of sexualised naked women in these protests is part of how they function politically.

This paper examines what happens when naked bodies are objectified in these protests because they are ugly, non-conforming, or abject bodies, or when nakedness is made into an abject or grotesque form. Using case studies of recent naked protest to examine the politics of nakedness, sexual desire and ugliness, this paper examines what it means to be ugly in public, and whether there is anything to recuperate for a feminist politics from these sorts of protest.


Trans Female Psycho: A Myth that Endures?
Gina Maya Roberts

-no abstract available-


Seduced by Satan: Damnation, Salvation and the Plight of Women in Nineteenth Century Quebecois Tales and Legends
Cynthia Jones
Weber State University

“Devil at the Dance” or the “beau-danseur” is a sub-genre of tales in Quebecois and French Canadian lore, where the devil arrives at the homes of young unmarried women to tempt them into corruption. In some tales, the women naively fall for the handsome dark stranger, and in others, he is knowingly invited in. For those that were innocently duped, it is often via the aid of the village priest that the Prince of Darkness can be expelled and the victim potentially saved from eternal damnation. However, should a woman willingly give her hand to the devil, there is no salvation.

While there are many different tales that fall under this category (Devil at the Dance), this paper will limit its focus to four narratives: “L’étranger” by Philippe-Ignace-François Aubert de Gaspé (1837) –taken from L’influence d’un livre— “Conte populaire” by Charles Laberge (1848), “Le diable au bal” by J. Ferdinand Morissette (1883), and “A la Sainte-Catherine” by Charles-Marie Ducharme (1889). In the narratives explored in this paper, Satan is the outsider that is invited in and disrupts the happy traditions and festivities of the partyers. This figure embodies the ‘outsider’, he represents industrialization, Anglicization, and unattainable female agency. Through a close reading of these narratives, I argue that the devil in human form represents the plight of the nineteenth century Quebecois woman, whose sole worth is the (re)productive ability of her body. Few choices were left to these women: either marry and have children, join the convent, or fall in love with the devil and be condemned to hell for all eternity.


Bad Mothers in Early Modern Receptions of Greek Tragedy
Beth Harper
The University of Hong Kong

Key Words:
Bad mothers, Greek tragedy, ethics of motherhood, Medea myth, cross-cultural encounters

In her article “What’s Hecuba to Shakespeare”, Tanya Pollard describes Euripides’ Hecuba as embodying “both the tragedy of pathos and the tragedy of triumph” (2012: 1068). The Hecuba was by far the most popular Greek play translated, printed, and performed in early modern Europe. It was championed not only because of its rhetoric and pointed sententiae, but also because of the enthralling central figure of Hecuba herself: the quintessential mater dolorosa turned righteous violent avenger. This paper will explore the reception of Queen Hecuba, who, after grieving the deaths of her many children at Troy ends her eponymous play as the cold-blooded murderer of another man’s children, metamorphosed into a red-eyed bitch. It will argue that the positive validation of Hecuba as murderer of her enemies’ offspring sets her in opposition to that icon of the “bad Mother” Medea, who murders her own children. If the characters of Classical tragedy represent what Hegel termed “a purely individual embodiment of ethical powers”, how might we account for the conflicting moral and emotional responses towards Hecuba’s vengeance as opposed to that of Medea? What exactly are a mother’s ethical powers and to what extent is motherhood enmeshed in public and private virtue? This paper will seek to answer how early modern readers and audiences understood Hecuba and Medea both as bad mothers capable of evil, and as noble figures manifesting their own glorious female agency. Time permitting, I shall also offer some tantalising insights into how the Medea myth has been received in China in the twentieth-century. This cross-cultural element will seek to underline how the figure of the bad mother holds an almost totemic fascination in world literary production.


Momism at the Movies: Maternal Masterminds and Matriarchal Evil in Midcentury American Films
Keira V. Williams
Queen’s University Belfast

Key Words:
Cold War, films, momism, matriarchy, communism

In 1943, writer Philip Wylie coined a termed, “momism,” that would come to represent a primary method of mother-blaming throughout the Cold War era in the United States. In his bestselling Generation of Vipers, Wylie identified what he believed was a singularly destructive force: mothers who developed unhealthy attachments to and domination over their sons. These “moms,” as he called them, were dangerous matriarchs whose domineering influence would have dire effects, ranging from a dearth of able-bodied soldiers, to homosexuality, violent crime, economic depression, and the ultimate decline of American civilization. Although Wylie later claimed that his “treatise on the matriarchy” was a joke, his diagnosis of national ills sold well and spread quickly to popular culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, the doctrine of momism tied motherhood and matriarchy to contemporary fears in myriad ways as an array of films offered cautionary tales about the devastating effects of maternal power. The threat could be individual, as in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which overbearing motherhood and ineffectual fatherhood result in infantile adolescence and juvenile delinquency. Or it could fatal, as in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), in which Mrs. Bates’s momism so thoroughly overtakes her son Norman that he becomes her violent, schizophrenic surrogate. More significantly, however, films posited that the danger of momism was not just to families, but rather to the nation, as in My Son John (1952) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), in which overweening mothers created weak sons who were easily overtaken by communist infiltration. In this paper, I examine these popular midcentury films as a means of tracking the connections between mother-blaming, matriarchal fears, and contemporary definitions of gendered “evil” in Cold War America.


Mayhem and the Matriarch: US Popular Television’s Evil Mothers
Julia M. Mason
Grand Valley State University

Key Words:
feminist television criticism; representation; motherhood; power

Recent representation of mothers in popular television has resulted in a number of characters who could be described as evil because of their actions, choices and behaviors. The focus of this research is an analysis of the characters Mags Bennett from Justified, Gemma Teller Morrow from Sons of Anarchy and Janine “Smurf” Cody from Animal Kingdom, as a means to understand and challenge traditional messages about mothering in the 21st century. These characters are ruthless, violent and have complicated relationships with their children. Building on feminist television criticism this analysis centers on how televised depictions of antihero mothers challenge dominant good mother ideologies while additionally deconstructing the means through which these representations reinforce normative definitions of motherhood and by extension patriarchy. These characters exist within series that often serve to reinforce traditional, hegemonic masculinity and frequently hold the female characters to a different standard, particularly when the women are mothers. Resisting simplified conclusions, this research focuses instead on ways that evil mothers exhibit power and agency in complex and complicated narrative spaces.


Scourge, Sinner or Saint? Mary Whitehouse and the Evils of Modern Society
Emma Jones
The Open University School of Law

Key Words:
Mary Whitehouse; censorship; vilification; blasphemy; media portrayals; legal portrayals

Despite her death in 2001, within UK society the name Mary Whitehouse remains synonymous with campaigns to “clean up” television, films, newspapers and the wider media. Depictions of Whitehouse herself range from those who see her as deluded, deranged, even evil, for seeking to impose and uphold outdated forms of censorship and repression, to those who view her as a champion of moral standards and decency.
Whitehouse’s wide-ranging campaigns (including a high profile blasphemy case against the Gay Times and its editor, and involvement in the passing of the Protection of Children Act 1978) themselves often invoked the language of “good” and “evil” (drawing on her self-proclaimed Christian faith) and, in turn, the reactions she invoked also often involved this form of extreme and emotive imagery.

The paper will draw on (amongst other sources) video footage, media and law reports and Whitehouse’s own speeches to explore how the term “evil” (and it synonyms) became both associated with, and arguably manipulated by, Whitehouse during her campaigns and to consider the extent to which this was driven by wider social and cultural norms in 20th century UK.

It will explore the fascinating juxtapositions between Whitehouse as the quintessential middle class, Christian wife and mother and the rhetoric which often surrounded (and was generated by) her. It will seek to re-evaluate Whitehouse’s contribution and discuss how understandings of this have become skewed through her continued associated with the notion of “evil”.


“But What About the Children?” Media Constructions of “Mothers” Engaged in Group Offending
Emma Milne
Middlesex University

Angus Nurse
Middlesex University

Key Words:
motherhood, dog fighting, media representations, criminal women, evil, trafficking.

This paper examines women’s engagement in ‘traditionally’ male group offending, exploring the way such offending is seen as being particularly aberrant when conducted by women; doubly so when mothers are involved. For example, media reporting of Claire Parker’s involvement in one of Europe’s largest dog-fighting syndicates (convicted alongside three men) focussed on her status as “mother of three”; no mention was made of the male offenders’ parental status.

Expectations of women’s femininity is well researched and widely reported across disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, as is the synonymy between woman and motherhood. Women’s offending in such ‘serious’ offences as dog-fighting and human trafficking attract social condemnation that extends beyond the nature of the offense. Consequently, reporting constitutes condemnation of the ‘evil’ woman who affronts against social norms and expectations. As her crimes have limited connection to her family, the need to report offending women’s statuses as “mothers” may seem redundant. The redundancy of this pales when considering perceptions of women who commit violence and the aberrance of their behaviour, specifically in relation to the transgression of their gender roles.

This paper considers both media representations and law enforcement responses to women engaged in group offending and the social construction of the ‘evil’ woman who is perceived as acting against type.


Social Media in Domestic Homicide
Morag Kennedy
Birmingham City University

Key Words:
Domestic Homicide; Domestic Violence; Social Networking Sites; Social Media

New and innovative digital communication media form the technological backdrop to life in twenty first century society. Within this context, ‘Facebook Murder’ has emerged as a contemporary, headline grabbing media construct. There are a plethora of news reports problematizing social networking sites (SNSs), using the terms such as ‘Facebook Killer’ and ‘Facebook Predator’, reporting upon cases within which this SNS is reported to have played a role, however central or peripheral. It is believed that ‘Facebook murders’ are a growing trend, with individuals believing that there is the propensity to get away with murder (Wiederhold, 2013). Whilst there is an array of media coverage on the topic of contemporary homicide and Facebook, academic research is limited, both in depth and in quantity – emerging in parallel but very much separately from within the fields of criminology, media and cultural studies (Barlett, 2014; Duthiers, 2012; Sloane, 2013). As such, research has been carried out into why people use Facebook but very few researchers have explored SNSs in the context of homicide. In a very brief research paper, four cases since 2011 are outlined where reactions to content on Facebook have spurred individuals to conspire and commit murder (Wiederhold, 2013). In a larger scale study, two renowned researchers provide an overview of 48 homicide cases which have a Facebook element to them, and identified six typologies of perpetrators, each demonstrating a unique usage of this SNS (Yardley & Wilson, 2015). I aim to build upon the existing conceptual framework involving domestic homicide and Facebook. Other forms of communication such as additional SNSs and social media will also be considered in an attempt to examine whether the victim and perpetrators use on these sites acts as a medium for the escalation of domestic violence to domestic homicide. My study will be based on primary research using mixed methods, for an in-depth and meaningful approach (Bryman, 2012). Alongside interviews with victim’s families, men at HMP Dovegate will be interviewed in order to gain a balanced picture as to the role SNSs and social media played in both the victims and perpetrators lives.


Violation as Crime and Symbol in the Serbo-Bulgarian Ethnic Conflict of World War I
John Dayton
Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai

Key Words:
Bulgaria, Serbia, World War I, Balkan Wars, rape, war crimes, atrocities, nationalism.

A heightened sensitivity to the symbolic powers of the female essence had arisen by the fin-de-siècle, while racial and ethnic science was at a height of prestige. These cultural forces combined in World War I (where national symbolism often incorporated female imagery) to engender a new perspective on war crimes against women.

The ethnic component to rape was strong in the Balkans Wars (1912-13) with the overlapping claims to national territory between Serbia and Bulgaria. Parties on both sides acquired the belief that women are the most determined teachers of nationalism, the “inner citadel” of a nation whereas fighting men are merely its defensive walls. Moreover, as the breeders of an inimical race, they represent an existential evil. Rape was first treated as a specific war crime by the Carnegie Commission’s study on the Balkan War atrocities, particularly regarding Bulgarian acts in eastern Serbia.

But Bulgarian populations also suffered ethnic cleansing, and in World War I, vindictive occupiers of Serbia returned the favor. General Stefan Nezerov declared: “the most fanatic and violent chauvinists are always women. They are the vital center of the Serbian spirit . . .” Occupying troops are alleged to have beaten pregnant Serb women on their stomachs to induce abortion (a sort of reverse-rape), then violated and tortured them, sometimes deliberately infecting them with venereal disease. The Serbian national poet Milutin Bojić thus expressed fear for his countrywomen: “For the feasts of enemies they are like fruit and wine . . . Cover with plague their breasts and lips . . . Make them hideous so that their milky bodies/ Serve not as drinking-cups to the foe.”

After WWI rape was again treated as a war crime and described as such by the International Commission. The reverence accorded to women as the procreators of the nation can bring persecution in direct measure.


Towards a Queer Reading of the Female Nazi Perpetrator
Katherine Stone
University of Warwick

Key Words:
Holocaust, concentration camp guards, queer reading, fiction

At least since the Allied war trials, female concentration camp employees have been cast as sexual and gendered deviants. This paper will explore the extent to which questions to do with gender difference and sexuality remain sticking points in contemporary historical and literary writing about the women at the centre of the concentrationary system. This paper will address two examples: Bernhard Schlink’s novel Der Vorleser (1995) and Helga Schneider’s autobiographical novel Lasciami andare madre (2001). These works show how compelling the links between perverse desire and Nazi cruelty remain. They reinforce heteronormative ideas that position gender identities and sexuality “dichotomously as morally good or bad” – in the words of Toni Schofield and Joanne Bryant (“Feminine Sexual Subjectivities”).

The highly stereotypical character of many accounts of female perpetrators – judicial, autobiographical, and fictional – has created something of an impasse, whereby scholars tend to identify and historicize clichés in texts, without offering new ways of reading and responding to the representations in question. Ultimately, in this paper I consider how working with fiction – and its sometimes overdetermined representations – can inform a critical practice that moves beyond this impasse. I will argue that the excessive elements of fictional representations “allows them to carry contradictory meanings”. In the words of cultural critic John Fiske, “there is a straight meaning which is borne by the face value of the words and fits the dominant ideology, and there is an excess of meaning left over once the dominant meaning has been made that it Is available for viewers to use to undercut the straight meaning” (Television Culture). By bringing “queerness” to bear on representations of female perpetrators, I seek to draw out the contradictions inherent in these texts and their ideas about the relationship between gender, sexuality, and violence.


Women and the Use of Torture
Helen Gavin
University of Huddersfield

Theresa Porter
Connecticut Valley Hospital

The use of torture in war and espionage has a long history, with documentation from the earliest civilizations. Torture can be used because some agency, with a certain amount of power, enjoys inflicting pain and fear on those without power. It can be used to punish, and it can be used to intimidate an already brutalised populace. However, as a means to gaining information, torture has been viewed as a useful weapon to use alongside more conventional, or humane means of espionage or extortion, despite its demonstrable psychological and physical shortcomings.
Research on torture has centred on the results on the victims, the physical problems and psychological maladjustment ensuing from violent maltreatment. The torturer, on the other hand, seems to be absent in the literature, attention moving little beyond when Milgram showed how easily ordinary people could transform into those who would administer pain in the name of the state. One thing that is agreed is that the overwhelming majority of torturers are male, as if the prerogative of gender bestows an understanding on how to use pain meaningfully. As such, women like the following should not exist.

• Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, convicted of ordering the use of torture and rape during the Rwandan Genocide
• Gina Haspel, US CIA chief who supervised torture of political prisoners
• Irma Grese, warden of Nazi concentration camps whose war crimes including torture
• Madame Max Adolphe, who tortured Haitian political prisoners for François Duvalier
• Neang Kin, confessed torturer for the Khmer Rouge
• American military personnel Lynndie England, Sabrina Harman and Selena Salcedo, who committed sexualized torture against military prisoners at Abu Ghraib
• Indira Vrbanjac Kameric, indicted for torturing prisoners during the Bosnian war

Such women are viewed with a horror that is distinct from that with which their male counterparts are considered. They have stepped not only from the boundaries of human interaction, but are outside the feminine, caring and nurturing that the female body and mind with which it is supposed to be concerned. If male torturers are viewed with fear and loathing, but are assumed to be “following orders”, then how do we see the female torturer? Is she in our gaze, truly, completely evil? This paper will consider some of the female torturers that the media and research literature has identified, and consider this very question.

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