Her

By Charlote Audley-Coote

The room is filling up with steam as she takes a long shower to get ready. She’s been thinking, thinking, thinking for forty-five minutes now. She lies on her back hugging her knees in the cramped space, and looks up at her scattered thoughts rising above the steam, hanging upon the cobwebs that cling to the cracking white paint. She has to be strong; she has to get ready now. She imagines the water droplets as small souls descending from the sky, as if encasing her with the strength and wisdom of their immorality. She is reminded that her story is not new, that many women have walked it before her. The droplets fall and break onto her back, but the water is not frail. It does not shatter into a million broken pieces but melds and moulds and evaporates. It changes form but it is always connected, it always reassembles. She is reminded that like her life, like the life of women before her, the essence of water survives. She gets out of the shower thinking and breathing softly through the vapour and folding herself into the person she has to be.

She walks back to her apartment in the early morning, slowly shuffling on the footpath and breaking the early morning silence. She thinks of the confines of her life, in the same way that the laws of physics hold her body to this earth. She cannot touch it or see it, but gravity demands that her feet only go so far before being pulled back onto the footpath.  As she stretches her arms towards the sky and arches her back though, she thinks about how the rays of sun which kiss her forehead have travelled through a galaxy to meet her. That, the warmth on her face is evidence of a world different to her own, of her capacity to know more than what this one tells her. She would like to think that those small fragments of sun where little messages from a secret and untouched place, embracing her with sweet words to sooth her sore and tired muscles as she struggles on. As she walks up the steps and opens the creaking door to her apartment, she changes form again, forever embodying all the counters and crevices that she needs to. Keeping the courage and conviction of the elements close by, she is ready for another day.

The Price of Existence

This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Wom*news: Myths.

Even existing on the most basic level has a price tag. The bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. You need to pay for a roof over your head, food to eat, electricity, water, healthcare; all of those things we took for granted as kids, assumed that they were just a given. You pay through the nose to keep on living. It seems that the poorer you get, the more you pay to keep on living. We all know this, and accept it as the status quo – that living, existing on the most human level comes with a price. After all, that’s why you have a job.  Continue reading

Spoiler Alert! Catwoman, feminism and the alleged exploitation of ‘female’ traits

by Madeline Price

*SPOILER ALERT – DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES*

The Dark Knight Rises, in terms of the movie itself, was just as good – perhaps better – than I expected. The twists, the turns, the very, very, VERY loud action, the crazy-wheels-going-the-wrong-way motorcycle, the female leads – absolutely mind blowingly good. Wait, wait, wait, hold up there – female leads?

Catwoman (the versatile Anne Hathaway) is mostly what I’m talking about here. When I first heard that she was going to portray Catwoman, I was a bit sceptical. As an actress, she

Image: projectfree-tv.net

seemed too dainty, too feminine (traits that are to be admired, not seen as an hindrance) to play the jewel-thieving cat burglar. I was more than happy, however, to be proven wrong.

However, there were two things that really annoyed me about her character and how she was portrayed; her relationship with Bruce Wayne/Batman and her exploitation of alleged ‘female’ traits. Up until the last half hour of the movie, I was so elated, so proud, to see Catwoman as a female lead character who was notin the movie as any romantic interest for the main male lead. And then Melinda Bates (Bruce’s romantic attachment for the film) turned out to be a baddy (mind blowing twist by the way!) and Catwoman was back on the table. That disappointed me a little – she was a much stronger lead when she wasn’t attached to Christian Bale’s/Batman’s/Bruce Wayne’s face (in a lip-lock fashion, not in a surgically attached fashion).

Now don’t get me wrong, she didn’t exactly become a submissive housewife when becoming the romantic attachment, but she did become the ‘Why didn’t you leave when you had the chance?’ overly emotive romantic interest type – worried for the hero’s life as opposed to the lives of 12 million of Gotham City’s residents. Ah well, what can you do?

The second thing that disappointed me a little was her exploitation of supposed ‘female’ traits – hysterical screaming/crying in gunfights, seductive swanning around, and so forth. Granted, these traits were used to perform some crazy badass-ery, but still – it was massive exploitation of female stereotypes, stereotypes that should have died a long time ago (for more female stereotypes, I recommend the wonderful Leslie Knope. Now, granted, she probably wouldn’t have been as good at getting away with things as she was if she didn’t use these stereotypes to fool people into thinking she was, for lack of a better word, just an ordinary woman, but by having these traits she did portray one MAJOR female stereotype: manipulation. All too often you hear the phrase ‘manipulative woman’, and I honestly think this was the worst alleged trait that Catwoman could have portrayed, but, as said before, these manipulative tactics allowed her to get away with thieving, killing and tomfoolery. Worth it in the long run? Well, I don’t really know.

And that brings me to Melinda Bates, the other female lead. The twist that she was actually the one trying to destroy Gotham City under the disguise of a wealthy, educated, yet self-made woman (and Wayne’s love interest), was, I admit it, pretty mind blowing stuff there. But, you will notice that, when there is a female villain, she is never mediocre. You never get a female villain who is only ‘a little bad’ – they always go the entire ten yards, think Cruella De Ville (she killed puppies, while her male henchmen brought them to her), the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (brutally beheading how many civilians?), Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (ok, not exactly killing her interns or anything, but pretty damn brutal) and Phoenix in X-Men: the Last Stand (truly psychotic). Compare to the male villains of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (ok, I admit it, absolutely terrifying, but in the movie you didn’t see him kill that many people), Jafar from Aladdin (I don’t think he actually killed anyone at all!) and even compare the Batman Begins associate villain Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka Scarecrow) – he is nothing compared to Melinda Bates, he tried to cause Gotham to tear itself apart, while Bates tried to nuke it! There is no comparison in relation to the latter – she is definitely more evil. That’s just my note on female villains – they are never half-evil, and, in the case of Bates, she also exemplifies the manipulative attitudes of Catwoman.

But, other than all that, it was definitely the best movie of the trilogy and I honestly can’t wait until they start the Batman and Robin saga!

~ Madeline Price
You can find this piece, along with Madeline’s other kick-ass feminist musings, at her blog thefeministagenda.

She Was Born

by Sarah Davis
You can find this poem in the current herstory issue of wom*news!

She was born from earth,
amongst the reeds and rushes.
The stifled cries of her beginning
and the perplexity of her worth.
She is made from mud and sticks,
and leaves, and the wind that pushes
its way around the being’s new birth
and sighs and speaks of what is to come.

She was born from fire,
the deep essence of her soul.
The painfulness of her identity burns
in the discovery of an unknown desire.
Yet the wind stirs up the flames,
and throws embers into the night,
and reignites all that will transpire,
for the tears she sheds are her undoing.

She was born from stone,
as the same wind that carries on,
and shares tales of what she is
and isn’t, and how little she has grown
in the eyes of the mighty,
in the eyes of the weak,
and in the eyes of her own,
as even stone can break to the ground.

She was born from air,
for a moment she is one with the wind,
flying blindly amongst sky,
a stormy cloud, a sheet of rain, swept elsewhere.
For a time she exists, anywhere.
For a time there is silence,
in that moment she is bare,
and there is completeness after all.

She returns to earth, she is dust,
all that she is, all that she was, she is no longer.
But she is more than mud and sticks and leaves,
She is less than wind, her being is the purest
She grows into the ground as resonant as stone,
Burning as hot as fire, as light as the air
She is the mother, her daughter, your child who is solaced
She is the creator, a creation, a flower – a woman.

~ Sarah Davis