Rise Authentic Woman!
A Manifesto for a new female mythology
Scroll down to read more about my favourite R.A.Women and R.A.W. creators...
Mythology is the vital lifeblood of any culture.
It informs and shapes the way we understand our world and the people who live within it.
Myths aren’t falsehoods, they’re stories.
The stories we read, the stories we hear, the stories we tell others.
Myths aren’t about facts, they’re how we feel about facts.
Myths reflect our dreams, our fears, our hopes, our morals and our beliefs.
Myths show us ourselves.
When we think of myths, we tend to think of tales that were created a long time ago, in very different cultures to our own: Norse myths, ancient Greek myths, fairy tales and biblical narratives. But these myths continue to be recreated and perpetuated every day in our advertising, our media and our children’s books.
The pure good girl who loves animals. The wicked stepmother who’s threatened by youthful beauty. The beautiful princess who’s just waiting for a handsome rich prince to sweep her off her small neat feet. The nag, the angel, the crone, the distracted mother. The greedy devious temptress. The whore with the big heart. The female friends who only ever talk about their boyfriends.
The bossy smart girl who gets on everyone’s nerves. The shallow good-time bitch. The witch. The woman who just doesn’t know her place. And above all, the white, the heterosexual and the able-bodied.
Maybe these days, they’re a little sassier, it’s true. A few smart come-backs and it looks like they’re standing on their own two feet. Thank you for that, Spice Girls.
But come the high hour, however many degrees they have in astrophysics, whatever the colour of their karate belt, no matter how sensible their shoes, regardless of how many animal friends they have, your average mythological woman will still keel over at the slightest gust of baddie breath and will need rescuing from whatever it is that they need rescuing from - whether it be death, spinsterhood, poverty or malicious gossip...
... unless they’re a bona fide villain, of course, then they’ll keep lurching back to life like no one’s business, however many times you stab them.
This is our female mythology. Recycled, rebranded, retold. Unchanged.
But we live in interesting times – the old paradigms are shifting. Revolution is in the air. More and more writers, artists, filmmakers and thinkers are reclaiming the old female archetypes for themselves and transforming them into characters whose stories we recognise as more truthful and reflective of our own.
Instead of being uncomfortable tight moulds that women struggle to squeeze into, these new female characters are far more open, diverse and complex. Authentic.
They can be playful and sincere at the same time. Tormented and compassionate. Masculine and feminine. Dirty and beautiful. Experimental and studious. Aggressive and kind. Heroine and anti-heroine. Trickster and saviour.
The female capacity to be multi-dimensional is not evidence of our fickle insincere shallowness, as has often been painted.
The fact that we are changeable is not evidence of our untrustworthiness.
The fact that we have a richness of thoughts, feelings and behaviours is not evidence that we are unsteady and unreliable temptresses.
It is evidence of nothing more than the fact that we are human.
Humans with a wide variety of human relationships. We are not the same person with our children as we are with our partners; or our parents as we are with our friends; or our employees as we are with our neighbours; or our audiences as we are with ourselves. We are not the same people now as we were ten years ago.
And yet simplicity and a very narrow set of behaviours and interests is what has come to define the mythology of the female. Women’s interests have become, not only separate from male interests, but niche and specialised as if, instead of half the human population, we form a very exclusive tiny minority.
Well, stuff that.
Let’s not have role models here, only rich abundance, awkward messiness and multi-dimensional variety. Humans. With the odd goddess and demon.
Let’s ditch the female characters who know their place and do their best to stay in it.
Instead, let’s have female characters who haven’t yet worked out where they want their place to be.
Let’s have female characters who might know where their place is but can’t for the life of them contain themselves in that place.
Let’s have females who are cursed for daring and choosing to step out of place.
The things that haven’t been said, the qualities that haven’t been shown, the behaviours that have been denied – these are the things we want to hear new stories about.
Because it’s time to reclaim ownership of our vast and rich female mythology.
Witches, demons, monstresses, goddesses, queens, blacksmiths, servants, rebels, superheroes, warriors, politicians, students, musicians, artists, philosophers, aerialistes, barmaids, firefighters, judges, scientists, engineers, writers, cowgirls, astronauts, builders, revolutionaries, doctors, journalists, secret agents, teachers, healers, librarians, pilots, waitresses, explorers, cleaners, film-makers, illustrators, taxi-drivers, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, friends, antagonists ...
And not one fucking princess in sight.
THIS REVOLUTIONARY NOVEL WILL KEEP YOU ENTERTAINED
Embark on a wild, blues-soaked road trip that takes you into a twilight world of disgruntled angels, charming tricksters, desperate lovers, predatory mermaids and friendly goats...
A disgraced goddess, scorned by the gods and condemned by an ancient curse to wander the earth in human form
But Atë is nobody’s victim.
Proud, intrepid and untameable, she is determined to enjoy all the sensual pleasures this world, even if they do come with a price.
She isn’t known as the goddess of infatuation and recklessness for nothing.
And yet, an eternity of exile does eventually take its toll.
Haunted by loneliness and a secret guilt for her doomed lovers, Atë’s tricky existence of anonymous drifting is disrupted when she finds herself mysteriously drawn to Hako and Sue, a talented if shambolic musician couple.
When Sue reveals herself to be an angst-ridden demon with an ancient grudge against her, Atë realises the key to freeing herself from her curse might finally be within her grasp.
Even if it must first mean taking a journey into the grey lands of the Underworld in order to rescue Sue’s soul.
I am full of envy for those of you who have yet to encounter Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter or its irrepressible freak-show heroine, Sophie Fevvers, a cockney aerialiste with legendary real wings. Earthy, prickly and tender-hearted with soiled stockings and a huge appetite, there's no trace of the pure angel here.
KAMALA KHAN -
The Muslim American schoolgirl trying to work her way through an identity crisis, finds her concerns are complicated somewhat when she suddenly acquires superhero shape-shifting powers. Wilson's approach manages to be both light and nuanced at the same time and Kamala is a heroine you root for precisely because her concerns are so awkwardly human.
Polly Jean Harvey
For over twenty years, PJ Harvey has been fearlessly experimenting with personas and stories that explore the dark side of the female psyche. And she refuses to hold your hand too. So, woman up, and step on in for a simultaneously scary yet empowering experience.
A violent and magical fairy tale for our times, the teenage Maika is a compelling heroine, tormented by the mysterious monster living within her while struggling to find answers about who she is. Set in an alternate matriarchal world, the story has rich beautiful artwork and a sense of urgent horror that creeps under your skin.
A blues guitarist and songwriter who could easily hold her own with any male peer, she embodies perfectly the idea of a woman who chose to live life fully on her own terms, including her habit of spitting tobacco while wearing a chiffon ball-gown. Perhaps this is why she's not as famous as she should be. Perhaps this is exactly why it's time for that to change.
Marjane Satrapi's account of her youth growing up in the shadow of the Islamic revolution in Iran is good enough to sit next to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Opinionated, intelligent, and fearless, she frequently gets into trouble for speaking her mind and stepping out of place. For her own safety, her parents send her to Germany where, messy mistakes and triumphs alike, she continues to trail-blaze her way. Brilliant. Truly utterly brilliant.
I’m not altogether sure how authentic Maude is, but she’s going up here because she’s an 80 year old woman who’s given the space and freedom to be sensual and sexy. Ruth Chapman's free-spirit embraces life with whole-hearted vitality and a sense of joy, and she doesn’t once let her wrinkles, painful past or parking rules get in the way of an adventure. What would Maude do? That’s my new badge.
Frank and hilarious, Moran is every woman’s favourite feminist iconoclast, cheerfully smashing up all our female taboos. She’s like a British Kurt Vonnegut, but with a wandering mooncup. Disarmingly self-deprecating with a refreshing lack of pretension, Moran is happy to put the finger up at conformity and dullness while championing the importance of community and being kind. Her sensitivity to the painful awkwardnessess in people, along with her celebration of the quirks, just makes you feel that much braver.
So it’s thanks to her, that there’s now a female masturbation episode in Cursed Love Blues.
A harrowing story of female friendship as two young girls negotiate their vulnerable way through the seedy brutal hell of an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania. Anamaria Marinca’s performance as the friend who selflessly steps up for the stricken pregnant girl is outstanding. The scene where she leaves her friend to the nightmare of the abortion and pulls it together in order to attend the absurdity of a civilised tea party with her boyfriend’s family is testimony to the strength of the female spirit rarely seen in film.
When it comes to enlivening and reinvesting mythical female archetypes with vim, vigour and freshness, Gaiman is one of our most important story-tellers. With nary so much a sniff of affectation, he seems to effortlessly create worlds in which his female characters have access to the deepest recesses of the universe’s soul. Japanese female tricksters, restless queens, fallen stars and the matriarchal Hempstock clan.
My husband knows I love him.
Frances McDormand’s performance as the heavily pregnant Police Chief Margie hits a special place in the heart every time I watch this film. Her nuanced performance – sensitive, respectful, no-nonsense, warm and brave – is emphasised by the chaotic, bloody mess made by the greedy idiots around her. Never before, or since, has a character made domestic efficiency so appealing.
One of my favourite magic makers of all time, Hayao Miyazaki takes storytelling to a higher and purer level of enchantment, without ever resorting to gimmicks or cheapness. Time slows down in Miyazaki’s world and every frame is exquisitely crafted. But he’s here in this gallery because of his protagonists - young girls on that awkward cusp of awakening to adulthood, they face their uncertain futures with strength, grace and an infectious energy.