Odd women

  • Niamh Baker

Abstract

One of the characteristics of traditional stories is that living happily ever after is always seen, for women, as living happily as a married woman. In these stories the unmarried woman, if ugly, is seen as a witch, if beautiful, as an evil force. Ugly women — witches — live on their own, often in grotesque houses, like the Russian witch Baba Yaga, who lived in a house that had chicken legs and could walk around. Their activities take place at night and are connected with the moon, black cats, toads, spiders. Their unmarried status is linked with their antisocial behaviour, which frequently results in harm to others. Beautiful single women, like the Snow Queen, are attractive but deadly, associated with ice and cold, sexually frigid. The witch in Snow White combines the beautiful and the hideous in one person. Behind these stereotypes lurks the fear and hatred men feel for women uncontrolled by them. The fear is often masked in contempt and ridicule and the suggestion is that these women are evil, either because they have been sexually rejected by men, or because their frigidity impels them to reject masculine love. These stereotypes, often disguised, still haunt male fiction, whereas women writers, some of whom are spinsters themselves, view the matter of singleness quite differently.

Keywords

Heroine Barb Broom Tame Edna 

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Notes and References

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    Barbara Pym is frequently very pointed in her references to the difference not just in the sort of food available to men and women, but also the conditions in which it is eaten and who prepares it. See, for example, Jane and Prudence, especially pp. 44–5 and pp. 55–7, where she also satirises the conflation of masculinity and the consumption of meat.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Niamh Baker 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niamh Baker

There are no affiliations available

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