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Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: The Psychology of the Monstrous Feminine


This series explores the dark and grotesque side of Western mythology by focusing on its monsters. In particular, it will analyze the origins of female monsters and the influence they had and continue to have on Western culture through the lense of Posthumanism. The aim of the series is to expose the connection between women’s bodies and sexuality and their monsterization, which can present itself in different forms, often corresponding to a woman’s main biological life stages — adolescence, adulthood, and menopause. Understanding how female monsters are created unveils the misogynistic constructs at the base of our patriarchal social structure and allows us to dismantle them. Finally, to reveal the skeletons—and other monsters—in our society’s closet is only the first step, as feminist movements have found new possible uses of female monstrous figures by reclaiming them and using them as symbols for their fight.

The series consists of the following six chapters:

1. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: Monsters on the Threshold of Becoming

2. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: The Psychology of the Monstrous Feminine

3. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: Female Sexuality

4. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: Abjection and the Body as a Liminal Space

5. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: Early Modern Perceptions of the Body

6. Female Bodies and Posthumanism 101: Monsters as Posthuman Feminist Symbols

The Psychology of the Monstrous Feminine

When analyzing the cultural origins and the impact female monsters have had on today’s society, it is also important to explore what might be the psychological reasons why women have been feared. One of the first and most important contributions has been the work of Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, on sexuality and sexual difference. Freud’s theories have since been greatly criticized, especially by feminist academia, however, deconstructing his work could be helpful in shedding light on the underlying mindset of the time that built them in the first place. For this reason, cinema studies professor Barbara Creed chooses Freud as a theoretical starting point when analyzing the issue herself, although she uses his work to show how the notion of female passivity has influenced his interpretation of female sexuality.

Freud and Castration Anxiety

As with every field of knowledge, psychoanalysis has not been immune to misogynistic undertones in the way it was conducted. Especially when tackling the delicate topic of sexuality, female sexuality has often been viewed from a male perspective and in relation to male sexuality, because the grounding theories of the field developed at the beginning of the 20th century were overwhelmingly dictated by male scholars, whose preconceptions about women and female sexuality inevitably influenced their work. For these reasons Freud’s groundbreaking work is still critically analyzed today in order to determine his theories’ reliability and to filter out the sexist preconceptions that involuntarily but inevitably taint his work, especially when it concerns women and female sexuality.