No,"Feminist" and "Ghosts" Aren't Words We Ever Thought We'd Use in the Same Sentence

They very well might be. Or they might just be a good excuse for us to tell creepy ghost stories and dissect the images of women in horror films. FUN.
Publish date:
September 15, 2013
ghosts, horror movies, feminist ghosts, feminists, ghost stories

The eternally incredible Bitch magazine has a cool story up right now about the feminist power of female ghosts, and hot damn, is it making me want to unplug my computer, toss it jauntily across the living room for good measure, hunker under a blanket on my sofa (hey, it's cold in San Francisco), and binge-watch an escalating gore parade of each and every high-quality horror movie ever made. EVER.

As a longtime scary-movie aficionado, there's very little I relish more than seeing a pasty dead woman crawl out of something, or walk backwards on her hands with her limbs poking out all creepy every-which-way, or twist her neck ALL THE WAY AROUND so her head faces backward (or whatever the sh*t Linda Blair does in "The Exorcist" -- you know what I'm talking about).Writer Andi Zeisler notes that some of the predatory female ghosts in Asian horror movies like "The Ring," "Shutter," and "The Grudge" (as well as their American remakes) are the freak-ass "manifestations of women who were scorned, abused, wronged, or otherwise have serious beef with the living people who were part of their death." And not only do these creepy undead ladies tend to look sort-of the same (with long, dark hair; long, white dresses; and weird, spazzy movements), Zeisler writes that they're actually "sympathetic characters." I don't totally jibe with that assessment, though it's true that, when they were alive, most of these characters were wronged or victimized in some way -- so terrorizing the living is the angry ghosts' desperate attempt to win justice and make things right. Another thing that makes these creatures intensely frightening, and arguably feministy, is how they're positively rabid with rage -- an emotional state we breathing women are sternly discouraged from expressing (or feeling at all). Finally free of society's restrictive social expectations of how women should be, feel, and behave, these fierce ghosts can act every bit as vicious, violent and vengeful as they wanna be. (And as their captive female audience, we get to live triumphantly through them -- which could be part of the reason so many women love scary movies! Maybe because it's one of the only venues in which women are "allowed" to act out their long-simmering fury instead of desperately trying to shove that sh*t down and keep it tucked cleanly out of sight. "WHAAA? WHO, ME? NO ANGER HERE, OFFICER, NO ANGER AT ALL.")

These lady-ghosts don't always come from the movies, of course -- the scary-as-sh*t childhood legend of "Bloody Mary" combines religion, history, and folklore, and serves as a morality tale for girls (because we wouldn't want those bratty little buggers to become too vain or self-obsessed, now would we?). As Zeisler explains, "Some believe Bloody Mary to be the spirit of a woman so fixated on recapturing her own youth that she killed the young girls of her village and drank their blood to regain her past beauty."

There are other folkloric female ghost stories, too, like Korea's ones about bitter undead singletons who angrily haunt their families when they've died before having the chance to marry or procreate; or Chinese stories "involving female ghosts who can be resurrected by having sex with a living man;" and, of course, the good old American yarns about female spirits being all gross, greedy and narcissistic, like that bitchy fearmonger Bathsheba from "The Conjuring."Tell us some of your favorite female ghost characters. Or just tell us your favorite ghost stories. OR discuss your favorite scary movies. Anything that even remotely has to do with ghosts is swell by me, kids.

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