NONFICTION

Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology

Beacon. Mar. 2021. 224p. ISBN 9780807054932. $25.95. SOC SCI
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Journalist Zimmerman’s (Basic Witches) collection of powerful essays examines misogyny through the framework of Greek mythology, pinpointing how such stories were coded to reinforce patriarchal fears. In monsters like Lamia, Chimera, and Scylla, Zimmerman identifies the personification of traits that are threatening to men and male power. Ambition and desire—for food, sex, attention, or respect—are depicted in the voracious, man-devouring appetites of Charybdis or the Harpies’ thievery. Women’s bodies that do not conform to male standards of beauty are represented in the cursed gorgon Medusa. Zimmerman shows how the embodiment of these characteristics in mythic figures has allowed the patriarchy to sustain an equivalency between women’s empowerment and that which is monstrous, dangerous, or unnatural. Worse yet, Zimmerman shows, women have subconsciously internalized these parallels and continue to alter their behavior to conform to standards acceptable to men.
VERDICT While the personal experiences Zimmerman draws on are by no means universal, there is plenty here for any woman to relate to. Her wit and eloquence, as well as her understanding of these myths, make for persuasive and empowering reading that will have women embracing their inner monsters.
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