Friday, May 18, 2012

The Problem With Female Werewolves

Of all the creatures in Urban Fantasy, it seems that werewolves more than any other are intrinsically masculine. Female monsters are often much rarer  - and often problematic at that - but female werewolves in particular seem to be an extra rarity.

In many ways a werewolf is the utter opposite of how we view womanhood, especially white womanhood. In many European traditions (and, we have to remember, the shapeshifter tradition is a broad one) the werewolf is an uncontrolled, hairy, animalistic creature. Something utterly unrestrained, something that is unleashed, something aggressive and violent. In short - everything a woman “should not be”. A woman should be restrained, delicate, gentle, always in control and most certainly not hairy! This unrestrained, unrefined, uncontrolled aggressiveness (and hairiness) is the very antithesis of pedestal womanhood.

When we do see female werewolves they usually have difficulties above and beyond what is experienced by other werewolves. They have extra angst, or extra problems or some other issue dealing with their werewolfdom.

Unfortunately the few times we do see female werewolves they are clearly less rational than their male counterparts. It is only when the text in question has only a male werewolf that the werewolf is allowed to become unglued, and subject to call of the moon.  The degree to which they are affected by the curse of lycanthropy, is directly related to the position of the moon. In some texts, the waxing gibbous is enough to cause significant change to their behavior pattern.  Oddly enough, regardless of the position of the moon, the female werewolf is generally effected by the curse. Her reason for a loss of control, has nothing to do with the moon, which I found odd because menstruation is often referred to as moon time. 

Debbie Pelt of True Blood, is clearly out of control and when you cast this against her would be boyfriend Alcide, there is a clear difference.  With the exception of the full moon, Alcide is always in control; he is extremely rationale.  Alcide possess all of the qualities needed in a pack leader.  Debbie on the other hand is violent, a drug addict [note: vampire blood; known as V is her drug of choice], jealous, and vindictive.  Many of her problems are at first blamed on her drug addiction; however, at the end of last season, Pelt was sober and once again her jealousy and rage flared.

Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series brings us one of the few female protagonist werewolves out there and certainly another werewolf who struggles extremely with what it means to be a werewolf. Despite being part of the Pack - a lofty status among werewolves - she has extreme trouble integrating with the pack. In fact the whole plot of Bitten revolves around her leaving the the Pack and moving to Toronto -- to try and flee not just them -- but being a werewolf entirely. She seeks a normal, human life regardless of how dangerous or impossible that is. She’s certainly not the only werewolf to leave the Pack - but they have left the pack because of objections to the Pack itself - Pack politics, Pack restrictions, Pack personalities - not being a werewolf. The whole world of the series is set up to make her an oddity because she is the only female werewolf - female werewolves are not supposed to exist, they’re never born and don’t usually survive the bite. And we see that same impossibility of her existence as a werewolf in Broken, where she has constant doubts over whether she can actually have children because she can’t imagine a werewolf being able to be pregnant or carry children. Being a werewolf and being a woman is a constant impossibility that plagues Elena’s life - whether her own doubts and trouble integrating or by making her a bauble or novelty to possess.
 
Read More