09 Mar Reclaiming Wild Womanhood
“Who do you think you look like most?”
A precocious young and wide-eyed eight-year-old responds after a second, pondering before she answers. “I think I look like myself.”
I don’t know if I’m the only one but in general, childhood memories often elude me until they’re relevant again. However, there’s one memory that came to mind when thinking about what to write. I remember it as vivid as day, being around 7 and going back to school shopping with my mum. As any child would be, I was visibly excited to pick out a new backpack and make a statement for the new term. However, instead of going for one of the infamous pink Barbie bags popular at the time (shout out my 90s babies) I instinctively went for the pop-art styled red and blue Spider-Man bag. I get it in 2020, this probably doesn’t seem like the impetus of a young black feminist, rather a simple nod to my preference for primary colours, but in many ways, this moment set the precedent for my journey into womanhood. Reflecting on this moment now I think of how if, I’d be born in different circumstances, or with more traditional parents, this small act may have been frowned upon because of my gender.
A few months ago, whilst I was researching for my thesis, my supervisor recommended reading Women Who Run with Wolves, a book by author and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The book is a feminist analysis of myths and folklore surrounding the mythology of the ‘wild woman’. Although somewhat outdated, I resonated with the author’s words that rainy afternoon on the TTC.
Pinkola notes “The things that women reclaim are often their own voice, their own values, their imagination, their clairvoyance, their stories, their ancient memories.” Hearing those words highlighted one of the realities of being a woman, in a world where we are too often told to sacrifice our voices, remain silent and compete with one another whilst still toeing the line of acceptability…the ultimate revolution sometimes is not only accepting oneself but freeing yourself.
But what does the term ‘wild woman’ mean to me? And why does the term have a historically negative connotation? Both men and women constantly have to confront societal expectations and accepted behaviours. Women (and female-identifying people) are continually taught that politeness, modesty and ‘niceness’ are the standards to aspire to. I would argue we’re overdue on reclaiming this term! Personally, being a wild woman means accepting the journey of unlearning, subverting and reimagining femininity in all its wonder and nuance.
Talking with my best friend, we both reflected on how much we’ve changed in our four years here. From two naive and optimistic first years to two sex-positive, thesis stressed, but thriving, fourth years. I often joke that coming to Queens’ has made me more of a revolutionary. Although half true, revolutions usually start from within.
So, all this to what end you may ask? The answer is simple when we are told we aren’t enough or are a too much remind yourself of this: you are the sum and wildest dreams of our foremothers, sisters and grandmothers. In every word we write, every day we wake up and keep pushing, we honour their legacy whilst writing our own. Our existence is living proof that we wild women are here to stay, and we’re only just getting started.