I had a housemate, once, with a mean cat. At the start of every summer, she’d have her cat shaved so he wouldn’t overheat. I always had to watch out for Rocky, her cat. He had a habit of leaping up to bite my legs. He also used to torment my cat, growling and swatting with his claws. My cat was large, fat, gentle and shy. He was no match for Rocky, except at the start of summer. When Rocky was shaved, he looked like a feline poodle. He was clearly conscious of his suddenly scrawny appearance and slunk around close to the floor when he wasn’t hiding. Once his fur grew back, he returned to unabashed stalking and leaping and biting and swiping with his claws. I’m guessing the summer shame was forgotten, and that’s how humans differ. I don’t know about apes—our close relatives can remember prior relationships, so maybe they, too, ruminate and obsess and privately blush over past embarrassments and shames. Maybe we need to be more like Rocky, and when the fur grows back, boldly leap and swipe and forget the shame of our temporary nakedness.
Many years ago, I decided to write a story that deliberately incorporated archetypes. It was called, “Woman Menstruating on the Moon,” and it was my first story to be accepted into a literary magazine…in fact, to my shock, it was accepted at two. The experiment worked, and here I am many years later, thinking about the power of archetypes and symbols.
The ancient world built its calendar around the moon–the Romans, the Chinese, and the Hebrews all had lunar calendars. But these were given up in favour of the more work friendly solar calendar, connected with harvest rather than the moon, as devised by Julius Caesar, emperor of Ancient Rome. (No coincidence, it seems to me, that Luna was relinquished by the empire that revered the male soldier.)
In many cultures, the moon has an association with female energy, and so I chose it to symbolize my character’s fertility. As a woman in an abusive marriage, she couldn’t express herself directly, not without damage, physically and emotionally. Her PMS (which, interestingly, the male editor of the magazine took literally) gave voice to the pain and anger she couldn’t. Her situation worsened until her rage expressed itself in the only way it could, taking control of her fertility and destroying it by demanding a hysterectomy to “cure” her PMS. The barrenness of the moon represented her pyrrhic victory as she dreamed of being on the moon, menstruating onto the sterile rock.
In many cultures, the full moon is associated with “lunacy” and danger, like in the myth of the werewolf who takes his rabid form at the full moon. I can’t help but think that this is related to the way that women’s power has been seen as dangerous, and the ways that women’s authority and agency are suppressed directly by law or domestic violence, or indirectly by attitudes about women’s voices (studies show that women who talk as much as men are perceived to be dominating the conversation), about appearance (that how an anchorwoman is dressed matters, but not an anchorman), and through visibility (next time you’re watching TV, check how often experts are women; not to mention the notorious stats on book reviews and reviewers).
So as I think about the full moon just past, I realize that we need that lunar power, even a touch of lunacy, in our work as writers and in our lives as feminists, male and female, still working toward full equality.
This fine fellow is the creation of H. What a good way to spend Saturday morning.