The Missing Were-Women

Bare-chested werewolf under a full moonI was perusing the t-shirt offerings over at The Mountain awhile back when I ran across an image that made me pause. It was an image of a werewolf in a typical pose, at the moment of turning. The creature's head was that of a wolf, while the body remained a man's body--though a hairy one. The creature's shirt was in tatters, a sign that the animal self was ascendent.

I wanted a shirt with that image on it, but I wanted the creature to be female. And I realized I'd never seen a female werewolf posed like that, so I did the obvious thing: an image search. The results didn't provide me with exactly what I wanted. The images I found tended to look too much like a woman or too much like a wolf. I was looking for the hybrid state.

While I was clicking around the web, I ran across an article on female werewolves on the website Jezebel. The article mentions an issue I'd considered myself: why weren't there any female Lycans in the Underworld movies? Apparently the female star of the Underworld series, Kate Beckinsale, had answered this question during an interview with MTV.

"Because that could be really horrifying," Beckinsale explained. "Hairy, thuggish women." Well, yes, that's exactly the point. That's why I want to see them.

The Jezebel article also turned me on to Elizabeth M. Clark's college thesis, Hairy, Thuggish Women: Female Werewolves, Gender, and the Hoped-for Monster, a large part of which I read online. Clark analyses monster films with female werewolves, which she calls examples of "the masculine-female-grotesque."

The thesis contains many photos from the films discussed, along with Clark's analysis of those physical aspects of the female werewolf shown on screen. For the most part, the films avoid showing "hairy, thuggish women" either through their shot choices or by showing only creatures that have been fully transformed into wolves. The exceptions Clark notes are worth reading about, though.

A bare-breasted woman and a wolfWerewolves came to mind again recently while I was reading Wayne Koestenbaum's new book, Humiliation. The book has received mixed reviews but I bought it on the stength of an endorsement from John Waters, which goes a long way in my book. I just started reading it but based on how frequently Liza Minnelli's name has come up in the first chapter I'm prepared to say I like the book.

Koestenbaum writes, "Humiliation--as experience--resembles a fold.[...] The self-abased soul undergoes an inner contortion.[...] Through the action of folding, the outer and inner realms change places.[...] This fold (the self become a seam) is the structure of revulsion."

This description of humiliation as a fold, a contortion, a pulling of the inside outside, made me think of the werewolf's transformation. What Koestenbaum calls "the self become a seam" is that hybrid state where human turns into wolf. This scene of humiliation is also the scene of horror and revulsion we know from so many movies.

In some recent werewolf stories, lycanthropy is equated with disgrace or humilation. In the Harry Potter series for instance, Professor Lupin, a werewolf, feels shame regarding his condition. And in the Underworld series, the Vampires keep the Lycans enslaved for centuries.

How interesting that women, the sex so intimately connected with the state of humiliation, should be held back from being seen as lycanthropes. It would be, I suppose, "really horrifying," to use Beckinsale's words, to see this most debased creature.