How we become the Big, Bad Wolf, and why it’s so terrifying to our menfolk
The last few days fellow Medium writer Yael Wolfe and I have been exchanging comments, and one of hers inspired me to write this piece. (For those of you kind enough to be paying attention, this is how I walk my talk when I say that my readers and other authors are among my primary sources for article ideas; plumb the brilliance that shows up in your comment threads. It’s there).
Yael and I are twenty-three years apart in age, but we are Velcroed at the hip in the agony we both feel about how we’ve been treated by the men in our lives from childhood sexual assault to having to tolerate breadcrumbs. It is costly to want love but to also be an intense woman, and to have the courage to express that intensity.
To possess that power is to be a threat to far too many men. Sexual assault for those of us who express this power is nothing more than domination and destruction in the one way men know best. But we will not be silenced, as women have never been silenced or controlled. We give life, we are life, and we are goddesses all, even as too many of us deny that power, and are terrified by it. The cost of expressing it. It’s high. I can attest.
Yesterday was clearly one of those Muse Moments, when my ego got the hell out of my way and my Muse had her say. It was important enough that I want to share it with some explanation here, with further exploration and elaboration for my sisters.
My sisters are all of us who explore the pain we feel as women, as women of color. Yael and
Elle Beau ❇︎ and Elle Silver and Rebecca Stevens A. and so many of us highlight and comment on the same pieces; we are clearly in alignment in so many areas. Our writing about men and the patriarchy all indicate that we run many of the same paths through the woods together. This article is for them, and for you, as well as those of you with good men, who do not fear what is wild in you. If anything those good men, and thank god for their growing numbers, are drawn to and support that incendiary wildness, for that very thing is what sets them free as well.
This was my comment to Yael:
You already are running howling through the woods. That is how you write, Yael, that is what keeps me reading your stuff, and it’s also how and why you can see when someone else is doing the same. We speak our reality into being, whether it’s by pen or by keyboard or by shrieking it into the night winds. We speak our reality into life. The words we say have heft and warp and power. That is why you get death threats. I am sure my time is coming, but as a much older woman I doubt I’m the same threat. You and Elle Beau and Rebecca Stevens and so many of us, all colors, all genders, rewriting truth, rewriting our experiences, and reframing what it is to be the multicolored, multipowerful, enigmatic female is part of how we do indeed reclaim our woods. We do not see other women as competition. We do not see other women as threats. When we write, we lift. And as the comments on this article prove, the good men are lifted with us.
What does it mean to be a wild woman? It has nothing to do with getting stupid drunk and wandering all over creation. It has nothing to do with wild sex or taking ridiculous risks. It has everything to do with living out loud as we wish, setting strict boundaries around what we will tolerate from men and society at large, carving out the creative life we were born to live without apology.
I am a wilder. Always have been, as are all women, but not all of us respond to the call. I chose to when I left home at sixteen, but rose into my calling when I first returned to adventure travel in the early aughts. That is where I belong: riding, hiking, running, exploring the great wide wild spaces of the world, solo but with guides, and facing down the demons of my inner world. That is not for all of us, it is indeed for me. I am a wilder.
I ride half-wild horses across open plains, climb huge mountains, kayak icy oceans. I take mad chances, pay the price of broken bones and a cracked skull, scrub the great massive soft bellies of tigers until they purr, massage elephants until they sing. I am the wild and the wild is me. This is my calling and my life and what I write about. I owe no man an apology for such a life, and I owe nobody a child because I (had) a uterus. I owe the Earth a good life, a fine life, a life full of stories and risks and losses and failures. I owe the Earth and my Mother a life that explodes and shines and shows the way for anyone who, like me, cowered in the shadows of their soul and felt less than, afraid of their own magnificence.
I owe the world a life on fire.
The luminous writings of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of the seminal book Women Who Run With the Wolves, are perfect here:
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” (author bolded)
Yael and you and I face these doors all the time. Always, every day all day. Some of us hurl the doors wide and leap out into the night, shrieking and celebrating our fine freedom, ready to accept the pain of the loneliness that accompanies us for the rest of our lives.
If you write your truth, if you write your stories, if you dig painfully into your soul for the heartache of assault, abuse or bullying by men and the patriarchy, you are unlocking those doors. If you, as have I, submitted difficult stories about our love lives or lack thereof to Fearless She Wrote, which was designed for this purpose, or the now-defunct PS I Love You, you have been unlocking those doors.
And kindly, with all due and well-deserved respect for those men who are fearless in their evolution alongside is, this article is for my sisters alone. We have for millennia suffered for the crime of being female, still suffer for that crime. For those women whose magnificence is underscored by color, they suffer tenfold more. Which is why we must run with them, sing and howl with them, for as long as one of us is chained and jailed, so are we all chained and jailed.
When you and I have the courage to eschew the trappings of society, the life-snuffing demands that we be a certain size, a certain weight, a certain color, a certain look, that we aspire to a certain beauty that is not us, we run wild.
When you and I celebrate our sisters, ALL our sisters, in all their colors and sizes and languages and hairstyles and great brilliance in every kaleidoscope color and expression known to Humankind, we grow in power and brilliance.
We take our men with us, but only those who have the courage not to attack what they fear, but to embrace it.
When we attack each other, we feed the predators that would murder our entire Kind. White supremacy, racism, religion, sister hate are all the tools of the patriarchy designed to murder, do harm, and control the very thing that makes us women. Wild women. Immensely beautiful and powerful, life-giving, nurturing, eternally and terrifying wild.
The words God fearing woman and obedient are male and religious code for control, kill, and maim their spirits. How dare they.
If your inherent wildness terrifies you, GOOD. It should.
The white-hot spirit of your femaleness should scare the holy living shit out of you. That is your very own magnificence staring you in the face, waiting for you to pick it the fuck up and run with it already.
In 2018, my ex was living as a guest in my house. I had written several caring, loving and very funny stories about what it was like for me to have this messy man in my house and what I was learning from it. I gave him the pieces to read, intending him to see the love and self-deprecating humor that were woven throughout. He only saw criticism, of which there was none.
He summoned up every bit of lava-hot hate and vitriol of which he was capable and almost shouted at me,
“NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR FUCKING STORIES.”
He speaks for every limp-dick asshole who ever felt threatened by a powerful woman. When we write our truth, bad men attack. Weak men try to dominate. Spineless men cannot abide feedback or criticism or questioning.
When Yael and you and I all write our truth, and the stalkers and death-threat offenders rise out of the sewage of fear and self-hate in which they live. When they steal our inventions and music and words and call them their own, when they silence us at the boardroom table and interrupt and talk over us, they are trying to steal what is wild in us. Snatch it right out of us, cage it and control it, OWN it as though such a thing can be owned, like having a panther on a leash.
This is the holy terror of the baby-man who cannot find in himself the strength to run with us, rather than shoot at us from the bushes. They always will aim for the strongest, wildest, and oldest, the she-wolf leader, for she is the inspiration. Kill her, control the pack. Just look at what happens in repressive regimes, which is now the Republican party in the US, where education for women is seen as a threat. Of course it is. An educated woman is one who more likely knows her power.
Estés speaks for me here, and those of you who read my work regularly will hear the similar strains (I am no Estés, please, but I am my own howler):
“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.” (author bolded)
I am willing to be stone stupid. I AM stone stupid. That willingness is precisely what has allowed me to run wild, to not know, to be afraid and revel it in, to be alone and find power in it, to find the fulness of my soul without the company of another but save for the distant howls of the she-wolves like Yael and so many others whose lives mirror mine in their own ways.
If you are female, you are wild, untrammeled creation. You are already frightening, If you fear it, if you hate your body, if you hate what is feminine in you, you have eaten the poisoned bait of the patriarchy.
I cannot speak for you. All I know is what is possible. The older I get the more solo my path, yet the more interconnected I am with my sisters. I feel you, I read you, I hear you. That wildness runs in all of us. It is not wicked. Not at all.
The call of the wild is the call to your true self. When you write your truth, unapologetically, you are one with the stars, the moon, the Universe.
Your words write your true self into Being.
And I will see your silver shape running under the light of the moon, and smile.