Erin

The Reckoning of Dark Femininity

Erin
The Reckoning of Dark Femininity

“Her violent appetites grew beyond my control. I couldn’t stop her, so I imprisoned her. Locked her away.”  

Hela's entrance in Thor: Ragnarok was an unforgettable one, an entrance that completely set the tone for the past, present, and future of her life in this universe. Like the greatest trick a magician has ever pulled she appears out of thin air straight from Hel, surrounded by a portal teeming with electrifyingly evil bubbles of green and black. There's a certain je ne sais quoi about her, the way she stands before two powerful male gods with a smirk on her face like they were just mall cops, and not real police officers. Because let's face it, neither of them are a match for Hela and the best part is that she knows it.

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The story behind Hela’s imprisonment is a sadly familiar one, a woman whose power and ambitious nature outgrew that of a man’s so he had to put her in her place and hinder her progress. Though her history is an unsavory one that includes killing her fellow Asgardians during a fit of rage while feuding with Odin. She's evil and the goddess of death, that I know and expect nothing less from her for that very reason if we're keepin' it a buck. But today I also feel like playing devil’s advocate, which is something I never do because the devil needs no help in being justified or carrying out his tasks. But Hela's character is among many of the female villains (and women in general) who've sought out to destroy and be reckless after being wronged. And as someone who's had and seen my fair share of bullshit at the hands of clownish men, it's something that I can't help but relate to no matter how extreme it may be.

After she successfully got rid of Thor and Loki, there was really only one thing that came to mind as she explained to Skurge the side of Asgard's history that was concealed by Odin: "Well, she has a point." Odin sought out to conquer the Nine Realms with Hela by his side as his executioner that he used as a weapon to get what we wanted. And once that was done and he had a change of heart, he decided that it was best to retire his intergalactic imperialist ways. But Hela, being the greedy and power-hungry woman she is, wanted more. They didn't see eye to eye, so he banished her to Hel after realizing that she was powerful enough to beat his and everyone else's ass. You know when someone gets mad and goes, "I will beat everybody's ass in this room!"? Hela is that girl and she will do it without breaking a sweat. 

After locking her away, Odin spent the rest of his days ruling over Asgard as a pacifist king who frowns over violence, necessary or not. Though Odin was once a power-hungry warmonger like his daughter, no one knows that besides his old ass. He rewrote the history of Asgard and its monarchy in favor of his own image. And worse, he completely left Hela out of it despite her playing a big role in Asgard being the kingdom it is now. It's clear that Odin was ashamed of what he did and was too prideful to admit that, until the day he died. 

 "Proud to have it, ashamed of how he got it."

What drew me to Hela and her story was that it was almost like a parallel to the realities of co-existing with men and having to live by the unspoken rules they've set in society. Men are a severely underdeveloped species with nothing to show for from their millions of years of existing besides a boastful amount of pride and ego that ruins the women they come in contact with. The women help the men, build them up, help them acquire whatever they need physically/emotionally/spiritually/financially. Then when it's all said and done the women are tossed aside, never to be mentioned again as he rises. As he goes on to be great and acquire all that he's desired, there's a broken machine that lies in his trail powered by the women of his past. 

These situations, they often go deeper than just a scorned lover or a woman with a bruised ego because her crush didn't like her back. Women are the backbone of e v e r y t h i n g. You cretins wouldn't even be here without our wombs! To be exploited, whether work-wise, sexually, emotionally, etc. while all the while being deceived and then disposed of is such a heinous act to me and it always will be. Everyone has a little bit of evil in them no matter how hard men try to hide it with their lies and the deceitful masks they wear to help them gain access to our worlds, that evilness reveals itself when they come into contact with women. However for women, our evil ways tend to manifest in ways in which we can control, ways that are considered unladylike and frowned upon in society, so we never let those qualities see the light of day out of fear.

Our evilness reveals itself as the dark feminine. The dark feminine is the caged beast within us that represents everything people shy away from and avoid displaying at all costs, qualities and acts that are considered to be sinful and repulsive. Violence, revenge, lust, rage, ambition, seduction, anger.

I could be generic and quote the infamous excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists where she talked about women's ambition and aspirations in regards to men, but I won't do that because it's clear that men have been threatened by women since the dawn of time, and it leaks out in situations of both overt and subtle violence. Violence of the body, violence of the mind, violence of the soul. Hela's ambition and power was a great asset to Odin and his agenda because it was beneficial for him, yet when he saw how much damage it could do and that he couldn't control it, it became a problem. 

Her imprisonment was a grave mistake—no pun intended—on Odin's part. I believe all women have a dormant side to them where their full potential lies, and more often than not it is only unleashed during the toughest of times. We have to go through hell and back in order to become gods and that's when we make a grand return filled with vengeance and no mercy. Hela embodied the dark side of femininity that's been painted throughout history as something to be feared, something completely demonic that has no place on this earth. The side that harnesses the kind of power that people fear to be on the other side of.

Femininity is something that has been synonymous with things like whiteness, softness, being delicate, etc. and constantly having to perform that dainty brand of femininity is a burden, and it's often a fruitless performance that endangers women more than anything. We present ourselves to the world and in doing so, make sure that we're not seen as too bold, threatening, intimidating, etc. to ensure that we don't scare anyone away but I think that image is what often invites the wrong people. That light and softness attracts hardened and hollow beings like a moth to a flame. They see something innocent that they can take advantage of, something that they can use to benefit themselves. 

Practicing softness and vulnerability is something I've often struggled with and didn't know why, but I came to realize that it's simply because that sort of femininity is not for me. I've tried it and nothing good has come of it, just being used and disrespected to the point where it drove me to become the kind of woman that we've been told to avoid becoming, one that accepts her dark side and befriends it in order to help merge the dark and light within so that they can coexist and transform me into the woman that I was meant to be.

I am not ashamed of being viewed as bitter, angry, etc. because I'm simply a product of my environment and experiences, I won't ever absolve someone else of their actions by blaming myself because I "let" something happen. We all have free will and some choose to be a relentless dick regardless, I can't really help that. 

I was given no choice but to accept and comfortably revel in my dark side because someone the world that we live in has not ever made the effort to make it safe, open, and comfortable for women—especially women like me—to practice such softness and openness. And so, I can’t bring myself to force it or go out of my way to be the kind of woman who effortlessly emits feelings of warmth, inviting you to come and experience her love and greatness free of charge because it’s the right thing to do, to be positive and giving. I really do not like giving my goodness to people when they don’t deserve it, just so I can seem like a good person and have peace of mind knowing that I tried and did everything right. Until this world is safe and has proven that it deserves that side of me, you get what I feel you deserve, and you get what you give me.  

I love my fiery anger, I love my violent tendencies, I love my naturally mean face, I love being seen as a bitch, sardonic, bitter, etc. even though most of the time I truly don't feel that way. The nature in which I discuss certain things can often come off as bitter and hateful, why? Because the truth of this world and the treatment towards women is of a bitter and hateful nature. Period. My nature is a reflection of our world, our personalities and characters as people do not exist in a vacuum. So when people call me bitter I laugh but I also embrace it because you being able to see me means that you see the world around you too. I laugh because many don't realize that but also because it reminds me that I'm simply being me and not performing niceties for anyone else's feelings or comfort. I'm being true to myself, my values, my vision, and most of all my emotions. I shrink and reshape them for no one.

I don't have the luxury of being naive enough to let everyone see the best and worst parts of me for the sake of practicing softness and encouraging others to do so. I don't believe it's necessary for women to be vulnerable, approachable, soft, etc., in fact I encourage the opposite. Having a tough exterior is a great guard to have, it's necessary protection in a cruel world that preys on women, especially the ones seen as weak, fragile, or soft.

Hela's intimidating and dark, yet feminine stature and exterior is one of the things I love most about her. She's not frumpy or overly masculine, yet she's not a complete ice queen either who wouldn't dare step over a puddle without a man placing his jacket on the ground before her. Her femininity remains in tact with her long black hair, smokey eye, slow and elegant walk, and almond-shaped black nails that enwraps the same necroswords she uses to take away life and conquer.

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Aside from being the literal goddess of death, Hela is everything this world fears in a woman. She is cocky and sure of herself, she's recklessly ambitious, she's powerful, she is absolutely fearless, she is violent. Her comfortable relationship with violence and even death is one that I love especially. The hair disappears and the antlers come out to play if she feels threatened or disrespected, and she never hesitates to defend her own honor and vision.

Fighting is seen as a masculine act and not something that women should do which has always been absolute bullshit. You should absolutely know how to fight and defend yourself, regardless of your gender. I would rather be seen as manly, ghetto, etc. by a couple of idiots than to be lying in an alleyway somewhere because somebody mugged me and beat my ass, and I didn't know how to defend myself because everybody said, "tHaT's NoT wHaT lAdIeS dO!". Violence from women is discouraged while violence against women—especially by men—is encouraged with silence, gaslighting, victim-blaming, and complicity by the general population. 

Hela is the most graceful asskicker I've seen since Rebecca Romijn's Mystique in the X-Men franchise. She maintains her grace, beauty, and stature as she stabs men in the heart and throws them across the room, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Peacefulness and nonviolence coming from women—everyone really—is of course ideal. But so long as women are subjected to the violent ways of the patriarchy via assault, abuse, misogyny, sexism, etc. everybody is fair game for gettin' this work. Because I promise you, it's never undeserved.

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The unspoken encouragement of violence and self-defense is why I also love Medusa so much. Some women wore flower crowns and crowns made of gold and jewels, while Medusa's was made of snakes. She had the power to bring anyone who dares to look at her to their death, turning them into stone from a single glance. Her self-defense is incredibly intuitive and she'd rather kill anyone who comes near her than to take that chance of letting them get any closer. She's grown to become an icon of sorts for women like Hela, women that were ultimately victims of violence and ostracization at the hands of the patriarchy and its notorious fashion of sucking the same women that nurture them dry, then turning around and blaming us for the drought and famine.

I like to think of Hela's banishment as an analogy to that very same attempt by men to subdue the more powerful, resistant side of women for thousands of years in order to establish their role of being in control of what we know today as the patriarchy. Women like Hela are what happens when you try to inhibit our innate instincts as women, it boomerangs back around with a force you didn't think existed in this realm. A vicious vengeance. Remember in X-Men: The Last Stand how Professor X suppressed the Phoenix within Jean Grey's mind because it was too powerful, and it came back in full force after she came back to life? Xavier was afraid of how powerful the Phoenix was so he locked it away, assuming Jean didn't have the ability to control it herself. And then she ended up turning him to ash.

The Dark Feminine is my favorite side of femininity and the side that I channel the most. It's the side that channels all of my "negative" yet rightful emotions, that side allows me to actually sit with myself and be at peace with what I've been through and who I am because of it. The Dark Feminine respects and accepts me for all that I am, even the parts that are seen as bad in your eyes. This side doesn't hold anything against me and it pushes me to break those chains and push not only the boundaries of myself, but others as well. 

We aren't allowed to seek revenge no matter what's been done to us, we're supposed to take the high road and be the bigger person. We aren't supposed to have hate or anger in our hearts for anyone or anything because it's unattractive, unladylike, and rots the soul. We're supposed to be selfless and put other people before ourselves, never daring to make ourselves a priority regardless of circumstances. We're supposed to be nonviolent and non-confrontational, passively accepting all that's handed to us in life, good or bad. We're supposed to be sweet and submissive, emphasis on submissive, because that's essentially where the "soft" narrative for femininity comes in. Our ambition shouldn't outrank that of a man's or of what this patriarchal society deems possible or acceptable. 

Hela exceeds every single one of those expectations and flips it on its head, shattering them as she slices and stabs her way to the top on her quest to become queen of Asgard and expand her empire beyond the Nine Realms. It's a refreshing sight to see because it's almost as though I get to live through her and escape from society's oppressive monitoring of women. For those two hours and ten minutes I get to envision myself as Hela, being so determined to execute the vision I have for my future self that I'm fucking up any and everybody who gets in my way, wrecking havoc on to those who deserve it, having a commanding and intimidating presence wherever I go, being rageful and angry yet having fun with it. Who says being dark and angry can't be fun and womanly?