Yesterday, three men slowed down in their white van to yell 'Beaver Retriever' at me. Took me a moment to work out what they meant – and then I felt that sting of shame. Being straight, fair-skinned, blue-eyed (a bit Jewish but that doesn't show), I don't get much abuse and it's never homophobic. Part of me wanted to run after them, to tell them that my hair is short because it's growing back after chemo, I wanted to shame them for humiliating a cancer 'victim,' to let them know there was an 'innocent' explanation for my displeasing appearence, I wanted them to know that IT WASN'T MY FAULT! Then it occurred to me that that using cancer to excuse my androgynous look, my straightness as proof I don't deserve abuse was hardly going to put the F*****s on the road to enlightenment. Also that, considering my response, I’m not so enlightened either! Ironically, when causing displeasure to the white-vanned men, I was out posting congratulations to the director and cast of Fusion Theatre Co for their production 'Medusa' (currently at Pleasance, London).This young company make some beautiful observations on our icon of feminine monstrosity. In the show’s conclusion, Medusa, snakes newly sprouted from her scalp, turns to the audience to say ‘It doesn’t get any easier, but you get used to how difficult it is.’ before helping Perseus to behead her. I wonder if Medusa's facilitation of her own death is echoed in my reflex desire to tell men I do not, nor ever will know, to stop blaming me for being what I should not be, IN THEIR EYES?
DRESSED TO KILL ink on paper, 2019
Medusa and her sisters are definitely in the zeitgeist. Dr Liz Gloyn has been tracking classical monsters in popular culture. Here she is discussing the Medusa on Woman’s Hour.