Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (1.09 MB)

The Other Woman: The Monstrous Feminine as feminist praxis

Download (1.09 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 14:11 authored by Katharine Emily Hawkins
The Monstrous Feminine is a liminal and constantly signifying cultural entity: simultaneously a product of and a response to patriarchal fears of the supposed 'Otherness' of women. This thesis examines the role of the Monstrous Feminine as feminist praxis, using case studies of women's performances of 'Otherness' to critique and destabilise boundaries of gendered embodiment. Implicit within this project is an interrogation of the relationship between the Monstrous and contemporary intersectional feminism. The liminality of the Monstrous Feminine refuses distinct and reliable categories of identity, and problematises the stratified hierarchies of power that intersectionality insists upon. Furthermore, the genealogy of the Monstrous Feminine reveals that her deployment has often been a means of perpetuating - rather than resisting - oppressive norms of gender, race and embodiment. As a result, the Monstrous Feminine cannot be made commensurate with intersectionality's push to be 'safe' and accessible to all women. However, this thesis asserts that the value of the Monstrous does not lie in its capacity to replicate the narratives of modern intersectionality. Rather, the role of the Monstrous is to make evident the limits and weaknesses within a given symbolic order; in this instance, her capacity to do so applies both to patriarchal systems as well as to the social and scholarly ubiquity of intersectionality. The purpose of this thesis is to position the Monstrous Feminine as a deliberate praxis of 'Otherness' that speaks back to patriarchal gendered and bodily norms in ways that intersectionality cannot. Through case studies of performance art, modern freak-show performers and extreme body modification, I will demonstrate that a critique of normative gender does not need to be 'right' or 'safe' in order to be valuable. Rather, it is through acts of transgression, jouissance and the liminal muddling of discursive and bodily boundaries that the subversive significance of the Monstrous Feminine emerges.


Table of Contents

Chapter One - Introducing the Monstrous Feminine -- Chapter Two - The value of the monstrous -- Chapter Three - The Monstous Feminine as spectacle : Making a glass of oneself -- Chapter Four - The modern Medusa : Body modification and Gorgoneion -- Chapter Five - One of us? Extraordinary bodies and the freak-show -- Chapter Six - The problem with monsters.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 170-178

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Clare Monagle

Additional Supervisor 1

Leigh Boucher


Copyright Katharine Emily Hawkins 2018 Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (178 pages)

Former Identifiers