Bloody Summer: The Monstrous Feminine: Unsettling the Patriarchal Gaze in Machado's Short Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Bloody Summer: The Monstrous Feminine: Unsettling the Patriarchal Gaze in Machado's Short Stories
Carmen Maria Machado

In her collection of short stories Bloody Summer, Carmen Maria Machado, mistress of the macabre and subversive, unleashes a torrent of blood and viscera. The monstrous feminine, a concept that subverts the entire basis of the patriarchal gaze and its objectification of women's bodies, is explored powerfully inside this seemingly gory landscape. Machado destroys the illusion of the helpless female victim through her skillfully written stories, telling instead of stories of monstrous women who take back control, reject social norms, and rewrite the story of femininity to suit their own desires.

From feeble doll to hideous inspiration:

The heroes of Machado are not the traditional damsels in distress. In the film "The Husband Stitch," two ladies have a drastic operation that results in a hip bound that turns them into a "two-girl bride." Defying conventional ideas of beauty and femininity, this hideous act of physical connection becomes a powerful metaphor for the intricacies of feminine relationship. These ladies who have been stitched together create a special link despite the fragility that is frequently associated with the female body. Their monstrous appearance serves as a representation of their combined strength and perseverance.

The Grotesque's Allure:

The visceral and the frightening are prevalent in Machado's writing. She uses the grotesque to challenge and undermine the power relations present in the masculine gaze, rather than just using it for shock value. In "Eight Minutes," a woman's body is transformed into a number of disturbing monsters through a succession of gruesome changes. This terrifying transformation is a source of action and power rather than a penalty. The woman reclaims her body as a site of spectacle and resistance against the objectifying gaze, relishing in the shock and disgust she provokes.

Going Beyond the Binary:

Gender roles that are binary are transcended by Machado's monstrous feminine. In "The Angel of Forgetfulness," a shadowy force bestows memory erasure upon the protagonists. This act of forgetting, which is sometimes connected to female passivity, can be a tool for self-improvement and empowerment. The protagonists rebel against the demands placed on them by a patriarchal society by selectively wiping away parts of their pasts, shedding undesired narratives and creating new identities.

Disturbancing the Gaze

The key to Machado's success is her ability to make the reader uncomfortable and make us face the anxiety and uneasiness that come with simply gazing at a woman's body. In her hands, the monstrous feminine takes on new meaning as a weapon against the male gaze, a means of subverting its authority and reclaiming the story of the female experience. We are compelled to face our own prejudices and preconceived conceptions about gender, attractiveness, and the limits of the human body as we are no longer passive spectators but rather active players in the unsettling spectacle.

In summary:

Bloody Summer is a manifesto of the monstrous feminine, not just a collection of horror stories. Machado redefines what it is to be a woman and confronts the patriarchal gaze with her searing prose and unnerving storylines. Her hideous ladies are symbols of turmoil and transformation rather than victims; their hideous forms are a tribute to the strength and resiliency of the feminine. By their disturbing beauty, they make us face our own prejudices and fears and, in the end, give us new eyes that welcome the hideous rather than run from it as a source of strength and freedom.

Additional Thoughts:

Examine particular sections where Machado invokes the monstrous feminine through language and images.
Talk about the connections between Machado's writings and critical examinations of the female body as well as other feminist ideologies.
Examine the reader's involvement in Bloody Summer. In what ways does Machado's disturbing storytelling style force us to face our prejudices?
Take into account the societal setting in which Bloody Summer was written. What fears and worries do we see in modern culture that influence Machado's examination of the monstrous feminine?