María Hesse rebels against female stereotypes in ‘Bad Women’

The history of the world has been told by men (and in many ways continues to be told), leaving the role of troupe to the woman and even telling her how to behave, almost always like a docile mother or wife. And to the few women who tried to change that story they were cataloged as crazy or witches. the illustrator Maria Hesse (Frida Kahlo, Pleasure), vindicates those women who dared to try to change things in her new book: bad women (Lumen)

“It’s a claim for make us owners of the insults we have received for free -he tells us-. His name is bad women, because it revolves around that concept of what women could and could not do. Like when we get out of that line and that corset that they draw for us and insult us. There are some very common insults, such as crazy, whore… For that reason, for me it is also like a vindication of seize those words and change the meaning too”.

Another of the themes that María wanted to highlight in this book is how that story told by men influences us: “I wanted to make visible how important the power of the story is. How these stories are built and feed the context. Like all that fiction, in the end it conditions us and makes us be in a certain way or feel in a certain way, right?”

Billie Holiday

“When I was little I wanted to be a princess”

The book focuses on how works of fiction have perpetuated these negative stereotypes about women, starting with short stories. “As a very young girl, she wanted to be a princess like Sleeping Beauty:” In all those stories that we consumed when we were little, the protagonists, in quotes, all they did was be beautiful and wait for a prince to rescue them. They were really very inactive characters.”

María takes a tour of the entire history of human culture, highlighting the women who tried to change things and did not let them. “For me it was necessary to take that journey to see how that story that has haunted us for a long time has evolved. And how, despite this evolution, stigmas about women have been perpetuated and, to this day, still continue. Although finally things are beginning to change.

Now that more feminist versions of almost all the classic tales are being made, we asked María what role they think the transmitters of those tales, such as the Brothers Grimm, had. “What they did was transcribe the oral story into books, because those stories passed from parents to children orally. In the context in which they lived, They continued to perpetuate that story that, of course, left us women in a very bad place.”

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In fact, there are things, such as the violence of the original stories, that have been adapted to the new times, but that role of women has not been fully updated until very recently. “Now, finally, they are trying to change that theme and new versions are coming out all the time, a little bit to redeem us from that. Like the movie maleficent”.

María confesses in the book that as a child she suffered bullying. “In the end you believe like a run run that those insults they make you may have some truth. Fortunately, I was lucky because outside of school I found a group of friends who made me feel normal and understand those things that they told me at school. But you always have a small footprint and I think that, for that reason, in adult life you continue to have much higher levels of demand towards yourself”.

‘Bad Women’ pages

Or mothers or witches

Male discourse has also stereotyped women as mothers (with no flaws) or witches (with all of them). “That’s what the book talks about and it’s a duality that continues to exist. Sometimes we are treated like prudes, whores, good or bad mothers… Unfortunately, those stereotypes still exist” -says María-.

We asked María about this historical commitment of men to dominate women and blame her for everything. “It is a system of power. It is much easier to do what you want as long as you have a person who is taking care of you, no. And even in capitalism itself, the foundations are about the oppression towards other people, either because of gender or race. It is much easier to maintain this gear if there is a person who, instead of working outside, on the street, stays at home, taking care of the home and without receiving a penny”.

Britney Spears

Suppress female pleasure

In one of his most popular books, Pleasure, María Hesse reflected on female sexuality and invited us to explore the sensuality of women without hesitation or restrictions. “Women’s sexuality has not only been repressed, but was not even considered. In the end, the only merit he had regarding his sexuality was the ability to breed, which was what he was good for. And the woman who freely lived her sexuality already carried a danger because she did not depend on the man to enjoy that sexuality”.

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Among the many anecdotes in the book, María tells us about the origin of the vibratorinvented by the doctor Joseph Mortimer Granville, in 1870. “At that time it was thought that the problems of melancholy or hysteria in women were related to sexual satisfaction. That’s why their own husbands took them to be masturbated by specialists. And for that they created the vibrators, as I already told in Pleasure”.


“We women have to tell our own stories!

And it is that María has been researching this topic for a long time: “This book is the result of many readings over many years. Not that I have documented myself now. The important thing is that we tell our stories and that they are not silenced or hidden. Because for some time now many women’s voices have been narrating, but in reality they are not given importance. It is not considered relevant or universal. For things to really change, we not only have to be allowed to speak, but we also have to be listened to.”

As for the great women who appear in the book, María assures: “A lot of milestones starring women appear and I think they are all fundamental and things are changing. For that you have to read the book and discover them”.

Among those fictional women who appear in the book, María highlights the heroines of action movies, such as Lieutenant Ripley from Alien or the furious imperator from Mad Max: Fury Road. But also at femme fatales of film noir. “They were characters with enormous magnetism. But before film noir gave them that name, they already existed in the culture, like Lilith, and freely lived their sexuality. Another thing in which we continue with many prejudices, because when a man freely lives his sexuality and is with many women it is seen as something positive, but it is not like that with women. I find it interesting to analyze that perspective. In fact, to cut that, these femme fatales always used to come to a tragic end. Like saying: if you are like them, you are going to end badly and, therefore, this is not the model that you have to follow”

Maria Hesse

“We don’t have to be muses but creators”

In recent years, great television series have managed to change that point of view of the story. series like Girls, I could destroy you… or the Spanish Perfect life, make a very different and interesting portrait of today’s women -says María-. We are trying to conquer land that should have been ours long ago. Not only be muses, but creators of those fictions”.

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He also talks in the book about the evolution of the character of Daenierys, the protagonist of Game of Thrones, which was heavily criticized. “They made her crazy in a very abrupt way,” says María. Then there were many experts who said that she could already see it coming, because of the perverse things she had done. But there were many male characters who also did bad things without going crazy. In the end she returns to perpetuate that stereotype, which is very dangerous, that powerful women are punished with loneliness or madness”.

In this sense, Maria assures that the work of creative women maintains “the heavy surname of the feminine”. “When a man makes a movie or a book, no one tells him it’s a man’s book written for men. Its potential audience is universal. But when the authors are women, the works are already qualified as female books or films directed towards women and not universal. When a woman creates her work, it is not considered universal because she is talking about her own experience, which is what men have been doing since the beginning of time”.

Regarding the most urgent battles for equality, María highlights: “We have a lot left, from equal pay to truly sharing family responsibilities. That we are not hypersexualized, that so many levels of perfection are not demanded of us, that we are not objectified, that we are allowed to age… Or that physical and verbal violence is not exercised against us for the simple fact of being women. We have so many things to accomplish.”

Highlight the fantastic illustrations of Maria Hesse for bad women. “It is very difficult for me to define my work, but I think they are very me. “I would highlight the importance of nature in my drawings, which has a lot to tell and I think that in this book women have another look, darker. I have also been very careful with the chromatic range because I always work a lot with the sensations that my drawings produce, Which for me is one of the most important things in the book.”

About your projects. María assures that: “At the moment, present the book and enjoy itbecause it has been a lot, a lot of work”.

Cover of ‘Bad Women’

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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