Friday, September 30, 2016

Phallic Friday - Madonna/Whore Complex

At the 2016 RWA Conference, I attended a day at the Academic Conference where papers were presented by students and staff working in the areas of popular culture and creative writing. I heard papers on varying topics, but the theme that was most interesting to me was the one where women experience a Madonna/Whore complex. It was a thread in a few of the papers presented.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this dichotomy - where women are expected to be like a Madonna (is the Virgin Mary one, not the pop star one!) on the one hand - virginal, meek, mild, non-questioning, nurturing, full of mothering, loving goodness. Yet, is also expected to be a whore - being true to her needs, getting what she wants, wearing what she wants, doing what she wants.

This complex isn't necessarily confined to sex, but it's a constant push-pull for many females just in regular life decisions.

Family and societal pressures create it the most within me. Let me give you a very simple example: My aim in life was to move to the country and own a horse. I worked towards doing this, and when I finally got a job in the country, within the next few weeks death and ill-health affected my family - the one I'd left behind in Sydney when I moved. I was 23, a month into my new job, just striking out in my career. Not from within my immediate family, but from the wider family and friends, I was subjected to quite a big push to 'come back home and care for the family'. I'm the eldest, so I could see why people expected me to take on this responsibility (ie be the Madonna) - but damn it, it was my life to lead my way (ie be the whore) and that was to live in the country.

Thank goodness Mum, who was very much a Madonna, was quite adamant that I should follow my dreams and do what I wanted to do, because I would have caved. If she hadn't kept me propped up in my beliefs, I would have given into the pressure to look after everyone else. I would have hated myself, I would have been a miserable bitch, but I'd have done it (grudgingly).

So many times, I get pushed into being the Madonna that I'm not. And it really really bugs me when I realise what I've done.

On the other hand, when I stand my ground and be the whore I want to be, sometimes that hurts because you're exposed to criticism and ridicule, ostracised or excluded.

I think I'm going to spend many many weeks exploring this theme - maybe I won't bore you with it every week! It's got me completely fascinated.


  1. OMG!! I just wrote you an essay and your blog ate it.
    I'm posting this one to see if it eats it too!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I'm so so so sorry. I don;t know how to control my blog! It's acting all on its own.

      Cate xoxo