Hell Hath No Fury: In Defense Of The Scorned Woman

Today, Mental Floss presents a list of five of history's famous "Scorned Women." They are defined rather loosely as: the white hooker who got African-American boxer Jack Johnson sent to jail, British tribal queen Boudicca, Lady Mao, Roman Queen Herodias, and this shape-shifter from Pueblo legend. Besides being kind of a crap list (I mean, I can think of better avengers off the top of my head - hell, off the top of Bullfinch's Mythology- and being raped by Roman soldiers doesn't really count as being 'scorned,' MentalFloss) it's rather annoying to see the old highly emotional, unstable, irrational woman saw trotted out. And I know it should piss me off, but the truth is, whenever I read about some badass historical scorned woman (see Medea, left, and no, Tricia Walsh-Smith, you do not qualify), I get a little warm feeling of pride. Because in my considered, this is actually one of the few historical cases in which women come out quite unilaterally on top.Although the stereotype is as old as antiquity, "the woman scorned" turn of phrase was born in a play called "The Mourning Bride" (1697) by William Congreve. The complete quote is "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." It's an annoying cliche, but not, paradoxically, wholly unflattering to the sex. "The woman scorned" is something of a folk heroine. From "Frankie & Johnny" to Chicago, society treats this trope with a certain tolerant admiration which it reserves for only a small segment of the criminal. Historically, think about it: women didn't have as much power, ever. They weren't as physically capable of fighting back, nor allowed to. Women have always been expected to take what was dished out; infidelity, humilation, degredation was her lot in life. So when they fight back, it's justice. Is there any truth in the stereoptype? Are women more prone to 'revenge?' If you read the revenge story site The Payback you'd probably be tempted to think so; a disproportionate number of the Machiavellian yarns come from women. In some ways we're probably better at it when we do it, since revenge generally involves multitasking. I think since we are conditioned to keep our cool and make nice day to day, snapping can be dramatic (and yes I'm projecting.) Being 'scorned' in the classic sense - baldly, cheated on - makes everyone feel horrible. But when it happens to men, there often seems to be an element of hurt ego that gets in the way of vengeance. (Again, this is purely anecdotal.) Whereas, when it happens to you or your friends, you know it's not a reflection on you. (And no, murdering someone is not appropriate. I do make the distinction here between our and the ancient world where, let's face it, that was more the currency of interaction.) In a certain way, even as it's subjugated and demeaned women, folk history seems to have recognized this, and to the extent that folk history is a good barometer of societal consciousness, then the enduring stereotype of the scorned woman - while hopefully somewhat on the way out - is kind of a good reminder of our essential power and, well, awesomeness. Served Cold: 5 Scorned Women Get Their Revenge [MentalFloss]

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