The book that teaches us to live with our fears

In classic fairy tales and fairy tales, no predator – and perhaps no villain – is present more often than the wolf. Greek lore gives us the Boy Who Called Wolf, a wolf famously eats Little Red Riding Hood, and another blows down the homes of the Three Pigs. Wolfish, the debut of writer Erica Berry, looking at these invented wolves and the real ones that have recently returned to their home state of Oregon; she also examines the more contemporary wolf metaphors – lone wolf terrorists, wolf heroes – that many people use to describe, or perhaps justify, their fear of others.

Berry is deeply affected by the fear of that “symbolic wolf” – a term she derives from veterinary anthropologist Elizabeth Lawrence. This is Wolfishit’s a real thing. Her wolf is a male, created by a series of disturbing encounters with men and a lifetime of messages – both overt and subliminal – that tell girls and women to see men as threats. One of Berry’s projects is dismantling this idea, to alleviate the danger it creates for poor men and poor men of color and to free herself from the anxiety it creates. She writes when she realizes that “the peace I encountered on the streets of the people would not come from pepper spray but from metabolizing and putting into context the things that scared me in the past.”

Among the book’s strengths is Berry’s awareness that, as she says, “my wolf is not your wolf”. Berry combines memoir, journalism, and cultural criticism, interweaving in the voices of others to remind readers that her perspective is only one of many. For some people—like the writer Cyrus Dunham, who fears that they cannot honestly explain their gender identity to others—the wolf is synonymous with deception. For others, the wolf, which is endangered as it has been for a long time, symbolizes the terrible destruction that humans have done to our environment; a guardian tells Berry that he is “so worried about our collective future” that he and his wife do not want to have children. Rendering Berry’s braided approach Wolfish a vulnerable self-inquiry and a far-reaching exploration of fear — and, ultimately, an antidote to it. She makes a compelling case for walking alongside the symbolic wolf.

Wolfish It has its share of real animals. Berry devotes one chapter to seeing a young wolf – imagined, not real, in Yellowstone National Park, and another to a research trip to the UK’s Wolf Conservation Trust, where wolves that cannot survive are kept and cared for. in the wild. . She writes about a cousin in Montana who was talking on social media “growling with a boy while holding up freshly killed carcasses that looked like two dead wolves,” and she goes to an eastern Oregon county where wolf revival has emerged. a fierce split between people who want to protect the wolves and people who see conservation projects as a form of government outreach. OR-7, a radio-collared wolf born in Oregon, whose mile-long quest for a friend made headlines in the early 2010s appears in nearly every chapter, shaping the book that variant of sprawling.

Berry writes movingly about these real wolves, but seems consistently drawn away from the wolves themselves and toward people’s responses to them. Her writing is rich when she fully commits to examining wolf metaphors and the ways in which we turn even real wolves into symbols. On a return visit to eastern Oregon, she talks to a Forest Service ranger who tells her that the wolf conservation arguments from Berry’s first trip have evolved into broader debates about the role of government in individual lives. “The new wolf is the face mask,” he says. Comparing wolves to face masks is hardly one of the traditional metaphors Berry set out to investigate, and it seems to fascinate and frighten her in equal measure.

Wolfish – Wolfish, Ourselves, And The Stories We Tell About Fear

With Erica Berry

Still, Wolfish the focus is mainly on wolf metaphors that have been handed down over time. Berry often returns to the story of Little Red Riding Hood, a stand-in for women like herself who have learned to fear wolf prey—that is, male prey. A key difference between literal wolves and wolves as metaphors for our fear is that, in general, even people who fear wolves know that one of them is unlikely to be killed. As Berry wrote, “To call the death of a wild wolf a freak accident is an understatement.”

In contrast, in Charles Perrault’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood”, which is the basis for most of the contemporary variations of the story, the Big Bad Wolf’s attack is not random. In fact, it is promising, as long as you understand that the wolf is meant to be read as a man, and Little Red as a girl who invites that man, going out of the way to her grandmother’s house, to attack her . “Perrault’s story,” notes Berry, “is not to be taught to boys. You can’t train a wolf. The girl just has a lesson to learn. Only the girl can keep herself safe.” The parable contains a regressive notion of women’s responsibility: Little Red is obliged to control and hide herself, lest her feminine presence provoke men to violence. Anyone who was raised as a girl, or around girls, probably recognizes this idea.

Bear, the harm associated with this paradigm is obvious—women are to blame if they suffer male predation. It generates fear and distrust pervasive enough to stifle not only women’s sexuality but also the development of women’s minds. A more difficult question, for her, is whether the fear of men is useful. She wants to consider herself a “residue from a world that told me I was a victim” and, as a result, she “doesn’t want to risk the wolf”.

But Berry cannot understand that Little Red’s story has a “bulb of truth”. On a multi-day cross-country train ride, a man sits next to her and starts talking, inappropriately and incoherently, about his ex and his struggle with addiction. When she moves to another car, worried, the man brings her a notebook of hastily written letters suggesting that Berry may be a “bad guy” but that he “could still help her. [him].” She shows a conductor, who gives her a lockable sleeping car to stay in until the man can be removed from the train. In retrospect, Berry can’t deny the use of his fear or decide how valuable it was. Is the man a “lone wolf”, on the verge of violence? Was he just lonely and sick? Or was he, like a real wolf, someone “to be feared and feared?”

Feminists have long struggled with the question of what behavior men should be afraid of – or, to put it more dramatically, the question of whether women need to be protected by all men. Berry writes of a childhood friend who, after she reached puberty, was warned by her mother not to wear make-up or dress nicely if she intended to take public transport: Doing so would attract attention, the logic took hold. , which was inherently dangerous. Many parents, consciously or not, teach their children such lessons, inviting them to fear the opposite sex, or people of other races or backgrounds, or the world beyond what is information by the parents. (Consider the recent prime example Sent piece about Upper East Siders who don’t let their young children outside alone.)

I Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Againacademic Katherine Angel notes that a rhetoric that emphasizes fear of the unknown about the potential richness of exploration “does not allow for ambiguity, and risks making it impermissible – indeed dangerous … the experience that is not we know what we want.” In fact, he turns the recipients into 21st-century Little Reds, tasked with avoiding the wolf through social intelligence and personal knowledge more perfect than anyone could have reach reasonably.

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Berry, like Angel, wants to fight for exploration and ambiguity. She sees them as tools to alleviate fear. Another of the tools she proposes is the reduction of myopia. At the British wolf trust, watching visitors and researchers react to the wolves that live there, she sees that “there is no animal to kill you or to understand its back or to separate your ego from its life – to see on him as something complex and wild, worthy of existence independent of your feelings about it.” She does not clearly connect this revelation to how people might engage with each other.

But when you think about real wildlife Berry always brings you back to the symbolic one, and it helps her to reassess our responsibilities to each other when thinking about human responsibility towards wild animals. In the case of wolves, we can mitigate the danger through land management strategies that create habitats for wolves and their natural prey. Figuring out how we can mitigate the dangers we pose to others is not so easy, but Berry concludes Wolfish resolving not to ignore her fear or to be controlled – an approach that comes from the perspective of wolf conservationists. Only by managing and alleviating fear and its causes can we get what Berry wants: “a world where we could all stay.”

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