What Our Fear of Wolves Tells Us About Women’s Fears

What Our Fear of Wolves Tells Us About Women’s Fears

Carl Larsson's Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the forest via Wikimedia Commons This is one of those stories that begins with a female body,” opens Erica Berry's evocative exploration of wolves, fear, and the female experience, Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell Fear . Though the body Berry speaks of is not the human one we conjure in our minds, but that of a two-year-old wolf, OR-106, whose corpse was discovered on the side of the road in a small Oregon town. “Her body is the same palette as the snow beneath her,” Berry writes, suggesting that OR-106's body could be easily missed or mistaken for a part of the landscape, echoing the way violence against women is often overlooked in our culture, normalized as natural to the environment. Subtly and immediately, Berry puts her in conversation with the wolf's, illuminating a surprising kinship in their shared fight to survive—a kinship that begins to erode the binary of predator and prey. By challenging the limits of our perception in this opening scenario, Berry sets the stage for Wolfish's central idea: that much of the way we see ourselves, others, and the world around us is shaped by cultural narratives, not ontological truth. Tracking her own coming-of-age story alongside the wandering of her home state's most infamous wolf, OR-7, Berry grapples with how fluid the roles of predator and prey can be for both humans and animals, and all the complexity and ambiguity this binary obscures from view. Weaving together threads of , historical data, Internet dialogue, and more, she searches for the root of her own unshakable fear while analyzing wolves—both real and figurative—to unpack our understanding of who is feared and who is feared for . In many ways, Wolfish becomes a kind of map, a guide. One that makes space for the truth Berry finds in conflicting ideologies; one where she is not simply the prey and the wolf predator, but where they can be recognized as both, and fear can be seen as a precursor to discovery, not only […]

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