The ancient Greek Menander once said: “Woman is a pain that never goes away.” He probably just meant women were trouble, but his words hold a more sinister suggestion: the possibility that being a woman requires being in pain, that pain is the unending glue and prerequisite of female consciousness.
(presumably a little philology could tell what menander meant, but. that’s an elegant sentence.)
Stephen King’s Carrie frames menstruation itself as wound: an inevitable bleeding that our heroine misunderstands as trauma, crouching in a corner of the locker-room shower while the other girls pelt her with tampons, chanting “Plug it up! Plug it up!”Even the gym teacher reprimands her for being so upset about the simple fact of her period: “Grow up,”she says. “Standup.”The implicit imperative: Own this bleeding as inevitable blood. A real woman takes it for granted. Carrie’s mother takes “the curse of blood” as direct evidence of original sin. She slaps Carrie in the head with a tract called The Sins of Women while making Carrie repeat: “Eve was weak, Eve was weak.”
Though Carrie isn’t about anorexia, it explores the plausible roots of an anorexic logic—to take the shame of that bleeding and make it disappear, to deny the curse of Eve and the intrinsic vulnerability of desire itself—wanting an apple, or knowledge, or a man; wanting popularity, wanting anything. Getting your period is one kind of wound; not getting it is another. Starvation is an act of self-wounding that preempts other wounds, that scrubs away the blood from the shower. But Carrie responds to the shame of fertility by weaponizing it—she doesn’t get rid of the bleeding; she gets baptized by it. She doesn’t wound herself; she wounds everyone else.
At the heart of Carrie is a glorious inversion: What if you could take how hard it is to be a girl—the cattiness of frenemies, the betrayals of your own body, the terror of a public gaze—and turn all that hardship into a superpower? Carrie’s telekinesis reaches the apex of its power at the moment she is drenched in red, the moment she becomes a living wound—as if she’s just gotten her period all over herself, in front of everyone, as if she’s saying: Now I know how to handle the blood.