There was a time when Whitson never imagined she’d be able to say those words. As a nine-year-old on a farm outside Beaconsfield, Iowa, she was spellbound by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong as they walked on the moon, but her dream of being up there with them only became a tangible goal in 1978, the year NASA accepted its first class of female astronauts. “Luckily I had no idea how hard it would be to get selected,” she says.
There's no reason kids can't turn this holiday of dress-up and make-believe into a fun and educational chance to embody a powerful woman — real or imagined — who's got strength and smarts in spades. At the very least, it'll be a welcome switch from princesses and fairies.
According to its Twitter page, the bot is “the world’s first collaborative AI horror writer.” Shelley—named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley—is the brainchild of Pınar Yanardağ, a postdoctoral associate who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, and was created in collaboration with research scientist Manuel Cebrian and associate professor Iyad Rahwan, reports Turkish news site Daily Sabah.
But while recent TV shows and films about witches have tried and marketed themselves as breaking this mold, it’s tough to completely upend centuries of patriarchal norms in one fell swoop. The genre of witchcraft has interestingly enough become synonymous with feminism in contemporary media — but those ideas have often been afforded to white, cisgender, and conventionally attractive women without much argument, while other feminist movements have had to fight for recognition and defend themselves against backlash.
Dueling portrayals of the witch have been brewing for some time, but they feel especially appropriate for this cultural moment. It’s a time when many truths seem to shift depending on where you stand, and it’s never more true than in stories about the witch. She is either a destabilizing, dangerous villain or a powerful protagonist, and the vision you choose depends entirely on your point of view.
Let’s call it the Lewd Halloween Rule: For every possible type of male costume there is a female version that includes high heels, fishnet stockings and cleavage. Now, this is why I find Halloween so disturbing. We have to assume the costumes for sale simply reflect demand, and this demand reflects our secret wishes, something we actually want to be, disguised in a joking-not-joking irony. Which means that we are a collective mess—both sexes plagued with archaic insecurities and clichéd gender roles.
This Halloween, hundreds of women dressed as bandaged-wrapped mummies will march for the rights of working mothers. Campaigners say that archaic legislation allows workplaces to discriminate; about one in nine new mothers said they have been forced out of their jobs, according to a 2015 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which could mean as many as 54,000 women a year.
“There is a tendency to focus more on male writers of ghost stories, and I think this has to do with a few factors,” says Dr Melissa Edmundson. “Women writers typically confined their supernatural fiction to the short story, and this genre has historically been overlooked by critics. With the recent interest in short stories, combined with the mainstreaming of gothic studies, more attention is being paid to the role women played within the ghost story tradition.”