Phyllis Chesler


“And since I did all the talking. I talked about my fallen angels theory.” — Aileen Wuornos

Imagine you are shown a picture of yourself walking along a highway you have never seen. And now you are asked how you got there. Obviously you have to start running. As in running out of what you remember. Or running out, like losing it. And they want you to talk and talk, so immediately you’re talking back through hell. Talking back to hell. Or taking back hell. Maybe sing, you could call it, like hell. Whatever you want to call it and others call it for you. Insanity is a community decision, heroism is a community decision. Violence is the opposite of space. Everything I know about violence is also the nothing I know about violence.

The principal admired her for living in the woods, she wrote. She remembered all the cool black light posters, she wrote. God had it all recorded, she wrote. “Every women,” she wrote, “even adulesent, should learn Self defense, Also carry guns and know how to use them., when reaching a certain age. Like 21…” Some of the other advice she wrote was “just pretend I’m still around” and “ride through it all naturally” and write to keep the wrist from “stiffening up.” There were details she didn’t want to go into. She remembered which days the rain came down hardest. All of this she wrote in letters to her friend. She called the letters kites, which is a pretty common word in prisons. The prison only let each letter be a few pages, so she wrote more than a few letters. If you can still see a face on the other end of the wall, you can fill the wall.

In 1956, Aileen Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan. Her father was in prison for the rape and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl. They never met. He hung himself in prison when she was 13. At 14, she was raped while hitchhiking home from a party. She gave the baby up for adoption. By 15, kicked out of her grandparents’ home, she was living in the woods and sleeping in abandoned cars in the Michigan winter. She survived by way of herself. Her body was involved. She did have friends, and she spent most of the money she earned from sex work on them. Two of the movies made about her are called Damsel of Death and Monster.

While in prison for the murder of seven straight white men, whom she shot and killed in remote Florida locations, she told Phyllis Chesler “I raised myself. I did a pretty good job. I taught myself my own handwriting, and I studied theology, psychology, books on self-enhancement. I taught myself how to draw. I have been through battles out there raising myself. I’m like a Marine, you can’t hurt me. If you hurt me, I can wipe it out of my mind and keep on truckin’. I took every day on a day-by-day basis. I never let things dwell inside me to damage my pride because I knew what that felt like when I was young.”

November 15th, 2012 / 12:02 pm