What Greek mythology teaches us about women's resistance and rebellion (2023)

After a series of hard-fought victories, women's rights are once again under threat in many parts of the world. In the United States the Supreme CourtDepriving women of the right to abortionJune 2022; Women were tooretire from workSince the COVID-19 pandemic, many cases have involved caring for children and elderly relatives. In other parts of the world, particularly in developing countries,Women are disproportionately affected by climate change.

as an ancient mythologistI know many female characters from Greek mythology who are role models for the challenges of our time. This is perhaps a little surprising since ancient Greece still existedstrict patriarchal Rules: Under the guardianship of her father or husband, a woman is considered a minor throughout her life and is not allowed to vote. In these myths, however, women speak the truth to those in power and speak out against injustice and oppression.

rebel goddess

The rebellion of women is central to Greek historyabout the creation of the worldThe earth goddess Gaia rebelled against her husband Uranus, smothered her in the sky and refused to release her children. She ordered her son Kronos to castrate his father and take his throne. However, when Kronos came to power, he was afraid of being dethroned by the childrenHe devoured all the babies his wife Rhea gave birth to.

Rhea rebels against the heinous act. She gave Cronosa stone wrapped in a blanketMake him feel like he will swallow the child too. Rhea then hid her child, the god Zeus, who grew up and threw his father into the depths of the underworld. But history repeats itself and the new leader of the gods fears again that his wife is plotting to overthrow him. As the king of the gods, Zeus was always jealous of his wife Hera.to avenge all his transgressions, especially his myriad affairs.

Likewise, the story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone depicts a powerful goddess using her powers against a male god. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, king of the underworld, and Demeter, goddess of agriculture,Refuse to grow the crops until Persephone returnsDespite Zeus' entreaties, Demeter did not yield. The whole world is barren and people are starving.

In the end, Zeus and Persephone had to negotiateRise from HellShe spends part of the year with her mother. During the months that Persephone was with Hades, Demeter held back the vegetation that was winter on earth.

mortal woman

However, Greek culture was suspicious of strong-willed women and portrayed them as villains.

classical scholarMaria BartExplains that male writers portray women in this way to justify the exclusion of women from power. She argues that Western definitions of power fundamentally apply to men as well. So,Bart explained“For the most part, [women] are portrayed as abusers, not users of power. They accept them illegally in ways that lead to national disintegration, death and destruction. ... In fact, it is the women who create the undeniable chaos." That power creates what proves they are excluded in real life."

To illustrate her point, Beard uses the stories of Clytemnestra and Medea, among others. Clytemnestra blames her husband Agamemnon for thisThe sacrifice of her daughter IphigeniaAt the beginning of the Trojan War. While Agamemnon was still at war, she seized power in his kingdom of Mycenae, and when he returned,She killed him in cold blood.

Medea left her husband Jason,pay the ultimate priceleave her-She killed her child.

Medea, the alien princess of the Greek city of Corinth, a powerful sorceress, black, is marginalized on multiple occasions. Still, she refuses to give in. Classical scholars and black feminist intellectualsShirley HayleyEmphasizes Medea's pride, a typically male trait in Greek culture.

Hayley sees in Medea's actions a way of asserting her individuality in the face of Greek society's expectations. Not wanting to give Jason the freedom to have a relationship with another woman, Medea negotiated with the King of Athens for asylum on her own terms.Sea Haley, Medea"Against cultural norms that see procreation as the sole reason for a woman's existence. Medea loves her children, but as a man her pride comes first.”

comedy and tragedy

In a more humorous way, in Lysistrata, the playwright Aristophanes imagines Athenian women protesting against the destructivePeloponnesian WarThrough a sexual strike. Under this enormous pressure, their husbands quickly gave in and made peace with Sparta.

Lysistrata, the leader of the striking women, explainedWomen suffer twice in war, although they had no say in the decision to go to war. They first suffered from the birth of children and then had to watch as they were sent for military service. They can become widows and slaves, but they can also be the result of war.

Finally, in the famous tragedy of Sophocles,Antigone's struggle for human dignityAgainst autocracy. When Antigone's brothers Eteocles and Polynices fought for the throne of Thebes and ended up killing each other, the new king Creon decreed that only Eteocles and only those considered legitimate kings could receive a decent burial. Antigone rebels and challenges her to keep the divine lawHuman law that replaced Creon's tyrannyShe sprinkled some dust on the polynices, a symbolic gesture that would send the dead to the afterlife.

Antigone takes action, knowing that Creon will kill her to enforce his decision. However, she is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for what she believes in.

Women and Moral Justice

In all of these stories, the female character represents moral justice, the embodiment of the revolt of the weak. Perhaps this is the reason behind the image of Medusa, traditionally seen as a fearsome female monsterDefeated by the male hero Perseus, has recently been reinterpreted as a symbol of strength and resilience.

recognizeThe mythical Medusa turned into a monsterMany sexual assault survivors because she was raped by PoseidonTake the picture of Medusaas an image of resilience.

sculptorLuciano GabatiDestroy the myth. A new take on the traditional winning imageHead of Perseus and MedusaWith his statue "Medusa with the Head of Perseus", Garbati gave Medusa a powerful new stance. Medusa's conscious and determined demeanor becomes a symbol of the #MeToo movementwhen the statue stood in front of the courtroomHarvey Weinstein and many others accused of sexual assault stood trial there.

What does that mean in today's world?

The echoes of all these stories resonate stronglyIn the words of a fearless young activist today.

Malala Yousafzai has spoken out in favor of girls' education in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, although she knows the potential consequences could be devastating. In a podcast interviewshe says: “We know that if we remain silent, nothing will change. Change comes when someone is willing to speak their mind.”

Greta Thunberg,World leaders speak at the 2019 UN climate summit, without batting an eyelid: "You let us down. But young people are beginning to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are on you. If you choose to let us down, I say we will never forgive you.” We will not let you get away with it. Here and now we draw the line.”

For women who continue to fight against oppression, the knowledge that they have been doing so for millennia brings comfort and impetus to action.

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