Mythical stories are where the past and the present are meant to connect. For many, they heed a warning of the consequence’s actions may have. However, mythology holds a lot of lessons to be learned especially for women.
Where most mythological women are inspirational, some are not. It’s time to acknowledge how these women have been portrayed in deceitful lights for being ‘feminine.’ However, modern perceptions have turned villainous women into modern heroes.
Women were condemned greatly in Greek mythologies especially. Behind the fairy tales and true love, there is great misogyny.
Feminine traits were ridiculed throughout storylines. A prime example of this is the story of Pandora’s Box. A mortal woman who was made by the Gods, and given a box filled with a plague to impose upon mankind.
It is a story that places blame on Pandora for the world’s worst evils. However, she is not the only antagonist of this tale. Because although Pandora was instructed not to open the box, the Gods also gave her curiosity.
It was a game rigged from the beginning for any mortal, she just also happened to be a woman. Pandora was the consequence of Prometheus’s action of stealing fire from the Gods. Yet, it was the woman who made one mistake at the cause of another who was to blame.
The worst part is that Greek mythology pitted women against each other. Arachne was the daughter of a shepherd, who had exceptional weaving skills; emboldened enough to challenge the goddess Athena.
Arachne defeated the goddess but instead of being celebrated, she gets turned into a spider. The moral of the story is not of female empowerment, but instead the jealousy of women, sending a rather disturbing message. A message that screams that women have no right to compare themselves to the divine.
These days, women’s ambition is something to be admired rather than challenged.
It’s a reality that breaks the rose-coloured lenses. Although Greek mythologies are fun and interesting, their message isn’t easily receivable in these ages. There’s a negative association with women being cast as femme fatales. One that should have been challenged long ago.
Because women can be ambitious and curious without being villains. A woman’s intelligence shouldn’t be a threat to mankind, but instead should be celebrated. If you take away the punishments in mythology, there is real potential for women’s brilliance to be discovered. And for men’s actions to be taken rightfully into account.
One story that is universally understood in Greek myths is Medusa’s.
Medusa begins life as a mortal priestess who is assaulted by the God Poseidon, in Athena’s temple. She was beautiful, and so he felt entitled to her body.
Her story is not one of finding justice, but one of slut-shaming.
Medusa was the one who was punished. Athena cursed her, accusing her of breaking her vow of celibacy to the goddess. It’s unfortunate how relatable this story is for far too many women, in this age and then.
A victim of assault being demonized as a man-hating seductress. This tale particularly appears to be timeless. It’s shameful that women’s beauty is being weaponised as a tragedy, not to mention insulting.
This is not to say that all women faced the wrath of criticism. Though the ones that did were often Goddesses or fair maidens, never the women who fought back. Other than the Amazons, women weren’t celebrated for fighting, and even then, they fought for Ares, the male God of war.
However, this isn’t to say that these strong women aren’t admirable. They are fierce in their own right. But in a way that is entirely different from the crucified women who are painted as evil for standing up to their ‘superiors’.
Which is why a balance needs to be found.
What is important is to circle all the women in mythology. To restore feminism in Greek mythology. All parties must be held accountable. Women should be respected for all their flaws, as should the male figures.
And this is what needs to be learned. That no matter how many women are painted as femme fatales, what they are is fierce. They defy the odds and challenge institutionalised perceptions.
This is why female empowerment is such an essential movement. Because women shouldn’t be demonised for being human, or for yearning to reach their full potential in life. Women should be interpreted as they are; strong, ambitious, and rightfully flawed.
Featured image credit: Greek Reporter.com
Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.