Everyone has heard about the infamous story of Medusa. The beautiful young maiden raped by Poseidon as she was worshiping in the holy temple of Athena. She was punished for desecrating the temple, and was turned into a monster.
In summary, she was raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena—thus, enraging the goddess into cursing Medusa with a head full of snakes and eyes that turns you into stone. Here, Athena is portrayed to be someone ‘evil’ for cursing someone. Then there is also the story of Medusa and Perseus, who beheaded the Gorgon and defeated her. Perseus became everybody’s ‘hero’. The strong and masculine man becomes the hero again. Not surprising. There are countless other stories about how men would always end up being the hero and the women would always get overshadowed, always seen as the ‘bad one’.
The stigmatization of female sexuality and the blaming of women for the consequence of men and their own inability to control their lust is still widespread in modern society today. Many rape cases are brought forward and majority of it results in lack of prosecution against the male side. The woman would still take most of the blame for ‘provoking’ the man (from what she was wearing, how she was acting, her attitude/words, etc.). When men are ‘provoked’, they are to be “relieved of ethical responsibilities and societal norms” – which makes no sense in terms of logic, but is what is still deemed to be socially acceptable in our community nowadays.
But what if the story of Medusa that we’ve been hearing and told about isn’t what it seems to be? What if there is something more than that? What if the story of Medusa was actually a case of incriminating women? What if the true story of Medusa can be told in a single sentence?
Athena blessed Medusa with the power to protect herself from the brutality of men; but instead she got murdered for it.
Yes, you heard correctly. Blessed – not cursed. There is not much difference from today and back then when it comes to the concept of patriarchal values and how our world is still structured with the men still placed on a higher level than the women. We still see the act of diminishing the value of women even in modern society. The story of Medusa was rewritten into;
Athena cursed Medusa because she broke her vows of celibacy (taken by maidens of Athena) and ‘fell’ for Poseidon’s charms.
The patriarchal tendency to punish the victim of rape, rather than the perpetrator has been happening dating back to ancient origins (like Medusa). This whole perspective really puts the view on the split representation of women that society has for them. Women must be passive, beautiful and abide to the male fantasies—if they were to be aggressive and assertive, they are seen to be a ‘danger’ against men (Perseus ‘defeating’ Medusa by beheading her and becoming the hero).
The story of Medusa could have multiple interpretations and views on what it might be. To fully understand this, we must look beyond the distortion of patriarchal interpretations and ingrained misogynistic attitudes. Athena could also be seen as the victim to these factors as she was forced to do something that she did not want to do but because of the influence that men have in the society, she could not really do what she wanted. Women’s voices are unheard for most parts of history.
Thus, this very view had inspired many recent feminism movements such as the #MeToo movement – a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Invented in 2006 by Tarana Burke, the movement had garnered much media attention worldwide and making people come forward with their own sexual harassment experiences on social media platforms. Women (and men alike) suffer from sexual harassment and violence almost on a daily basis and are they were being pressured to stay silent to avoice criticism. The victims are usually seen as no longer ‘pure’ and were shunned for something they did not do. They were never given the chance to voice out their suffering and the trauma they got from it. This reflects the true experience of many women (and men) that were forced to submit to sexual violence – much like the story of Medusa.
Written By: Aisyah Daniswari
Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia