Women & Power by Mary Beard

Women & Power by Mary Beard

Author:Mary Beard
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Profile
Published: 2017-10-23T04:00:00+00:00

15. Frederic Leighton’s late nineteenth-century statuesque version of Clytemnestra also gestures to her masculine side, in the heavy arms and unisex outfit.

There are, it is true, occasional examples where it might look as if we are getting a more positive version of ancient female power. One staple of the modern stage is Aristophanes’ comedy known by the name of its lead female character, Lysistrata. Written in the late fifth century BC, it is still a popular choice because it appears to be a perfect mixture of highbrow classics, feisty feminism, a stop-the-war agenda and a good sprinkling of smut (and it was once translated by Germaine Greer). It’s the story of a sex-strike, set not in the world of myth but in the contemporary world of ancient Athens. Under lysistrata’s Leadership, the women try to force their husbands to end the long-running war with Sparta by refusing to sleep with them until they do. The men go round for most of the play with enormously inconvenient erections (which now tends to cause some difficulty and hilarity in the costume department). Eventually, unable to bear their encumbrances any longer, they give in to the women’s demands and make peace. Girl power at its finest, you might think. Athena, the patron deity of the city, is often wheeled out on the positive side too. Doesn’t the simple fact that she was female suggest a more nuanced version of the imagined sphere of women’s influence?


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