Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Women, Violence, Terrorism and Greek Lit.

In World Literature we are studying Greek lit specifically the Odyssey (of course) Sappho and The Medea by Euripides. Often my professor talks about how women are usually portrayed as monsters. They are always seen as being evil creatures that came out of Pandora's box to curse men. Of course, this is true. There is a very negative view of women in Greek culture in general. In The Medea a woman who kills her husband (and her children) for leaving her eventually turns into a monster. Another example would be the wife of Agamenon who kills her husband because he sacrificed their daughter to the gods so he could go to war. She is often spoken of an example of a bad wife.
I think we can all agree her actions were wrong. Most people ask, why is it that women always have this negative portrayal in Greek lit? Is it to prove that women are really a curse on men?
My question is not only why are women portrayed in a bad light, but why can we not accept violent acts by women, but we can accept them when they are committed by men? A modern example would be terrorists. Female terrorists as seen as wild, emotion, uncontrollable forces who commit these acts as acts of revenge. The academics then fail to look at the political reason for the violence (without such it cannot be considered terrorism). In our society, we expect men to be strong, to fight, to be somewhat violent, but women are supposed to be the calm, subdued sex. We must not have a violent bone in our body.
When we look at Greek lit. we do not compare the violence committed by women in the lit. to the violence committed by men.We only merely ask why are women portrayed as "bad" characters? Well, I want to know why do we see only the women's acts of violence as "bad!" (Granted this cannot be applied to the literal female monsters in the Odyssey, but it can be applied to the female characters). We often as why are there only bad women portrayed (assuming that they are bad b/c they have committed some act of violence). Well, what is the difference between a man committing a violent act and a women committing a violent act? Are we not all fallen humans with violent tendencies? Why is a man's violent more legit than a womans?
I have a prof. who is currently working a book about female terrorists. She often speaks of how they are over looked in the study of terrorism, because they are seen as committing emotional acts instead of political acts of violence. This, however, is not the case. In fact another interesting tid bit, is that the female terrorists who commit an act of terrorism in Iraq do not get media converage. In fact, usually afterwards, we cannot even find any information out about them! Interesting eh? Why are terrorist acts by men more important than acts by women?
That is the question about Greek culture and our present day culture that I want to know. Yes, I know in the end it is a cultural issue, but do we just dismiss it? I have often heard, "That is just the culture." When in the past have we accepted this excuse?!
I do not condone terrorism, but I do want to understand it; study it. I just hope that if I do go to grade school to get a critical terrorism studies degree I learn about male and female terrorists.


sharon said...

I definitely agree with your statement since when have we accepted "it's the culture." Women have always been seen as the weaker sex, the damsels in distress that men need to protect. I wonder if men take it as taking away their manness if we commit violent acts because it should be them doing it. We are taking something away from them therefore we are portrayed as bad or in the case of terrorist women not recognized because the men do not want to compete with a woman. It's like emasculating them, in their head.

AmelMag said...

Interesting point . . .