Medusa: The monster created by patriarchy

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You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing

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Medusa, according to Greek mythology, she was a monster. She was the ultimate seductress and exquisitely beautiful, only except her hairs. Instead of having a head full of beautiful hair, she had a head full of poisonous snakes. She used to lure in her enemies, being the seductress that she was, and anyone who looked into her eyes immediately turned to stone. That’s what you’ll find in almost every popular website or book of Greek mythology if you look up ‘Medusa.’ 

According to the most famous and most commonly known legends and stories, Medusa was a beautiful maiden, who was immensely proud of her stunning features and knew her way around men pretty well, which earned her the title of the ‘seductress,’ men used to worship her. Legends also say that Poseidon, the God of the Seven Seas and the brother of the Great Lord Zeus, fell for Medusa’s beauty and got engaged with her, and they had a sexual encounter inside the holy temple of Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and war.

Athena, who already despised Medusa for her pride and beauty, was outrageous when she came to know that Medusa had dared to taint the establishment of Her Holiness. Athena cursed Medusa, which turned her into a hideous monster, to punish her for her pride and sins. This is the most famous and shared story of the beautiful but highly manipulative woman named Medusa.

Like most other people, that’s all I knew about Medusa as well, until I decided to dive a little deeper into the world of Greek mythology, and I found a different and more interesting version of Medusa’s story. It is far less prevalent, true. Still, it is a way more realistic version that shows that the power of patriarchy even existed among the legendary Titans of the vast Greek mythology.   

According to some mythologists, Medusa was a beautiful maiden who was chosen to be one of the priestesses in the temple of Athena. She was a timid and quiet girl, but her beauty spoke volumes, men were prepared to kill each other just to be with her, and Lord Poseidon was no different. He wanted Medusa, but Medusa being Athena’s priestess, had vowed a lifetime of sacrifice and celibacy for her Goddess. This infuriated Poseidon to such an extent that to exert his power over her, he took Medusa’s virginity and raped her inside Athena’s shrine.

Athena, being the virgin Goddess, knew about the truth, and yet she blamed Medusa for her beauty and cursed her for the sinful act and for breaking her vows as Athena’s priestess. And thus, the famously known ‘Medusa,’ the monster was created, not because she committed a sin but because she said ‘no’ to a powerful man, because she dared to deny the then patriarchal system. 

So naturally, after reading this version of the story, my next question was, what happened to Poseidon? Didn’t Athena punish him too? But when I found my answer, I instinctively was reminded of one simple fact that the claws of patriarchy run deep inside a society. Poseidon was never punished, and according to legends, he shall rule the Seven Seas for all eternity. In an ideal scenario, Athena, as a woman, should’ve cursed Poseidon instead of Medusa, she should’ve supported Medusa. Still, as I said earlier, it would’ve been an ‘ideal’ situation.

In reality, Athena, although a woman, was an essential and indispensable part of the system. For Athena, Poseidon was much too mighty of a person to curse, she couldn’t afford to lose someone as powerful as Poseidon because that would’ve disrupted the entire system. But, Medusa, on the other hand, was a mere ‘nobody,’ she meant nothing to the system and was quickly dealt with by Athena. For the lack of better words, one can say that Medusa was dispensable.

I realized that this version of the story didn’t hit very far from home. In our very own society, isn’t ‘slut’ an insult while ‘Casanova’ is a status symbol? Don’t we say girls shouldn’t wear short dresses? Don’t we blame the girl even after she’s the one who got raped? In our society, it doesn’t matter whether you wear a burkha or a skirt, whether you’re a 2-year-old baby or a 60-year-old lady, whether you’re living or dead, as long as you’re a girl a portion of the population will always think that “you’re asking for it,” and sadly, it’s not just about men. Mothers teaching their 8-year-old toddlers to dress ‘properly’ because there are men in the house.

Let me ask this question to all those mothers, what kind of men get turned on by their own 8-year-old daughter or niece or sister? Mothers are wanting to abort their own babies by their own free will once they get to know that they’re carrying a girl. That’s how deep-rooted patriarchy runs in our society. In our community, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 1947 or 2019, females are still considered as the ‘second class citizens.’

In our society, Poseidon ruled the streets, Medusa wasn’t born evil, and the system called Athena cursed Medusa, pushed her into darkness. And what do you do when you’re forced into that never-ending darkness, into that endless abyss? You become the darkness, you become the hideous monster that Athena created, you become Medusa.

When Medusa looks in the mirror, she sees the Lady of Sorrows

Mason Cooley

Ahona Sarkar is an M.Sc. fresher from Calcutta who completed her masters degree in Botany in 2019. She’s looking for a career in the government sector or in the book publishing industry. 

Features Image Credits: Needpix

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