Women’s positions as established by society proved to diminish their worth and act to undermine their status. Lysistrata and Medea are two works of Greek literature that illustrate how women defy gender discrimination in society. Gender disparity is the underlying characteristic that leads Medea to disagree with her husband Jason. Similarly, Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata depicts a character named Lysistrata who plots to unite and persuade her fellow women to protest men’s discriminatory stereotypic ways. Aristophanes and Euripides depict opposition to male dominance in ancient Greek culture.
The actions of women in the two plays demonstrate resistance against gender inequality. Lysistrata is a hero who was willing to fight against gender inequality. The two plays silently propose concepts of gender equality. The play of Medea does challenge the dominant views of femininity within the patriarchal Greek society. Medea vehemently disregards the many women stereotypes that the society places on women in the process of pursuing her ambitions in life. Medea does question the concept of inequality, and she does contradict the male chauvinist beliefs. Medea says “Are we women not the wretchedness? We scratch and save a dowry to buy a man? Our lives depend on how his lordship feels. For better for worse, we can’t divorce him” (Euripides 8). According to the play, Medea does challenge the concept that portrays that women are passive and weak. Notably, she does entirely dispute the feminine role of motherhood which the culture defines as a role of the woman. Euripides also reinforces the aspect of gender inequality when Medea says “a husband tired of domesticity, goes out sees friends and enjoys himself”(Euripides 8-9). Men view women as property and individuals who are unable to participate in the social areas and institutions fully. Culture indicates that a woman has a role of rearing and bearing of the children. According to Medea, this is one of the roles that denotes gender inequalities and thus cause resistance.
Medea indicates the virtual slavery of women to the freedom that the men enjoy and thus shows disempowerment and inequality of women in the society. The audience can see that these factors are one of the leading cause of resistance of women against men in authority. Euripides depicts Jason’s beliefs of a chauvinist, and he states Jason’s opinions on what men see women be. Jason says “If they’re happy in bed, they’re happy everywhere”(Euripides 8-9). In making a comparison of Jason’s self-chauvinism and Medea’s pure feminism character, the play does show light to the stereotypes that undermined women and the reasons that lead to resistance. Medea even says that “Of all creatures that can feel and think, we women are the worst treated things alive” (Euripides 31).This quote boldly depicts the underlining theme of the poem of how women were treated and how these aspects culminated into female resistance. Medea’s outage outstandingly justifies that women were treated as property. Evidently, Medea takes a stereotypical masculine quality on realizing that her husband betrayed her with another woman and she seeks to revenge.
Lysistrata is a play that centered on a woman character Lysistrata, and other women showing how they took control of Acropolis in Athens in attempts to resist against the men in authority. Lysistrata does make an explanation to the old men describing the manner in which women did seize Acropolis. This was because they wanted to keep men from utilizing money to continue the war. Additionally Lysistrata coaxes her fellow women by telling them that they should withhold their sexual privileges from men. She tells them that they have to withhold sex until these men are forced to negotiate peace. This strategy ignites battles among the men and women. The play thus depicts sexual relations within the society that is male dominated. Notably, the audience is able to see how the play Lysistrata condemns the Greek culture which was not only undermining the female status in the society but also proved to be dehumanizing (Aristophanes 1-3). Lysistrata is against the idea of viewing women as housewives. In the play, the audience is welcomed with the furiousness of women on the aspect of discrimination as housewives in the society. The basic premise of the play lies in enacting a plan to resist against men by women. Evident from the play, women, and men engage in insults, but the women choose not to look down upon themselves. They even empty the water they are carrying on the heads of the men. The magistrate orders a policeman to the arrest Lysistrata due to her protesting behavior. Nevertheless, the other women join Lysistrata and defy the arrest order. Lysistrata explains to the magistrate that men have refused to listen to women’s advice as they undermine them.
Medea and Lysistrata present actions of women which are similar to that of the Odyssey and Homeric Hymn to Demeter. The works of literature depict characters who are strong and willing to stand up for their rights in the society. Homeric Hymn to Demeter provides an exploration into the ideal life of an ancient Greek woman. The women experiences give a suggestion of how Homer explores motherhood and maidenhood. Similar to Medea and Lysistrata, the book shows how the women were isolated from men that made them resist against the cultural stereotypes. Homer emphasizes the relationship between a daughter and a mother. Demeter is resistant to her daughter’s marriage citing the separation that marriage produces between men and women. However, in contrary to Lysistrata, the book emphasizes the role of motherhood and argue it is mandatory for a woman to be taught all that pertains to marriage. Demeter shows the connection between a mothers a daughter and how female resistance affects Hade and Zeus when they ignore women. Similar to the two plays, Hymn is a reflection of the solid reality that surrounded the cultural agenda of marriage. Demeter protects his daughter by resisting her marriage for fears of being mistreated. Demeter presents to be a significant character who shows the disparity in the society.
However, Odyssey depicts a different version of women who are presented to be controlled by the expectations and the stereotypes of the culture of the society. Besides, the contrasting feature between odyssey and the three works is evident from the concept of loyalty. Penelope is loyal to her husband Odysseus as opposed to Medea who protested against her husband Jason for mistreatment. Homer gives us a clear contrast of the women in this book with those in Medea, Lysistrata, and Homeric Hymn to Demeter. The freedom of Penelope is seen to be controlled by culture. However, Penelope, later on, shows heroism when her husband Odysseus is presumed dead (Homer b 23). She disputes the fact that women should have husbands and this makes her put all the suitors at bay. Homer also tells of the life-long devotion of Eurycleia to her task of fulfilling her motherhood role to Telemachus which is in contrary to Lysistrata.
Indeed, women were weighed down by the traditional stereotypes that discriminated them against men. Men also reinforced these oppressing roles, and they frequently looked down upon women. The diminishing representation of women in the society sparked resistance in women. This resistance is seen in characters like Lysistrata and Medea who stand up for what they believe is right. Through the resistance, women have managed to attain freedom and respect. The plays Lysistrata and Medea aimed at portraying the possible consequence of resistance that gender inequality is likely to cause if women push for change in the ancient Greek society.
Euripides. Medea. 1st ed., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013,.
Aristophanes. Lysistrata. 1st ed., Dinslaken, Anboco, 2016,
Homer a. Homeric Hymn To Demeter. 1956.
Homer b. Odyssey. London, Dent, 1948,.