There are so many things wrong with this article—from the personification of periods to multiple omissions of the words “women, girls, and females” as the ones suffering from this oppression. Why are periods getting liberated and not women? In an article that is supposedly about “breaking the taboo about discussing menstruation”, women are referred to with such marginalizing terms as “hens” and “manspreading” is used to describe women opening their legs to insert menstrual products.
Likening period education to the sexual liberation of the 60’s is pathetic. This article demonstrates exactly where sexual liberation got women — “little innovation or big thinking around periods in 80 years” as well as “period poverty”, which is really “female poverty”. If women were so liberated in the 60’s, why has there been so little progress in this area? It’s not periods that are neglected, it’s women.
Charity worker, Jade slaughter says, “It’s ridiculous that in 2017 you’ve got children (GIRLS) missing school because they can’t afford proper protection, and that schools can provide condoms and toilet paper and soap, but not sanitary products.” It’s not ridiculous in a society which views females as second-class citizens. Condoms are handed out like candy because they’re for males. Period products are taxed and withheld because they’re for females. This article dances around this issue throughout, yet fails to make it plain.
I appreciate that the article hints at how porn works to oppress females when a video of items of food (a grapefruit and raw egg) used to represent a natural process in women are considered “too (sexually) suggestive” to be aired. How many times are women are girls told that we can’t talk about our bodies because they’re too suggestive? This is just ONE of the ways that porn oppresses women.
Kiran Gandhi at least points out the real issue–HATRED OF WOMEN–with her statement about the misogyny of the criticism against her bleeding through her pants when her period unexpectedly started on the opening day of the London Marathon in 2015. But in an article that’s soaked in examples of misogyny–the word only appears ONCE.
I think this article is an example of how women are sold and buy into their own oppression every day. We’re given scraps, labeled as “sexual liberation” and “period liberation” and made to believe that by buying into these notions, we too can be free. But we’re not. “Sexual liberation” supposedly did something for women and yet, women and girls continued to be raped, exploited, and abused every moment since then. Girls are not able to go to school because they’re not able to obtain menstrual products and girls and women are still being convinced that they’re somehow wrong or filthy for having their periods. While I think it’s worthwhile to reduce the stigma around periods, we need to do so in the context of addressing the real issue–hatred and stigma against females.
I just need to process this article posted by thefemedic.com (a supposed women’s health resource) called “How can we reduce HIV-related stigma in sex workers?” This post will consist of quotes from the article and my thoughts in italics. This is purely for my own catharsis though I hope it resonates with some.
In countries such as Cambodia, India, and Thailand, reductions in national HIV prevalence were significantly impacted by initiatives that targeted sex workers.
Makes sense. We can’t exactly rely on the pimps or johns, can we?
There are several factors sex workers share that make them particularly vulnerable to HIV transmission. One of the most important of these is that they are often marginalised and stigmatised by others in the societies in which they live.
If by “they” you mean “women are marginalised and stigmatised”, then YES.
In some countries sex work is legal, but the law rarely offers sufficient protection to sex workers. As sex workers aren’t sufficiently protected legally, they may find themselves in situations where they don’t have full control over condom use, or they may be forced to engage in practices that lead to STI infections.
“Situations in which they don’t have …. full control…or they may be forced to engage?” You mean raped? Why are you not saying these women are raped?
Indeed, there is a significant lack of common legislation or policy protection of sex workers around in the European Union itself. That’s why sex workers may often find themselves at risk of violence — be it violence from law enforcement officials, or their clients.
THAT’S why these women are at risk for violence? It’s not because women are dehumanized? Also, they’re CLIENTS?? “Clients” makes it seem like these women had some choice in the matter.
Other significant factors that increase the probability of contracting HIV in sex workers are a high number of sexual partners and insufficient condom use. One reason for this is lack of education — sex workers often start selling services when they are young, and may be willing to provide them without any type of physical barrier.
Lack of education??? How about a cultural lack of respect for women? Also, they “start selling services when they are young???” You mean female children are raped, abused, forced into prostitution and their abusers don’t wear condoms? This is some really crafty wording!
We also need to consider the young age of sex workers, who usually begin selling their sexual services when they are adolescents.
AAAAHHH!!! They’re NOT SELLING SERVICES! THEY’RE BEING RAPED! They’re being groomed, abused, and COERCED (with drugs, money, and promises of “love” or some sort of better life) into having sex or they’re just flat out raped!
This (reducing stigma) can be done by addressing the violence and attitudes directed towards sex workers, by carrying out activities that aim to decriminalise sex work, and by funding health and social services dedicated to sex workers.
Wow. It all comes down to decriminalisation. This is gaslighting through and through. The writer would have you believe that the problem is not the oppression of women by men by the oppression of “sex workers” by….who? radical feminists maybe?
But wait, the cherry on the cake is: the article was written by
…a dude. Feel free to connect with David on Twitter at @DavidBeeshaw
I read an article linked on Feminist Current today in which Louis C.K. confirms the sexual “misconduct” allegations against him. I’m not linking the article here because I hate the fact that his fake apology was given so much press.
How do I know it’s fake? — Because this:
Louis C. K. is not an idiot. He claims in his big fat stupid article in the New York Times that he “wielded (his) power irresponsibly” and that he is “remorseful” for his actions and has “tried to learn from them.”
No, he has not. He wasn’t being irresponsible and he isn’t remorseful. Why? Because the gif I posted is from a show that premiered in 2013. Louis C. K. knew EXACTLY what he was doing, and he DIDN’T CARE. Because to him and so many other so-called “feminist” men, women are NOTHING.
We are a punchline.
Naming women’s oppression scored him points with feminists and made him seem “edgy” and “progressive.” It even scored him points with me at the time, which is one of the reasons I’m so angry now.
I hate men who hang their heads AFTER getting caught being misogynist pricks and cry about how “remorseful” they are. I hate so-called feminist dudes who get to score points by STATING THE OBVIOUS that men oppress women and are violent and abusive and wag their fingers saying “men, we need to take responsibility” and then turn around and treat women JUST AS SH*TTY as any other misogynist a**hole out there.
I hate listening to my fellow feminists defend dude’s rights to speak in women’s spaces as long as they’re saying some feminist sh*t and “speaking to men.” I hate people applauding these f*cks or even giving them the time of day when they’re NO LESS LIKELY to hate/abuse/demean/degrade/ignore women than ANY OTHER MAN out there!
I’ve been posting some comments along the lines of #YESALLMEN (are a threat to women) and No, I don’t trust/am not impressed by so-called feminist dudes — and this has rubbed some people the wrong way. I can live with that. What I cannot live with is dudes who claim to be feminist/say some feminist sh*t getting a pass to then behave sh*tty when they’re not on stage or publishing their so-called progressive, feminist opinions online.
I do not believe that there are SOME MEN out there who do not pose a threat to women and children.
I don’t think that there are any dudes who are SO ENLIGHTENED that they could NEVER harm a woman or child.
There is no man that is so funny
or iconic that he’s exempt from the misogyny that governs the planet and keeps women from being acknowledged as full human beings worthy of decency and respect.
Under patriarchy, safe, harmless men do not exist. A man who acknowledges this is not then safe or harmless to women. There is no formula, or list of character traits, or things a guy can say that will guarantee he will not harm women in some way at some point. I say this with the full acceptance that this applies to all the men in my life, no matter how loving and close a relationship we have. The reality of patriarchy is that all men dominate women–not SOME men–ALL of them. We don’t get to pick and choose our oppressors because we wish and hope and need SOME men to be safe and kind and decent. They cannot and will not be what we need because, under patriarchy, we do not count.
In a story featured in Feminist Current’s Wednesday edition of What’s Current, journalist Kim Wall was found floating in the water near Denmark’s capital, having been stabbed 15 times and dismembered. Ten days earlier, she had boarded Peter Madsen’s submarine for an interview. Madsen is being held on murder charges.
In the linked piece from The Guardian, Madsen claims Wall was hit in the head by a hatch cover in a “terrible accident.” I’m sure that what Madsen meant to say was that it was a terrible accident he got caught.
Madsen also claims to have felt “suicidal” when he tied a weight to Wall’s body and chucked her overboard. Allegedly, he planned to take his own life by sinking his submarine after disposing of her body. Personally, I think it’s a shame he didn’t succeed.
One of the most damning pieces of information in the article was that Madsen’s computer was swimming with porn of women being tortured and killed. This piece of information was added to The Guardian article almost as an afterthought. The article does feature a comment from Madsen which amounts to “it wasn’t mine.” He says he wasn’t the only person with access to the computer (there were multiple sadistic misogynists on board?) and the content did not belong to him.
What an interesting choice of words. He wasn’t the only one with access. So…he and his submarine crew of violent misogynists watched snuff films together? He had help with the murder/dismemberment/disposal of this woman?
The content did not belong to him. This is a type of wording psychopaths love to use. It can technically be true (he didn’t own the rights to the material) AND misleading at the same time! Bravo, you sick f***!
I can hear the arguments from the boys’ club right now:
Porn had nothing to do with the murder. Plenty of guys watch porn and don’t murder or abuse or rape women.
Sure! And plenty of pedophiles don’t “actually” abuse children, they just like to look at pictures of children for sexual gratification. Oh wait–that’s a punishable offense! But we don’t sanction the viewing of material that is violent or degrading towards women. We prefer to roll the dice and hope that these women are of age, “consenting”, lucid and not drugged or addicted, and “happy” to be doing what they’re doing in a culture that’s completely devoid of pressure for women to be subservient, sexualized, compliant, cum repositories.
Sure, plenty of guys watch porn and don’t murder women. Let’s just keep rolling the dice with women’s lives and when they DO get murdered by sadistic, porn-watching men, we can say “Oops! I had no idea this would happen as porn has NOTHING to do with violence towards women.”
This is the madhouse of a world that we live in–a world in which the daily sexualization/degradation/oppression of women inflicted on them from birth is twisted with words like “agency” “choice” and “fun.” Girls like looking sexy–it’s fun! They haven’t been told from birth that their only value lies in how open they are to being sexualized/poked/prodded/scrutinized/degraded/fucked by men. It’s not like girls are reminded every day that the only point to their existence is being objectifed and that if they aren’t being of service/servicing some man, they might as well be dead.
We live in a world where porn that, both directly and indirectly, harms women is protected under the banner of “free speech” and liberty. But liberty for whom? For all? Or for MEN. Because whether women are being silenced by having cocks shoved down their throats or being silenced by the men who abuse and kill them, porn is not raising up women’s voices. Porn silences women. Men who reenact porn silence women. The men who watch porn and defend porn SILENCE WOMEN. Men who murder women SILENCE WOMEN.
Kim Wall and millions of other women and girls are silenced by men permanently every day.
Porn, the “free love” movement of the 60’s and the more recent “sex-positive” movement are all the kind of “activism” that liberals and leftists of any degree can get behind. Seen as a rebellion against religious conservatism and the stuffy morals of the Victorian era, looser sexual mores offer an excellent opportunity for liberals to show off just how enlightened they truly are. But sexual liberals are mistaken if they think these viewpoints or their acceptance of porn is a sign of some higher understanding; if anything, it is the opposite.
What if the barriers around sexual behavior were imagined? For instance, some believe that women can demonstrate how sexually liberated they are by being constantly sexually available, allowing and even engaging in raunchy humor with men, and accepting/desiring anal sex. By being this way, women are transgressing the outdated, puritanical, “oppressive” sexual mores of the past. But what exactly is being transgressed?
Even sexually conservative ideals of women still have them remain sexually available; the only change is that these women must not appear to be so. Instead of being required to accept/engage in raunchy humor, women are expected to be disgusted by it and to play coy. The “rule against” anal sex is the ultimate sign of sexual repression and thus, the ultimate sign of women’s sexual liberation. The fact that women have no pleasure centers in their rectums or that anal sex can be painful, degrading, and lead to injury is not considered.
What we have here are essentially equal views of women’s sexuality. Women are expected to embody whatever the predominant male fantasy is at the time. Furthermore, male fantasies have not changed in that women are most desirable when they are sexually available to men, whether that be in the guise of the coy, “good girl” or the sexually “liberated” woman who enjoys raunchy humor and anal sex.
If we accept that these two ideals are actually essentially the same, what is it that’s being transgressed? Where is the liberation and from what? Men are still dictating the expectations and women are expected to comply, defend, and assume these expectations as their own. If the requirements have gone from explicit to implicit, women are still “doing what they’re told” but under the guise of “agency” and “freedom.”
It was Catherine MacKinnon who said:
If we knew the boundaries were phony, existed only to eroticize the targeted transgressable, would penetrating them feel less sexy?
Perhaps. But dominance and submission itself have been eroticized to the point where female submission to male fantasy is not only acceptable but desirable. This is one of the reasons consent becomes a sticky topic. Women and girls are being exposed to porn that teaches them it is a natural part of a woman’s sexuality to be submissive and accommodating to male whims in the bedroom. Furthermore, men on both sides end up working together to oppress women sexually–conservatives setting up “the rules”, and liberals “breaking them.” Women who value membership in either group will follow the dictates prescribed by the men of that group.
Sex itself is also a very powerful intoxicant. The chemicals released in our brains during sexually pleasurable experiences act as analgesics to pain and play a role in bonding as well. Anyone who is familiar with the dynamics of sexual abuse knows that it is normal for victims to feel pleasure and bonding during the abuse and that this is often used to the perpetrator’s advantage.
Ultimately, what we end up with, is a society in which people are “blind” to the power dynamics of sex and the oppression and abuse inherent in many sexual practices/relationships. The woman who wants to be “liberated” from the sexually repressed ideals of the puritanical past, is kept blind to her own oppression and the oppression and abuse of women and children through the integration and acceptance of abusive sex practices into mainstream culture. When articles encouraging young girls to engage in anal sex are printed in teen magazines, it’s seen as “sex-positive” and healthy instead of what it really is which is grooming for later sexual abuse.
With the proliferation of porn in popular culture, the sexual objectification and abuse of women and children can take place on a massive scale with the aid of addictive chemicals released during sexual acts. Porn culture is also propped up by a growing compendium of “scientific studies” supporting the idea that being penetrated by men in not only normal but healthy and if you don’t like it there might be something wrong with you.
In order to wake up from our chemically and culturally -induced stupor, we have to be willing to acknowledge that the real taboo when it comes to sex is naming it as a conduit for oppression and abuse. If you’re thinking that seems scary or undesirable because sex and porn are a pleasurable part of your life, this is exactly part of the problem. We become complicit in the abuse when we are not willing to even question it.
As an ardent film fan and passionate feminist, I watch the movie world like a hawk for a glimpse of women telling their stories through film. I subscribe to Women and Hollywood for updates and was severely dismayed when I read this article about the upcoming biopic about Wonder Woman creator, William Moulton Marston. Overall, I’m not a fan of superheroes but have taken special care to avoid the Wonder Woman movie. Even before I knew about her creator, I took issue with her overtly sexual portrayal in comics and on film.
Following the success of the Wonder Woman movie, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women will explore the relationships between Marston, his wife, and his (their?) girlfriend(s). With a commitment to realism, filmmakers cast Luke Evans in the role of Mr. Marston.
While the real Marston has been hailed as a feminist, I don’t think he deserves that title. Marston has been quotedas saying that “women enjoy submission” and “Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” It didn’t surprise me to learn that he hired a male artist to capture his heroine. She is supposedly a combination of the suffragists and the Varga girls of the 1940’s.
The trailer makes it look as though Marston’s wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, wanted to bring another woman into the marriage just as much as Marston did but according to an NPR interview with historian Jill Lepore, Marston threatened to leave Holloway if she did not acquiesce to his wishes. There is also, at some point, a third woman who enters the picture and lives in the attic. There’s mention of what sounds like a sex cult that the four of them are a part of in which women
“in their relation to males expose their bodies and use various legitimate methods of the love sphere to create in males submission to them, the women mistresses, or love leaders, in order that they, the mistresses, might submit in passion to the males.”
Lepore giggles a lot during the NPR interview but seems sincere about telling Marston’s story as truthfully as possible. However, I do not find Marston’s story very compelling. The only part of the story that was compelling was that Holloway and the younger mistress, Olive Byrne stayed together decades after Marston’s death. What was it that made their relationship endure?
To me, Marston doesn’t sound any better than any of the other misogynists who need a harem of women surrounding them at all times. I think a lot of people who preach sexual empowerment for women through a sort of cavalier attitude towards sex have a lot more in common with the religious fundamentalists they claim to defy.
There’s nothing “progressive” or feminist about Marston’s set-up. Religious fundamentalists from Osama Bin Laden to Mormon leader Warren Jeffs were polygamous/polyamorous as were cult leaders Charles Manson and David Koresh. While the comparison might seem outlandish, we need to think about the people who shaped our views on sex and sexuality. These views are heavily influenced by the patriarchal culture we live in, one in which the interests of men are paramount. Alfred Kinsey, the father of the sexual revolution and lead promoter of the “anything goes” attitude towards sex, did not publish data he didn’t find useful and he also wrote about children’s sexuality with information gathered from pedophiles.
I do not believe Professor Marston & The Wonder Women should be touted as feminist or in any way benefitting women. I think it needs to be examined the way all popular media should be: as patriarchal propaganda. Women and Hollywood, while some of its articles are illuminating, tends to publish stories about ANY movie that’s even remotely related women without regard for whether or not the movies actually help women as a whole. I am not content to subsist off of crumbs when it comes to seeing women’s stories represented in film. And with as much influence as movies and celebrities exert in our society, we need to hold filmmakers and actors to a much higher standard.
Many people fail to see the way in which gender stereotypes harm women, girls, and ultimately, everyone. We tend to take them for granted, never questioning where they came from or what purpose they might serve. In this essay, I intend to examine some of the more prominent gender stereotypes and hopefully answer and raise a few questions for the reader.
One staple of “girlhood” in our society is playing with dolls. Dolls have been reinforcing gender norms and shaping the lives of girls for centuries. In an article for Smithsonian magazine, Linda Rodrigues McRobbie notes that:
“Through the 18th and 19th century, dressing up dolls gave little girls the opportunity to learn to sew or knit..”
While some may argue that dolls can reflect more choices and liberation for women and girls, they’ve certainly done their part to narrow the lives of girls in our society.
“In the early 20th century, right around the time that women were increasingly leaving the home and entering the workplace, infant dolls became more popular, inducting young girls into a cult of maternal domesticity.”
Even though the focus of the article is not the history of dolls or their effect on girls in our society, the author points out that:
“The recent glut of boy-crazy, bizarrely proportioned, hyper-consumerist girl dolls (think Bratz, Monster High) says something about both how society sees girls and how girls see themselves, although what is for another discussion.”
Incidentally, there is a Tasmanian artistwho has endeavored to make-under the over-sexualized Bratz dolls. Make some with short hair, Sonia!
While hair trends have undergone many changes over time, long hair has been a staple of femininity and thus, a symbol of womanhood, since before the ancient Greeks. In a Time magazine article, archaeologist Elizabeth Bartman said that men “risked scorn for appearing effeminate” if they wore their hair too long.
In the same article, sociologist Anthony Synnott notes a Bible passage reflecting society’s attitudes toward gender and length of hair from the book of St. Paul:
“Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.”
No, Paul, it doth not. Women do not “naturally” have longer hair than men. However, our culture does dictate that we should see it that way. While it may be socially acceptable (read accepted by men) for women to have short hair, author Jo-Ellan Dimitrius states that:
“men prefer long hair on women as they believe it’s ‘sexy,’ Short hair is perceived as only being attractive on a woman who is slender and/or physically fit.”
Thus, even while this may be an area where women can express themselves a little more freely, there are still cultural restraints (patriarchy) around socially acceptable hairstyles for women and girls to wear.
In Western culture, high heels gained popularity among the women andmen of the aristocracy. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that they became unpopular because of their association with Marie Antoinette. After that, flats and slippers became popular for awhile and it wasn’t until women began working for pay outside of the home that heels made a resurgence. In a 2015 CBS interview on the history of heels, curator Lisa Small says,
“I think a lot of it had to do even with wartime technologies. The use of steel and extruded metals allowed fashion designers and fabricators to think about a way to use metal in the heel.”
…and to reinforce women’s primary identity: sex objects.
“It causes your rear to move, it causes your hips to have to compensate and do the little wiggle, [and] the chest goes out,” said Small. “So these are all biologically determined markers of mating attraction.”
Even if heels cause your body to contort in a way that appeals to biological urges, associating them with femininity and thus, womanhood is extremely socially constraining and demeaning. Small acknowledges that:
“Women can feel powerful when they wear high-heeled shoes, they can feel more confident, and that’s all to the better. But it’s a very interesting construction of power. Until men in powerful positions also wear high-heeled shoes, it’s always going to be the question of what kind of power a high-heeled shoe really conveys.”
An interesting question indeed.
The use of makeup is strongly associated with women and femininity. Women and girls are expected to use makeup and are highly reinforced in doing so. When we are little, we play with dolls that are obviously wearing makeup, we see our mothers and older female family members using makeup, and we rarely get to see images of women without makeup on. Indeed, it is so rare to see women without makeup that to take a picture of yourself make-up free is deemed an act of bravery!
Overall 90 per cent of women and almost 80 per cent of men agreed that women are still under greater pressure than men to look “well groomed”.
Senior director of Ipsos Marketing, Pippa Bailey says:
“It’s still widely accepted that women are held to higher standards than men and are spending more of their time on personal grooming.”
An article called The Female Economy analyzed women’s buying habits and found that four of the main areas marketers should target when selling to female customers were: food, beauty, fitness, and apparel. I would argue that all of those industries use extremely sexist marketing strategies, not the least of which is beauty.
Women and girls are indoctrinated from the time they are born to believe that they are not good enough as they are. We are told we need to lighten, tighten, firm, enlarge, slim down, pump up–all with the aid of beauty products. Marketers create a self-fulfilling prophecy when they bombard us with images of ideal beauty and promise that the only way for us to feel whole and confident is through use of their product.
“Beauty products and services promote a sense of emotional well-being in women. Those we talked with who spent a higher portion of their income on cosmetics felt more satisfied, successful, and powerful; they also reported lower levels of stress even if they worked longer hours.”
The article’s author admits that the industry is male-dominated with the most powerful positions occupied primarily by men. If wearing makeup were so central to being a woman, shouldn’t those positions be held by them? Some people truly believe that it is in a woman’s nature to want to primp and preen but the aforementioned fact seems to suggest otherwise. There’s nothing in our make-up that makes us want to wear make-up…if you will.
While gender stereotypes might seem harmless or humorous to some, their function in our society is oppressive. They serve to limit and objectify women, relegating them to second-class citizens. Men and boys are limited by gender stereotypes as well but due to their dominant status are not oppressed by them. It is because of misogyny that men who do things that are seen as feminine are often targets for harassment.
We need to abolish the idea that these things over here are for boys and these things over here are for girls–it’s regressive. We need to stop being slaves to consumerism and build an economy that reflects the value of all people regardless of sex. This will mean building media literacy and thinking critically about how we influence the world we live in and how it influences us.
“I Am Jane Doe” is a film by Mary Mazzio about child sex trafficking in the U.S. I had so much come up for me when I watched this: horror, disgust, heartbreak. I thought I had some idea about the extent of child sex trafficking in the U.S. but I was mistaken. This film follows the cases of two girls in particular who were trafficked through the backpage.com website. Please watch and recommend this important film to others. This film is streaming on Netflix now.
I cried when I read this article. Some of the things it describes are so horrendous but it reflects the reality for women all over the globe. Please read it and share it. It is so important that people are exposed to and moved by women’s stories–their realities. It’s so important that women and girls are not ignored or swept aside. Allow yourself to be moved by the stories in this article and allow others to be moved by it as well.
A 2014 article by Rebecca Solnit recently sparked my interest in the myth of Cassandra, a woman blessed by Apollo with the gift of prophecy then cursed to never be believed, all because she would not sleep with him. In the article, Solnit uses the myth to illustrate the curse of all women to be questioned, gaslighted, and otherwise discredited when trying to speak the truth.
As is typical for me, I wanted to read more about Cassandra and see if anyone else had come to the same conclusion as Solnit. What I came across was a 1984 article by Mary Lefkowitz discrediting the work of Christina Wolf, Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays.It seems Wolf came to a similar conclusion as Solnit: the myth of Cassandra reflects the reality of all women living under patriarchy.
Lefkowitz describes Wolf’s conclusion as “ambitious” and containing a “series of imaginative leaps.” I don’t know about you, but my imagination did not have to stretch far at all to see the metaphor in the myth of Cassandra. Lefkowitz goes on to say that
If Mrs. Wolf had looked more closely at Aeschylus instead of relying on a 19th-century handbook’s recasting of the myth, she would have seen that in the original story Cassandra chose her own fate. Apollo offered her, the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters, whatever she wanted if she would have intercourse with him. She asked for the gift of prophecy but then refused to keep her part of the bargain, so the god punished her by keeping her from being believed. If she had slept with him, she would have been able to prophesy and to bear a son who would have become a famous hero – not a bad deal considering what the gods were capable of doing to men and women if they felt like it. The ancient Greeks, whatever their limitations, believed in freedom of choice; their women were no more victimized by the world around them than their men;
they recorded not only the oppression of individuals and groups but of humanity. (bold emphasis mine)
I just about fell over when I read this. I’d like to think that this type of opinion is outdated, but it’s not. Women and men still believe that a woman’s decision to submit is as free and fair a choice as any that a man would make. In fact, this is the view popularized by the “sex-positive” movement. Women who “choose” to acquiesce, relent, and give in to the desires of men are somehow empowered. But the real myth here is that women are just as free to choose not to submit.
Women who choose to say “no” still face the threat of violence, loss of financial security, and social or physical death. Confronted with this reality, many women feel they have no choice. Or, like Lefkowitz seems to suggest, they decide that unlimited access to their bodies is a small price to pay for safety and security.
It is the devaluation of women in patriarchal society that makes constant violation seem like a viable choice. Indeed, in regards to unwanted sex, women and girls are often told “it’s not so bad” or “it’s supposed to hurt.” They’re made to believe that rape is a fantasy desired by some women and are subjected to a relentless onslaught of media sexualizing violence and dominance/submission.
It’s with this amount of denial, gaslighting, and outright lying that the myth of Cassandra retains its poignancy. Women have and do exist in a world where they are routinely discredited and slandered for speaking the truth. It angers and saddens me to no end that one of the best weapons the patriarchy has found to use against us is other women. It is for this reason that I believe, as is stated in the book description for Cassandra, that stories like this are “an urgent call to examine the past in order to ensure a future.”