Monday, September 2, 2019

Sex as a Means of Agency Essay -- Aristophanes Female Women Essays

Sex as a Means of Agency â€Å"A woman’s harder to conquer than any beast, than fire, and no panther is quite so ferocious.† (Aristophanes 1058) Life for an Athenian woman was marked by her daily occupation to the household and its occupants. This was the sphere of life where she was able to exert the most power and maintain a certain degree of agency. Her domestic duties included attendance to her husband, and his sexual needs. In the comic portrayal of women in Lysistrata, Aristophanes exploits this domestic power to create a scenario where â€Å"the harsh and intractable realities of life, politics and international aggression are transformed so that wives manage to overcome husbands, love conquers war, insignificant citizens manage to discredit powerful ones† (Henderson 36). Aristophanes manipulates the Athenian reality by operating on common stereotypes of women, adding to the comic element but also highlighting the gaping gender division that existed in everyday life. In this comic utopian ideal, women are able to overcome their lack of agency in the public sphere by juxtaposing their domestic (primarily sex ual) power with the general polis. It is important to note that in ancient literary portrayals of women, men depict women according to their perceptions and the common social stereotypes. Although this may, in some cases, create a certain amount of discrepancy between the depiction of women and their actual life, it can still be a beneficial tool to understand their attitudes and struggles. As Henderson writes, â€Å"†¦even by itself the male view is interesting: it enables us to study the rules and roles that men created for women and to glimpse the desires and fears that prompted their enforcement† (20). In Atheni... ...ikely that one of women’s foremost complaints would be their invisibility in the public sphere. Therefore, although this comedic piece is clearly an exaggeration of reality, it is a useful tool in understanding the lives of women in the Athenian period. Aristophanes mirrors and manipulates Athenian reality as he portrays women and men through the comedic lens. In the case of Lysistrata, he incorporates common stereotypes and current institutions of power into a plot that not only puts women in a position of power, but also delineates them as the protagonists in forming a well-functioning polis. As this reflects the women’s role in maintaining a respectable household, he manifests their domestic agency on a higher level as a collective â€Å"mothering† of Athenian society where the entire polis is analogous to a household managed by competent and sensible women.

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