We’re at the beginning of an overdue reckoning in our male-dominated society. Women are finding the strength to rise up and be heard in a way that they never have before. They are speaking out against issues and problems the preside over our community and are highlighting the ways in which toxic male behaviour needs to be addressed and dealt with. Taking a look back in time, there is a moral to the stories that we’ve shared throughout history, both real and mythical. It is an indication of the times that we are able to look at previously vilified women of mythology and recognise them for being the strong, courageous female role models they truly are, and the warped way that we have been telling their stories all this time.
One such story is that of Medusa.
Painted as a vengeful, horrific being with snakes in her hair and a powerful gaze that could turn you to stone, Medusa was bound to a story that depicted her as nothing but a villain.
She was a creature of horror – one that would stand in the way of men as they attempt to make their way through the world. What we’re beginning to understand is that Medusa isn’t the villain she’s portrayed to be. Mythology has taken the story of this powerful woman and twisted it into a hideous tale of jealousy and persecution that pits women against each other, over a man whose actions are reprehensible. After suffering a traumatic rape by Poseidon at Athena’s temple, Medusa was condemned to a life as a beast with the ability to turn those who looked upon her face to stone by none other than Athena herself. A punishment she was bestowed for merely being the victim of a heinous act.
What makes her such an enigmatic figure to this day is how Medusa’s story mirrors the real life issues facing women and millions of people who’ve suffered and been penalised for the same abuse and assault. In today’s political climate, this myth has found itself becoming immensely more relatable. The appointing of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a decision that angered and hurt many individuals who have experienced sexual assault and are now witnessing the perpetrator not only free of persecution, but also rewarded.
The collective incidents of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez have emanated through the world like a siren in the wind. These three women have stood up to their assailant only to be persecuted. Standing up against those who opposed her, Dr. Ford retold the story of her assault, only to be dismissed. Her life, and the lives of all three of these women were forever changed by the actions of this man, and instead of being held responsible for what he has done, he was elected to Supreme Court. Like Poseidon, Kavanaugh has found himself free and unmarked by his actions, while his victims have suffered the wrath of others and the community at large. Like Medusa, the accusers have found themselves ostracised and unable to escape the pain of living through those traumatising events all over again.
This story isn’t new. Like the mythology and Dr. Ford’s testimony, such stories are common in our past and present. Millennia on, and shamefully the narrative hasn’t changed.
In a time of growing awareness of women’s rights and issues, the myth of Medusa has been reexamined with a perspective of a world that has a language for gender equality, rape culture and discrimination. No longer a monster, her story of being a victim of rape culture has resonated deeply with many people, and in beautiful retaliation, been fittingly reimagined as the symbol for feminist rage.
People are finding new female role models they can find strength in. The story of Timoclea is unmatched in historical circles. Once a woman living in the pillaged city of Thebes during the Thracian’s forces invasion, a captain broke into Timoclea’s home and subjected her to assault and rape. After this, Timoclea tricked the captain into following her into the garden under the guise of hidden treasures she possessed, only to then push him into an empty well and stone him to death. Timoclea was sentenced to a trial by Alexander the Great, who then dismissed her actions and demanded his officers to refrain from this sort of abuse. This story has found its own connection to the current day ideals of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. In this story, Timoclea is a woman who stands up against her rapist. She shows a strength and determination that is reflected in the army of people who’ve stood up against their attackers and have said “Time’s Up.”
As more incidents and reports come to light, the vitality of Timoclea and her determination to stand up for herself has found a place within the people who are coming forth with their past. From Rose McGowan and countless others standing up against Harvey Weinstein to Anthony Rapp and many more coming forward with stories of assault by Kevin Spacey, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have found inspiration in Timoclea’s story. She’s a warrior. A woman who won’t back down against the person who’s wronged her. It’s a powerful thing to see people banding together through the story, inspired and encouraged to find their inner warrior as well.
The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. – Michael Margolis
Mythology has a way of putting our world into perspective. Stories of ancient history should feel like they are in the past, but when they don’t, we best pay attention. If there is anything to be learnt through the stories of Medusa and Timoclea, we must be critical of who we hero, who we vilify, which stories we tell and which characters we silence. For their stories are our stories, and if you are not happy with the ending, write a happier one.
And that is the moral of the story.
Title image credit: Nightmare Creatures Online