The Women had begun the struggle for their Rights centuries ago, because Inequality was quite flagrant in the society. Most of them are still struggling to establish their Rights! However, criminal acts, like rape, murder, torture, etc., have prompted them to change their tactics to win the battle against Patriarchy, time and again…
One can recall Sappho (630 BCE – 570 BCE) in this regard. Homer (800 BC – 701 BC) had described her as a great female poet of that period of time. Instead of her creations, Sappho’s gender identity had become important for the Greeks, including Homer, because she was a lady! Although the Archaic Greek poet from the Island of Lesbos was married, she, reportedly, was attracted to women. Hence, her sexual orientation, whether she was a homosexual or bisexual, was a matter of discussions in ancient Greece! Her creations became a secondary issue, as Women’s Sexuality has always been a popular subject. Instead of writing impersonal, aesthetic poems on nature or love, Sappho disclosed herself through her creations in Ancient Greece. She had the courage to say: “I desire/And I crave.” or “You set me on fire.” As far as women’s creativity is concerned, all this has always been considered as “eternal shamelessness”. Sappho had also written: “Virginity, virginity/Where will you go when you’ve left me?/I’ll never come back to you, bride/I’ll never come back to you.” As expected, the Patriarchal Society did not accept her Arrogance!
Many years later, Margaret Atwood (born November 18, 1939), in her 1985 dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, wrote: “She knows, that she will be declared an Unwoman if somebody will find out, because it is not allowed, that the Handmaids are alone with their Commanders… The Commander told her that the women working here could choose between a life as an Unwoman or a life as a prostitute for the Commanders…” The Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist and inventor added: “We are for breeding purposes: we aren’t concubines, geisha girls, courtesans. On the contrary: everything possible has been done to remove us from that category… We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.”
Winifred Mary Beard, the English Scholar of Ancient Roman Civilisation, said that the first task of a man would be to tell a woman to shut up, thus, pulling a collapsible gate around her. Man wants the Society not to hear her voice. It has been the custom in Western Literature and Art in any genre for ages, she stressed. According to Beard, to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8 every year is meaningless, as women do not have Equal Rights with men even in the 21st Century! She further said that to suppress the women was part of Gender Politics, else, the Patriarchal Society could not decentralise women from the core of Power.
Beard has mentioned Homer’s Odyssey in her works, saying that Odysseus has been glorified in one of the two foundational works of Ancient Greek Literature. However, Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, had to stay inside. When she made an attempt to present her thoughts at the King’s Court, her son Telemachus told her: “You should go back upstairs and take care of your work, Spinning and Weaving, and have the maids do theirs. Speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all; for mine is the Power in this household.” (The Odyssey 1.376-9) Thus, through the character of Telemachus, Homer had mentioned the statement of each and every man on the Earth… “Speech will be the business of men!”
Beard explained: “There is something faintly ridiculous about this wet-behind-the-ears lad shutting up the savvy, middle-aged Penelope. But, it is a nice demonstration that right where written evidence for Western Culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere.” She added: “More than that, as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species. The actual words Telemachus uses are significant too. When he says ‘speech’ is ‘men’s business’, the word is muthos – not in the sense that it has come down to us of ‘myth’. In Homeric Greek, it signals authoritative public speech, not the kind of chatting, prattling or gossip that anyone – women included, or especially women – could do.”
The East and the West have merged into one in this globalised world. Is it not evident in the polarisation of Men and Women?
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