Rojas, Rodríguez, Calderón & Acuna
Vinicio Rojas (A75581)
Hernán Rodríguez (A95294)
Isabel Calderón (B01170)
Jahaira Acuna (A60052)
M.Ed. Tamatha Rabb Andrews
IO-5520 Comparative Literature
29 November 2013
Lysistrata and Medea:
A Comparative Feminist Analysis
Arab Human Development Report documents that the Arab world, also known as the Arab Nation, has some of the highest rates of illiteracy, and the lowest rate of female labor force participation in the world. Women in the region have a lack of basic health care, access to education and who live in poverty due to an insufficient income. Furthermore, women in this region are constantly oppressed as seen in their limited legal rights when it comes to violence upon their person, which makes access to justice for what is done to them next to nil. These conditions are compounded by problems of social exclusion, the curtailment of fundamental freedoms, and lack of democracy.1 This is just one of many examples of today’s patriarchal society which is similar to the social context portrayed in the plays Lysistrata by Aristophanes ---originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BCE ---- and Medea by Euripides----first produced in 431 BC. Using the Feminist approach, the affects of repression will be analyzed within the before mentioned plays as it affects women's autonomy. Both plays are set in a patriarchal society in which women are marginalized and oppressed. The main characters become representatives of a feminist movement, when they disrupt the male parameter as they awaken to the knowledge of their oppression and search for their own autonomy. While both Lysistrata and Medea are similar in terms of women's actions towards a patriarchal society, they differ in regards to selfhood within each of the primary characters.
Lysistra and Medea are clear representations of women subordinated by male empowerment in their respective settings. Patriarchy is defined as a form of social organization in which men are assumed to be superior as women are marginalized. This ideology is seen in both Lysistrata and Medea: “there is no beast so shameless as a woman” (Aristophanes 467- 468), and “This is not always just, but we know that justice, at least on earth, / Is a name not a fact.” (Euripides 100-104) In the first example, women are deemed to be lower than a beast due to their shameless nature; in the second case, Medea is facing the fact that justice is in favor of men, who are the center of the hegenomic society. In this male center ideology, women are placed as “the other”, the one who does not have a voice and whose rights are limited and oppressed. This aspect is best seen in Euripides' Medea: “….I have decided / That you must leave this land at once and go into banishment, you with your children. I intend to remove…” / A root of disturbance out of the soil of Corinth . . . . (133-135),and in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the protagonist, Lysistrata, informs the Magistrate that in the past the women had ". . . endured the war / for a good long time with . . . [their] usual restraint, / no matter what" (672-674). Then the Magistrate replied that it was exactly what a woman is supposed to do unless they wanted to be "soundly smacked" (685) for not holding their tongue. These last excerpts portray how women were marginalized whether it was condeming a woman and her children to exile as per the whims of a husband who eyes to marry another or silencing wives and mothers from ever speaking against men's affairs such as the business of war. With these social rules set, both protagonists, Medea and Lysistrata awaken to their maginalized existence in which this oppression of the one has gone far enough. As such, both women strive for selfhood by freely opposing the hegemonic domination in which double standards are applied.
Moreover, these two literary works bring into comparison the process of women achieving autonomy by stepping out of their spheres. Considering the sphere’s concept as the gendered assignation of physical and social space, in both Medea and Lysistrata, the spheres are shared regarding the male centered society. To illustrate the above in Medea: “but Medea/ lies in the house, broken with pain and rage she will neither eat/ nor drink, except her own tears” (Euripides 12-14). As well as it is shown in Lysistrata as: “Oh, they’ll come all right, my dear. It’s not easy for a woman to get out, you know. One is working on her husband, another is getting up the maid, another has to put the baby to bed, or wash and feed it” (Aristophanes 19-23). In Medea’s case the main character it is sheltered in the house, she is oppressed to accept what destiny brings to her, in the Lysistrata’s example it shows how the space is reduced to household chores and serving her husband, in both of these none of them have freedom for a life out of the house. Even though, autonomy is reached by Medea and Lysistrata by bringing down the chauvinist setting. An example of the independence reached by Medea can be seen in: “You are wise./ Anyone/ running between me and my justice will reap/ what no man wants” (Euriphides, act 2, 128-131), as she empowers herself to have revenge and be brave no matter the circumstances. In Lysistrata’s scenario the autonomy of the feminine side is portrayed in: “Therefore all we women have decided in council to make a common effort to save Greece” (lines 698-700), this regarding woman taking control over men’s decision of making war, and they trying to stop it in their own way. Thus these two examples of woman spheres and autonomy can concur in women’s empowerment by going out of their imposed circle and take actions against the patriarchal social order.
As a result of the oppression and inferiority that Lysistrata and Medea felt in their roles of women, both characters are awakened by the desire of being heard. Thus, Lysistrata says: “I´ll tell you, then, in plain and simple / words. My friends, if we are going to force our / men to make peace, we must do without –“(Aristophanes 154). As she realized she could be more than a woman that offers sex, she leaded women to the awakening and use their voice; Lysistrata planned a meeting among all of the women of Greece to discuss the plan to end the Peloponnesian War. In this way Lysistrata shows to be a woman that can make decisions by her own and get in a power position. On the other hand, Medea’s voice is heard by Creon when she asks for time before leaving Corinth: “Take it, then. Make your preparations. / But if tomorrow’s sun shines on you here – Medea, you die…” (Euriphides 210-211). Medea shows she is not a quiet woman; she has the power to be heard when being and feeling oppressed. Likewise, Lysistrata never remains silent: “Therefore all / we women have decided in council to make a / common effort to save Greece. How long should we have waited?” (Aristophanes 698-700). Lysistrata encourages all women to have a voice and to do something for themselves. The representation both characters have is of a strong and determined woman with which they can both achieve their will. Medea for example says: “You have loved me and betrayed me; now of all men/ You are utterly the most miserable.” (Euriphides, act 2, 344-346), Here, besides assuring that Jason paid for what he had done to her, she left him without the satisfaction of punishing her for her crimes. What is undoubtedly shown by the two characters in question is that even when being in a Patriarchal society they can success, as they are clearly representations of women whose voices are heard.
Finally, it has been shown that Lysistrata and Medea share more similarities than differences. Although they differ in aspects such as: setting, in the plot, characters´ circumstances, and theme; they are similar in how women are portrayed as powerful figures, the spheres they live in, their necessity of autonomy and voice projection. It is also important to mention that these two literary pieces are proper examples of women realizations in a patriarchal society and as examined through the lens of a feminist view, they came to show how women may undergo chauvinistic rules and succeed. The actions by which these two female characters empower themselves might be questionable means for the society they lived in and for today´s society norms such the Arabic case presented earlier, but drastic times call for drastic solutions. Lysistrata and Medea are examples of women that may encourage others now and in the future to take actions in order to overcome male oppression and fight for equality.