The myth of Medusa has been viewed through two distinct lenses from the classical period in Greece to present day; the lense of the male gaze and that of early feminism. Through Medusa’s transformation from a beautiful, erotic young maiden into a grotesque gorgon at the hands of Athena, regulation and disregard for female sexuality in ancient Greece is made prevalent. After her rape by the god Poseidon in the Holy Temple of the Virgin Athena, Medusa faces great punishment seen as justified by the goddess through a fit of jealousy of her allure, and rage at the despoiling of her sacred temple, though she had not committed a crime outside of the tragic loss of her virtue. The myth of Medusa is still important in modern day as it highlights issues of sexual assault and its twisted repercussions for both the perpetrator and the victim, taking Poseidon’s lack thereof into consideration. Medusa’s curse is comparable to treatment of unchaste and lustful women in ancient Greek society, as well as suppression of female sexuality compared to male sexuality in both ancient and modern times. Using on site research in Athens, Greece, Articles by Doris K. Silverman and Nancy R. Felson from Studies in Gender and Sexuality Journal, and references to Hesiod’s Theogony, this project will demonstrate the importance of Greek Mythology in maintaining male dominance in ancient Greek culture while simultaneously acknowledging possibility of female empowerment from a Greek woman’s perspective of these myths in the times they were written.
The myth of Medusa has been viewed through two distinct lenses over time; the male gaze and that of early feminism. Through Medusa’s transformation from a beautiful maiden into a gorgon by Athena, regulation of female sexuality in ancient Greece prevails. After her rape in the Temple of Athena, Medusa faces punishment justified by the goddess through rage at the despoiling of her temple. The myth is important today, highlighting issues of sexual assault, treatment of women, and suppression of female sexuality compared to male sexuality throughout time. Using on site research in Greece, Articles from Studies in Gender and Sexuality Journal, and Hesiod’s Theogony, this research will demonstrate the importance of folklore in maintaining male dominance in ancient Greek culture, yet acknowledging female empowerment.