Be Lysistrata, Be a Maenad…Hell, Just BE Mad!


01/29/2013 by syrbal-labrys

Back in the day, when I was a young thing unaffected by gravity and time, I was often accused of being a terrible fire-breathing feminist. I was told I was the type who would happily “line men up against the wall and shoot them all”. Good thing nobody actually says that to me now. I’d likely snap “Hel, yeah, and let my Goddess sort out the good ones.” Because, frankly, a lot of things have gone downhill since the late 60’s and early 70’s when I set foot into the world working as a waitress for $5 per eight hour shift.

I never burned a bra, mind you….and for you whippersnappers who never got that? The bra burning was because it was assumed back then that every “proper” girl and woman never set foot out of her house without wearing one of those AND a girdle to keep any possibly jiggly bits firmly bound up. I simply didn’t BUY those controlling garments. I wore an apparently invitingly scandalous garter belt to hold up my hosiery. I still have a little spidery blue mark on my thigh where a man reached beneath my skirt and snapped the garter and the little metal clip memorialized the moment of male privilege. I doubt the coffee I poured in his lap left as long lasting a reminder, but it was the best I could do.

Nowadays, in India, “proper” girls don’t consort with males, nor call them on cellphones. Because, oh my goodness, to do so would entice their loving liberal parents to murder them. Yes, it seems the “gentle” Hindu sorts (who have “extreme” members (Jains) who worry about inhaling an insect and thus killing it) have caught the affliction of woman“honor killing” from their Islamic neighbors. As if it wasn’t sufficient when Hindu brides were dying by burning, now girls are killed by their own parents for something as minor as talking to a boy on a cellphone?

“Ah, yes,” you say, “Those crazy-assed Moslems and Hindus….how can you expect more without the gentle love of Jesus?” Oh, right. Because Biblical sorts never do anything horrid to women, right? They don’t throw their daughters out on doorsteps to appease a ravening mob, ever, right…because letting girl children be raped is preferable to a freaking “angel” taking it up the ass? And hey, Hagar got SUCH a deal, tossed into the desert when Sarah finally freaking reproduced. Lucky God felt guilty enough to give them water, eh? Yeah, religion is ALWAYS so good to women. Specially religions with no divine FEMALE figures.

And no, this is not where I tell you worship of a Goddess is superior. Would that I could by a word, eliminate ALL religion from this planet, I would do so. Because history doesn’t tell me a pagan world was more peaceful, more merciful or more embracing of women. But it might have been more honest about the reasons for asshattery. That is the best I can say. I mean, Agammemnon didn’t cut a son’s throat to apologize to Artemis for being a hubristic prick, did he?

And yes, even Lysistrata of my title is rather played for laughs….those ancient women slandered as being drunken hedonists. The idea of women withholding sex…and thus children, from men who won’t stop making war and wrecking life is seen as humor. And of course, we all know, men laugh at such an idea anyhow. After all, rape is the hole card of the patriarchy. Doesn’t matter if a woman SAYS “no” if she can’t make it so, right? And then, when it is over, it is her fault anyhow for being such a temptress.

Even those ancient Hellene sorts knew there was something wrong with that reasoning. Stories of the ecstatic maenads murdering men errant enough to interrupt their rites were allegedly about the intoxicating power of alcohol? Not so much, if you ask me…I’d say those stories were instructive about the capability for destruction by empowered women. Like it or not, the lives of women around the world are controlled by men and the ideas men have about how women should act and be treated.

In the West, we tend to dress this up and “subtle” it out too often. We think it “can’t happen to us” …especially the young women who think my generation fought and killed off all those horridly repressive ideas.
Right, Baby…you HAVE come a long way in the WRONG direction, if you can’t see they are like the Hydra and have grown back multiple heads. Of course, it does disturb me no end to use that metaphor…which is from a story about rendering feminine power (even that of a Goddess – Hera) impotent. So yes, even pagan mythology constantly tells women to more or less lie back and enjoy it, and to be good little girls or else.

As long as the dominant religious “ideals” of the world are patriarchal, women will be crushed beneath male heels in one way or another. And yes, there ARE men ….husbands and fathers of daughters, who are feminists, too. But I have to say, they seem a minority. With the resurgent power of the Religious Reich Right in America, harnessed to the GOP Party like a maddened elephant indeed, I see American women more at risk than when I was 17, making my way alone in the world with a $30 monthly rent and about $35 a week for income. Women everywhere are more deprived of power, and they are being more terrorized, rather than less, in this new 21st century. It makes even an old warhorse like me despair.

That picture up there? It is a print on canvas, of an old one-time Life magazine cover by artist W.T. Benda. I adore it for its wildness…for it IS a maenad, you see and possibly a married one. For the peacock feathers were emblematic of the Goddess Hera (goddess of marriage); though the Maenads worshiped Dionysus and wore a leopard or fox pelt as emblem of their love the of the deity. She rides the unrideable zebra…which is rearing at the hissing serpent. Snakes are often emblematic of the male penis, so even in that picture, an artist portrayed the seemingly eternal problem of a woman seeking autonomy and being confronted by an angry dick! This image hangs above the main toilet in my house. I like to think that on a sub-conscious level, every man standing there with his naked dick in his hand gets the message that if he acts like a venomous snake he might get crushed under the sharp hooves of a woman-driven enraged beast! I know, likely that is just a fantasy, it is more likely most men stand there thinking, “Wow, hot chick. RED dress, does that mean she’s for hire?”

But seriously, I wonder if more women need to pick up the thyrsus, or a ball-bat substitute? (Because even those countries most boasted for equality have nasty little secrets about rape statistics. (That link leads to a laborious pdf about rape in the much more equality minded Nordic countries.)I certainly think men need to recognize that women are the part of the human race that makes the human race continue, and that we deserve actual equality rather than lip service and sermons of hypocrisy. But then, so many patriarchal religions, as Nietzsche pointed out, actually hate life. Perhaps he was onto something there, for since women (not men) create life, that is why we are so hated/abused/abased by men?

And then, another quote of his might be instructive. If we all could espouse the belief, “Enjoy life, it is not a dress rehearsal,” then the snake oil pie-in-the-sky salesmen would be out of work. And the scapegoating of half the human race might come to an end.


2 thoughts on “Be Lysistrata, Be a Maenad…Hell, Just BE Mad!

  1. eldri says:

    the Thyrsus? that giant fennel? *Not Fertility*

    it was from all accounts, a *Relible* and Safe method of birth control-(-the plant is now extininct-)
    -it may have been a phallic symbol, — but not so much Fertility, I am thinking Fun with the God!

    ( I wish you had spell check here)

    • syrbal says:

      Yes, even birth control would be dandy…or even the merely symbolic ones with a pine cone on top to signify the revolution against male dominance.

      (Yeah…what DID happen to spell check, I did used to have it here?)

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The name of this blog, and my Dreamwidth blog, Herlander Refugee, is taken from a 1915 feminist novel "Herland". It makes my heart sing that modern women are experimenting with creation of a new "Herland"! Yes, comments are closed. Anyone who just MUST reach me can do so at syrbal6 at gmail dot com.

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