Antigone: Gender Conflict Essay, Research Paper
?In the play Antigone there are many references that link to the
oppression of women. Creon made many convictions insulting
womenkind. His convictions seemed true to a large population of men.
I believe the majority of men, in the ancient Greek times believed in
the undeniable domination of women. The start of the Greeks began
around 2000 B.C. with the Mycenaeans. They inhabited the Greek
peninsula. (Perry 40)
"If we transgress . . . we" (Beatty 61) Ismene claimed it was
an outrageous thought to stand up to a man. Her view of the
inferiority to men came from the many laws restricting the lives of
women. Women lived most of their lives in their homes. They were
allowed on the streets with the company of a man, or for the reason
of a funeral or religious festival. Only the poverty stricken women
were allowed to work outside the home. They were not allowed to own
property. They lived their lives under the control of a male figure.
Women in marriage did not gain much pleasure. They married
between the ages of twelve and eighteen. (Kagan 53) The marriage was
arranged by their fathers. Marriages were conducted with these
words, "I give this women for the procreation of legitimate
children…I accept…And I give a certain amount as dowry…I am
content." Clearly the purpose of the women was to bear children.
The role of the husband is vague and seems as though he doesn?t play
much of a role in the household. Contact with other men was not
allowed for the wives, yet for the husband it was common to pursue
adulterous relationships. An Athenian male stated "Hetairai we have
for our pleasure, mistresses for the refreshment of our bodies, but
wives to bear us legitimate children and to look after the house
faithfully." (Spielvogel 75) "Kill your own son?s bride?…Oh, there
are other fields for him to plough." Was Creons answer to Ismene
concerning his son?s marriage to Antigone. (Beatty 69)
Prostitution prospered during these times. There were two
classes of prostitution. There were the slaves run by citizens and
the refined courtesans. (Spielvogel 100) Male prostitutes were
not citizens but foreigners. Female citizens were prostitutes,
yet male prostitutes were not allowed. (Spielvogel 92)
"Take them and keep them within. The proper place for women."
(Beatty 70) In other words women did not have any place in public
life. Their place was in the home raising children and running the
household. It was of great importance for women to give birth to male
children. The son would become the heir of the father. (Spielvogel
100) "Only for this do fathers pray for sons. Obedient, loyal, ready
to strike down" (Beatty 71) Men also believed that a women?s body was
not capable to handle the weather. For this reason they should
remain inside. (Spielvogel 101)
Myths were used to justify the subjection of women. Myths
about the first woman, Pandora, explained the supposed evil nature of
women. In revenge of Prometheus giving fire to man, Zeus sent
Pandora. When they took the gift of Pandora, they brought out evil.
There were different versions of this myth. In a better version
Pandora was curious. She opened a jar unaware she would release evil
into the world. Slightly improving the image of women, yet Pandora
is conclusively responsible for evil. (Kishlansky 54) Creon explained
to his son, "To all one?s enemies. Do not be fooled, my son, By lust
and the wiles of women." (Beatty 70)
It?s evident many men believed they were superior to women.
Creon refused to lose a battle to a woman. "And will never betray
it-least of all for a woman. Better be beaten, if needed, by a man,
Than let a woman get the better of us." (Beatty 71) Whatever the
battle was men did not want to be beat by women. Only men were
allowed to participate and attend the Olympic games. Women were made
separate games to attend. These separate games were dedicated to
Hera, Zeus?s wife. These games were attended by unmarried women.
The women were allowed to compete in footraces on short tracks. They
wore tunics, while the men competed naked. Women who won the races
did not receive the same honors as men. Men received public honors
and a lifetime supply of food, paid for by the public. (Kishlansky
It seemed as though all men did not believe women had rights.
There were some men who did believe women were more than housewives
and bearers of children. Haemon states "Nor wish to be clever enough
to prove you wrong, Though all men might not think the same as you
do." (Beatty 71) In a Euripide tragedy a women described her place in
society. "We women are the most unfortunate creatures. . . child."
(Kishlansky 76) In many other plays the main characters were women.
This may suggest women played a more profound role in society than
portrayed by law.(Kagan 53)
Even some of the wisest men were blinded to the rights of
women. When Socrates was sentenced to death he had sent the women
away. After he swallowed poison many of the male watchers began
crying. "Really my friends, what a way to behave! Why, that was my
main reason for sending away the women, to prevent this sort of
disturbance;" (Spielvogel 96) Creon agreed that women lacked control
of their emotions "Despicable coward! No more will than a woman!"
The women of ancient Greek times suffered many hardships. They
were only considered citizens for the sake of marriage and other
duties to help men. They were considered evil and better off
invisible. There were a few supporters of women. In many plays
women were depicted as strong willed people. This leaves the
likelihood that women were perceived as more than servers. It
astonishes me to see some of these traditional views are still held,
but luckily by a very small population.