Nov 6, 2017 in Literature

How is Sexual Difference Responded in Medea?

In different cultures and civilizations women have held a variety of positions in the society. However, in some specific societies, women were partial in comparison to men. The ancient Greek writer Euripides describes contradictions of the Greek sex-gender system. He portrays women in Greek society and civilization through oppression. The sexual and social differences of women are characterized through women taking the second position, having no significant roles and extreme oppression through the authority of men. Euripides’ treatment of gender roles can be found as one of the most sophisticated at that time. Medea begins with statement about injustice that women face with everywhere.

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Of all things upon earth that bleed and grow,
A herb most bruised is woman.

Euripides depicts women as taking a lower role in almost every situation in the Greek society. Equality in ancient Greece was not the same as what people currently have today. Women's treatment was unfairly not equal to that of men in ancient Greece. Euripides expresses “Women are in small amounts in comparison to the male gender.” Usually they have higher status after being married that confirms once again that male gender are superior to female one and men have a great influence on lives of women, making them dependent in some way.

First, we need a husband, someone we get
for an excessive price. He then becomes
the ruler of our bodies. And this misfortune
adds still more troubles to the grief we have.
Then comes the crucial struggle: this husband
we've selected, is he good or bad?
For a divorce loses women all respect,
yet we can't refuse to take a husband.

In Medea, it is notable that woman do not hold any significant or vital roles, if they are not of royal descent. Her situation is becoming worse, if a woman is a foreigner for those people that she lives among. She has fewer rights than any other woman does, and whatever happens she remains a stranger (read: a slave) anyway. Actually men always have a profit of that occasion, so it is obvious why men do not want to admit the equality between them and women.

First of all, you now live among the Greeks,
not in a country of barbarians.
You're familiar with justice and the laws,
rather than brute force. Besides, all the Greeks
know that you're clever, so you've earned yourself
a fine reputation. If you still lived
out there at the boundary of the world,
no one would talk about you.

Euripides also reflects how men oppress women. He depicts women as oppressed and worthy of consideration. As it is represented in Medea, “Surely, of all creatures, women are the most wretched for a weighted extravagant sum; we have bought the husband and they take control of our bodies.” It creates suspicion the male gender has on the female gender. A look at Medea's opening speech is a clear evidence of the poor portrayal of women. It seems rhetorical and reflects the reality. It also shows the inferior treatment that Medea underwent from her husband, Jason.

In her outrageous revenge, she carries out the most painful action, which is murdering her own children. She does all of this tragedy to bring revenge on her own husband who causes her immeasurable torture. “And When I flee from Jason grasp, I will make sure I reflect every ounce of pain he is yet to receive. I shall leave my husband and quickly flee from the number of my dear children.” Jason abandons Medea and their children for his own greed and honor. This action can also be explained that men look down women and choose only what their desires want.

Don't you know yet
all men love themselves more than their neighbors.
And some are right to do that—while others
just want some benefit.

Women in ancient Greece held significant roles in the society. Euripides noticed that situation: he gave a hint about women struggling for freedom. The main heroine Medea was promised by Aegeus to be safe if coming to Athens. By the way, Athens was a city with more freedom than the neighboring dictatorships at that time. All challenges that Medea met on her way were a metaphor of a war between the sexes in which both of combatants emerge scarred.


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