May 30, 2013

The Characterization of Women in Legend, Myth & Folklore

Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878
It has been a while since I last published anything here at Myth Beliefs.  I am happy to be back and hope to get the blog underway again in a more focused way.  

To get things re-started, I am announcing a series of article posts on The Characterization of Women in Legend, Myth & Folklore.

When one reads the legends, myths and folklore of many (if not most) cultures, the role of men and women is often portrayed quite differently.  Most often written by men, at least in the Western world, these stories frequently degrade, insult or marginalize women.

Over the next several weeks, I will be featuring various myths and other lore that illustrate this phenomenon.  The question I pose is this - to what extent do/did these belief systems influence real world discrimination or mistreatement of women under legal or social codes of the societies involved?  Do they continue to play a role in such mistreatment today?

Perhaps, no other female character from Western mythology best illustrates this phenomenon than the female pictured above, Medusa.  But Medusa is the easy target, is she not?  To begin the series of articles, however, I intend to post an article shortly on a female character that is equally well known to many, Pandora, and the opening of that fabled box.

Pandora is significant, and in my opinion, perhaps even more than the tragic Medusa.  To begin with, the character Pandora bears many similarities to the Biblical character Eve, making the potential effect of Pandora's myth more far-reaching than the story of Medusa.  

In addition, Pandora is a female possessed of a keen curiosity and courage.  These are both characteristics that, if described in mythological male characters, would be considered virtues.  For Pandora, however, her inquisitiveness is a vice, described as an impulsiveness beyond her control, or a curiosity that is both unnatural.  By implication, it is potentially dangerous.  

I would like to write and post about 5-10 articles on this topic over the coming weeks/months.  I would love contributions or suggestions from readers to include in this number or to increase the number of articles.  I am happy to keep this series going as long as readers want.  If you have specific myths or stories of lore you would like to contribute or think should be included, please let me know.  Email me via that Contact Page.