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Assumptions

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In case you hadn’t noticed, I have written this site with a very intentional (and occasionally annoying) voice. It’s on purpose. It was written that way 1) so that you won’t get bored reading it, 2) so I won’t get bored writing it, and 3) so that it will be perfectly clear that the “real story” – the one that is “without bias” – ain’t written here.Statue of Athena

I already talked a little about that in the first entry, so I won’t spend a bunch of time talking about how I think that retelling someone else’s story without bias is pretty much impossible. Instead, I’d like to tell you a little about my own approach to these stories, and how that affects what you end up reading on the site.

First of all, I started this site as a young feminist. I believed – still believe – that women’s stories are under-represented (not just in Greek myths, of course), and that sharing privileging the myths involving women is a necessary step towards empowerment, etc. It’s all about having a voice, man. Of course, when it comes to ancient Greek myths, even the information about goddesses and heroines is written by men. There are a couple of rare exceptions (check out Women’s Life in Greece and Rome if you’re interested), but mostly we just have to take advantage of the fact that women at least had some place in their myths, even if we don’t get to read too many female mythographers. This was the premise upon which I began building paleothea.com – tell the stories, and let women people (re)tell and (re)interpret them as they may.

I am not the first person to do this, of course. There was a movement, back in the day, towards imagining a matriarchal prehistory (thanks to people like archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, writer Robert Graves, and a number of different spiritual feminist writers – more on that in a great book by Cynthia Eller) to give women powerful roots and proof that a peaceful feminist future is possible. I was ready to believe it myself, as a teen, and it influenced a great deal of what I put on the website. You can still see remnants of that approach in a number of my descriptions.Andromeda, by Gustave Dore

By the time I was in college, however, I began to feel that trying to imply tens of thousands of years of prehistory (called that because of the gross lack of evidence for uncovering cultural beliefs, ideas, and events) was pretty silly when there was so much out there from a mere two to four thousand years ago that we still haven’t got sorted out! The more I read in Greek and English from original sources, and by smart (and sometimes very progressive) academics, the more I came to appreciate how profound the patriarchy of ancient Greece was. That means, more or less, that I also came to believe that even the stories of strong and powerful women (like Athena, Artemis, Clytemnestra, the Amazons) are also reproducing and representing a patriarchal system.

Don’t fret! Agency is totally still an option within a patriarchal system, and in my opinion, is far more inspiring (and more relevant). And even though the myths weren’t originally meant to empower women, that doesn’t keep them from being crazy cool stories (or from being potentially empowering).


Comments

3 responses to “Assumptions”

  1. hi…

    usefull…

  2. hi this is naica and i luv this website

  3. Well I left a comment a few minutes ago elsewhere mentioning that I couldn’t find a reference here to Maria Gimbutas and now I find one. So that’s good. I have a pile (literally) of books on the subject of early mythology and if you’d like I could send you a list, just in case you haven’t already stumbled on them. At the moment I am plowing through Campbell’s “The Masks of God” series. I’m finishing off “Oriental Mythology”. Boy that guy can spin some long sentences. I have to go over a few times to make sure I get it right. Your writing, though, is very readable. I’d suggest you try writing a book but right now you are “published” for billions of people to read. Besides, it saves trees.

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