The curse of Medusa- villain or victim of patriarchal myth?

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Greek mythology is full of brave heroes and fierce heroines. The gods and goddesses represent a vast number of ferocious yet extraordinary adventures and heroic tales. It’s full of Goth folk mythologies and extravagant moral understanding intimidating a large number of followers.  

Medusa, a name much similar to that of villain, monster, slayer, or what we all call her a Gorgon. Yet her story remains in the midst of void with several versions eradicating the origin tale. Be it Bullfinch’s Mythology or Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in most of such versions, Medusa was a famous monster figure known as Gorgons who was slain by the Greek hero Perseus. The story made a much greater impact with the 2010 release of ‘Clash Of The Titans’ where the role of Medusa was played by Natalia Vodianova where we saw her through the eyes of the patriarchal hero myth. But who Medusa really was and what was her story is yet a spirituous question. 

The Real Story Of Medusa

Most of the Greek versions suggested that Medusa was a woman of pride and had an indecent love affair with the sea God Poseidon. One day she made love with the king inside the temple of Goddess Athena- who furious on the act cursed Medusa. Through that curse, Medusa turned into a hideous monster with her hair full of venomous snakes. She was the most dreadful and hated monster of the period. Later, Medusa was slain by the Greek hero Perseus. But how much of this tale is true? Perhaps all, except the shameful love act. Yes, in reality, the love affair between her and Poseidon is not well comprehended in history, and rather than making love, Medusa was actually a rape victim.

The gist of Medusa’s real story, the heart of this myth, is in fact rape. Medusa was not always a monster but a beautiful daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. She was the only mortal among the three sisters Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa. She possessed extraordinary beauty and many men lusted for Medusa. But Medusa, on the other hand, was the follower of Goddess Athena, and thus out of respect, she maintained her purity. Medusa restricted herself from falling in love or breaking her chastity. She worshipped in the temple of Athena and was one of the biggest priestesses of the temple. Thousands would visit her temple not because they were worshippers but because they seek Medusa’s beauty. Many claimed that her hairs were even more beautiful than the Goddess herself. On the contrary, Goddess Athena was not a huge fan of Medusa and her beauty always troubled her. Knowing this her rival king Poseidon manipulated to attract Medusa in order to defame the goddess.

One day when Medusa was walking alone on the shore, the sea god Poseidon approached to seduce Medusa. She was obedient to her belief and refused the proposal. But Poseidon was resistant to taking her. Medusa in fear ran towards the temple to seek refuge from the goddess. She prayed Athena to save her yet to no avail. Poseidon caught her inside the temple and forcefully raped her. When Poseidon finished, the Goddess unknown of the details appeared and only saw Medusa and Poseidon making love inside her temple, she was furious and decided to punish Medusa. As punishment, she cursed her to be a hideous monster and turned her hairs into snakes. Whoever will now look into her eyes will be stoned instantly. Medusa afraid of hurting people ran off into the deep forest, where she found shelter inside the long-abandoned temple. Living alone inside the dense forest, Medusa soon lost her humanity, and words spread of the evil she has become. 

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This story remains the central plot in the tale of Perseus, son of Zeus. He was a Greek hero who slew Medusa chopping her head off. From her neck sprang her children Pegasus and Chrysaor. With every blood that dropped turned into a venomous snake. Perseus later took her severed head and used it to exploit his rival armies. It played a crucial role in the class of Titans to defeat Atlas. Medusa’s head was later featured on the aegis of goddess Minerva’s shield.

Medusa And Exploit From Sexual Stigma

Medusa was probably the most misunderstood character of Greek mythology. While many perceive her as an evil monster, she in fact was none a less of a victim of sexual harassment. Her story narrates the horrors of women’s situations around the globe. Even in the 21st century, Medusa’s story remains an empathetic trail of male prejudice. It portrays the female bench in the patriarchal system and how often a woman is misunderstood on her chastity. The stigma of female sexuality has burdened the deep roots of our fundamental moral system. For centuries, raping a woman has proved as one of the most important aspects of the defeat of the rival. Rape today has become a common story of every household. Women are subjected to evil atrocities and consequences from male lust-have long been carried by our mothers and their mothers. Medusa’s story seems a cautionary tale of the figurative decollate of women and a loss of potential.

Rape cases are unlike most crimes; they are flexible, one on one argument, and conducted for almost nothing. It is one such crime that does not necessarily involve a previous grudge. The center argument always revolves around ‘consent, whether a woman said yes or no- it is a sharp pitch to identify the truth. But despite that, the audacity in our patriarchy to punish the victim has been in trend for a long time. Rape victims are often subjected to immoral questions, blame games, and demolished family honor. We live in a world where women’s voices remain under the shadows of male prejudice. 

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When we talk about India, according to the report, a total of 3,59,849 cases were reported of crimes against women in 2017. Among these UP tops, the list of 56,011 cases of crime against women was reported alone. According to NCRB, a government agency claimed that as many as 64.7% of Indian prisoners have not yet been convicted. And this is because the country doesn’t have enough judges to seek cases. We have an inefficient system because of the shortage we face of judges. According to another survey by the Indian Bar Association, since 2010, over 30 million cases were pending in courts across India because of having only 11 judges per million people. This leaves India with a tenacious pile-up of cases waiting to be heard. A report by the same also claims that many of the prisoners have never been to court on a single day in 5 years. So when we take a look at the rape portion, we realise that talking just about rape is nowhere near the solution when in fact numerous such crimes are still left unjust! This is exactly where we lack. This mess in our justice system only ends up harming the interests of the country.

In the end, Medusa turned out to be a character that needs to be revisualized and reimagined. Her story needs to be told without the lens of patriarchy, and the deed of sea God Poseidon should not be included as a part of destiny. Rape should never be seen as something bound by a predetermined course of the journey; it is a serious crime that no myth should glorify.

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