Gender-bending among the Ancient Gods

Hermaphroditus

Cycladic figurine, 2400-2300 b.c.e.

The figurine to the right, made in the Cyclades around 2400 to 2300 BCE, is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It has, obviously, a penis as well as pronounced breasts (because of the angle of the lighting, the left breast isn’t clearly visible in my photo). The museum’s description says, “It is conceivable that the sculptor began making a woman and modified the statuette because of a change in his commission.”

I suppose that’s conceivable. I am in no way an expert in Cycladic art, but I’m having some trouble buying that explanation entirely.

There’s nothing about the figurine that looks unfinished or haphazard. It has perfect little toes. The hair is perfectly combed back.

And even though I’m not an expert in Cycladic art or in art of any kind, for that matter, if I were making a female figurine (with breasts), and then the person who was paying me to make the thing said, “Actually, make the figurine a dude,” and then I took the trouble to give the figurine a penis, would it be really be that much more trouble to do a kind of breast-reduction move on it to make it more dude-like?

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“Sporting Girls”

So I guess I’ve been neglecting the blog at bit. I’ve been swamped with work and other forms of chaos since about November.

A break in the work allowed me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is always recommended for sanity and general refreshment, especially when they have charming and bizarre little exhibits like:

The "Polka Dot Nine"

The “Polka Dot Nine”

“A Sport for Every Girl”
Women and Sports in the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tobacco companies produced small advertisement cards, sort of an early version of baseball cards. They weren’t limited to baseball—or even sports in general—but featured series of cards like “Actors and Actresses,” “Famous Generals,” “Birds of America,” “Natives in Costume,” and “City Flags.” Women who appeared in the series who were usually actors, and there were sets of cards with names like “The World’s Beauties” and the tantalizing “Parasol Drills.” But “sporting girl” cards also became popular, and they are the subject of the Met’s exhibit.

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The Sirens

Everyone knows the Sirens. They sing their enchanting songs and lure men to their deaths.

And that’s pretty much it, isn’t it?

Seductive. Dangerous to men. What else do you need?

Oh, but why end there, when you can speculate about how the men die? Shipwrecked on the rocks? Torn to shreds and devoured by the Sirens?

Sirens

Sirens, on the shoulder of a Chalcidian neck-amphora, c. 540 b.c.e.

In appearance, the ancients stuck to a standard bird-woman combo, a bird’s body with a woman’s head.

Some later depictions went with more of a woman’s body than just the head, because if you’re going to be fantasizing about describing the dangers of seductive women, why stop at the neck?

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Richard Mourdock, Rape, Pregnancy, and the Greek Gods

[I've been working over this post off and on for days. It's weird and a bit disjointed. Not sure if it conveys what I want to get across, but I'm sick of looking at it in my drafts queue. It's a weird, disgusted post about Mourdock and his perverse beliefs.]

————

[Poseidon] loosened the maiden’s girdle and cast a sleep over her.
But when the god had finished the act of lovemaking,
he took her by the hand and spoke to her, saying:
“Be happy, lady, in this love, and when the year passes
you will bear glorious children, for the unions of the immortals
are not fruitless. You must look after them and raise them.
Go home now and hold your peace and tell nobody
my name, but I tell it to you: I am the Earthshaker Poseidon.”

Poseidon’s rape of Tyro (Homer, Odyssey 11.245–52),
which resulted in the birth of the twins Pelias and Neleus.

Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for the US Senate from Indiana, said that a pregnancy that results from rape “is something that God intended to happen.” And, in a remarkable display of acrobatic argumentation, he later insisted that he doesn’t think the rape was intended by god to happen, just the pregnancy.

Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that. That’s sick. Twisted. That’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.

So the pregnancy was “something that God intended to happen,” but not the act that created the pregnancy.

Right.

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Ariadne

Theseus and Ariadne

Theseus and Ariadne, with Athena calling Theseus away. A small winged figure, the god of Sleep, sits on Ariadne’s head, keeping her unaware of the betrayal.

In which I play games with mythology:

The usual story is that Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and told him how to find his way back out of the Labyrinth when he set off to kill the Minotaur. Theseus took Ariadne with him when he set sail back to Athens, but then he abandoned her on the island of Naxos (or Dia). Dionysos saw her there, fell in love with her, and whisked her away and married her.

In one Attic red-figure vase painting depicting the story, Athena appears to call Theseus away, as if telling him of some destiny that he must fulfill that doesn’t—and can’t—include Ariadne. Theseus seems to protest the demand. On another vase, it’s Hermes who arrives to take Theseus away, who pauses to pick up his sandals, dutiful to the gods as he abandons his love.

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Disney Introduces a New Princess: She’s Latina!

Sofia

Sofia the First

Meet Sofia the First, Disney’s first Latina princess.

She’s “a regular girl whose life suddenly transforms when her mother marries the king and she becomes a princess.”

A huge fuss is already being made that Sofia has blue eyes, light brown hair, and pale skin. And some are complaining that even though Sofia is Latina, that fact is basically ignored by 99.9% of the characters and plot.

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The Female Gaze Redux

Last week Runner’s World reported on a study by some researchers at the School of Life Sciences at Northumbria University in Britain:

[They] had 10 male runners do moderately paced 20-minute runs under three conditions: with no one watching; with a woman appearing after 10 minutes to watch; and with a man appearing after 10 minutes to watch.

The men reported that running felt easier with a woman watching them and more difficult with a man watching them.

—facepalm—

As Maude Lebowski said in The Big Lebowski, “You can imagine where it goes from here.”

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