In the ancient Greek Pygmalion myth, Pygmalion is a sculptor who falls in love with a statue he carves out of ivory. Pygmalion makes the statue in honor of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. He secretly wishes that he could have a bride in the exact likeness of the statue. Aphrodite grants him his wish, and when he returns home, he finds that the statue has been turned into his ideal woman.
In Shaw's reinterpretation of the myth, Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics, sets out to transform a lower-class London flower girl by the name of Eliza Dolittle into his ideal of a high society lady. As well as being a frightful snob, Higgins also does not have much time for the intellectual capacity of women. To him, Eliza is little more than an object, a guinea pig in a scientific experiment that is inherently exploitative and manipulative.
However, this "statue" also comes to life, though not in the same way as in the Greek myth. Over the course of the play, Eliza develops a great deal of confidence, poise, and self-assurance. By the end, she is a lady, and, at the same time, she has also broken free from Higgins's overbearing tutelage. In this sense, Shaw's Pygmalion can be seen as a feminist twist on the Greek myth. Eliza may look, talk, and behave exactly like Higgins's ideal of what a lady should be, but, crucially, she is an independent woman, a human being in her own right, with the ability to make her own decisions in life.