Discussion Topic

Women's portrayal in Lysistrata

Summary:

In Lysistrata, women are portrayed as strong, clever, and resourceful. They organize a sex strike to force men to negotiate peace, demonstrating their political acumen and determination. Despite societal norms that view women as inferior, the play highlights their capability to influence significant outcomes and challenge traditional gender roles.

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How are women portrayed in Lysistrata?

The role of women is complex in Lysistrata. They are portrayed to fit the stereotype of homemakers. As Lysistrata waits for the other women to gather, she is told,

Oh! They will come, my dear; but it's not easy, you know, for women to leave the house. One is busy pattering about her husband; another is getting the servant up; a third is putting her child asleep on washing the brat or feeding it.

The women seem to embrace this role, and even when they do become involved in the politics of the war, they allow the men to take over again in the end. However, one of their household duties is managing finances. This shows that the women are intelligent.

Lysistrata also talks about her intelligence:

Now listen to what I have to say. It's true I'm a woman, but still I've got a mind: I'm pretty intelligent in my own right, and because I've listened many a time to the conversations of my father and other elders, I'm pretty well educated too. Now that you're my captive audience I'm ready to give you the tongue-lashing you deserve—both of you.

The women use their intelligence to come up with a plan. They know they have a sexual power over the men by teasing them and then withholding sex, so they use this to their advantage. This is displayed in the scene between Myrrhine and Cinesias. The women take charge of their sexuality, but some might argue that this propels the idea of women as sexual objects. Furthermore, the women are portrayed to be just as sex-crazed as the men; when Lysistrata first suggests abstinence, the women resist and claim they will do anything "but not to give up SEX—there's nothing like it!”

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How are women portrayed in Lysistrata?

The original question had to be edited.  Through his work, Aristophanes shows how women display a sense of unity with amongst one another.  The solidarity that women show in the work is seen as a part of their character.  Whereas men are shown to be driven by splitting the bonds of connection that exist between them, women are shown to cherish connection and uphold the connective threads that exist between one another.  Lysistrata and the Greek women display one aspect of this. Yet, when Lysistrata is able to secure Lampito's help in doing the same with the Spartan women, it brings out the solidarity that is intrinsic to the portrayal of  women in the drama.  The Greek and Spartan women display solidarity with their own people and with one another.  The idea of consensus in consciousness is what the drama defines as what it means to be a woman.

I think that a fundamental sharpness of mind is included in how women are portrayed in the drama.  The women being able to construct a plan to withhold sex from men, as well as asserting control over financial affairs of the state are two conditions that Aristophanes displays, showing an intelligence within women.  This same sharpness of mind is what drives the women to seek a plan to stop the impact of the war, in the first place.  Women are shown to be critical thinkers who go outside what is into what can be, a quality shared by individual women in the drama so as to see it as how the drama portrays women, in general.

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In Lysistrata, are women portrayed as objects rather than humans?

I think that the reason for editing the question was that I am not sure anything in Aristophanes' work is so clear cut.  On one hand, the women are shown to be in the position of power over the men.  This becomes one of the driving forces of the drama.  The fact that the women are in power and are shown to have power makes it challenging to see them demonstratively shown to be objects.  Yet, if one were to make a case for the women to be shown as objects, it would be shown in the idea that women are only seen as sexual objects.  Lysistrata's plan is rooted in the idea that if women withhold sex from men, the men will capitulate and acquiesce.  It is not rooted in the idea that men will suffer from the absence of women companionship or in the fact that men will feel lessened by the spiritual experience of being denied their mates.  Women are objectified in their singular association with sex. Little else seems to be defined by the element of being a woman other than sex.  It might be here where a potential case can be made for women to be seen as objects.  Even if they are in the position of power regarding it, their being is reduced to one of sex.  In this, they can be seen as being objectified.

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