Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Sexist Hypocrisy of The Odyssey

Now, I haven't read The Odyssey in I want to say 100 years, but truthfully it has been more like 13. I was a freshman in high school at the time so forgive me for basing a lot of this post on hazy memory but that was an eternity ago. But I did read the book and I also saw the mini-series featuring the swashbuckling Armand Assante (thankfully it came out right at the same time my English class had to read the book, let's take a guess at how many students actually didn't do any reading at all...). But someone in my Shelfari group recently posted a review on The Odyssey and it got my engines all fired up (to be fair, the person on Shelfari did agree with the hypocritical ridiculousness I'm about to go into).  

I'm sure most of us are familiar with the basic story, yes? A man, Odysseus, is trying to return home to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, after fighting in the Trojan war. However because of some spiteful gods (I guess he upset Poseidon or something) there are many fun and challenging obstacles in his way, like having sex with various women and nymphs. Tragic I know. I can only think of how he suffered. Now true, aside from being fed grapes and pampered by women just wanting to throw themselves at him, he also had to fight other monsters and such, so I guess it's only fair he be rewarded with sex from women that were not his wife. I mean, he was so confused and tired.

In the meantime, his wife Penelope is home in Ithaca fighting off about 100 suitors who think it is unfair of her to have waited ten years to not remarry. Yes, you read that right: 100 suitors for 10 years. But does she slip up? Even once? Nope. She remains perfectly chaste, the whole time thinking of no one except poor Odysseus, who for all she knows could be dead. I mean after 10 years, come on! And despite Penelope being true to her marriage vows this whole time, her rotten son, Telemachus, assumes she's plotting something with one of the suitors behind his absent father's back.

Finally when Odysseus returns home, after he's managed to somehow wrestle himself out of the beds of all these strange alluring women, he creates a test for his wife to find out if she's been faithful to HIM! Of course she passes (big shocker there), and then father and son go on to kill all her suitors. A happy ending for all!

Now, I'm not saying the writing by Homer isn't absolutely fantastic and that the story in parts isn't riveting, but the rest...I can't help but roll my eyes.


Anonymous said...

LOL. I love your summary.

Aren't women always judged on a different set of standards? Time hasn't changed much.

llevinso said...

I know, right Jenny? It's ridiculous!

Red said...

I had the same reaction to this story. Oh no, Odysseus spends a good portion of his time getting laid. Poor guy. And Penelope is the one who is tested and schemed against because there's the slightest chance she might have thought about banging someone other than Odysseus in 10 years. 20 if you include the fact that he was fighting in the Iliad for 10 years before his wayward journey.