Cancel the gods? Yes, by Zeus!
If cancel culture has anything to do with it, we have to tear down every Greek and Roman antiquity that there is. Zeus, the primary force and god that is father (often literally) to hundreds of other gods and goddesses — and mortals as well — was a notorious rapist, enslaver, and murderer.
Before you begin to protest about just how his heinous wife, Hera, was also a major “Karen” in silken toga who also killed at will, please remember that poor Hera had major PTSD, having been one of the first victims of Zeus and his very harsh rape culture attitudes. Hera was also raped routinely by Titans and gods which Zeus coordinated to act on Zeus’s commands and set-ups.
In effect, Zeus quite vindictively gaslit gods and men, and most of all, women, in order to emphasize just how much he could get away with. That may sound familiar to you in 2020.
Western mythology shaped attitudes for centuries.
All this rape was framed as a good thing. We would never have seasons and agriculture, from Demeter and Persephone, fire, from Prometheus, oceans and tides, from the rape of Selene, for example. In fact we would not even have cheeseburgers, because the rape of Europa and Io, eventually led to attitudes of reverence for bulls, cows, and domestication of cattle. Lots of goodies then, for humanity, just because a few “misspent” moments of passion were not punished, or even acknowledged, as crime.
History repeats itself
Ancient history, right? You may ask yourself, what has this to do with modern rape culture? Attitudes have changed and we know longer view abduction and rape as favorably, or simply as “traditional initiation rites” anymore. The trouble is that many classicists of ancient history see it very much as a “these events were just reflections of different cultural values of times past.” This is akin to saying that we should forget that Thomas Jefferson raped and enslaved Sally Hemings, or that even Alexander Hamilton had slaves. Everyone did then!
After all, despite such unions, we got “All men are created equal,” beautiful, yet incomplete sentiments, right? And if that is not enough, we got great television, like, “The Jeffersons” who certainly were ‘moving on up to the East side’, about half a century ago.
The trouble is, attitudes about rape from our ancient Western traditions do in fact, very much still exist today. Today, powerful, rich, white men are far more likely to get away with sexual assault, including rape, because although not every man is a rapist, everybody that is anybody — from Harvey Weinstein, to Jeffrey Epstein, to Predator Trump — is enabled to do it, if they so choose.
We give a free pass to the super powerful due to the very fact of their power and influence. If we cross their will, all consequences will be negative ones. In other words: “If you are star, they let you do it.” The trouble with this notorious line from Trump is not that it is a lie, but that it is one of his rare truth telling moments that cost him nothing. In fact, because there are so many anti-feminists who work to preserve the patriarchy who think that: “Me too culture has gone too far,” Trump actually won votes for his misogyny.
But today, we are enlightened, right?
Given all of this, glacially slow public attitudes are finally beginning to change, but only in some pockets of society. Many powerful people still accuse women of lying, or crying wolf, on men who could suffer cancel culture, or worse, as consequence of their “passions.”
Many law-makers still rule that women should not have control of their own bodies if they get pregnant. Many, many people rally against the false frenzy of campus rapes, or, they complain about bitter feminists who don’t bother to try to learn how to not get raped.
Being drunk, sexy, or out at night is still reserved as a right for men only. And, even then, largely, only approved, for white men.
When you hear tacit acceptance of this behavior, say something. It is wrong not to call it out. However, you may be labeled a bitch, which is 21st century speak for “scold.”
More recent reforms
Let’s look at historical Western culture again for some clues.
The Holy Roman church stepped in with heavy crosses and torches and shut all that Greek/Roman Pagan crap down. Ancient Greek and Roman culture morphed — more or less — into art and literature, such as the work of Homer. Also, then, all the monuments and art to honor conquerors, murderers, rapists, went to museums and plazas.
But, unfortunately for some women living at the time of the christian empire, the torches were soon turned on them for witchcraft. Would you rather have a sexy woman running around inspiring lust, or an older woman birthing babies and treating illness without always crediting the church or clerics? Far too dangerous, I dare say. It might raise questions about the patriarchal nature of who has rights. It could cause trouble.
Society had to find a way to punish outspoken women.
Far more often than being burned to death, women were punished for “being a scold.” Women, apparently not always modestly content with rape culture, torture, and having no say, were fitted with metal, or wooden head cages, that held their tongue. They could also be put in stocks for public shaming. They were also often set upon the “ducking stool” which is basically a chair you stick in the river or pond to “cool her immoderate heat.”
I love the phrase “immoderate heat”. It speaks of anger, rage and protest of a corrupt system, but it also suggests a female sexuality that must be repressed at all costs.
What was the punishment for men for “immoderate heat” much in need of cooling? I don’t know, let’s say the King of England? King Henry XIII for example, disbanded the old church in favor of a “reformed” one that burned, or beheaded, women who dared to not agree with the whole “My way or the chopping block way” of rules and restrictions.
It was as much a signal to his subjects as it was a convenient way to get a younger, hotter, wife. England, of course, is just one example.
Even More Modern Reforms
All of Western culture has perpetuated a culture of rape and patriarchy. I don’t think we need to tear down every monument, or throw the art, music, literature, or theatre, into the nearest river where so many women’s bodies were thrown, however.
We can’t erase history, (or lost herstory), so we have to amend it. Teach your daughters well, but also, critically, teach your sons.
We should begin to erect monuments to every brave person who was martyred, or shunned. From Helen of Troy, to Joan of Arc, to Harriet Tubman, to Gloria Steinman, to RBG, we should all learn more than before.
Then there are the ladies who brought us #Me too, Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and Fridays for Future, to name just a few. This last election, maybe light a candle for Stacey Abrams and the Squad for their unrelenting march toward freedom.
I have mixed feelings about canceling names, icons, statues and flags. Some of them must go. Some of them will take eons to erode, or maybe never fade, such as naming a mountain “Squaw peak,” or having whole cities, or nations named for Columbus. Almost everything in our culture is tainted. You should fight the fights that empower you best, and most of all just take notice of how things really are.
Every time you acknowledge injustice, even if it’s just to your own mental and emotional edification, you tear down a brick of the old foundation built on tyranny, misogyny, racism and oppression.
Do this a little bit every day, and you will feel empowered.
When we honor “she”, — and let’s face it, most movements for justice begin with a she — we are in effect saying that most statues to our heroes are lies. But we can correct some of those lies, by simply uncovering much of what we have lost, and honoring all of the many people who also lived, struggled and died for the societies we now are beginning to build.
Sadly, most heroes will never be known and this too, is a legacy of warped and biased culture. Continue to honor them by telling it like it is.
When we reveal the true history of a whole planet, complete with people of various colors, genders, religions, and more, we can see the warts, wars, and wear upon all of us as it really is.
Yes, sometimes the truth does hurt, but we have to deal with it.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Christyl Rivers