PANDORA AND SEXISM
March 22, 2021
Translated by: Maria Galanopoulou
“Sexism is racism on account of gender, namely the existence of stereotypes, preconceived impressions and expectations when it comes to the two sexes, male and female”.
Hesiod was undoubtedly sexist as far as his work is concerned. One of his sexist descriptions is the following:
“Zeus sent women upon men as a plague, full of devious plans. They know of no boundaries, they are overall dissolute, thus resembling drones that have no responsibility but to gulp down the labor of others… so, whoever is safe from wedlock and the shameful deeds of women, he has saved his life. But whoever takes an inimical creature, his life becomes an endless ordeal and his woes unbearable… for women drain the man and deliver him into miserable senility.”
In his work Works and Days, he distinctively narrates the myth of unfortunate Pandora:
When Prometheus, out of love for his creations, human beings, was capable of stealing the sacred fire from the Olympian Gods, Zeus, enraged, decided to teach him a hard lesson that would be the eternal calamity of mankind. He ordered Hephaestus (also known as “The lame one”) to mold a female figure out of clay, named Pandora, a name that semantically denotes that she possessed every (god-given) gift. Even though, according to Hesiod, they might have been considered gifts, we could characterize them only as curses, because, in their way, they consent to the reproduction of a sexist representation of women. More specifically, Zeus himself ordered for her to have the shape of an
“… immortal goddess, the girl with the beautiful, tempting form …”. And, Hephaestus, in his turn, creates an “honorable virgin”. Afterwards, Hermes endows her with “a shameful mind and devious character”.
Of course, it is not only men, but also women, who consent to the construction of the myth of the female. In particular, Athena adorns her and teaches her to weave, while Aphrodite fills her with “grace and desire”. Charites add the final touches, the jewels of gold, and Horae crown her with spring flowers. For Pandora, the cherry on top was the urn that Zeus entrusted to her, in which “Senility, Ailment, Warfare, Conflict, Concerns, Machination, Calumniation, and Envy” were nestled. And even if, in our eyes, she now resembled a Renaissance painting, for Zeus she was merely the Trojan horse that would knock on Epimetheus’ (Prometheus’ brother’s) door, who, as his name reveals (epi+ myth > midomai = I think after I act), forgot his brother’s warning to refuse any gifts offered to him by the Gods.
So, Pandora, apart from being devious (since her outer appearance did not reveal her inner world) and a puppet of the Father of Gods (since he constructed her as he wished), is also presented as naï ve, as the scapegoat that opens the urn and all the calamities and misfortunes are unleashed in the, until then, untainted and harmonious world of humans, inducing chaos.
But something at the bottom of the urn did not manage to get away. That was Hope. And if you think that hope symbolized the faith in the resilience of humans, we, on the contrary, would say that it is the faith in women for everything that awaited them in the centuries to come…