Women and men have never had truly equal rights. Women played an extremely important role in ancient greek culture but are often overlooked by society. Ancient Greece evidently had a patriarchal culture in which women were disregarded and ignored. The rise of elitism towards men increased rapidly when the epic, The Odyssey was written in. In The Odyssey by Homer, women are portrayed in a negative light because they are shown as the cause of the majority of the problems preventing Odysseus from getting back home, they are falsely portrayed as weak and not powerful, and are shown as manipulative as a result of the double standard in Greek society.
Women in The Odyssey serve as the cause of obstacles for Odysseus from achieving his goals. They are depicted as evil characters who do not wish well for Odysseus. For example, the first negative encounter that Odysseus has, happens when Kalypso is arguing with Hermes, “Oh you vile gods, in jealousy supernal! You hate it when we choose to lie with men- immortal flesh by some dear mortal side”… “So now you grudge me too, my mortal friend.
But it was I saved him- saw dim straddle his own keel board, the one man left afloat when Zeus rent wide his ship with chain lightning and overturned him in the wine dark sea.” In this quote, Kalypso the nymph, longs for Odysseus to settle with her in her island forever. When Hermes comes to demand she let Odysseus go, Kalypso brings up a point that re-occurs quite often throughout the story.
Kalypso argues with Hermes because she believes that she deserves to keep Odysseus due to her act of kindness that she showed to Odysseus. Kalypso, then says that the society is wrong for accepting and tolerating them when all the males in Greek culture desire to sleep with multiple women with and without consent. Very few men ever get punished for such actions. On the other hand, when women, like Kalypso, desires a man like Odysseus, it becomes an act of wrongdoing and she is forced to release Odysseus. Such events trigger fixed opinions in the Greek society, causing hatred towards women. Another example of a female character blocking the course of Odysseus’ path is Kirke. The quote is “Kirke, am I a boy, that you should make me soft and doting now? Here in this house you turned my men to swine”. In this quote, Odysseus describes the horrific harm that Kirke has done to Odysseus’ crew. Odysseus is a very independent hero but nonetheless, will have trouble throughout his journey without his unfailing crew members. These are just a couple out of many examples where a female character is illustrated as evil and as an obstacle preventing Odysseus from returning home.
In The Odyssey, women are in-accurately characterized as weak and purposeless. Odysseus is faced with yet another female obstruction, when he finally escapes Kalypso and her island, . For example, Odysseus and his crew are stranded on Kirke’s island, “Dear friends no need for stealth: here’s a young weaver singing a pretty song to set the air a-tingle on these lawns and paven courts. Goddess she is, or lady. Shall we greet her?” The crew quickly decided that there was no need to be cautious or scared since the said obstacle was just a woman, Kirke. This quote demonstrates how Odysseus’ crew believes that women are not powerful or capable enough to cause harm to them. They thought that women could not possess enough power to guard themselves but the crew ended up getting turned into swine by Kirke. Hermes, later came to the rescue by giving Odysseus a potion which made him immune to Kirke’s poison. Another quote that similarly concludes that women are incapable is “Now here is the suitors’ answer- you and all the Akhaians, mark it well: dismiss your mother from the house, or make her marry the man her father names and she prefers.”
This shows that the mentality of ancient Greek society is that women need not have a say in even their own personal decisions such as marriage. Anotinos believes that Penelope has no right to marry at her wanted time and demands that Telemachus should dismiss her from her own house if she can not make a choice. Another suggestion Anotinos gives to make her marry the man of her father’s choice. This shows that the ancient Greek society believes that every woman needs a man to make her decisions for her. This event, again causes a deep-rooted feeling that women are negative and evil, and a god is needed to be saved from them.
In The Odyssey, women are portrayed as manipulative and deceitful due to the sexism in ancient Greek society. Women are described as evil characters who do not tell the truth and are always finding ways to negatively influence the heroic, loyal, men. One such example of Kalypso attempting to manipulate Odysseus is when she says “If you could see it all, before you go- all the adversity you face at sea- you would stay here, and guard this house, and be immortal” . Kalypso is shown like she is offering immortality to Odysseus just to deceive him and get his pleasure in return. In an unbiased view, Kalypso is in fact looking out for Odysseus’ future and all the adversity he will face at sea. She wants him to stay with her to guard her island with her and be immortal instead of facing more hardships trying to get home.
This shows that even an act of kindness is twisted into women being falsely shown as manipulative. An example of women being deceitful and lying is when Penelope is discovered to have been lying to the suitors, “So every day she wove on the great loom- but every night by torchlight she unwove it; and so for three years she deceived the Akhaians.” During this time, Antinoos is complaining to Telemachus about the trickery that Penelope has been involved with. Penelope is described as a horrible woman who tricked and lied to the suitors for three years with an evil intention. This shows that the women are always portrayed negatively because Penelope was actually only protecting herself and delaying her decision to marry a suitor. She had cleverly thought of a way to remain faithful to Odysseus even under pressure from the impatient suitors.
The Odyssey, by Homer, has many references to women being incorrectly shown as obstacles to Odysseus, incorrectly shown as weak and incapable, and lastly, are assumed to lie and be manipulative. Women are very often treated disrespectfully when compared to men throughout the book. Women are shown in a negative light while also being ignored and wrongfully understood. All through the book, the actions that women take are often misrepresented as an evil deed although they meant no harm directed towards Odysseus and the men. It is seen in The Odyssey, that women clearly are not considered as equal to men in any way, and to this day. History has retained many of the negative opinions and beliefs towards women and even to this day, women continue to have less rights than men.