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Gender and Sexuality in Lysistrata

Katia Anello

Gender and Sexuality in Lysistrata

Lysistrata by Aristophanes is a play about women who decide to withhold sex from their husbands to show that women can be in control, even though they normally do not have power over men. The purpose of the play was to show men who have been fighting in Peloponnesian War for over twenty years that Athens could beat the Spartans. The Athenians were known for their Greek philosophers and painters, while the Spartans were known for their military. In Lysistrata, women were representing the Athenians to show that even though they are the underdogs because they aren’t known to rule, if they target the Spartans in the correct way, which in this case the women targeted men by withholding from sex, that they can indeed win. This play is a satire because the women try getting their point across by criticizing men. In typical gender roles, “women are the keepers of home and hearth because of their reproductive role, while men are the protectors and providers because of their relatively greater size and strength” (Wienclaw par.4). The women in Lysistrata were upset, because they were at home taking care of the children, while the men were off fighting at war, which follows typical gender roles. It is also commonly said that “boys are often encouraged to become strong, fast, aggressive, dominant, and achieving, while traditional roles for girls are to be sensitive, intuitive, passive, emotional, and interested in the things of home and family” (Wienclaw par. 5). This makes women believe that they have to be sweet and gentle just because that is what a stereotypical women is like. Women can not be dominant or aggressive because that is what a man is supposed to be. Lysistrata employs gender and sexuality by showing that women are more than just their looks, that they are treated differently, and that they are capable of doing the same things that a man can do.

   In March of 2003, Lysistrata was performed worldwide on over one thousand different stages to civilly protest the war in Iraq. They called this the Lysistrata Project. It is constantly noted throughout history that in times of war, women have been symbolically significant in affecting war. Women are a huge impact on war because they help preserve the nation and help keep cultural identities (Wiederhold, p. 147). Since women tend to be very caring people, they try and keep their nation safe while men our fighting. They do this partially because they want to and partially because that is what is expected of them. In Iraq, women have very little rights and are not treated as equally as men. By performing Lysistrata in modern times, is a way to show that Iranian women can be in control and that women can voice their opinions even when they live in a place where women have no say in anything they do. The United States of America held seventy-three percent of the performances out of the sixty-one countries that held the fifteen-person play Lysistrata. This play was performed “across Israel, a small reading in Patras, Greece held by Greek and Kurdish refugees in an abandoned factory, and even a secret reading in northern Iraq by members of the international press corps (Wiederhold, p. 150). They performed this globally so that women all around the world can be inspired to show that they can in fact have a say. Sanam Andrelini, who is an author and is a consultant to the United Nations on women and conflict, explains that women are not just based off of stereotypical sex roles, but instead they can use life experiences to show that women can go beyond norms of their culture. In Andrelini’s book about women building peace, she said, “what they find is a shared experience of violence and pain, of being women in societies dominated by men, of fear and mistrust of each other’s communities, and of common hopes for a future based on peace, justice, and normalcy (Anderlini, p. 55). Women just want to be treated equally and have the same rights as men. They want to be able to voice their opinions in any situation they are in and want to feel safe walking outside of their home without being judged or mistreated. Women going against men through the art of the play helps women speak their minds to men, so that they can start and change stereotypes of women. Women can feel like they have power, which can lead to women having a connection to one another (Wiederhold p. 154). Men get to bond together over war, politics, and fun times together; while women can only bond over cooking or taking care of children. If the Lysistrata project is successful, women can now become friends and bond over their views on society and other common interests. This can lead to women eventually having the same rights as men.

Lysistrata proves my making men withhold from sex that women are more than just looks. The play starts off by Lysistrata and Calonice talking about how women are based off of their outward appearance. Calonice was judging other women based on their breast size, the amount of pubic hair the have, and how good their butt looks. She said that looks are the only thing that women are talented in. The only duties a woman has other than just sitting and looking pretty for their husband when they come home, is for waking up the maid or taking care of their children by bathing, feeding, or putting them to sleep. However, Lysistrata proves that women are not just based off of their looks by tempting men into wanting to have sex and by luring them in by their physical appearance. When the women say “no” to the men, the men can’t do anything. The men are now powerless and can only talk the women into having sex with them. Artistophranes is showing that women do in fact have power over men because if a women does now want to do something, especially something like sex, then there is nothing that a man can do to change her mind. Even though during this time period women do not get to speak their minds freely, Lysistrata is showing that woman can rule over men and that they are more than just looks. Women also tend to be treated differently because of their outward appearance.

From the beginning of time, women have been treated differently. Women are thought to be sensitive and emotional people who do non-aggressive tasks like take care of a house or their children. Men do not let women do tasks that require heavy work. In Lysistrata, women stay home while the men go out to war. They are also looked at as sex objects. The men in this play make women look useless at all times during the day until they want to have sex with them. Today, women are still being treated differently compared to men. A Swedish study found that in France, twice as many women to men take a psychotropic and antidepressant drug. However, for every one hundred men that were given whole body phototherapy, which is a treatment for the skin condition

Psoriasis, only 59 women received the same treatment (“Are women treated differently”, par.4) . This shows how men are looked at and cared for differently more than women. Even though, it is said that men are tougher, you would think that men would be able to suffer longer through an illnesses and try and let women get healed first. But instead, men are treated first because they apparently do more for society, so they need to have better and faster treatment than women. Another time in Lysistrata where women are treated differently than men is when the women went to where the Councilor goes to get funds for the ships for the war. It was not typical for women to go to the ships because the ships are for the men. The Councilor ordered the policeman to arrest the women for being there. Then, the Councilor told the men of Athens that women are being given too much freedom to do things within the city and that they have been to nice to the women lately. The women are being treated completely different compared to the men. The women did nothing wrong by being out in public. Aristophranes was showing that men think it is weird when women do the same things as m