War of the Sexes
The battle of genders and the role that each are expected to fulfill is a predominant issue that can be seen throughout history and in literature. In the comedic Greek play, “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes, both women and men are characterized by stereotypical thoughts; that men are the providers who have authority, and women are wild, impractical caretakers of the household. There is one though, who defies some the stereotypical thoughts of women, and that is Lysistrata, a strong, cunning, intellectual women who devises a plan to end on ongoing war that has left all the women throughout Attica lonely. She’s tired of how women get treated and think that the war could be stopped if men would give them a chance to speak. Even though her plan to end the war is a success, she does it while using women’s bodies, being manipulative, and ultimately acting and treating women like a man would. This indicates that Lysistrata is a hypocritical character who possesses both feminine and masculine characteristics.
The beginning of the play starts off with an important scene with Lysistrata trying to convene a group of women from all around the area together. This is important for three reasons; right off the bat she conveys how she feels about all women, it shows how she treats women, and she tells them her plan (of manipulating the women) to end the war. So while she is waiting in the Acropolis frustrated that no one has arrived yet she says “If I’d invited them to hoot and prance at Bacchic rites, or at some sleazy shrine, I would have had to crawl through tambourines to get here” (Aristophanes, p. 1). The statement means that if she’d invited women to get party which included alcohol and sex, the place would be too crowded to move. This feeling that women are just lustful, promiscuous creatures is the same feeling that men had toward women, which gives the sense that Lysistrata isn’t treating all the other women fairly or that she is above them just because she doesn’t seem to practice the same sexual rituals as them, although we never know if this is true or not. This theme of how Lysistrata feels about women arrives again in another place once the girls show up to her gathering. She asks them if they would swear to do as she says if it would mean that the war would end and they agree, but once she tells them they must be starved of sex they all disperse in fear. Again, Lysistrata is frustrated and calls them “gender fit for boning up the butt” (p.10), and that all women care are made for is a guy, sex, and having kids. She obviously doesn’t associate herself with these claims, and the thing that is even more interesting is that none of the other women care to argue with her. They all are too worried about what the initial costs of this plan are that they don’t see what the benefits are if they see the plan through. This is where Lysistrata clearly separates from the others because she doesn’t associate herself with them. She has a female body but think and acts like a man. She is an androgynous character and this is why her plan works out in the end because she demonstrates qualities of both genders. She uses her feminine side with her ability to talk and manipulate others, but she uses her masculine side to come up with a plan and be brave enough to act it out.
Lysistrata treats the women in a way that seems unusual because she doesn’t necessarily act like she’s their equals but more like they are objects for her to use in her grand scheme. As the women from the entire area walk in to the Acropolis they are analyzed as to how beautiful they are. Lysistrata and her friend make comments to how they admire the other women’s bodies with one being, “Damn right she’s fine…from here, and get another angle on her—wow” (p.7). Then the other women who are there are looking up the dress of one of the newcomers and talk about how nice and classy she is. They all sound like misogynistic men...
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