Antigone as a Feminist Icon
Male authority is a dominant theme in Sophocles’ “Antigone.” Men occupied the land, ruled the towns and assigned the women duties to perform. Antigone, however, believed that she was just as strong as the men who ruled society during that time, which led to her downfall. The goal of the feminist movement has generally been to seek equality between the sexes. Through the women’s movement, women have won the right to vote, and can now compete for traditionally male roles in the workplace. Although the feminist movement has largely taken place during the last 200 year, many figures in history have embodied characteristics of the contemporary feminist, such as the character of Antigone in Sophocles’ “Antigone.”
Antigone’s introduction as a feminist is within the context of a fiercely sexist civilization. Sophocles paints a vivid portrait of a male dominated society. In 442 BC, women believed that they were inferior to men because men held power and influence over the people and the cities. The patriarchy consisted of men who considered themselves of higher importance and standing, and men who would assign women duties and expect them to perform without question. This authoritarian rule placed women in a subordinate role and extinguished any hopes of power. In the face of this efficiently and tightly controlled agency, Antigone rebels with what Catherine Holland describes as an “otherness” and an “anti-authoritarian” bent. Her very existence as the protagonist and, simultaneously, the antagonist defines her character as the adversary of man and thereby the adversary of the world. Antigone’s razor sharp temerity captures the spirit of modern and nascent feminism as she slashes the societal fabric into which she is woven. Antigone’s relationship with her sister Ismene also acutely expresses her feminist attributes. Ismene says “You ought to realize we are only women, not meant in nature to fight against men, and that we are
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