HeForShe: Tracing the Roots of Misogyny back to Ancient Greece


The vitality, the perpetual conversations, the Aegean breeze. Walking down the streets of the Ancient Agora of Athens. People roaming, a sense of congestion. Voices, deriving from different men, different corners of the Agora, echoing. The wisest men in history all breathing the same air, roaming the same streets; they just do not know the significance of their being yet, and they never will. Ideologies, establishments, theorems that have stigmatized human history are being discussed, formed-right here and now. Hidden in the marble city, the wise men and their perspicacity; the place where casual conversation turns into history. Yet something is missing from the scenery. Women.

The History of Feminism

Feminism is the sociopolitical movement that advocates women's rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes. According to Martha Rampton- professor of history and director of the Centre for Gender Equity at Pacific University- feminism subsists of three core waves.

The first wave spans from the 19th and early 20th century and focuses on women's right to vote.

During the 1960s and 70s, the second wave of feminism occurred, when the women's liberation movement for equal legal and social rights surfaced.

Lastly, the third wave of feminism, dating from the 1970s to today, aims to destigmatize women's standing in society and redefine womanhood, gender, beauty, sexuality, femininity, and masculinity, among other things. While all these waves have been immensely advantageous in the fight for change, let us take a closer look into where it all began, 1848.

The Beginning of Feminism

The proliferation of the feminist movement traces back to the nineteenth century, formally beginning in 1848 at the Seneca Falls convention, when 300 men and women rallied in advocacy of women's rights.

After years of suppression, deregulatory behavior, discrimination, finally someone took a stance. People spoke up. But just how long were the period of suppression, deregulatory behavior, and discrimination.

700 BC-1848 AC. Two thousand years of silent suffering.

To comprehend the problem and effectively ameliorate gender discrimination, we must first acknowledge and discuss the origins of this behavior. Where and how did this all start?

Mary Beard's "Women in Power"

Ancient Greece. Where democracy born. Where Socrates and Aristotle lived. Where the Oddysey and the Illiad were written. Where civilization developed. A single place so impactful on human history. Yet there is a hidden side of Ancient Greek culture. Slavery, misogyny, mistreatment. We glorify the heroes of ancient Greece and overlook the mistreatment indoctrinated in society.

Classicist Mary Beard couldn't have conveyed it better than she does in the book "Women and Power". Studying a scene from the Odyssey, Beard discovered a line addressed form Telemachus to his mother Penelope reading: "Return to your room. Public speaking is for men"; unleashing the historically silenced mistreatment of women and their relationship with power in ancient Greece. And there is much more where that came from.

The Role of Women in Ancient Greece

Mothers. Reproductive creatures. That is what women in ancient Greece were bred to become. All women were expected to marry. Young girls were bred to be suitable wives. At 13 they forcefully married. Fathers would arrange a marriage with a suitable bachelor and that was it. The cycle went on again: Young girls were bred. Young women married. Women raised children.

In the eyes of the law, women were possessions of their husbands. They were to occupy themselves indoors with domestic duties and other indoor activities such as wool work and weaving. They were allowed to visit the homes of friends and attend religious festivals and ceremonies. However, contact with men, other than their husbands, was condemned.

They were prohibited from partaking in public assemblies, votes, and public office. Women's names were not to be mentioned publicly. Even the most radical philosophers, such as Aristotle, elucidated the belief that women were incapacitated of making their own decisions.

The goal of a girl’s education was to prepare her for her role in rearing a family & not to stimulate intellectual development.

Unable to vote. Unable to attend school. Unable to own or inherit land. Unable to work. This was the profile of a woman in ancient Greece. These restrictions regarding women's standing in society remained unbothered for a great portion of history. And it all dates back to ancient Greece.

Yes, indeed the ancient Greeks influenced the way we govern countries with the invention of democracy and the way we solve mathematical problems. Nevertheless, they also influenced the way we view women. And not in a positive manner.

Women in Modern Greece

Misogyny runs deep in greek blood. I can sense it around me. Men discriminate against women. Women consider themselves insufficient. The vicious cycle of gender discrimination in Greece has silenced generations upon generation of women to refrain from demanding change. But we will not be silent. Not any more.

I can sense gender discrimination in my environment. The way teachers treat girls. And fathers groom their sons to take on the family business and girls to marry rich. The way mothers suffer silently in the shadows of their husbands. The way leaders are always men. And women are always there to assist.

And statistically, this sense of discrimination is well-reflected.

A recent study by the European Commission under the title: "2018 Report on equality between men and women in the EU" exhibits just how deep these misogynistic beliefs run.

The gender employment gap in Greece is at 19%, being the third highest in the EU.

When asked if the most important role of a woman is to take care of the home and family, 69% strongly agreed.

Women also have a diminutive role in leadership. Greece has the fifth-lowest women participation in government, with only 17.4% of the government being comprised of women.

The percentage of women on the boards of large listed companies is only at 11.3%. Furthermore, the change in the share of women on the boards of large listed companies marks a 5.1%, as opposed to the EU average of a 13.4% increase.

Time for Change.

Women are equal. Women are leaders. Women are anything they want to be. Women can be doctors. Women can be scientists. Women are change-makers. Women are progressive. Women are entitled to human rights. Women are human beings.

Women's rights are human rights.

Treat them that way.

Maria-Anna Maridis
50k+ pageviews

Travel, reading and writing are amongst Maria-Anna’s top interests. Maria-Anna is currently a high-school junior aspiring to travel the world and be a writer.