Essay Modes of Power for Women

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Modes of Power for Women

The struggle for control over birth transcends centuries and continents. Gloria Steinem, a women’s rights advocate of the 1990s describes how “the traditional design of most patriarchal buildings of worship imitates the female body” in order that “men [can] take over the yoni-power of creation by giving birth symbolically” (Steinem XV). The struggle for control over the power of procreation between the sexes existed in Ancient Greece. It is apparent in the Theogony, an account of the creation of Greek deities, composed by Hesiod sometime between the eighth and seventh centuries. The Theogony depicts how males attempted to subvert control of procreation by monitoring the womb, through force, and by
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Ouranos exerts control over Gaia’s womb: “with joy in his wicked work [he] hid [offspring] / in Gaia’s womb and did not let [them] return to the light” (157-158). Gaia’s power over procreation is compromised. Ouranos can prevent Gaia’s womb from releasing children. The compromise of control is also found in the relationship between two other deities, Rhea and Kronos. Kronos “gulped down his own children to Rhea’s endless grief” (467). Even though Rhea gives birth to the children, Kronos determines their survival. With males involved in creation, female’s absolute control over birth is compromised.

The Theogony describes instances of sexual force, another tactic that reduces female control over birth. In describing a coupling between Zeus and Hekate, Hesiod says, “The son of Kronos did not use force on her” (423) indicating force is sometimes employed. A specific instance of forced procreation is when “Jason, shepherd of the people, made her submit / to his passion, and she bore Medeios” (1000-1001). On this occasion Hesiod writes, “Zeus’s design was fulfilled” (1002). Not only does Jason force the woman to procreate, Zeus designs it as such giving Zeus, a male god, influence over procreation.

Gods subvert female power of procreation by undermining mother-child relationships. Zeus succeeds in destroying the bond between his first wife, Metis, and her children by swallowing Metis. He swallows his wife because it is fated she will bear children
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