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The Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses

by Ovid

Gender Quotes Page 2

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

(Perseus):
"Her beauty led the Ruler of the Sea
to rape her in Minerva's sanctuary
(so goes the tale). Jove's daughter turned aside
chaste eyes: the goddess hid her face behind
her aegis – but she made Medusa pay:
she changed that Gorgon's hair to horrid snakes." (4.799-801)

Here, once again, we can see a double-standard breaking down along gender lines. Even though Medusa was the victim of rape by Neptune, she is the one who gets punished by Minerva. What makes this example interesting is that Minerva, another woman, is the one who does the punishing. (We also see this same phenomenon at work in the many acts of revenge Juno perpetrates against women raped or seduced by Jupiter.) This actually isn't that surprising; both historically and in the contemporary world, the values of a patriarchal society are often so pervasive that even women take part in enforcing them.

Quote #5

Atalanta's robe was fastened at the neck
by a smooth brooch; her hair was simply dressed,
caught up in just one knot; her shafts were stored
within an ivory quiver, which she wore
on her left shoulder; as she moved, the arrows
would jangle; Atalanta held her bow
in her left hand. And her beguiling face
was, for a girl, quite boyish; for a boy,
it had a girlish cast – one could have said. (8.318-321)

Here we see an interesting blurring of gender lines in the figure of Atalanta, a tomboy. That said, Ovid makes no suggestion that Atalanta is in any way part man. Equally interesting is the fact that, unlike Iphis, a girl who is raised as a boy and thus takes on certain masculine traits, Atalanta is not attracted to women. (She will later become happily married Hippomenes – though things don't turn out too well for them, thanks to Venus's meddling.)

Quote #6

(Ligdus):
"There are two things for which I pray: the first,
that you may suffer little in childbirth;
the second, that your child may be a boy.
Our means are meager – girls require more.
So, if by chance (I pray it not be so)
you bear a female, I would have you know
that (hateful as it is – and may the gods
forgive me) I shall have her put to death." (9.675-678)

Here we see more patriarchal values in play: if Ligdus's wife gives birth to a girl, he will kill the child. This is an abhorrent idea, both to us and to Ovid (based on how he tells the story). All the same, Ovid introduces some interesting nuance into the picture when he points out that "girls require more" wealth to provide for. One major way in which girls were more expensive was that their parents had to pay for dowries.

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