Study Guide

The Story of Atalanta Gender

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No doubt that gender issues are a big deal for Atalanta throughout her life. Even from the moment of her birth, being a girl is an annoying issue, since her disappointed dad, Iasus, abandons her for being female. Interestingly, by abandoning Atalanta, Iasus sets up a chain of events that make her one of the most un-girly girls around (by the standards of the day anyway).

In a way, Iasus unwittingly turns his daughter into the son he wanted. Because she's raised by hunters away from mainstream Greek society, Atalanta isn't forced into the same gender roles that most women are. She's allowed to be free and independent, and she's able to tap into her natural ability for hunting that would've been suppressed if she'd grown up at her dad's house.

Sadly for Atalanta, she just can't stand up to the male-dominated Greek mainstream forever. When she loses her race with Hippomenes, due to his golden apple trick, she's forced to become his wife (which leads to her downfall). The fact that Atalanta can't help but pick up the golden apples during the race may be intended to show that underneath her tough exterior, she's like other females, who apparently just can't resist things that are shiny. (Hey, we didn't make up the story!)

Questions About Gender

  1. In what ways is Atalanta different from the typical females of her time?
  2. How do the men Atalanta meets treat her as a result of her gender?
  3. How would Atalanta's life have been different is she'd been born a boy?
  4. Do you think Atalanta would've been happier as a male? Explain your answer.
  5. Read about Hippolyta and the Amazons here.
  6. Compare and contrast them with Atalanta.

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