During the turbulent decades that preceded and followed the French Revolution, classical mythology was subject to extensive cross-pollination with Enlightenment and revolutionary literature. Many narratives were reinterpreted through the scope of Progressive ideals, and the question of women’s role in society and the differences between the sexes was no exception.
Women’s issues were an important topic for many revolutionary schools of thought previously discussed in this blog, all of the painstakingly catalogued and targeted by Marx and Engels in their Communist Manifesto as obstacles to Progress. Proudhon, a founding figure of Anarchism (branded as Bourgeois Socialism by the Manifesto), was staunchly opposed to the education of women and believed their primary role was child-rearing and the home. Traditional gender roles were seen as natural and most conducive to happiness. This anti-feminist position, developed in “Pornocracy or Women in Modern Times”, earned him many detractors, and led to important contradictions within the budding anarchist movements across Europe.
Contrary to Proudhon’s views, Critical-Utopian Social Communists (CUSC) such as Fourier or Henri de Saint-Simon defended the access of women into the work force and their consideration as individuals detached from the family institution. Marriage was seen as an oppressive institution to be done with, and women were seen as indistinguishable from men and an oppressed collective. Specifically, Fourier was one of the first thinkers to consider the role of women as a barometer for the degree of development of a society, an idea which embedded itself quite successfully into the wider progressive memeplex. The recognition of LGBT orientation as legitimate was also a notable feature of CUSC thought, and is a trait inherited by virtually all current progressive movements.
As discussed in last week’s post, these ideological trends can be exemplified in the evolving interpretations of Pandora’s myth, a meme which gradually gave way to a new feminine archetype in fiction: that of the femme fatale, the wicked woman who brings doom to men through cunning and seduction. This figure, which peaked in the era of Noir cinema, contrasted with the sympathetic Pandora presented by Goethe and Casti. It was coherent with the feminist ideas cited above in that it lacked any condescension and saw women as dangerous and powerful; nonetheless, it still emphasized their sexual appeal to men as a central trait. Although the femme fatale archetype can be traced back to Helen of Troy, its most malevolent characteristics come from even deeper in the human collective imagination: the Female Monsters of the Greek pantheon.
Unlike the femme fatale, who is purely (yet perversely) feminine, mythological Female Monsters have a distinct type of indeterminate or hybrid sexuality. They often manifest themselves as half-human, half-animal creatures such as Echidna, the Syrens, the Gorgons, the Harpies, the Sphinx, or Scylla and Caribdis. Most trace their lineage to Gaia (Mother Earth); thus, they are strongly associated with the oldest, most primitive generation of gods, and are related to Chthonic cults of darkness, night and fertility. One of the most common epithets for Gaia is, precisely, Πανδώρα (“Pan-dora” or “all-giving”), calling back to the Hesiodic Theogony.
A key characteristic of these monstrous beings is their anatomical abnormality, their dismeasure (ὕβρις, hubris); a lack of conformity to that which is proportionate and rational. Having only one eye or too many of them, serpents instead of hair, etc., they represent chaotic and destructive primordial matter, and an affront to the order imposed by the Olympians, which were Gaia’s youngest divine offspring. The Latin word for mongrel, “hibridus” (from which the English “hybrid” is derived), is of unknown origin, but here at the Outpost we speculate that it might be related to this Greek concept of hubris, which ended up meaning something similar to arrogance and pride.
In any case, the behavior of the typical female monster is predatorial, violent and voracious, especially towards men and children. Sometimes disguised under a beautiful appearance or voice, they bewitch sailors and wanderers, leading them to their death. The root of their evil is sexual: the bodies of their favorite prey, young men, are found naked and mangled among their fangs, in a vulnerable and passive attitude. There is an inversion of sexual roles at play, and their female nature is portrayed as dominant while displaying virile characteristics of aggressiveness. The case of the Sphinx is paradigmatic: a phallic female exercising her tyranny both sexually over her victims, and politically over the city of Thebes. Attracting travelers with her voice and her enigmatic gaze, she poses them with a question; when they fail to answer, she throws herself at them. The men are paralyzed and raped, strangled in a deadly coitus: a death unbecoming of their masculine condition.
Given the exceptional importance sexual identity is granted in contemporary politics, let’s put forward an esoteric hypothesis in regards to these mythological archetypes of violent, ambiguous sexuality. Perhaps, more than a consequence of the defeat conservative-bourgeois or socialist morality, the return of classical memes about the masculine and the feminine results from the action of forgotten gods (i.e. demons) reclaiming their space in the shared unconscious. The political, social and cultural demands presented by the feminist movement may be a hyperstitional call from the Old Ones, designed to trap us again in the myths Female Monsters used to inhabit.
Now, the question that follows this intriguing conclusion is another. Are cultural manifestations such as feminism or LGBT pride an attempt to normalize non-traditional sexuality? Or is it a display meant to liberate men from their instinctive fear of the indeterminate, ambiguous and predatorial female monster? Maybe these symbols of barbarism and irrational, destructive violence, are exhibited not with the purpose of acceptance, but that of inviting their own elimination. What could be more similar to a flock of the Odissey’s bird-like syrens than a show of drag? The phenomenon of QAnon and speculation about spirit cooking and murderous pedophilic cults has an obvious memetic connection to the primal fear inspired by the Sphinx or the Chimaera.
Let’s take the story of Perseus and Medusa. The latter was a Gorgon, a female monster endowed with a horrendous face; a long, phallic tongue aggressively showing among pointed teeth; hissing snakes instead of hair. Medusa’s power resided in her deadly gaze, which turned human beings into stone. Perseus, son of Zeus and thus a demigod, severed her head and turned it into a weapon, using it to conquer and petrify his enemies. This triumphant moment is portrayed brilliantly in a sculpture by Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini; the statue has circulated widely through the Internet, achieving its own memetic status among esoteric right wing and masculinist circles since the early 2010s.
Contemplated in myths, the elimination of female monsters symbolizes the restoration of a harmonious and just order. By eliminating the aberrant entity, the myth guarantees that Olympic Reason, as an essentially masculine quality, is imposed over Chthonic Nature, irrational and feminine. Are we witnessing the signs of a Misogynist Revolution? Maybe woke culture’s glorification of “fierce” queerness and dominant female sexuality is not really about men, women and social justice. Perhaps it’s a spell, a hyperstition meant to foster the return to power not of men, but of immortal demigods. The founding of a new city: after all, Perseus would go on to build the Kingdom of Mycene, of which Agamemnon, vanquisher of Troy, was the most famous ruler; unlike his brother Menelaus, though he never played the simp for that thot fatale Helen.