So, Bitch magazine had an interview with Nina MacLaughlin where she talked about how it dawned on her one day that nearly every story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses is about rape or attempted rape.
It’s always couched in terms of “deflowered her,” or “then she knew his love,” or some shit like that.
But when you read the descriptions, it’s pretty obviously rape. The women are nearly always fleeing, calling to their patron goddesses, parents or benefactors to save them, and often the salvation takes the form of erasing their humanity, turning them into reeds, or trees, or monsters, or it happens, there is nothing they can do about it and then most of the perpetrators go their merry way.
Man, no wonder we are so fucked up around consent and sex and love in this culture. People STILL hold some of these tales up as romantic.
So MacLaughlin decided to re-write the stories in Metamorphoses from the woman’s point of view, or the victim’s if there was no woman. Or in the case of Hercules’s mother, turns her into an over-achieving super-mommy, of the kind who populate mommy boards to shame anyone who quit breast-feeding before the child is 4.
Disclaimer: Yes, breast milk is best for babies, but not all women/people who give birth can breastfeed for many, many reasons, so quit shaming them, assholes.
Where was I?
Oh, right, the book.
Soooo, maybe be warned because where the translations of most of these stories we are familiar with couch their terms to make the rapes seem less, ahem, rapey. This book does not. It gets graphic about rape and how the victims experience it, the pain, the panic, the fear, everything.
This is a hard read.
I had to take a break in the middle of Philomena and Procne, because it is fucking hard.
It is fantastic. Wonderful. Beautifully written, well-realized. These characters are given a life and depth they never receive in the myths you’ve read before. There is perhaps a little more sympathy for Hera than I would likely have written, because as far as I’m concerned there is a special place in hell for women who sell out other women.(Looking at you, Kelly Ann Conway, Melania Trump, and dozens of other Republican women.)
So much as with Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s book, I do highly recommend this one with some reservations. Don’t give this to your teens unless you are looking to have some hard conversations. Or hey, maybe you and they are down with that, I don’t know. I did not have that kid of relationship with my own mom, but I hope you all do a LOT better in that arena.
So, yes, great book, well written, it will likely make you cry. And I do think maybe men should read this, especially if you’ve ever thought rape wasn’t that big a deal. Because I can tell you, you’re wrong. Even if there aren’t serious physical injuries, the emotional ones can last a long, long time. And we need to quit pretending that the victims are at fault.
Sorry, that’s a button.
Anyway, have a great day.
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