There’s always an intense excitement to be found in examining a story of the oppressed against the oppressors. Euripides’s Medea, for example, serves as a warning to the patriarchy regarding the unjust treatment of women at the time. He uses Medea’s experiences and interactions to exemplify the theme of social injustices governing the perception and status of women, and how this incorrect and bias view will lead to the eventual downfall of the patriarchy, the oppressors in power.
Medea boldly takes revenge against Jason, to the extent of bringing substantial grief upon herself, in a society in which the social norm is to regard women as beneath men, as weak and gentle beings, and constantly subject them to double standards and clear bias in the arguments surrounding the domestic structure. She directly opposes this perception of society and, in the end, proves that women are fearsome beings as capable if not more so than men. First and foremost, Medea sacrifices are clearly underappreciated by Jason, demonstrating how the achievement of women was unrecognized.
She betrays her homeland, gives up her status as a princess, kills her own brother, and helps murder Pelias and yet he eventually divorces her in order to get more prestige and provide trivial excuses such as it isn’t for my own interests, you’re better off here than your barbaric homeland, and credits his success, her sacrifices, to Aphrodite. His disrespect is a reflection of how the patriarchy thought of women. Creon, another representative of the patriarchy, was wise enough to exile Medea for her reproaches and in fear of the sorceress’s revenge, but she cunningly used he perception of women to make the king pity and underestimate her. This allowed her enough time to enact her revenge, symbolizing the downfall of the patriarchy as a result of their perception of women. The Chorus symbolizes the social norm in Medea by initially convincing Medea that suicide would be an overreaction because a husband divorcing is normal in their society and throughout judging her revenge to be excessive. It’s the accepted social norm as is shown by the Chorus attempt to tranquil Medea as “why, [husband switching brides] Has often happened before” (Euripides 25).
This results in her criticizing the patriarchy for their bias towards men regarding divorce in their society, “For women, divorce is not Respectable; to repel the man, not possible” (Euripides 24). Later the Chorus begins to sympathize with her, showing that they, to a certain degree, understand that the social norm is wrong but are forced by the patriarchy to accept it. This acceptance of social injustice reflects how powerless the oppressed are towards the prejudices placed on them and emphasizes how ignorant and exploitable they are.
It’s considered normal for women to be to be subjected to such double standards; yet Medea challenges the social norm (the Chorus) numerous times, often in an attempt to justify her revenge, and in doing so, defies the Greek society’s rules. She inevitably earns their acknowledgment that Jason deserves some sort of punishment for her suffering after listening to the rebukes she made against Jason’s justification; however, the Chorus is still somewhat hesitant in their refusal, which emphasizes just how potent the influence the patriarchy has on the social norm. Jason, you have set your case forth very plausibly. But to my mind – though you may be surprised at this – You are acting wrongly in thus abandoning your wife” (Euripides 34). Still far from a flat out refusal, Medea prevails on making the Chorus realize the injustice in regards to marriage and stand with her against it, a significant first step similar to the spread of propaganda promoting justice as the first step to a revolution against a dictator.
The social norm realizing such unfairness marks the unrest fueling the start of a revolt against the patriarchy, led by Medea of course. Further exemplifying the normality of the second class status of women supposed inferiority is when Medea states that “we (women] bid the highest price in dowries just to buy some man to be dictator of our bodies” (Euripides 31) They earnestly rush to be endowed to a man, as that’s how they obtain any sense of position in the patriarchy.
The cycle even continues with Jason marrying Creon’s daughter just to help him advance. He similarly expects Medea to just accept the prejudice, but she demonstrates her willfulness when she reproaches him and his “specious argument” and later declines his offer of assistance, denying his attempt to alleviate his guilt from something he intuitively understands is wrong. She will not stand for this and will take revenge against the oppressors for imposing such prejudice.
This modern day viewpoint shared by many feminists is a scarcity in their society as is shown when Jason was surprised at Medea’s rhetorical skills which resulted in him giving any justification in the first place; yet, he doesn’t even respect her enough to bother giving a good explanation for abandoning her paralleling how the rest of the society viewed women, to a certain extent, ignorant or just powerless. Of course, her reproaches surprise him as it was supported by the undeniable prejudice with marriage and the notion of a woman defending herself was unusual.
After all, the bias against women in Greece was possibly a result of the perception of them as gentle, caring beings. Which resulted in social injustice such as them being easily taken advantage of; the “specious argument” (Euripides 34) by Jason is an example of how women were seen as, to an extent, ignorant or just powerless. Jason didn’t fear or respect Medea at all, rebuking her for wanting revenge. Likely, a weaker Medea wouldn’t even have gotten to hear Jason’s excuse and would’ve abandoned her murderous intentions. Jason’s sympathetic attempt at ridding his guilt by offering aid and
Creon’s sympathetic yet unwise decision to let her stay, which ultimately leads to his downfall, further strengthens the notion that women are generally viewed as tamed beings. The fact that the patriarchy arrogantly underestimates their oppressed indicates how powerless women are. Jason’s lament that he “married a tigress … and yoked [himself] to a hater and destroyer,” (Euripides 204) demonstrates how Medea’s defiant nature contrasts that of how society set women to be and further exemplifies how male ignorance can lead to the patriarchy’s downfall.
The absurdity of double standards comes into play when even the powerful sorceress, Medea, must rely on a husband for support. ‘Well, suppose they are dead … Will any man afford me home in a country safe for living …? ” (Euripides 57). She worries about her life and wonders if there’s another man she can rely on, despite the fact that her husband, a man, had betrayed her. This supports the idea that the Greek society is heavily engulfed in a patriarchy. The men have all the power and are free from blame or any responsibility.
This can be seen in Jason’s justification for the divorce where he argued that he’s not doing it not it out of selfishness when it’s clearly out of selfishness. The Chorus accepts this lousy response symbolizing the society’s assistance in empowering the oppressors. By accepting that Jason is free from blame, the patriarchy he represents is deemed justified by society while in actuality the existence of the oppressors is in constant peril as a result of the lack of equality and bias towards women.
Medea represents the tipping point of the patriarchy, showcasing the misconceptions of women and how their prejudice will bring their end with Medea succeeding in her revenge. Thus, Medea cautions oppressors of their downfall as a result of their wrongdoing and inability to understand the true nature of women in their society, as equals. Women should have the same rights as men and this infringement of them advocated revolt and civil unrest against the male oppressor, Jason, in the form of revenge.
It implies that a despot should be wary of ruling with flaws in its society and how negligence of them will lead to his/her demise. A society seems to inherently seek equality, regardless of how oppressors may attempt to change the social norm. They will inevitably become unable to justify themselves as their prejudices can never be as valid as the truth and be helpless in preventing the consequences that follow the realization of such injustice, their downfall.