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"Men must fight and women must weep" Essay on Gender Roles.

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Introduction

MEDEA "Men must fight and women must weep" Essay on Gender Roles Gender roles are those characteristics, actions or behaviours, for which acceptance and approval within a particular community, and at a specified time, is determined on a gender-specific basis. A very traditional idea of these roles is that men are overt, the protectors, the providers and aggressive: "men must fight..." and women are covert, the victims, passive and emotional "...women must weep". Traditional gender roles are found in many texts. In the play Medea by Euripides, the main character, Medea, both challenges and endorses traditional gender roles through her actions, her words and her reactions. Medea betrays her father, the king, by helping Jason, who is a foreigner and therefore disliked. The king made plans to kill Jason but Medea, knowing of these plans, intervenes and helps him escape. This action challenges traditional concepts of the female gender role, as women, in the patriarchal society of ancient Greece, were supposed to have deep respect for their fathers who provided for them and kept them safe from harm. By betraying her father she is going against her traditional role as a daughter which was to be obedient, passive and grateful. Despite this betrayal she still shows some female essence: "She sat alone in her room, weeping and telling herself she was shamed forever because she cared so much for a stranger that she wanted to yield to a mad passion and go against her father." ...read more.

Middle

Medea is therefore seen to challenge traditional gender roles, through her newfound independence. Medea's independence does not last long and even though she saved Jason's life, Medea is the one who very soon becomes dependent on him, this time making her like a victim or, "a refugee, buying safety"(pg1) thus endorsing the illustrated female role once more. Medea is later again made to appear the victim through Jason telling her he will provide for her and look after her, making her seem helpless and needy: (Jason:)"I won't see you penniless; I won't see the children starve...If you or the children need anything, cash for the journey, ask. I'll be generous- letters to people who'll take you in." Medea replies: "I need no friends of yours to take me in. I'll take none of your favours...I spit on them." Her response, to Jason's offer of help, 'loosens' the typical characteristic of victim bestowed upon her as she conveys a sense of new independence once more, this time from Jason. Medea might need that help from Jason but she strongly communicates that she definitely doesn't want it showing strength in her character which therefore challenges conventional feminine roles. For Medea, even less feminine, and certainly more unacceptable than killing her own brother was killing her own children. ...read more.

Conclusion

Medea is now challenging her role as a typical emotional woman and exhibits the male quality of being able to contain emotions and appear emotionally detached. Medea's feelings of jealousy were so strong that she wanted to take revenge. Women seeking revenge is quite normal, where gender roles were concerned especially in ancient Greek Mythology where many stories recount the tales of jealous wives wanting revenge on their husband and/or his lover. Hera, the Queen of the Gods, provides a good example of this, when she causes a young woman named Semele, whom Zeus was in love with, to die through Hera's trickery, which is another traditional trait performed by women. Medea's revenge on Jason through his wife Glauke, was very similar to Hera's method of deception. Taking revenge on Jason, she gives Glauke a silken robe and golden crown, as a gift, but it is laced with poison and Glauke soon dies. (Medea to Jason:) "You thought you'd kick me from your bed and laugh at me unpunished. Wrong!"(pg46) Covertly, using deceit, Medea endorses typical gender roles through her revenge on Jason. The "fighter" and the "weeper", the aggressive and the passive, the independent and the dependent: Medea, in Euripides's play Medea is an example of both traditional male and female gender roles accepted in the ancient Greek society. This is shown, just as all gender roles are shown, through her actions or behaviours as well as in her words and reactions. ...read more.

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