A 1,000 pound bronze statue of mythological rape survivor and feared petrifier of men, Medusa, was unveiled this past Tuesday as a tribute to the #metoo movement and as a powerful statement on justice.
Argentinian-Italian artist, Luciano Garbati, the architect behind the retelling of this classic myth, put the story of Medusa and Perseus under an interrogation lamp, giving us an updated end with a much more likely heroine, and slapping it in front of the Manhattan Supreme Court, where convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein got his twenty-three-year sentence.
Garbati simulates the aesthetic of classical Greek sculpture, and gives us a naked Medusa with a sword in one hand and the head of Perseus in the other. She stands victoriously, looking ahead, safe in her nakedness, and ready to destroy anyone who threatens her again.
“According to the myth, she should be the one dead and beheaded.” Garbati said, in relation to the significance of this Medusa. “That’s the most important thing you can say about this sculpture […] that she has defended her life and set a boundary.”
The myth of the gorgon, Medusa, is rather like every ancient Greek myth ever: problematic to no end. According to the Roman poet, Ovid, she was an allegedly beautiful priestess to the goddess, Athena, before she was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple. She was then punished for this violation by Athena herself, who turns Medusa into a monster with green, wrinkly skin, hair that slithers, and the power to turn men into stone with just one gaze (a power that many a woman of flesh and bone has coveted). If there was ever an example of powerful authority figures punishing women for men’s crimes, this one takes the misogynistic cake. After Athena destroys Medusa’s life for no reason, she aids young Perseus on his quest to kill the only mortal gorgon by giving him a polished shield for him to find Medusa through her reflection (and, thus, avoiding the risk of being turned into stone). The reason for this is that Greek gods were all kind of trash. That’s about it.
Showing Medusa or any female Greek mythological character holding the head of her attacker is not just a power stance in the present; it is a middle finger to the woman-hating rhetoric and violent history that has brought us real-life villains like Weinstein all the way into this day and age.
So, this Medusa is empowered and there is no doubt about that. As a lover of mythology, especially feared women in mythology, I am going to pretend that the head she is holding is Poseidon’s—that skeevy, powerful dude who abused her and got her life ruined in the first place. Also, I am going to pretend that, since she is a monster outcast living in 8th century BC, her body hair isn’t so modernly manicured (I will amplify this pet peeve until period dramas stop pretending that village women in medieval Europe shaved their legs—we can take it, guys).
feature image via Quartz