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Lysistata Paper

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Lysistrata Paper

In Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the women unite to end the war between Athens and Sparta. This unity is desired to achieve peace where the men could not. The central figure who makes the argument for peace is the character Lysistrata who at first glance may appear feminist to the modern reader. Though once Lysistrata is read more carefully, the female characters of Lysistrata actually present a negative portrayal of women, with their manipulations and use of sex appeal and seduction. As a result the women are portrayed in a negative connotation as the weaker sex. The play Lysistrata takes place during the Peloponnesian War, a war between Athens and Sparta in Greece. A group of women, lead by the main character Lysistrata, come together to bring about peace and end the war to bring their husbands home. In order to force the men to negotiate peace, they promise to deny their husbands of sex until they agree. As a result the men try to retaliate and a battle of the sexes begins. In a series of exaggerated and very blatant sexual innuendos, the women prevail and convince the men of Athens and Sparta to agree to a peace treaty. The play does not promote women’s rights, but portrays women as merely having a physical influence over men, an influence based solely on their sex appeal. The female characters use sex and seduction to their advantage allowing the men to only see them as physical objects of worth. The female characters do not even try to prove otherwise, for they see no problem in using their bodies to their advantage. In Lysistrata both the male and the female characters frequently say very negative things about women. The main argument Lysistrata uses behind the abstinence is that she does not like to see her fellow females left all alone at home: “It concerns the fathers of your children--your husbands, absent on active service. I know you all have men abroad. Wouldn’t you like to have them home?” (31). This motive proves the she is not so much concerned with the war but more with the absence of the husbands, therefore basing the happiness of the female population on the men. Lysistrata assumes the only influence that the women can have over their husbands is the influence of their bodies. Her plan has nothing to do with intellect but based solely on their bodies not their minds. The woman “Peace” herself is a symbol of physical temptation, proving that the women do not try to persuade the men with their intelligence and that the men do not even view the argument the women present in an intellectual sense but merely a physical one. In the final scene Lysistrata uses a naked Peace to manipulate the men into agreeing to a peace agreement. Thus instead of relying on her ability to communicate, she uses physical temptation to convince the men. Throughout her last speech for peace, the men are hard pressed to pay attention to what she is actually saying with a naked women present. One man states while gazing at Peace, “I’m destroyed, of this is drawn out much longer” (117). Another claims, “Never saw one I wanted so much to top” (118). Peace not only distracts the men from listening to Lysistrata’s main concerns, but Peace now serves as a bribe for the men. One Spartan man proves this point when he takes what is being said about the Spartans being in the wrong and thinks they are referring to the fact he attempted to pat Peace on the behind, “Hit’s wrong, I reckon, but that’s the purtiest behind...” (117). Lysistrata allowing Peace to be displayed this way shows that she is fine with the degradation and objectification of women. This objectification is first seen when the majority of the women arrive at the beginning of the play. Lysistrata scrutinizes their bodies and opens Lampito’s robe baring her breasts, to which Lampito remarks that she feels like “a heifer come fair-time” (29). The women look desperate in their desires for sex, especially when the women all begin to make up excuses to leave the Acropolis and return home. One woman pretends to be pregnant sticking a huge helmet under her cloak in an attempt to escape and run home to her husband. Another example of this can be seen in the character Myrrhine, who has left her infant child at home without care or food for six days while the women held fort at the Acropolis. Consequently the women are not only using their bodies as negotiating tools but are also neglectful in their duties. While Aristophanes’ original concept is to liberate the women, the women lose all potential for respect and are used mainly as a way to achieve a laugh. The women match the men in their vulgarity and their ability to manipulate. While withholding sex is meant to be viewed as a clever tactic, it instead adds to the stereotype that women are objects. It shows instead that women are not the superior sex through their negotiating skills, but are instead easily manipulated by their bodies’ desires. In addition to all of this they also make up stories so they may leave the Acropolis and run home to their husbands to relieve their sexual tension. As a result they are demonstrating their deceitful and sex-crazed nature. This is further proved by Lysistrata’s suggestion that they abstain from sex. Consequently the women react in a negative way, in that they are portrayed as being sex crazed. An example of this obsession can be seen in the character Kalonike, who at first is willing to try anything, argues, “Try something else. Try anything. If you say so, I’m willing to walk through fire barefoot. But not to give up SEX--there’s nothing like it, Lysistrata!” (33). This shows what a strong opposition to living without sex the women have and suggests that women find joy in nothing but sex. In the end I believe that instead of empowering women Lysistra demean the sex of women. Evidence for this can be seen in the use of women’s bodies to get their way, the neglect of their duties, and their obsession with sex. As a result of these things women are not portrayed as the more powerful sex but instead as the weaker sex, which is subject to the rule of their physical urges.

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