Medusa: Feminist Icon

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault

Any kid born in the early 2000’s has likely heard of the Percy Jackson series. A modern take on ancient Greek mythology, it sent a whole generation into a mythology frenzy — inhaling books and pretending to be half-bloods, picking which gods they wanted as parents. True to most tellings, the series portrayed Medusa — an obstacle the main character had to battle — as a heartless wench collecting unlucky statues with incredible force. She was cold, calculated, and terrifying. Now, the same generation has turned her into a feminist icon with a story too many can relate to; instead of being a symbol of fear, Medusa has become the symbol of justice for sexual assault victims.

Victim in Stone

Benvenuto Cellini , Perseus with the Head of Medusa, 1545-1554, Florence.

Medusa is often depicted as Perseus’ victim: holding her head by the hair in victory after defeating the evil wench. In this context, she is defenseless, defeated, and lifeless. She is the embodiment of a victim. In these statues she fully commits to the evil woman trope, the one that gets defeated by the hero, a stepping stone in his journey. Her backstory is unimportant, her past is ignored, she’s just simply a head.

Untapped New York

On the complete contrary however, a new statue of Medusa in New York flips the script. Now it’s Medusa standing tall and proud, with Perseus’ head in her hand and a sword in the other. She stands in front of a courthouse, representing the strong survivors — and the ones that weren’t so lucky — as a symbol for justice. The bronze cast serves as feminist icon, reminding the world that victims won’t go down without a fight. She’s still callous and serious, but she’s far from weak and helpless.


Jaye Lara Blunden

In the original myth, Medusa was punished after Poseidon assaulted her, simply because she was a renowned beauty. How could he control himself with such a beauty “seducing” him? Throughout history, it’s always been the woman’s fault: their skirt was too short, they wore too much makeup, they were sending mixed signals, they were “asking for it.” Modern art is taking that gross misunderstanding and tearing it apart. Like the example above, a lot of modern art is using Medusa’s iconic face to push against the victim-blaming narrative. Works like the one above push what is and isn’t consent, and that women should be free to wear whatever they want; women shouldn’t have to worry about a creep attacking them because he has no self control.

Fear of Powerful Women

Fox and Bunny

Women in positions of power are often portrayed with poorly photoshopped snakes growing from their scalps. Now that a woman has a powerful role, she’s going to destroy every man’s right and freedom she can get her hands on, right? No. Using Hillary Clinton as an example, during the presidential election, she was painted as a radical “feminazi”, that would do anything in her power to take full control of the American people. A lot of people compared Trump to Perseus after he won the presidency, as he “slain the villain (Hillary)” that put the general population in danger. Because Clinton had ambitions — and was a woman — she was deemed a threat, immediately putting her with Medusa. Clinton broke many precedents and ideas, just like her mythological counterpart.

Depending on the media, Medusa is either a force of nature standing with women in a fight for justice, or she’s a threat to humanity because she’s a woman. Regardless, Medusa has transformed into a modern feminist icon taking the world by storm.


Perseus with Head of Medusa:

Perseus and the Head of Medusa – A Very Florentine Story

Medusa in NYC:

Medusa Sculpture Unveiled Across NYC’s Criminal Courthouse

Modern Medusa Poster:

Medusa Clinton:

Curator Kiki Karaglou on Dangerous Beauty

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