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Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (1975)

af Sarah B. Pomeroy

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858819,253 (3.88)10
"'The first treatment to reflect the critical insights of modern feminism ... its position has hardly been challenged'-- Mary Beard"--Cover.
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305.420 938 POM
  ScarpaOderzo | Apr 24, 2020 |
I picked up this book from a library display based on its interesting title. Originally published in 1975, this book provides an introduction to what we know about women's lives in classical antiquity. ( )
  mari_reads | Mar 15, 2020 |
An overview of the position of women in Classical antiquity in myth, legend, literature, and history.

This was a groundbreaking book when it was published in 1975, the first to examine the position of women of those times in such a comprehensive manner. In some ways it's very much of its time. I suspect a modern book would give more credence to systemic sociological and economic factors rather than psychoanalytical ones, for example. But, having said that, it's full of interesting tidbits presented in an engaging manner. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Apr 15, 2016 |
Pomeroy published this book the same year Evelyn Reed's Woman's Evolution was published. Overall, Reed's book, while it has some too obviously Marxist views (too much pounding of the private property is evil drum), is superior in its scholarly efforts to examine what life for women must have been like in both pre-history and antiquity.

Too often Pomeroy asserts statements that demonstrate how much she still believes the idea that men are superior to women, sometimes soon after making statements that are clearly feminist. On page 8 of the edition I have, for instance, she stated that "a fully realized female tends to engender anxiety in the insecure male." Yet on p. 33, she asserts, "thus, the role of women--because it was biologically determined--displayed a continuity throughout these obscure times--despite the upheavals that changed men's lives," clearly buying into the idea that women's roles are solely determined by biology.

Pomeroy also gives up valuable logical ground too easily, asserting, for instance, that there is no evidence for matriarchal cultures prior to the pre-historical Greek cultures she examines, even while admitting that this period appears to be transitional--from matriarchal to patriarchal, which is something Reed argues more strongly and more clearly. Even though Pomeroy wants to paint herself as a feminist, she buys into the arguments against matriarchal cultures and strong women with the same illogical arguments that are still used today: there is no definitive proof for matriarchal societies (even though plenty of evidence exists, this evidence is usually dismissed since we cannot read anything specific about that era), therefore they did not exist. This spurious argument goes the other way--since there is no definitive proof that the patriarchy always existed.

Perhaps more disturbing is how she dismisses owners' rape of their slaves as the women's being "sexually available," as well as how she continually refers to prostitutes and courtesans as "whores."

So, while this book offers some tantalizing insights into the lives of women from the early Greek through the Roman republican periods, Pomeroy's basic argument isn't really an argument at all: she believes the misogynistic Stoics' "argumentation [that women should confine their energies to marriage and motherhood} is brilliant and difficult to refute. And this rationalized confinement of women to the domestic sphere, as well as the systematization of anti-female thought by poets and philosophers, are two of the most devastating creations in the classical legacy" (230). No kidding.

Overall, Pomeroy could have used more Marxist perspective in her examination, while Reed could have beat that drum less often, but both books are worth reading, examining, and re-visiting. ( )
1 stem hefruth | Oct 6, 2013 |
  Mry | May 17, 2008 |
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