Why did Poseidon raped Medusa

Medusa as a feminist motif in rap

No other female figure in Greek mythology appears so frequently in pop and especially rap culture as she does: Medusa. Makes sense because she is mysterious, dangerous and, for once, a woman. So it's no wonder that strong female artists like Rihanna (2013 for »GQ«), Azealia Banks (2015 in the »Ice Princess« video) or Cardi B have already presented themselves as Medusa in their Halloween disguise this year. But also male artists use Medusa as a symbol in their rap songs - for example Bausa with “Medusa” from 2017 or WSTRN with “Medusa” from 2019. And Loredana is currently releasing her new album - entitled “Medusa”. In the accompanying intro she is already obsessed with snakes sticking out of her hair.

Whether the figure Medusa really makes sense as a leitmotif from a feminist perspective, or whether the figure has more misogynous potential, is discussed here. But to do that, we first need some background information about Medusa.

The mythology of Medusa

Welcome to the Gorgon family. The parents were Keto and Phorkys. Phorkys was the father and god of the sea, Keto the mother and a sea monster. Sexism right there, but that's not even the worst. The worst part is that both Keto and Phorkys were siblings. So Medusa's parents practiced incest, which is a strange basic family structure.

Medusa was born one of three daughters. Beside her there was Stheno and Euryale, both immortal like their parents. Ugly but immortal. Medusa, on the other hand, was the only one to be mortal. And ugly. At least in the first version of mythology. She was later portrayed as a mortal beauty, because incest children can be beautiful too.

At some point Medusa probably joined in the God of the sea at all: Poseidon. Father complexes ahoy! However, it is not entirely clear from the sources whether this was a mutual affair between Medusa and Poseidon or whether it had something to do with sexual harassment or even rape. But what is clear: Athene (one of the Olympic deities, so next-level goddess) caught both of them playing "lovemaking" and was seized with jealousy. How she related to Poseidon is not so clear. However, the two fought for the patronage of a city before. A fight that Athena won and therefore Athens is called Athens. Maybe something was going on during this rivalry ...

At any rate, Athena gave Medusa a rub and conjured up a skin like scale armor, dangerous fangs and a tongue that was too long, each sticking out of her mouth. There were also glowing eyes, her iconic snake hairstyle and a lower body as a snake tail. And because that wasn't enough, Athena cursed Medusa's sight: every man should turn to stone at the sight of her.

The story is not over yet, because now there would actually be a complete second storyline. But I limit myself to the essentials with regard to Medusa: Perseus (the son of Zeus) was supposed to bring Medusa's head to King Polydectes in the sense of a bounty for reasons. Polydectes, however, sets a trap for Perseus because Medusa's gaze - as already mentioned - petrifies all men. Athena is said to have stepped in again as a smug fairy godmother and given Perseus a reflective protective shield. Perseus could see Medusa without looking directly at her and without immediately petrifying. The beheading succeeded.

And as a little surprise at the end: The winged horse Pegasus and the warlike giant Chrysaor rose from the bleeding torso of Medusa. How could that happen? The unborn babies of Poseidon slumbered in Medusa's belly. Athena cursed Medusa at the very moment of conception. So at the time of her murder, Medusa was pregnant with dizygot twins.

Medusa as an over-victim

So if you take a look at Greek mythology, it quickly becomes clear: Medusa was the ultimate victim par excellence - a mortal incest child, in the best case she wasn't really happy with Poseidon, in the worst case he was raped by him . For this she was transformed into a monster with a sight to die. In addition, she ended up being unintentionally pregnant and murdered in cold blood. What this figure has to do with feminism must be critically questioned at this point. Even the sight of death with the risk of fossilization, i.e. her iconic look, was not a superpower, but rather a curse. It wasn't a talent, ability, or magic trick that she somehow acquired.

It is also significant that the only thing she had - her beauty - was stolen from her by the curse. So punishment through ugliness. This aspect is already highly problematic in itself, since women have long been reduced to their beauty and objectified and still are. Self- and / or externally identified women are still measured today against the socially standardized ideas of beauty. With Medusa there is also the fact that this punishment also deprived her of the chance to adopt her beauty as a power strategy, as Shirin David tries, for example. For these reasons, one might think that Medusa, based on historiography, has more of a misogynous potential - she was disadvantaged on all levels.

Reasons for identification with Medusa

So why can women artists like Rihanna or Loredana be photographed as Medusa, portrayed or even identify with her? It is simply a well-known, strong and fabulous motif. A touch of good old exoticism may also play a role. And of course you can ask yourself whether Rihanna really dealt with the mythology of Medusa together with Art Director Damien Hirst before the "GQ" shoot. Of course, Medusa, with its sight as a weapon, offers the perfect basis for a (self-determined?) Hypersexualized representation of the body with female attributes: »It's all about the hips and tits.“At least that's how Cardi B put it this Halloween.

Why could Medusa still be attractive as a motif for female artists? In the cursed stage she poses a serious threat to the male world. Especially for women in the male-dominated rap game, the figure of Medusa could represent a serious opponent - beyond physical attraction. Loredana raps in the »intro« of her album, while eight snakes grow out of her head and her face turns into a silver skull at the end: »Sell ​​100K tickets, go on tour / Five trucks, three buses in the left lane. Five hundred Swiss francs just for the hairstyle / If you make waves, be sure, my enemies are short lived«

Medusa as an antihero

Or - this may be a less obvious reason - artists see Medusa as an antihero. At second glance, this notion is a little complicated, as there is no relevant definition or clearly assigned characteristics for the term "anti-heroine". Sure, the anti-heroine is the opposite of the heroine. But what does that mean? The good thing is that the anti-heroine's gaze or attribution depends on the attributing subject and context. At least that's what Ann-Christin Bolay and Andreas Schlueter say in »helden. heroes. héros «with the focus on» Fascinating Antihero «from 2015.

Then let's play it through: Perseus outwits and beheads the evil monster Medusa for reasons and thus escapes the trap of King Polydect. So Perseus is more of the classic hero. For me, Medusa is more the antagonist in the scenario because she is the final boss in the challenge. However, if you understand her petrifying gaze not as strength, but rather as weakness in the sense of the curse, the perspective changes. Because an overarching characteristic of the antihero is the generation of sympathy through weakness. Especially with regard to her tragic biography and over-victim position, one can definitely feel sympathy for her, which actually makes her an antihero for me at this point.

Azealia Banks seems to read the motif Medusa at least as dramatically. In her video for "Ice Princess" she portrays herself as a hybrid of Medusa and Ice Queen. She rules over an army of cyborgs. It's all a little weird, but okay. After crystal-like beings approach their realm and possibly want to attack, she sets out with her army, riding a snake, to freeze the intruders with her petrifying gaze. It even freezes over the mother volcano from which the crystal-like beings emerge. Unfortunately, the beat of their track is so hot that their army on the flying jet skis goes so violently to the beat that the protective layer of ice breaks. Azealia is caught in a torrent of crystals and dies. Long story short: She actually only wants to protect her empire and is then ultimately betrayed by her army. The question of whether a heroine or an anti-heroine could at least be discussed at this point.

Male perspectives on Medusa

As it looks, there are also possibilities to appropriate Medusa as a feminist motif in the sense of an anti-heroine. But what can a male perspective look like? How is the motif »Medusa« used in rap lyrics? Bausa, for example, in his song “Medusa” (2017) describes a woman who neither reciprocates his love nor is loyal to him, also because she has fun with other men: “I didn't even have to cry when I knew you’re doing it / With half the world, I even thought it was funny with time, haha. Meanwhile I know that the wound is healing quickly / And I don't want you anymore, your mu is too big«

In the last line in particular, Bausa shows misogyne tendencies. In short: Medusa is a slut because she sleeps with many men. And then he reduces it to her vagina which is "too wide", which he no longer wants anyway. Yeah yeah He's just pissed off that he's not one of the chosen ones. Because viewed holistically, the song is about Bausa being unhappily in love and trying to persuade himself not to want anything more from the woman - from Medusa. So Medusa is used in Bausa's song as a symbol for a woman who ignores him, is promiscuous and bribed with wine. In the subtext, however, it says that this woman has a great attraction towards him and therefore also a certain power. He just tries not to perish or - symbolically speaking - to petrify.

The Medusa motif is also used internationally in rap, for example in 2018 by the Greek artist Snik and in 2019 by the British singer WSTRN together with rapper Unknown T, as well as in Latin pop this year by Jhay Cortez together with Anuel AA and J Balvin. In all three songs, Medusa is used more as a word sleeve. Snik does not provide an explanation of how he came up with the title. In terms of content, it's all about how cool his gang is. Maybe her name is Medusa !? WSTRN uses the term more for a "toxic girl" or "girlfriend". And for Cortez, Anuel and Balvin, the Medusa simply stands for Versace clothing, because the Versace logo consists of an image of Medusa's head. Of course, this song is just one of many that celebrate the fashion brand and therefore Medusa also plays a role - Migos did that back in 2013.

Medusa as a feminist motif

To be honest, the figure Medusa in Greek mythology does not at least provide a feminist storytelling in the classical sense. It is not the story of a woman prevailing over men or portraying her power and position as being on par with that of men (or women like Athena). If you see Medusa as an antihero, at least feminist leeway opens up. Nevertheless - according to the assumption - Medusa is used by female artists as a leitmotif in rap culture, mainly because of her masculinity-threatening power. This feeling of threat can even be underpinned psychoanalytically by Sigmund Freud. In 1922 he published »The Head of Medusa«. For Freud, an important clue is castration anxiety, because it has multiple effects in Medusa. Because: The fear of castration is based on the assumption that the woman is a castrated man and therefore inferior. Which is of course extremely sexist. With regard to Medusa, this probably plays a central role, since the decapitation through the separation from the torso already represents castration. And then the snakes are also phallic symbols. So Medusa stands for a castrated penis head. No wonder, then, that Freud as a man the Medusa story as "mythological symbol of horror«Declared.

If artists use the leitmotif Medusa, one of their strengths could be addressing castration anxiety - lowkey threading is always possible. Strictly speaking, however, one is only involved in a reproductive process that again portrays the woman as inferior. Not in the mood! In comparison, the position as an antihero offers more potential. Medusa is not really convincing as a feminist motif - at least not in the superficial way it has been used up to now. In itself, however, the Greek mythology of Medusa offers levels and projection surfaces for depicting and addressing complex conflicts. An alternative historiography could also revive Medusa into a feminist figure.