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The year of the Amazon

Food For Thought

According to my television screen, current politics has been usurped by a pair of Amazons – those fierce female warriors of ancient myth. One claims to have grown up on a farm “cutting hogs” as she puts it, and threatens to “make ‘em squeal” - scary! The other represents herself as a soldier and boasts that she packs a gun in her purse, actually giving us a glimpse of herself at target practice to drive home the point. (She fires a total of five rounds and we are shown her target sporting about a dozen holes. Did I miss something?) These women and their aggressive approach don’t impress me, and I should think that the majority of men would shudder at the threat of emasculation and violence that they so clearly imply.
Now, I’m all in favor of equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity, but women are women and men are men and there are distinct differences between the two. Those differences are definitive, necessary, eternal, and valuable, so why pretend they can, or should be, changed?
When I was yet a schoolgirl, fairly muddled in my knowledge of mythology, I had the erroneous belief that the term Amazon, as it referred to those warlike females I encountered in books and on the movie screen, had something to do with the word “amazing.” As I often enjoyed the distinction of being the best speller in our fourth grade class, the similarity of the two words seemed quite evident and beyond debate.
By the time I was subjected to the bewildering world of seventh grade geography class, the Amazon River cast some enlightenment on the word. The Amazon River runs from the mountains of western Peru, across South America and spills into the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Brazil. It undergoes a few name changes along the way, but is generally known as the Amazon River. If not in actuality, at least in my imagination, those books and movies seemed to depict the women warriors as being natives of that region of South America. (The river, incidentally, was named for those mythical women, not the other way around.)
In high school during the early ‘50s, where the traditional roles of men and women were recognized and encouraged, I had to petition the school board for permission to take a mechanical drawing class which had previously been strictly reserved for boys. I didn’t want to compete with the boys, but I wanted to learn some drawing skills that I might have gotten from the art classes our school didn’t offer. In our English literature classes, we studied some of the milder Greek myths, but nothing that hadn’t been approved for our age level and glossed over by Edith Hamilton, who seemed to be the authority on those myths and which ones were appropriate for school children to read and which were too “adult.”
My college days were filled with discovery. I majored in art education with minors in English and religions. There were far too many things I wanted to explore– things that had been totally missing from the courses available in our high school. Even with my voracious appetite for library books, there simply wasn’t time or opportunity to read everything, and the recent past, the present, and the future seemed far more important to me than the ancient past, and most certainly ancient mythology which wasn’t even real history, but a sort of religious fiction. I didn’t hear more about the Amazons, or any other Greek characters, except when they turned up occasionally in art history classes. Oddly enough, while there was some reference to the Greek and Roman gods in my religion history classes, I never encountered the Amazons again while in college.
It has been only recently when the problems in Ukraine piqued my interest enough to send me to the encyclopedia and the dictionary to solidify my knowledge of some basic facts, that I began to realize that the Amazons of the Greek myths were supposed to have been a group of women warriors who lived in Scythia, in what is now called the Ukraine. It seems that these women did not allow men to live permanently within their domain, though they were apparently welcome from time to time, for the Amazon women did bear children. According to the myth, male children were killed at birth, and each woman warrior cut off her own right breast so that it wouldn’t interfere with her use of the bow. According to the myth, the Amazons fought on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan War, and their queen, Penthesilea, was killed by Achilles, who I’m sure you’ve heard of. Well, it’s only a myth, after all, but the Amazons seemed to think they had to degrade the men in order to establish their own validity. Do I detect a trace of that attitude in modern politics?