Yes, with all my heart I am my Father’s child.[1]

Athena was formed in the image of the Father; she was not borne by a woman but sprang fully grown from Zeus’ head.

This is why Athena is the only goddess to have personified ‘reason’ – traditionally the privileged enclave of men.

It is through reason that Athena conquered the traditionally female emotions (such as rage, jealousy, and fear) that hold the rest of us back in civilised society.   She wore the head of Medusa on her on her breastplate to symbolise her civilising achievement.   By looking to Father for direction, we women in civilised societies are encouraged to do the same.

The Father image we women internalise comes as much from society as from our personal Dads.  While Dad may be supportive of his daughter, western society’s Father is not.  I suggest that we women are successful – not because of Father – but in spite of (or in reaction to) him.  Recall that Athena’s glorious birth resulted from Father’s fear of competition.

Flip through any history book and it will become clear  that Western men have purposefully perpetuated the myth of female irrationality and inferiority.  For our own good, our feminine intellect has been protected form the ‘burdens’ of education and rational thinking.

The daughters of educated men have always done their thinking from hand to mouth; not under green lamps at study tables in the cloisters of secluded colleges. (Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas)

Western men are seriously threatened by rational, intelligent, and well-educated women.   As Medusa, we are conquerable; as Athena, we are not.   Some women wish to be conquered by men; others do not.

The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself. (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own).

Preservation of male supremacy spawns little interest for daughters to be formed in Fathers own image.  In fact the reverse is true.

Women have served all these centuries as looking –glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.  (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own).

So when deciding whether like Athena, we as women wish to be formed in the image of the Father, I suggest we first take a good hard look at what that image really represents.


[1] Athena’s comment taken from a translation of The Eumenides by Robert Fagles, The Oresteia, Penguin Books, 1977 (736-40).

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