Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You can't keep a good woman down... but you can sure as hell rip on her clothes and hair.

I was reading through my daily blogs today, when I noticed that Jessica Dreadful took on an article appearing in Live Science about Hatshepsut.

I'm not completely sure what to make of the article. I'm going to be charitable, and assume that the writer- Meredith Small- is an Anthropologist over at Cornell, and she's written a bit about the intersection of sex and culture. It's hard to be charitable here, though, because the article just strikes such a negative tone.

Turns out, Hatshepsut was no Cleopatra. Instead, she was a 50-year-old fat lady; apparently she used her power over the Upper and Lower Nile to eat well and abundantly. Archaeologists also claim that she probably had diabetes, just like many obese women today.

Hatshepsut also suffered from what all women over 40 need—a stylist. She was balding in front but let the hair on the back of her head to grow really long, like an aging female Dead Head with alopecia.

This Queen of Egypt also sported black and red nail polish, a rather Goth look for someone past middle age.

On the one hand, I sort of feel like this is Small's attempt at... I don't know, exactly... sarcasm? Irony? Taking a stab at shitty modern portrayals of women? I can't quite tell. The "rather Goth look for someone past middle age" thing seems a little bit too out there to be serious, so it's got to be some kind of attempt at humor or snark.

Later comments support that feeling a bit. She goes on to say that, "like today, one should not be fooled by a woman's Look." She discusses how Hatshepsut was powerful and ruled Egypt with her half brother/husband, and even "grabbed the throne for herself." Still, it comes across as really aggressive and insulting. She talks about Hatshepsut being a "grand" ruler in spite of her wearing nail polish and a false beard, as though those things have anything what-so-ever to do with her ability to rule. And, you know, ignoring that the false beard was a prop. It was a symbol of the pharaoh. It'd be sort of like saying that a male judge was grand in spite of wearing robes.

Ultimately, as much as I want to think that Small is trying to be snarky, and has a point to make, her closing line, " simply can't keep a good woman down", just isn't enough to save this article from being offensive- intentionally or not.

1 comment:

Kristen said...


I hear where you're coming from and her comments do seem inappropriate, but I think what she might have been responding to is the Cleopatra beauty myth...the myth that she was only powerful because of her beauty, and more generally that a woman's only source of power. Beauty as the source of feminine power is, in my view, one of the most damaging patriarchal myths. It implies that any power a woman has derives from her impact on men.