the Hathor legacy

Then she laughed with joy, and her laughter was like the roar of a lioness hungry for the kill. Thinking that it was indeed blood, she stooped and drank. Again and yet again she drank, laughing with delight; and the strength of the beer mounted to her brain, so that she could no longer slay.

At last she came reeling back to where Ra was waiting; that day she had not killed even a single man.

Then Ra said: “You come in peace, sweet one.” And her name was changed to Hathor, and her nature was changed also to the sweetness of love and the strength of desire. And henceforth Hathor laid low men and women only with the great power of love. But for ever after her priestesses drank in her honour of the beer of Heliopolis coloured with the red ochre of Elephantine when they celebrated her festival each New Year.


This passage, taken out of context though it may be, speaks to the problem I’m seeing in the portrayal of women characters.

The short version is thus. Ra was the only Egyptian god to age. As he got old, people started taking him less seriously (questioning his manhood, perhaps?). He became angry, and created Sekhmet to destroy mankind, and she was doing a good job of it. Enjoying it, too. It was her purpose in life, after all.

Then he decided he’d been too harsh (that PMS will get you every time), but he lacked the power to stop Sekhmet from carrying out her assignment. His only option was to trick her. He had his people create a strong beer (the “sleep-maker”) and color it with red ochre, then spill it in the next area Sekhmet was to attack. Believing it to be blood, she drank it, slept, and was unable to slay. The rest is bolded in the excerpt.

The change in her nature – from having a purpose which she carried out with relish to “the sweetness of love and the strength of desire” – struck me as familiar. How many female characters start out with a purpose, and end up a vessel of desire and adoration (of a male, of course)? Or end up “softened” into a proper little lady by their encounter with a hero who will now take over the “man’s work” that she was doing, so she needn’t worry her pretty little head about that anymore?

It’s like society’s own little nursery drama that it’s playing out in the scale of entire cultures. Are they trying to tell us their male viewers are so incredibly weak they need their women even weaker? Is this what they believe?

Might explain why most of the secure guys I know aren’t bit TV fanatics. Huh.


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