Art history reading response
It is a little boring to repeat one thing. It would be perfect if the author would balance the excellent analyses, which are in the latter part of the essay, with her theory. Moreover, the author herself has stereotypes that even she does not realize. Why does she only talk about wives and hetaeras?
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Are there only two functions of women in the Greek society? Why does the author accept the theories about the functions of women in the ancient Greek society without question and use these theories when deciphering the images? Why does the author not incorporate ore cultures into her analysis since she realizes that diverse people from different cultures may have unique interpretations about the same artwork? Bettor answering these questions, I want to talk more about the stereotype that the author mentions in her article first.
Cultures, as well as stereotypes, are like lives. They grow as time goes by; they interact with people in society; they change dynamically. As is known to all, the Greeks absorbed many other sources of culture and then recreated their own beliefs with their intelligence. So it is insufficient to Just interpret these Greek artworks from the western perspective. From my own experience and reading, taking Figure 9 as an example, the nude women presented here are an example of evidence that the author does not destroy the stereotype.
The two women can be lesbian lovers enjoying activities which might be prelude to, I imagine, sexual activity; or the woman on the right side of the vase may be a female who takes charge of the woman on the left side, and she was Just humiliating the other girl. If the possibility mentioned above is valid, we cannot easily conclude that hose two women could either be wives or hetaeras. Besides, how can we simply build up a wall between a wife and a courtesan? If a young man falls in love with a courtesan, he can marry her and she becomes a wife!
That actually happened in ancient Eastern culture. What’s more, we know that there are other roles, like priestess, in ancient Greek. We cannot say that these different roles do not exist because we have not discovered them yet. From another aspect, the author points out that we cannot differentiate daily life of ordinary people with that of Greek gods who live in Olympic pantheon. The Greek paintings, as well as the statues, are all highly idealized images: they may be life that what the Greeks want to be instead of the real life of them.
We all want to be praised by our descendants, right? For the Greeks, it’s a paradox that they prefer the stringent male control of women, on the one hand, but on the other hand still wrote pyramids of books and theories about the functions of women in society. Maybe the Greek males have complicated feelings for the “role” of women, in my opinion. Because women are powerful in some extent: they give birth to babies; they can read and rite; they have talent for creating poems and arts; they can even fight with men!
The example of Amazons that the author gives us is more or less supports my arguments. We do not know whether these vases were made before the battle or after. To be more sharply, did this battle really happen in the history? What if the Greeks Just want to show their willingness to control females or their domination over women? We do not know the answers. In conclusion, I totally agree with the point that we should undermine stereotypes. But we ought to be more careful to avoid falling into another pitfall after we survived from one.