Challenges Gender Stereotypes: "Antigone" By Sophocles

Women are housewives; men are the breadwinners. Even though these ideas are not relevant today, they existed during the time of the play “Antigone.” In ancient Greece, women were seen as property. Men were seen as the head of the house. The roles of men and women in Sophocles’ “Antigone” show examples of gender inequality. In Sophocles’ play, “Antigone,” Ismene perpetuates gender roles, and Antigone challenges them.

First, Ismene perpetuates the gender stereotypes of the day. In the prologue, Ismene is trying to persuade Antigone, who is Esmene’s sister, to think that since they are both women, they cannot fight men. They must obey Creon’s law. Creon ordered the people not to bury Polyneices, Antigone and Ismene’s brother. “Creon has sworn that no one shall bury him, no one mourn for him. In the prologue of “Antigone”, Ismene says, “we are only women. We cannot fight with men.” Here, the words “cannot fight with men” shows the audience that Ismene, a woman, is afraid of Creon, who is a man. She will not stand up against another man. Ismene perpetuates the idea of gender inequality with the words “only women” which implies weakness and a lack of self-esteem. In addition, Ismene is accepting of Creon’s misogynistic behavior towards women. Ismene tries to reason with Antigone to surrender to Creon’s law. For example, she states, “the law is strong. We must give into the law.” These words “we must give into” shows that Ismene has no strength and that her power is less Creon’s who is a man. “Give into,” implying to give up, shows Ismene’s belief that as a woman she has a boundary that she should not cross. Society will look down on her or possibly kill her.

Next, the character Antigone challenges gender stereotypes. In the prologue of Antigone, Antigone challenges Creon’s law. She is arguing with her sister, trying to convince Ismene to help her bury their brother. In the prologue of Sophocles “Antigone”, Antigone says, “I say that this crime is holy.” “Crime is holy” means that even though what she is going to do is illegal, she strongly believes that what she is doing is good. Antigone is crossing the boundary. She does not want to be seen as property and just follow what some man says. Also, Antigone says, “Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way.” Antigone is showing that she does not fear any one man, especially Creon. “Not strong enough” implies that Creon is no match for her. For Antigone to state this, as a woman, is a huge deal because no woman has crossed that boundary to challenge a man.

In conclusion, in Sophocles’ play, “Antigone,” Ismene perpetuates gender roles, and Antigone challenges them. These two sisters, during their argument in the Prologue of Antigone, show the gender inequality of the time. Ismene accepts her role in society as a woman, but Antigone defies her role that society says she should be. Even though today’s society is no longer like this, there are still gender inequality cracks in our society like in sports, politics, and job opportunities.

01 February 2021
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