If Manhattan is good for one thing, it’s feminist statues that poorly represent the ideals that they espouse.
The Fearless Girl can move over because liberal feminists in Manhattan will soon have a new statute to worship: One of Medusa holding the head of Perseus, an inversion of Benvenuto Cellini’s famous “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” sculpture created in the 16th century.
As the feminists behind the Medusa statue tell it, the statue is meant to portray Medusa “in a moment of somberly empowered self-defense.” They base their claim on Medusa’s backstory in Ovid’s “Metamorphosis,” which claimed Medusa was a beautiful priestess in the temple of Athena who was raped by Poseidon. Athena was angered by this but couldn’t punish Poseidon, so she turned Medusa into a hideous monster. This would mean Medusa was punished for being raped.
That is just one explanation for Medusa’s backstory, however, though it seems to be the one most accepted. Other tellings suggest Poseidon fell in love with Medusa and they had a consensual sexual liaison in Athena’s temple, breaking Medusa’s vow of celibacy. In this telling, the vow breakage is what angered Athena.
There is no one true telling of Greek mythology, but even if Ovid’s take on Medusa was the true version, the statue being set up in Manhattan to bolster the #MeToo movement gets the message wrong. The statue of Medusa depicts her holding Perseus’ head, which many will note is not Poseidon. Perseus, in Greek Mythology, was sent to kill Medusa by the king of Seriphos, Polydectes, who was trying to get Perseus killed. In the myth, Perseus succeeds in this task, as Medusa is seen as a monster.
So, this statue depicts Medusa killing not her rapist, but some other guy who was set up by yet another person, which doesn’t exactly give the impression the sculptors want. It does, however, create a perfect analogy for critics of #MeToo, who believe the movement went far beyond its intent to root out sexual abusers and instead became a forum to accuse any man without having to provide evidence. As has been detailed extensively, numerous #MeToo allegations fell apart under slight scrutiny.
Further, the Medusa sculpture gives the impression that it’s okay to behead a man (metaphorically, of course) even if he isn’t the abuser, which plays right into the mob mentality surround #MeToo. An allegation must merely be made before thousands demand the accused lose their livelihood. Due process be damned.
The Medusa statue follows in the footsteps of the vaunted Fearless Girl, which was supposed to show a young girl standing up to Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” sculpture as some kind of female empowerment, but ended up looking like she was against capitalism and soaring markets. The girl statue was eventually moved after the sculptor of the “Charging Bull” statue complained that his art had been misconstrued.