The Treatment of Women in Homer’s Odyssey
Judged by modern Western standards, the treatment of women by men in Homer’s Odyssey can be characterized as sexist. Women in Homer’s Odyssey are judged mainly by their looks. If important men and gods consider a woman beautiful, or if her son or husband is a hero or has an important position such as king, the woman is successful. The way women in The Odyssey are treated is based on appearance, the things men want from them, and whether the woman has any power over men. During Odysseus’ journey to the underworld he sees many different types of women. We hear about their beauty, their important sons, or their affairs with gods. We hear nothing about these women’s accomplishments in their lifetime. Odysseus tells how Antiope could “boast a god for a lover,”(193) as could Tyro and many other women. Epikaste was called “that prize”(195) her own son unwittingly married. Some women are known for the deeds of their sons or husbands, but never for a heroic deed of their own, their personalities, and what they do themselves. It seems the only accomplishment women could achieve was being beautiful. Theseus “had no joy of”(195) the princess Ariadne because she died before this was possible. Homer makes it sound as if Ariadne’s life was useless because she did not give Theseus pleasure. The only woman we hear of for a different reason is Klymene, and we only hear of her because she “betrayed her lord for gold.”(195) This is the only time we hear of a woman for something she did, and once we do, it is a negative remark. Penelope, Odysseus’ queen, is paid attention to only because of her position. Because she has a kingdom, she has suitors crowding around her day and night. Being a woman, Penelope has no control over what the suitors do and cannot get rid of them. The suitors want her wealth and her kingdom. They do not respect her enough to stop feeding on Odysseus’ wealth; they feel she owes them something because she won’t…

Odyssey.