The (Other) Maiden's Tale
It now occurred to him that through his decisive act [the sacrifice of . . . a redheaded, petite, talkative, freckle-faced woman] he had entered the realm of tragedy.
-- Milan Kundera, Life Is Elsewhere
The Athens this paper imagines lies to the side of the images of Athens invented initially by Athenian men and secondarily by (virtually only male) classical scholars. It cannot be otherwise, not only because the cities they construct lie to the side of the cities familiar to Athenian women, but also because my interrogations are geared to create alternative spaces where we may begin to rebuild ourselves as we ponder the central question of this essay: are there tools besides the master's with us inside his house, or (even better) is there another house we inhabit simultaneously which will allow us to dismantle gently an order that is established by domination?
A curtain rises. The stage is split into two rooms. In the first room men are seated on couches, watching as a woman kneels before an armchair. Standing nearby are men, ready to whip her. The men in the room tell her she is evil and insist that she consent to her own degradation. As she begins to give in, she recalls images she has seen of women in scenes like this one. 1 As the men in the room remind her of her (albeit enforced) consent, she accepts a guilt she cannot own. And like the women in the images, she becomes the victim of a desire (and gaze) she does and does not own. Her bondage, her cries, and her degradation gratify the men who whip her and those who watch; seduced by their power and her complicitous surrender, they believe momentarily in their own images of themselves as the masters of everything, including, of course, her.