A Feminine Woman is more beloved Essay

A Feminine Woman is more beloved by

People rather than a Masculine Woman

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Introduction

Throughout history, women have lacked the opportunity of power otherwise enjoyed by men. Women were considered as submissive creatures incapable of unacceptable opinions to attain complete individual freedom. Men as the dominant gender portray the masculine principle of a romantic Don Quixote which has once received an undivided praise. Over the centuries, women have slowly earned recognition for their work and diligence and become “success objects” in their field of choice without any need to outdo one another.

With a worldwide support and advocacy for the rights of women, the feminine gender is gaining the power to insist their own right and call for a much needed change into the contemporary society.  We have seen such movement in the 60’s when women began to work for equal rights and vocally insisting on their right to have control over their own bodies and earn sufficient incomes. In some countries where women are population-dominant, women strive to achieve and attain certain degree of success in their social strata.

The roles of women were distinct and complementary for the welfare of society as a whole (Ladd 14).  Although still a minority, the world has just seen women taking in the formidable role of a leader in some countries. In the US, a few top government positions are held by women. Yet in Ancient Egypt, thousands of years before male leaders dominated the Greek and Roman empires, Egypt as the center of trade and culture was once ruled by great women.

Hatshepsut and Cleopatra are the two famous women pharaohs of Ancient Egypt who stood in as rulers when male heirs failed to materialize in order to preserve their dynasties (Meade 88). Although the claim to rule was derived from their ancestral reign, both pharaohs were active rulers in their rise to power. Egyptian women living along the banks of the Nile enjoyed a form of equality and are often found alongside their men at every level of the society. It is not difficult to see Hatshepsut gaining a higher regard as woman-ruler if her resources were made available today. History was cruel to Hatshepsut when Thutmose’s male chauvinism refused to be defeated by Hatshepsut’s accomplishments thereby typically erasing all traces of a dominant female ruler (Lewis 36).  To recall, Hatshepsut was always accorded fame and primacy whether by a subtle detail indicating her preeminence with minimal reference to the young Thutmose III. Clearly Hatshepsut benefited from all this attention and significant support from men and her loyal subjects. Thutmose displeased at having been kept in the background for a long time had her cartouches erased after her death and replaced by those of Thutmose I, II and his own (Vernus and Yoyotte 35). Resentment nor revenge against Hatshepsut was not on Thutmose mind because he had waited 30 years before doing such things. After Hatshepsut’s reign, Thutmose must have felt the need to restore women to their rightful places as willing subordinates to men and concealing Hatshepsut’s accomplishments from Egyptian subjects could schemingly achieve the purpose. Yet Cleopatra who followed Hatshepsut’s style and ruled Egypt alone using techniques that worked to expand Egypt and its trade was spared. Both female pharaohs ruled Egypt for some time, although their rise and claim to power were different. While Cleopatra appealed her femininity as her biggest merit wearing flamboyant dresses; Hatshepsut emphasized her masculinity on politics, appearance, and power.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra of Macedonia and family established in Egypt and established a dynasty with their queens assuming an eminent political and ideological role (Chauveau 4).Cleopatra is often referred as Cleopatra VII as she was the seventh person with this name to have become ruler of Egypt (Morgan 8). With her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brothers she co-ruled Egypt (Morgan 20). During her childhood, Cleopatra observed the loss of public affection for her father when the Egyptian kingdom was filled with disloyal servants and faced assassination attempts (Meade 88). When Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy died, Cleopatra at 18 years old agreed to share the rule with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII as joint monarchs. The first three years of their joint reign was filled with economic difficulties, famine and deficient floods in the Nile that soon bore out political conflicts (Chauveau 14). Although she was married to her younger brother, she showed no indication of sharing power with him and instead dropped Ptolemy’s name from official documents and coins, going against the traditional rule that declared female rulers as subordinate to a male co-ruler (Chauveau 17).  With continuous disagreements with Ptolemy’s advisors, Cleopatra became friendly with her Egyptian subjects and made friends beyond Alexandria and relied on them when chaos broke out after she raised a rebellion that forced her to flee from Egypt.

While Cleopatra was in exile, Ptolemy was at war with Rome and ordered the death of Pompey as a way of pleasing Gaius Julius Caesar. However this was a severe miscalculation on Ptolemy’s part because Ptolemy was still in fact Ceasar’s political enemy while the dead Pompey was a consul of Rome and the widower of Caesar’s only daughter Julia who died of childbirth (Watterson 1991). Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra (Chauveau 27). Taking the advantageous position over Ptolemy, Cleopatra returned to the palace and became Caesar’s mistress and borne him a son nine months after. Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile and Cleopatra was restored to her throne with another brother Ptolemy XIV as the new co-ruler.

How did Cleopatra appeal her femininity?

            Cleopatra was a determined heir with a sincere devotion to exercise effective power in the place of inept and discredited husband. She relied on her feminine attributes to lure and entice Caesar to take sides with her while taking advantage of Ptolemy’s youthful miscalculations. Her grand dramatic entrance was orchestrated for Caesar’s benefit when Cleopatra was rolled into the carpet that scrutinized her role in appealing to the male’s pleasure (Lewis 36). Cleopatra also gave birth to a boy and named him after Caesar, with the intention for the boy to be Caesar’s heir and soon exercise a powerful hold over Caesar which was clearly manifested in Cicero’s bitter remarks against the Egyptian queen when Caesar made no moves to hide his adulterous relationship (Watterson 1991). Much malicious gossip was all presented against the union despite the fact that Caesar never tried to disguise the nature of his relationship with Cleopatra. Caesar’s gilded statue of Cleopatra presented to the Roman people in the sovereign temple of Venus-the Genetrix serves as the evidence of his passion because the practice of dedicating a statue or image in the Hellenestic East to a sovereign is a form of homage held in high esteem (Chauveau 30).

When Caesar was assassinated, Cleopatra returned to Egypt and named her son as her co-regent and successor after Ptolemy XIV died and allied herself with Mark Anthony who also ruled Rome as a triumvirate after Caesar’s death. She again used all her feminine powers while pledging loyalty to Mark Anthony. She gave birth to twins and continued a relationship with Anthony who made Alexandria his home. Anthony’s supposed marriage to Cleopatra angered Octavian, a fellow triumvir and Caesar’s heir because Anthony was married to Octavian’s sister (Chauveau 36). Weiss added that it was during these three years of reign with Anthony when Cleopatra took the title as Queen of Kings and insisted on her rule over Egypt (Weiss 25).

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut, another powerful woman ruler ruled ahead of Cleopatra. It was her destiny to be a ruler of Egypt and was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt (Kemp 33). Kemp added that Hatshepsut is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful female and male pharaohs of Egypt, who reigned longer than any other female ruler of an indigenous dynasty (Kemp 51). Weiss regarded Hatshepsut as the earliest known queen regent in history and the second woman to have assumed the throne as “King of Upper and Lower Egypt” after Queen Sobekneferu of the 12th Dynasty (Weiss 24). As the eldest daughter of Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose of the 18th Dynasty, Hatshepsut is believed to have been favored by the Temple of Karnak over her two brothers by her father. She had a loving relationship with both parents and upon the death of her father she married Thutmose III and assumed the title of a “Royal Wife”. Thutmose III ruled for thirteen years with Hatshepsut exerting a strong influence over him. Thutmose III died with only one son Thutmose III as his heir from a lesser wife; Thutmose III could not immediately assume the throne.

How Hatshepsut exercised her masculinity

Thutmose III and Hatshepsut had one daughter, Neferure whom Hatshepsut groomed as a crown prince and commissioned official portraits of her wearing the false beard and side lock of youth. Hatshepsut plans of grooming Neferure for the throne never materialized as Neferure died before reaching adulthood. When Thutmose III came of age, Hatshepsut proposed that both rule together but Hatshepsut then declared herself as pharaoh and surrounded herself with strong and loyal advisors. She was an innovative and clever builder and also engaged in replanting the kingdom with foreign incense trees like myrrh and incense for their value as sources of perfume (Turnball and Evans 25). She had foreign policies that were simple and geared towards peace but she did lead successful military campaigns in her career (Weiss 24). Her reign improved Egypt’s trade networks while at the same time she initiated grand building projects at the Deir el- bahri and Luxor.

Hatshepsut depicted herself as a female pharaoh with a false beard, a symbol of pharaonic power, and assumed all of the regalia and symbols of the Pharaonic office wearing the head cloth, topped with a uraeus, the traditional false beard, and shendyt kilt (Meade 88). After a period of transition, Hatshepsut had herself crowned as a new regent, assuming the regalia and epithets proper to a pharaoh while showing her in a masculine form including a false beard with her breasts omitted (Vernus and Yoyotte 74). The reasons for doing this are debated in Egyptology with a traditional explanation that her motivation for wearing men’s clothing to assert her claim to be King or Queen regnant and not just as the “King’s Great Wife or Queen consort” (Meade 88). Hatshepsut is considered as one of the greatest female rulers in her era and is noted for being strong and assertive, while also fair and just. Towards the end of his reign Thutmose III’s made attempts to delete Hatshepsut from any historical and pharaonic record (Redford 191). Her cartouches and images were chiseled off the stone walls and she was excluded from the official history that now ran without any form of co-regency from Thutmose II to Thutmose III (Meade 89). Though, it is not clear why this happened, Egyptologists like Redford assumed that Thutmose must have been an unwilling co-regent for years (Redford 191). This assumption should be refuted as too simplistic because Thutmose was Egypt’s most successful general, athlete, author, historian, botanist and architect and would not avenge himself merely on his stepmother. Besides 30 years of waiting to erase any evidence of the Queen was such a long wait to warrant and qualify Thutmose grounds for resentment. A more acceptable explanation behind Thutmose motives is evidenced by the replacement of Hatshepsut’s cartouches with those of Thutmose I, II and his own (Vernus and Yoyotte 35). Egyptologist Donald Redford claimed that the erasure was done in a haphazard and careless way which left visible and accessible images of Hatshepsut being removed (Redford 191). Had it been more complete we would not have seen the images of Hatshepsut. Redford claimed that Thutmose must have died before his act of vengeance was finished; or that he never intended a total obliteration of Hatshepsut’s memory at all (Redford 193). Any assumption that Thutmose hated or deeply resented Hatshepsut during her lifetime could not be accepted because Thutmose could easily have led a successful coup against her.

Conclusion

In Ancient Egypt, women had a higher status than they did elsewhere in the ancient world, with court-protected rights to own or inherit property, a female ruler though is rare and unique. Many recognize Cleopatra for her femininity while Hatshepsut almost went down in history as an unknown despite the grand construction that Egypt inherited from her. Neely argues that history sought to characterize women in an erotic light and was unconventionally critical of masculine women (Neely 318).Bolingbroke adds that Cleopatra’s depiction as intrinsically female and more feminine than royalty has little respect for the unpleasant facts of her life (Bolingbroke 71). Neely once wrote that passion becomes for Anthony a source for heroism and heroism for Cleopatra becomes a source of passion (Neely 318); his idea clearly demonstrates that Cleopatra used her feminine virtues to lure the men in her life and a means for her to acquire power for the realization of her vengeance against her enemies. Thus history in itself stereotyped and treated women not as a focus of social criticism but as a source of erotic pleasure.

Hatshepsut’s power over men was proven through her works which was a source of loathing by the men throughout history. When Hatshepsut crossed boundaries and portrayed herself as a male pharaoh, she defied conventions and exercise power over men. Hatshepsut’s achievements which confirmed her identity as a powerful and clever ruler subjected her memory to the envy and resentment of a male-dominated Egyptian empire. Frueh, in a contemporary comparison, posed the question why women like Hatshepsut, Margaret Thatcher and even Hilary Clinton incited such dislike (Margaret 153). Surely it is not just politics which garnered this hatred but the fact that a woman excelled in leadership is enough to defy the laws of masculinity. In the effort to curb any further attempts to catapult women into the limelight as a stronger contender for leadership, a society dominated by men tried in vain to erase trace of her accomplishment for the next centuries.

Works Cited

Watterson, Barbara.  Women in Ancient Egypt.  Glucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1991.

Frueh, Joanna. Swooning Beauty: A Memoir of Pleasure. Nevada: University of Nevada, 2006.

Neely, Carol, Lenz, Carolyn and Greene, Gayle. The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1984.

Deats, Sara Munson. Anthony and Cleopatra: New Critical Essays,Routledge, 2005.

Meade, Teresa. A Companion to Gender History. Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Vernus, Pascal  and Yoyotte, Jean. The Book of the Pharaohs. Cornell University, 2003.

Redford, Donald Bruce. The Wars in Syria and Palestine of Thutmose III. Brill Academic ,2003.

Bolingbroke Society. Drama Survey. Michigan: Bolingbroke Society Press, 1961.

Lewis, Reina. Gendering Orientation: Race, Femininity and Representation. Routledge, 1996.

Morgan, Julian. Cleopatra: Ruling in the Shadow of Rome. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003.

Chauveau, Michel. “Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth.” Trans.  David Lorton,  Cornell University Press, 2002.

Kemp, Gillian. The Fortune-Telling Book: Reading Crystal Balls, Tea Leaves, Playing Cards, and Everyday Omens. The Rosen Publishing, 2002.

Weiss, Sonia. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Women’s History. Alpha Books, 2002.

Ladd, Edmund. “The Zuni Man-Woman in Life.” Ed. Roscoe Will. New Mexico: University Press, 1999.

Turnball, John and Evans, Julian. Plantation Forestry in the Tropics: The Role, Silviculture, and Use of Planted Forests. Oxford University,  2004.

 

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