By Samrat Pradhan
Today in class, our reading circle group read the play Lysistrata out loud. Written in 411 BCE, the play follows Greek women who are fed up with the senseless destruction caused by the Peloponnesian War. To get the Greek men to end the war, the women stage a strike to stop having sex until a peace treaty to end the war is signed. Eventually, the lack of sex becomes so gruesome for the men that they comply and end the war in sexual desperation.
The play is light-hearted and extremely funny. Each page is compact with lewd jokes and storylines. While we were reading the scenes out loud, our reading group was occasionally uncomfortable, but at the same time, we couldn’t stop laughing. The play felt shockingly contemporary. When I think of Ancient works, I think of epics such as the Odyssey and the Ramayana, not dick jokes, girls talking about their love of dildos, and guys with erections that aren’t going down.
According to the epilogue of this book written by Sarah Ruden, Ancient Greece was a very patriarchal society. The men tended to work and participate in politics, while the women focused on the family and served the men in their lives. In this context, the play seems to be very progressive. It shows women that they don’t have to be complicit in the demands of men. And through unity and command, women have the power to enact change, and in this case, end a destructive war.
While researching more about Lysistrata, I came across an op-ed written in the Salt Lake Tribune by Nancy Rushforth. It is about a bill in the Utah legislature that would force women to have a sonogram to have an abortion. The piece in a humorous manner argued that the women of Utah follow a sex strike in protest until the men in the legislature heard the voices of women of Utah on issues such as birth control, child support, and abortion. This article reminded me of how important the messages in Lysistrata are still today. And how we must still fight for everyone’s voice to be heard in society.