Term Paper: Feminism and the Story of Antigone

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Antigone and Non-Traditional Women of Today

The term "non-traditional" can mean many things. When it is applied to women, it is often not complimentary, and generally used to mean a woman who does not act in a feminine manner. Tomboys are non-traditional women, as are lesbians. However, the term can also be used to mean any woman who does not completely fit society's norms for how women are "supposed" to act, and can include women who remain unmarried, single mothers (by choice), and women who work in traditionally male jobs like construction work or truck driving (Wilmer & Zukauskaite, 45). While these women are often judged harshly, they are also admired by others for their willingness to follow their own dreams and not worry about what society thinks they "should" be doing. This is not a new phenomenon, as women have been doing non-traditional things for a very long time. Back in the time of Greek mythology, in the story of Oedipus, one such non-traditional woman was Oedipus' daughter, Antigone. She was one of the most prominently non-traditional women, and her desire to live in that manner did not end well for her. Just as Antigone was punished for not being traditional, women of today who are non-traditional are still punished by society in many ways.

Antigone is seen as a non-traditional woman right from the start, because she is the product of an incestuous marriage between Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. She attempts to secure a burial for her brother, Polynices, even though he has been deemed a traitor to Thebes (Soderback, 12). As a traitor, he is not allowed to have a proper burial, and even mourning him is an offense that is punishable by death. Despite this, however, Antigone felt that she should be able to have a burial for him, because he was her brother and valuable to her. Polynices and Antigone's other brother, Eteocles, fought against one another for control of Thebes and killed one another. Eteocles was the alleged ruler of Thebes at that time, though, so he was not seen as a traitor and he had a proper burial. Because Antigone felt this was unjust and against the laws that the gods had set out, she was determined to have Polynices buried properly, despite the laws of Creon (the new ruler of Thebes) that she was required to follow (Soderback,15).

She tried to get her sister to help her, but was refused, so she secretly buried Polynices herself. When it was discovered that she had done so, she was captured and brought before Creon for punishment. Because of her non-traditional and rebellious ways, she was punished by Creon. She acknowledged that she knew his law, but that she chose to break it, and that the laws of the gods are more important (Soderback, 18). He argued with her, but she refuted all of his arguments and stood her ground which was something completely unexpected of women during that period in history. Women were to do what they were told, and not "make waves" the way Antigone did. She was walled up in a prison, and instead of spending the rest of her life there, she hung herself (McDonald, 27). Creon's son, Haimon, was engaged to Antigone and killed himself when he found her body. Creon also lost his wife to suicide when she realized the cruel actions her husband has taken against Antigone (McDonald, 29). Being non-traditional caused a lot of grief for Antigone and her family, and also the family of Creon, but she refused to back down to Creon when she truly felt that he was wrong, no matter her gender or place in society.

In contrast to Antigone was her sister, Ismene. She was seen as a traditional woman because she did what was expected of her in and by society. For example, when Antigone wanted to bury their brother Polynices, Ismene refused to help because she did not believe it was right to go against the law (Soderback, 32). Whether she agreed with the law was not the issue, because the law was the law and had to be followed. It was not that Ismene was not compassionate toward the loss of both of her brothers, but that she understood that there were consequences for actions. The actions that Polynices took led to the consequences he faced, and Antigone would have consequences if she went through with defying the law and burying Polynices. In the end, Ismene tried to talk to Antigone about what she was going to do, because Ismene knew Antigone could face a harsh penalty -- including death -- and did not want to lose her sister. Although Ismene remained stoic, she has already endured the pain of losing two brothers. How much more she could take was really not known. When Antigone was found guilty of defying Creon and burying Oedipus, Ismene tried to say she had helped her so she would suffer the same fate, but Antigone would not allow that to happen (Wilmer & Zukauskaite, 38).

There are many women today who are non-traditional, just like Antigone was, and the examples are nearly endless. One women who stands out as non-traditional is Lisa Kelly, who has been featured on the Ice Road Truckers television show (Jordan). She is highly non-traditional because very few women work as truck drivers, and even fewer of them work on the ice road. It is a particular dangerous and extreme job, and these people put themselves at serious risk of injury and death every day. They drive over frozen seas to reach remote outposts, so they can get supplies to the residents. Full-sized semi-trucks are used to do this, and the drivers frequently need to work on their truck on the side of the road, or stop and put chains on the tires to get traction (Jordan). Some areas are frozen water and flat, and other areas are hilly, icy, and snowy. Both are very dangerous for different reasons, and Lisa Kelly drives them all. She is not a large woman, and with her blond hair and bright smile she does not look anything like the "typical" truck driver (Jordan). There are those who think she is very unique and exotic because of her job, and those who think it is "men's work" and not something she should be doing. Regardless of societal opinion, she does what she enjoys, even knowing that it is highly non-traditional work and that not everyone would agree with her choices.

Additionally, there are many non-traditional women who are not noticed as much, but who still do things very differently than society would expect of them. These women work in jobs that would not be expected of them, or they raise children on their own, by choice. They may dress differently, not act in the traditional feminine ways, choose same-sex life partners, or simply be unconventional. It can be difficult to accurately pin down what is truly considered "non-traditional," as well, because the views on what women should and should not be doing are changing (Wilmer & Zukauskaite, 45). Not that long ago, a women's "role" was in the home. She was expected to have and raise children, keep the house clean, have dinner on the table each night, and still have plenty of energy for marital pursuits initiated by her husband. She was also expected to be demure, quiet, and respectful, doing what her husband asked of her, and what he told her to do. Over time, however, that role has changed. Some women still live their lives that way, and it is acceptable to them and their spouses. If they are happy with it, there is no official reason why they should make changes.

However, many women have shirked the traditional roles of the past for less conventional choices. They are having babies without marrying first, living with someone to whom they are not married, and working outside of the home -- all things that would have been considered completely taboo even 50 years ago. These may not seem like non-traditional things to these women, but they are very different from the way their mothers and grandmothers lived their lives, in most cases. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because society should grow, adapt, and change as much as possible in order to keep it moving in the right direction. Societies that do not develop will stagnate, and that is not healthy for the people in those societies. It can be very beneficial for non-traditional women to come along, as they eventually force society to consider new options.

Antigone and women like her are reflected in today's non-traditional woman (Wilmer & Zukauskaite, 49). Some of these women do go against the law. They are part of protest movements and other get-togethers that are defiant of the law, and they also bring lawsuits and other legal troubles to companies that treat them unfairly and states and municipalities that attempt to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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