by Stephanie Janiczek
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
I know a lot of people out there have seen the wonderful film, 300. The movie, based on the comic book written by Frank Miller, is a fictional adaption of the actual battle of Thermopylae. What occurred at Thermopylae was to become one of the legendary last stands in history. Military historians and strategists still study the tactics, and the story is woven into the tapestry of Western Culture.
“Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here obedient to their laws, we lie.” — Epithet, by Simonedas, on the Thermopylae Monument.
We know Leonidas existed and his more famous warriors also existed. What we also know is that his wife, Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, was also a real historical figure. She was not only one of the few women written about by the father of history, Herodotus, but she was also the first real example of a military wife.
I have always found it maddening to try and explain military life to civilians. Less than one percent of the US population serves in our armed forces. Our Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen resemble Atlas, the god of Greek myth, who held up the world on his shoulders, groaning and faltering under the weight. If Atlas shrugs, the world is destroyed.
Civilians don’t truly understand the service that is done in their name by their fellow Americans. They also don’t realize military families are part of that service. Wives carry a burden that is different but every bit as important as their husbands. We raise the kids when the men are off in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. We hold the household together. We make sure our husbands are not forgotten by those who run go through their lives uncaring and unaffected by the realities of the world.
The fact is the men and women who serve in our military are very much compared to the armies of Sparta. There were never more than 10 thousand Spartans in its army and Sparta itself had a smaller population than most of the rest of the Greek City States. But Sparta had the finest army in Greece and the women of Sparta were every bit involved with the militaristic culture Sparta was. While the US military doesn’t resemble Sparta completely, wives are involved and we do affect policy.
Gorgo doesn’t just stay home raising the King’s heir while he goes forth with his 300 handpicked peers. She plays at politics. The Spartan council decides that going to Thermopylae enforce is a wrong idea. The main part of the Spartan Army is held back. Gorgo, knowing Leonidas is going to his doom, doesn’t weep or gnash her teeth Cindy Sheehan style. She decides to work her network and get the Army out there to help. To save her husband she would do anything. Leonidas and Gorgo are a partnership. They are equals in every way.
We have a world where fictional women like Wonder Woman are being held up as ideals. The funny thing is there was no such person as Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is a fiction. She never existed. But Gorgo did exist. When I see women wanting to be front line troops, or believing honestly that without the great equalizer of a firearm they can fight off a male attacker, it saddens me. The reason is this: there are radicals out there convincing young women that they are something they are not. And what they are doing is causing problems amongst our youth.
Ever see Angelina Jolie’s film, Salt? I like her. I think she’s a great actress. I like Brad Pitt, too. However, after seeing that movie and the abuse her character takes I can say the film did nothing to help women. The last scene where the CIA agent punches her in the jaw was laughable. We have a big, fit African American man smashing his fist into her jaw. No woman would walk away from that, much less jump from a chopper and run to safety. What films like that portray is it is OK for men to beat women because women can take it. It also causes young girls to be more aggressive than they should be. A lot of people would disagree with me on this, I know, but gangs of physically violent young women didn’t exist when Grace Kelly blessed us with her screen presence or when Marlene Dietrich sauntered across the bar in Destry Rides Again. There is a way to be a strong, equally capable person without resorting to trying to be something you are not.
What Gorgo did in 480 BC was something a strong, capable intelligent woman with a warm loving heart can do. She stood up and supported her husband because it was her duty. She supported Sparta. She kept things going while he was defending their home and hearth. She was equally as intelligent and as wise as he was and she was often asked for advice or comment on many issues. She could, if she had to, defend herself, as Sparta’s last line of defense. Sparta had its issues as far as slavery goes and its rather fascist culture, but where the women were concerned they were far ahead of Athens and the rest of the Greek City States. The Spartans were far ahead of their times. No women fought at Thermopylae but the men who were there could not have gone there without the support from their wives and mothers at home.
I really think women need to start thinking and reassessing our roles because we do ourselves a grave harm when we denigrate the role of wife, mother, and daughter. Sparta did not do that. We can learn from them.
The reason why I decided to talk about this is, frankly, I am worried about our girls. I worry when I see a 13 year old girl dressed like a college aged girl, from the make up to the short skirt. I worry when I see a young man disrespecting his girlfriend and her being unaware because no one taught her any better that she is being disrespected. The reality is feminism has emasculated our men, and young women growing up don’t realize that is occurring. They never saw a world where roles were defined and a man was raised to treat women a certain way. Women were raised to act a certain way. If they are told of that time, it is painted as bad, as something that needs to be talked of as either an oddity or a time that was hard for women. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world but our daughters, and nieces are not told that anymore. That saying doesn’t mean just motherhood, it envelopes the real role of women through out the millennia. And our girls aren’t hearing it. They see Salt and want to be that. They see Wonder Woman and think girl power is something real and have no idea it’s a fake social construct. They don’t know who Gorgo is. And they should know who she was and is.
Stephanie Janiczek is a former Capitol Hill Staff Assistant, Schedule C Appointee and Leadership Institute alum. Military Wife, Hunter, Horse enthusiast, dog owner, writer and feminist kryptonite.