The resources in National Geographic’s Resource Library provide a great introduction to ancient Egyptian queens and Cooney’s National Geographic Live presentation on her book, When Women Ruled the World.
October 18, 2018
Ancient Egypt’s female feline goddess had two sides. As Bastet, she could nurture and protect; as Sakhmet she had a propensity to brutally attack and maim without control. But in both forms, she had one raison d’être: to protect and nurture the patriarchy.
Such was the case for strong Egyptian goddesses in general, and for the real female leaders of that time. They weren’t in it for themselves, to help a sisterhood rise up, to change the playing field for all women. They used their great and mercurial power to help the men around them – to protect them with their ferocity, to shield them from harm, to keep the same system going.
November 5, 2018
Reading the news these days is often a depressing and anxiety inducing task. Mass shootings, pipe bombs, assassinations, and—over it all—climate change haunt the discussion. The sources of these modern human malignancies are generally the same: male leaders who want to maintain economic, political, and religious power no matter the cost. It begs the question: Might women rule differently from men? If history is any indicator, the answer is yes.
May 31, 2018
This may be L.A.'s Year of King Tut, but the ongoing exhibition at the California Science Center shouldn't suggest the boy king is the only Egyptological celebrity in town. For nearly a decade, professor Kara Cooney has educated students — and the public at large — in the ancient ways of the land of the pharaohs. She's UCLA's Nefertiti of Near Eastern studies, and she's as statuesque as some of the granite likenesses she's studied in the field.
(Photo by Danny Liao)
August 28, 2018
Kara Cooney is a UCLA archaeologist and the author of The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. Before taking part in a Zócalo/Getty panel discussion titled “Did Women Ever Rule the World?” she spoke in the green room about the cruelty of academia, saying “yes” to everything, and how to bring your young child with you on an Egyptian excavation.
(Photo by Hector Sandoval/Sandoval Media.)
A woman’s power in the ancient world (and perhaps even today) was compromised from the outset, and my class "Women and Power in the Ancient World" addresses the root causes of this social inequality. Given this social reality in the ancient world, how then did women negotiate their limited leadership roles? How are we to find a woman’s power when it was so habitually cloaked by a man’s dominance? The podcasts below were written and recorded by UCLA students to bring these ancient women into dialog with current events and modern issues. Females' negotiation of power, is still a theme that features prominently in the news today, and these podcasts have elucidated many similarities in the cultural and ideological patterns involved in women's climb to, or limitation from, power in the ancient world and today.
By Sage Bitter
A fascinating story of power, plot, sex and murder, the assassination of Rameses III by his own harem of wives has it all; except closure. Amidst a patriarchal society led by an authoritarian rule, the Royal Egyptian women of the 12th century BCE sought to harness their own political and sexual power through extreme measures. Today, against conditions all too similar, another wave to reclaim power sweeps the nation as the #metoo movement takes hold, this time for the assassination of character.
Monotheism: A Means for Ideological Patriarchy
By Monk Serrell-Freed
By investigating female figures in the Hebrew Bible as it relates to the shift towards a monotheistic monarchy in the late Iron age–subsequently erasing worshiped female Goddesses like Asherah–we are able to draw conclusions regarding the historic patterns of men attempting to exclude women from holding positions of power in order to maintain a male-centric hierarchical religious institution.
To Be A Woman in Religion
By Chiara Noppenberger
In today’s American society, more and more activist groups are battling gender inequality. We see it in media, with celebrities wearing black at the Golden Globes in solidarity for the “Time’s Up” and “Me Too” Movement. These individuals are calling out the entertainment industry, the political and business sectors, and the even the sports industry; however, there is one area where hardly enough attention is being given: religious institutions. While today’s few female rabbis and ministers are mostly seen as able, dedicated, and successful in their leadership roles, in most Judeo-Christian settings women still face severe gender inequality compared to their male counterparts, and this is visible in the modern discrepancy between the number of men and women serving religious leadership roles. In this podcast, I will explore religious gender inequality through analysis of the Bible, and come to the argument that although some believe the transformation of the Judeo-Christian religion to monotheism meant the de-sexualization of religion, the ancient stories of the Bible still directly place women as unequal to men through its linguistic inconsistencies in the Book of Genesis regarding the creation of man and woman, its emphasis on women in subordinate stereotypical roles to men, and its positive description of Deborah the Judge.
Female Genital Mutilation in Greco-Roman Egypt
By Hanna Lee
Female genital mutilation (FGM) occurs in many parts of the world today, about 2 million girls are in danger of undergoing the procedure each year, and this practice dates back to ancient Greco-Roman Egypt (332 BCE - 395 CE). This podcast looks into women's power in ancient Egypt as well as in Ancient Greece to determine why this procedure occurred during Greco-Roman Egypt but was not performed in either Greece or Egypt before. Given the fair extent of power women wielded in ancient Egypt and the control put over Greek woman, it is likely that FGM came about as a way to control female sexuality when they weren't restrained to the house.
Opposite Sides of the Same Coin: Hatshepsut vs. Cleopatra
By Nicole Dominguez
Historically, women who have exercised power, either formally or informally, have fallen victim to typically unwarranted criticism. In my podcast I pose the question: “what do the similarities and differences between the consolidations of power by female King Hatshepsut and Queen Cleopatra VII reveal about our modern-day conceptualization of femininity?” The main points I make in my podcast are that while Hatshepsut relies heavily on her blood connection to previous male kings to legitimize her rule, Cleopatra asserts her independence from the men involved in her rise to the throne. Although both women similarly compensated for their gender by exhibiting their capacities as rulers symbolically, I argue that Hatshepsut’s methodology is more conservative than that of Cleopatra; and despite the example Hatshepsut sets for the ideal demonstration of feminine power, she remains overshadowed in the historical record by the notorious misrepresentation of Cleopatra. Thus, I conclude that the reigns of these two women are undermined by social factors that subordinate women, as continues to be the case today.
Not Your Pandora
By Spencer Beck
Not Your Pandora investigates power structures in the Ancient World to reveal attitudes towards women in society. How did varying viewpoints across ancient civilizations concerning sexual consent, rape, and female bodily autonomy reveal the particular attitudes held by each civilization towards women as pure or impure? How and why did sexuality represent women’s worth and morality in each society? Can the influences of this impact the modern standpoint on consent and feminist independence? This podcast will examine key evidence from the time period, and scholarly arguments, to answer these questions and more.