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Best Student Podcasts - Women & Power in the Ancient World (Winter 2018)

Kara Cooney

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.

 Ramses III, harem conspiracy victim. Photo credit: G. Elliot Smith

Ramses III, harem conspiracy victim. Photo credit: G. Elliot Smith

#haremconspiracy

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.

 Image on a painted on a jar found in Kuntilat Ajrud on the Sinai Peninsula. The image was painted below the inscription, "Yahweh and his Asherah."

Image on a painted on a jar found in Kuntilat Ajrud on the Sinai Peninsula. The image was painted below the inscription, "Yahweh and his Asherah."

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.

 Painting of Deborah by Charles Landelle (1901).

Painting of Deborah by Charles Landelle (1901).

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.

 Mummy portrait of a girl, 120-150 CE, Roman Egypt, wax encaustic painting on sycamore wood (Liebieghaus, Frankfurt am Main).

Mummy portrait of a girl, 120-150 CE, Roman Egypt, wax encaustic painting on sycamore wood (Liebieghaus, Frankfurt am Main).

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.

 Statue of Hatshepsut.

Statue of Hatshepsut.

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.

 Epimetheus receives Pandora the first woman from Zeus. She is depicted as a woman rising out of the earth, crowned and veiled, with hands raised. (Attic Red Figure Vase, Oxford V525, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).

Epimetheus receives Pandora the first woman from Zeus. She is depicted as a woman rising out of the earth, crowned and veiled, with hands raised. (Attic Red Figure Vase, Oxford V525, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).

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.