Behold a seven-foot goddess! This bronze badass will stand across the street from a prominent courthouse in New York to shame sex abusers on their way (one hopes!) to justice. And friends, the location was not chosen by chance. Head in hand and sword at the ready, Medusa will face the same Manhattan courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was convicted for his sex crimes earlier this year. The sculptor wanted to honor the #metoo movement, but why Medusa?
For those unfamiliar with the snake lady’s origin story, it starts with a person in power... and ends with a sex crime. Sound familiar? (In Greek: #και εγώ) So Poseidon, Olympian and brother of Zeus, wants what he wants. Don’t they all? He stalks and later rapes the maiden Medusa, grabbing her by the priestess pussy, no doubt. Although she had been a faithful servant of Athena, Medusa is blamed and then punished for the act. But not the good ole’ god Poseidon. I mean, “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” right?
There is no justice in the classic story. No courthouse. No redemption. Poseidon rapes and then ghosts Medusa--classic smash and dash. Adding insult to injury, Athena sides with “gods will be gods” Poseidon and turns Medusa into a monster, a Gorgon with snakes for hair and a stone-turning curse. Medusa is cast out in disgrace and eventually killed by Perseus, who uses her head for his own purposes.
Fast forward a few years from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in 8AD to the Italian Renaissance in 1545. Benvenuto Cellini immortalizes the crime of Poseidon with a larger than life bronze statue, commissioned by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. Sporting little more than his birthday suit, Perseus holds the head of Medusa aloft. Behold the victim’s head! he seems to say. Look what I did! The bronzed eyes of Perseus are downward cast, as they should be. Shame to him who removed her head while she lay sleeping, not even a proper fight.
Another time skip. 475 more years and a new continent.
Medusa stands tall--all seven feet of her. In her right hand the head of Perseus. In her left, a beheading sword. With this brave piece, Argentinian sculptor Luciano Garbati retells the story of Medusa, casting her at last as the hero of her own story. The role reversal shifts a too tired narrative from victim-blaming and shaming to self-awareness and empowerment.
She is a liberator: The Newer, New Colossus but without the robes. Medusa stands naked in all her glory, unafraid and with nothing to hide. She grips the head of Perseus, but it hangs at her side. She has no need to hold it high. There’s no showboating or grandstanding. Medusa needs neither acknowledgment nor approval ratings, and she doesn’t give a rip about the critics. What she’s here for is to show the world that she means business. Violated. Betrayed. Cast out. Come into a woman’s home, even if it is just a cave, and try to take her head? I think not.
What strikes me most as I look at this Medusa is the way she looks back at me. Woman to woman, her knowing gaze is steadfast and strong. Steely. We’re fighting the same battles, then and now. Same shit, different day, and you know what? She’s had enough. We all have. I hope every one of the accused sex offenders at the Manhattan courthouse looks her way. I hope their blood runs cold. I hope their muscles turn to jelly, not stone. I dare you to look away, she says with those eyes. I am a woman wronged, and I will end you if I must.
Behold! I am woman. We are Medusa.