"Is Lysistrata a Feminist Play?" The word feminism is best defined as ‘the movement aimed at equal rights for women.’ Throughout history, feminism has been a growing campaign for both men and women. Such feminists have included William Lloyd Garrison who created the American Anti-Slavery Society which welcomed women into its position and introduced them to politics. Other feminists include Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott who in 1848 established the first women’s right meeting; or Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren, who pushed for the insertion of women's liberation in the Constitution; and finally, Roxcy Bolton who in 1969 challenged the practice that many restaurants had a separate "men only" section. Feminism has had a lengthy history which goes back thousands of years. In the Greek satirical comedy, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, a group of women under the guidance of Lysistrata, use feminism as a way of ending the Peloponnesian War. Even though these women focus their feminist views on the practice of abstinence which by today’s standards would be a rather cruel approach, they gain the upper hand and convince the men of Sparta and Athens to declare peace, and by doing so, ending the war. In the beginning of the play, Lysistrata calls women from Sparta, Thebes, and her hometown of Athens to hear her plan of ending the Peloponnesian War. After the women congregate around Lysistrata, she asks them if they feel saddened and sorry because the fathers of their children are away fighting in the war. They all agree, and then she asks them, “…if I have discovered a means of ending the war, will you all second me?” They all anxiously agree. She then proposes refraining from sex with their men. All of the women respond to her as if she is crazy. One Athenian responds, “I will not do it, let the war go on.” Lysistrata supports her plan, “…there’s no satisfaction for a man, unless the woman shares it.” Lysistrata is convinced the men “will hasten to make peace” if they are not given the pleasure of sex. The pain of abstinence will drive them insane, and eventually force them to end the war. By the end of the scene, all of the women are supporting Lysistrata, and their unity is the first major sign of female feminism in the works. Sometime later, a group of old Athenian men approach Athens and notice the gates are locked and protected by the Athenian women. They threaten to smoke the women out of Athens with burning wood. The women retaliate by throwing buckets of water over the men, and burning out their fires. Eventually, the police commissioner arrives with a couple of Scythian policemen. He threatens to break through the gates surrounding Athens with crowbars, and arrest the women. Lysistrata responds to this threat, “No need to force the gates; I am coming out-here I am. And why bolts and bars? What we want here is not bolts and bars and locks, but common sense.” This line signifies Lysistrata’s opinion that men cannot find a solution that does not involve violence (referring to war). She believes all problems can be solved verbally, and safely. The police commissioner orders one of his policeman to arrest her. Lysistrata says, “By Artemis, the virgin goddess! If he touches me with the tip of his finger, officer of the public peace though he be, let him look out for himself.” The policeman backs away. The police commissioner gives similar orders to his other policemen, but Lysistrata supporters and feminists pronounce similar threats, and eventually none of the policemen are willing to apprehend the powerful female feminists. This scene is a powerful scene because it signifies the amount of importance and influence a team of inferior women can have over a group of superior men. The more power the men lose, the more control the women gain. Towards the end of the play, the women have succeeded in gaining the attention of the men who at this point are in morbid pain from the giant erections that they possess. One of the men, Cinesias, approaches the Acropolis in Athens, and Lysistrata confronts him. Cinesias admits he has come to the acropolis to collect his wife, Myrrhine. After a bit of a heated debate, Lysistrata finally agrees to retrieve Myrrhine. She does this after Cinesias agrees to have sex with Lysistrata:
Cinesias: Oh! Please, please go and call her to me!
Lysistrata: And what will you give me for my trouble?
Cinesias: Anything I’ve got, if you like. (Pointing to the evidence of his condition)
I will give you what I have here!
After Myrrhine greets her husband, Cinesias begs Myrrhine to come home with him for the sake of their love, and their child (who Myrrhine has not seen for six days). Myrrhine pretends to listen to his frustrated pleas, and hints that she might make love with him. Once they are home, Cinesias begs his wife for sex, but she keeps refusing on account of small factors that would make the experience uncomfortable.
Cinesias: Ah! how the dear girl loves me!
Myrrhine: (coming back with a cot) Come, get to bed quick; I am going to undress. But, oh dear, we must get a mattress.
Cinesias: A mattress? Oh! no, never mind about that!
Myrrhine: No, by Artemis! lie on the bare sacking? never! That would be squalid.
Cinesias: Kiss me!
Myrrhine: Wait a minute!
(She leaves him again.)
Cinesias:Good god, hurry up
Myrrhine: (coming back with a mattress) Here is a mattress. Lie down, I am just going to undress. But you've got no pillow.
Cinesias: I don't want one either!
Myrrhine: But I do.
(She leaves him again.)
Cinesias:Oh god, oh god, she treats my tool just like Heracles!
Myrrhine: (coming back with a pillow) There, lift your head, dear! (Wondering what else to tantalize him with; to herself) Is that all, I wonder?
Cinesias: Surely. there's nothing else. Come, my treasure.
Myrrhine: I am just unfastening my girdle. But remember what you promised me
about making peace; mind you keep your word.
Cinesias:Yes, yes, upon my life I will.
This scene shows how manipulative the women are to the men. Cinesias is pretty much tied on a dog leash, and whenever Myrrhine wants something, all she has to do is yank the leash. What is really remarkable about this scene is unlike any other scene in the show, it shows the relationship at this point in the play between two lovers. This could very well be the climax of Lysistrata. Prior to this scene, the only scenes with men and women were scenes with a large group of both sexes at each other’s throats. The scene ends with Myrrhine leaving her husband in pain, and returning to the Acropolis with her fellow female feminists. The show ends with the women overpowering the men, and the men having no other option but to create a peace treaty with the opposing side. Since Lysistrata’s first production in 410 B.C., male and female feminists have been working hard to give women the same rights as men. After thousands of years, women still are not given all the luxuries that men are given, but feminists still remain passionate to their cause, and hopefully one of these days men and women will be equal on any scale in society.