perseus and the gorgon

if you are too beautiful, and if you know the fact of your own beauty, a horrible fate will befall you. imagine you are in greece, long ago, when the gods ruled. you are lovely. the god of the sea wants to possess you. he doesn’t want to make love; he wants to violate you. so he does, in the temple of athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. this seems like it would be a place where women are protected from rape, or at least a place where men are punished for it. but instead, athena punishes you for desecrating her temple. she makes you so ugly that you turn other people into stone when they look at you. in some ways, this is a blessing. to be so fearsome to behold that no man can look at you and live to tell the tale? that is some kind of power. but underneath that is loneliness. athena punished you for being raped by robbing you of your ability to have intimate relationships of any kind. to protect yourself and others, you live far away from other people. your only company is the statues of men who have tried to kill you.

because, as it turns out, if you are too powerful, too fearsome, too ugly to men, a hero will come and kill you and be rewarded for it. he will do this to protect his mother from a marriage she does not want, but he will also think it fitting that you were punished for being forced to do something you didn’t want to do. besides, noble-sounding intentions don’t matter to you when you are murdered.

athena will let this happen to you. in fact, not only will she let this happen, but she will give your murderer the weapons he needs to kill you. after all, she is his half-sister. your murderer will use your face as a weapon (because even in death you will be able to turn people into stone) until he gives you to athena as a gift. she will replace her trusty shield with your head. those who hurt you most will never find a better protector than you. you can’t do anything about it.

it also happens that from your rape, you became pregnant. you will not give birth until you are beheaded, and from the warm rivers of blood flowing from your neck will spring your children. you will never meet them. you will never look upon their faces. you will never know they exist.

only your sisters will cry for you (though some think they never existed and that you have always been alone).

there is nothing colder than this life that the gods have given you except for the way that people remember you only as a monster. they remember the bodies of warriors you killed, but they don’t remember that those warriors came all the way to your island at the edge of the world just to kill you for glory. they remember the snakes on your head, but they don’t remember why someone gave them to you. they remember that you hate men, but they never ask why that might be.

your murder was a conspiracy by gods and heroes and kings. your legacy has been created by men who write of you as a monster. you are not a monster. your story is a tragedy of which we have not yet seen the end. i hope it is coming soon.

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