Western Civ

Western Civ was a college course that was required by many colleges and universities in America throughout the 1900s, as a way to learn about history and literature, from the Greek myths and Sumerian legends through Beowulf and English and European literature. I have my mom and dad’s big tomes that were used in their college courses, and their report cards too.

Our current culture, especially American culture, is based on this.  Thus, the representation of women and men in popular culture has deep roots in the interpretation of Greek myths in particular. The Age of Enlightenment in Europe, in the 1700s with the latter part of that century filled  with men and women wearing white wigs and extravagant clothing, this period idolized what they drew from ancient Greek and Roman culture. Neoclassicism. So we cannot blame the current state of graphic novels, for example, in how they show women, as well as men.

If the Science Fiction genre traces its roots back to HG Wells and his novels in the early 1900s about Brave New Worlds, and children “created” in a lab via test tube. Now gestation via petrie dish is actually not uncommon, and yet those babies are still born from a woman. Yet for HG Wells book, the woman and the mother is inert, unnecessary. We can make new people without a mother. Take that, mom!

Going back even further is the example of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. She was in fact the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who advocated for the Rights of Women. Mary Shelley was creating a horror story, perhaps the first horror novel in western literature, where a person is created out of the flesh of dead people, no mother needed here either. And the Professor has no thoughts of tenderness as he works to create a “new” man. It is entirely from his ego, he simply wants to see if it can be done and perhaps to be the first to do it. Yet he doesn’t know what he is doing, and everything goes wrong. Mary Shelley was a young mother who had children die from disease at a young age.


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