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The Trojan War, revisited

[ by Charles Cameron — a feminist reading — The Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi ]

Rebecca Solnit is an acute, insightful writer, who first noted the genre of unlistening overtalk that came to be known as mansplaining — her example being men who praise and explain the brilliance of a book for fifteen or twenty minutes, based on having read a review, without pausing to find out they are addressing the author in question.

During my research for incels (for an Incels & Rajneeshis post that I still hope to complete one of these days), I ran across her Guardian post, A broken idea of sex is flourishing. Blame capitalism.

Her key expositional para, IMO, is this one:

Feminism and capitalism are at odds, if under the one women are people and under the other they are property. Despite half a century of feminist reform and revolution, sex is still often understood through the models capitalism provides. Sex is a transaction; men’s status is enhanced by racking up transactions, as though they were poker chips.


That struck me, besides its meaning, for its poker chip metaphor. But it was the para immediately precesing it that I wanted to bring here to ZP, since it described the Trojan War in a way I had not seen before:

The Trojan war begins when Trojan Paris kidnaps Helen and keeps her as a sex slave. During the war to get Helen back, Achilles captures Queen Briseis and keeps her as a sex slave after slaying her husband and brothers (and slaying someone’s whole family is generally pretty anti-aphrodisiac). His comrade in arms Agamemnon has some sex slaves of his own, including the prophetess Cassandra, cursed by Apollo for refusing to have sex with him. Read from the point of view of the women, the Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi.

That really brings things classical and venerable home to us, occupied as we are with the contemporary and terrible:

The Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi.


This is one of those posts where I expose my own ignorance, and pray for a lively comments section.

What say you? Is this a misreading? Truth, already widely known? Or an original and useful, perhaps provocative, insight?

3 Responses to “The Trojan War, revisited”

  1. zen Says:

    hi Charles,

    I generally find academic feminism to be a militantly ideological cult, anti-empirical, illiberal and authoritarian.
    The observation here though that the bronze age Trojan War was a lot like ISIS is true; ISIS is a throwback in it’s practices not merely to kwarijite sect in early Islam but the pagan barbarism which preceded it, mixed up with some stylistic pageantry of Fascism.

    Making that connection though may have been less an insight about ISIS than a typical jeremiad against western civ which generally is a piñata for feminist/SJW types. Not sure though, I’d have to see what else this Solnit person has written on that topic and others.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    I haven’t read that much, but her essay Men Explain Things to Me was what got me started — in which she hilariously describes being treated to a detailed exposition of what was in fact her book, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, by someone who had read a review of it and, hearing she’d done some work on Muybridge, was unstoppably trying to persuade her to read her own book. I think you might enjoy it, while duly noting its / her feminist leanings.
    If I was going to read one of her books, River of Shadows would doubtless be the one, exploring as it does, a major shift in our cognitive equivalent of the Overton Window, as impacted by Muybridge’s introduction of motion-capture photography.
    But it was her specific linking of the Trojan War with ISIS among the Yazidi which interested me and caused me to post — so I’m glad of your confirmation of the similarity, and in particular your adddition of the jahilliya or pre-Islamic “age of ignorance” to the analysis. The Fascist connections of ISIS I discussed with Paul Berman at Richard Landes’ Boston conference — interesting chap, we “met” on William Blake, another favorite of Landes.. Berman’s view is that Qutb-era Islamists were (Europeanly) well-read in Marxist-influenced writers of their times.

  3. Karlie McWilliams Says:

    I agree with her to some extent – from women’s point of view, there was probably little difference between the Greeks and Isis. I would quibble in specifics that Helen went willingly with Paris, not as a sex slave, to escape her “boring old” husband. And as for the Iliad itself, the goddess Athena certainly is no helpless female; indeed, she is well-regarded by the Greeks for both her intelligence and her fighting skills, as well as her beauty.

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