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My Bitch Face & Medusa

My Bitch Face & Medusa

Lessons from a Goddess on the Power of Ugliness

A former partner used to tell me that my anger—or more specifically, my bitch face—frightened him. It was thanks to him, thanks to the pyrotechnics of our conflictive dynamic, that I came to know my capacity for rage.

Do you know what it feels like to embody the word “fuming” as your anger walks you down the street? To play metal music (which you hate) at maximum volume so you won’t have to scream alone? To become mute with rage, any words at all lost in the blizzard blanketing your mind?

I didn’t. But I do now.

my bitch face

Recently, I have been delving deep into wide-ranging interpretations and re-storyings of the Medusa myth. Market research, if you will, for a new project I am co-creating, Medusa Media Collective.

Feminist retellings of her story abound. Survivor, Rebel, Victim, Witch—Medusa can also be a symbol of subversion, of resilience, and of the life-giving cycle of destruction and creation.

Perhaps best known for the serpents in her hair, Medusa’s gaze, as referenced in Homer’s Illiad, is just as fascinating.

“Medusa’s eye petrifies. Her “evil” eye brings death.”—Miriam Robbins Dexter, Ph.D.

What kind of expression, when encountered on a woman’s face, is so terrifying it can turn people to stone? My guess: her “bitch face” (a term, incidentally, which I am choosing to embrace). 

You know, the one that comes with blinding rage and metal music. It is so chilling that men the world over must beg women to smile in the street. From the ancients to the moderns, no one likes an angry woman; that’s why we learn young to keep that stuff under control.

However, while this gaze may bring death, I do not believe it is “evil.” Rather, I think it has been vilified, demonized along with women’s rage. 

Anger is not evil, but it is transformative. And change is very scary. Wicked, even.

That partner of mine told me that my rage was ugly—and frightening. He couldn’t bear to look upon it.

Far more upsetting, for a moment I believed him. I turned away from the ugliness of my own anger, for fear it might turn me to stone. 

Embracing Anger as an Agent of Change

Of course, this was not the case. Perhaps Medusa’s gaze causes another kind of death: creative destruction, the necessary death of the old to create space for the new. Death-as-transformation. My anger petrified both of us, but it eventually allowed me to burn down old cycles and create anew, far from people who would dismember my less “attractive” emotions. And therein lies the other interpretation of the “evil eye,” rage that protects us, wards off ill intent and turns it back on those who would do us harm.

Challenging relationships typically compensate with certain gifts, and this one granted me an intimate familiarity with my rage, which I had scarcely touched before. It took me a long time to set aside that anger when it had overstayed its welcome. I think that’s because it felt good…

My anger set me on fire, and I forged so much in those flames: creative projects, businesses, strength, sisterhood. Seeds burst open in that destructive heat and birthed new life. And when it had carried me through, I set it down on an out-of-reach shelf, there if I ever needed it. Only now am I remembering to turn around and say “thank you” to the bitch face, the “ugliness” that gave me so much power, protection, and life—just as effigies of Medusa were said to do for sacred sites and cities.

Up until now, I still couldn’t decide whether to repent of my ugliness, my anger, my bitch face—or to revel in it. Yet the deeper I penetrate into the snaky caves of Medusa’s lore, the more certain I become that I should embrace this power, precisely disregarding the patriarchy’s instructions to decapitate it, to look away in shame, disgust, and fear.

Medusa hisses at me from the shadows, “Don’t listen to them, sweetie. Your bitch face is beautiful!” And you know what? Today I believe her.

toby israel

Toby Israel is Medusa’s Chief Brainstormer. She is a vagabondess and a storyteller who has a metaphorical closet full of hats, including: Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, Movement Artist, and Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor. Toby holds a BA in Anthropology from Middlebury College and an MA in Peace and Media Studies from the University for Peace. She speaks four languages, but only edits in English.

Why So Few Women Are Head Chefs: An Ecofeminist Perspective

Why So Few Women Are Head Chefs: An Ecofeminist Perspective

Can I Love to Cook & Be a Feminist?

One lovely summer evening, I was preparing a buffet dinner with a friend at her place while simultaneously having a discussion on a non-related topic. In sharing my consistently feminist perspective on the topic, my friend’s husband could not stop himself from sharing unsolicited commentary.

“I do not see how you can enjoy cooking and at the same time consider yourself a feminist.”

I was flabbergasted and unsure of how to respond at that moment. His comment has since made me reflect on what it means for me to be a professional cook and a (nearly professional) feminist. And beyond that, I began to wonder how and why we perceive the action of cooking differently depending on gender.

My interest in cooking partially emerged from learning about the infinite amount of combinations and techniques that we can apply to our food. But mostly, it is my strong desire to connect with our natural world and the cultures that inhabit this planet that inspires my passion for cooking. When I think of action cooking–I think of creation, honoring, balance, nourishment, and care. 

Unfortunately, these aspects are often missing in the professional gastronomic world. Here, cooking becomes a performance that clients pay for. And what shapes the professional kitchen standard? An atmosphere of masculinity. If you cannot keep up with the workflow, the professional kitchen is not your place. This may not be true everywhere, especially as workplace dynamics evolve, but it has often been a typical kitchen attitude. 

Inequality in Gastronomy & Why We Need More Women Head Chefs

In 2018, I had my first professional kitchen experience in a well-known restaurant. It was then that I learned how to hold my ground in a male-dominated kitchen. Not only was the gendered division male-dominated, but the masculine spirit of performing, taking risks, and working fast was also the norm during most working shifts. When I attempted to implement some changes in the management of waste and water use. Practically nothing was recycled and at times, the tap would run unnecessarily. I received a friendly smile without further response.

It is hard to be an idealist in this world.

In most cultures and homes, women generally manage the task of food preparation. The long-standing sexual division of labor assigns most of the “caring” chores to women. These include cleaning, cooking, and in general, nourishing. 

Aligned with this delegation of specific tasks between men and women, is the fact that patriarchy prefers to keep women inside the house walls. As such, we can conclude that ‘cooking women’ are to be kept in the private sphere.

However, when we look at the profession of cooking in the public sphere, we see what is consistent with many industries – a male-led and male-dominated gastronomic field. While there are differences between countries, the percentage of female head chefs as compared to male head chefs is generally 15 women to every 100 men.

Double the Burden, Decrease the Pay

As women began entering the labor market in recent decades, the concept of the “double burden” arose. Before, during, and after many women’s working day, a full list of chores awaits them at home. The unpaid chores of running a household–feeding the household, doing laundry, and cleaning, remain chores that women generally manage.

Interestingly, research shows that same-sex couples divide these tasks in a more equal manner compared to different-sex couples. 

The concept of the double burden is one explanation for why there are so many more male head chefs in the restaurant industry. The profession is a very demanding job. It includes long working days and little time off during the weekends and nighttime. 

And let’s not forget, of course, about unequal paid salaries based on gender, which is also accurate for this sector.

Many professional kitchens continue a macho, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” tradition.

On top of all this, the professional gastronomic kitchen is rife with macho attitudes. It is hard for any person to survive a single day in a male-dominated kitchen without constant exposure to sexism, explicit dirty talk, and locker room-style jokes. Additionally, there is a common perception that women are not able to handle the physical workload or withstand the pressure in a space where a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality prevails.

So, in short, cooking at home is a woman’s task. Nourishing the family is a woman’s task. In the professional capitalistic world, men are more likely to dominate and earn more money by performing the same task. The difference? The masculine standard values their work differently and the patriarchal urge to keep women in the home. Does that sound about right?

Brewing an Ecofeminist Future

It’s 2022. We all know humanity is facing some immense challenges on top of gaining gender equality. Climate change, disease epidemics, and industrialized foods, to name a few, threaten a healthy and sustainable future for human beings and all species on earth. Perhaps, feminist and environmental discourses can complement and inform each other in their aim to offer solutions and change patterns.

Indeed, on its path toward equality and sustainability, ecofeminism addresses both threats. Ecofeminism sees the same dynamics happening in the capitalist exploitation of the natural world as in the exploitation of women within the patriarchal structure that keeps them from fully standing in their power, self-love, and strength.

Climate change seems to be the very obvious sign that our colonial, patriarchal, capitalist, and sexist society leads us to a path of decline. Studies show that we all benefit when women have the opportunity to thrive in business.

It seems obvious, but I’ll say it anyway–creating a society in which masculine and feminine energies are balanced in the homes, public spaces, and on the work floor, will make us thrive as planet earth as a whole.

Great potential lies in creating a more inclusive gastronomic field with equally paid salaries and a healthy, non-sexist workspace. Nonetheless, the work does not stop here. As long as we do not educate our children in a nonsexual/nongendered division of labor, the double burden for women will continue to be an obstacle for us to thrive in the public sphere. An equal division of household chores offers women more time, energy, and space to thrive professionally. Simultaneously, children that grow up in a space where tasks are not gendered, either to be completed by men or by women, will benefit our work towards equality in general. 

And even more, a professional kitchen that embraces the existence of feminine characteristics is likely to invest time and attention in creating less waste, recycling, and turning off the damn tap when clean water is wasted for no reason. What it all comes down to is introducing feminine energy and balancing it with the masculine that prevails in most professional work environments around the world.  

The Act of Nourishing Is an Act of Resistance

To anyone who, like my friend’s husband, believes that to be feminist means you must reject the act of cooking, I say this: Surprise! It is possible to enjoy the creation of nourishment and hold feminist beliefs about equality! 

I believe in the power of cooking as a nourishing act of love. All our food comes from the earth. Our planet provides us nourishment, and as we cook, we combine and mix and heat and create something from ingredients and then share it with one another. We create with love from the earth and for one another. If we take this approach into the performance-driven, capitalistic gastronomic field, we may be able to tackle several of the big challenges that we face each day. (I know, it’s still hard to be an idealist.)

The more we realize how everything – the natural as well as the oppressive systemic one – is connected, the closer we might come to creating a new world of balance and equality.


Iris Dijkstra, of Aya Creative, is a multilingual, intersectional ecofeminist chef based between Amsterdam and Costa Rica, where she infuses all her interactions between humans, earth, and food with a lot of love, a pinch of spice, and plenty of fire.

How Do We Change Language?

How Do We Change Language?

Driving Linguistic Evolution Beyond the Patriarchy

I have recently seen a tweet circulating that says, “in 2022 we’re not finishing our sentences, does that make sense anymore.” I have seen this type of idea presented in many different ways. The general message: women have too much self-doubt. We should be more confident. It’s time to stop with the self-doubt and speak with confidence. The underlying message I hear: we should speak more like men. 

There is a part of this message that resonates with me–the part about taking ownership of our language and cultivating our power through language. However, as I’ve been seeing these types of messages circulate in recent years, I’ve realized that some part of it has been bothering me. 

Lack of Confidence or Cultural Gaslighting?

I do feel that many women, myself included, have had and continue to struggle with self-doubt. The patriarchal world makes it easy for us to doubt ourselves. It likes for us to doubt ourselves. On top of doubt, we’re supposed to feel shame for our doubt and guilt about our lack of confidence. If we could only be more confident, like men, then we would be more successful in business and in life. 

I find this to be an example of deep cultural gaslighting that perpetuates the exact problem it points out. Even the most confident among us may start to doubt our confidence if the dominant narrative tells us we lack it. Even the most self-assured among us may start to wonder if the reason we aren’t as successful as men could be an inherently flawed self-esteem rather than misogynistic structural imbalances. Can we self-care our way to the top of a patriarchal structure? I don’t really think so, or necessarily want to. Even the strongest among us may stumble from time to time in a world designed by men for men.  

It’s time for us to recognize this societal gaslighting.

Perhaps we don’t need to doubt our use of language. Maybe we don’t need to dissect our forms of communicating using a male lens. 


A few years ago, I worked as the executive director of a nonprofit healthcare organization. During my time there, I received an award and grant for personal and organizational capacity development and was assigned a wonderful consultant. We worked closely together for about a year. 

One thing that I learned by listening and watching the way Angela communicated was how to give space in conversation. Angela would often ask, “does that make sense?” And when I was speaking, she would affirm in a similar way. Six years later, I can still hear her lovely, calming voice in my mind, “that makes so much sense.”

Confidence & Empathy Belong Together

When Angela would ask me if what she was explaining made sense, never once did I perceive self-doubt from her. What I felt was that she was intentionally building space into our conversations, space for me to reflect, ask questions, and comment. It was a way to slow the flow of the conversation and check in with me. 

Her affirmations while I paused during my time speaking were also helpful–and these questions “does that make sense,” and affirmations, “that makes so much sense” balanced each other into a beautifully constructive process. 

She wasn’t asking me if it made sense because she was unsure of herself. It wasn’t about her. It wasn’t a lack of confidence. She was asking to make sure that we were both in the same conversation, to see if something needed to be reworded or clarified. And if something did need to be clarified, it wouldn’t be because she wasn’t doing a good job explaining, it would be because we are humans, and we often need clarification. I began to mirror her and do the same in conversation, and I felt shifts in my work relationships.

Maybe this kind of compassionate, intentional communication is needed more–in professional and personal settings. Perhaps we shouldn’t encourage women to speak more like men. Here’s a radical idea: maybe men can take some guidance from women. 

Men, does this make sense? 

Now, I am all about direct communication. I facilitate practices in direct communication. There are many moments in professional and personal contexts where the most direct communication possible is exactly what is needed. So I’m not advocating against direct communication. 

In my workshops, we also practice empathetic listening, asking open and honest questions, and nonviolent communication styles. Different contexts require different kinds of communication. I believe we can be direct and empathetic at the same time. That we can communicate effectively while still pausing and allowing for spaces in our conversation, giving ourselves time to process. 

change language

Who Has the Power to Create Language?

Language, just like music, fashion, design, and culture in general, evolves. How does it evolve? Who drives linguistic trends and changes? Well, who usually has most of the social power? Could it be the same dominant group who has historically had access to academia and publishing power? The majority of the power of directing and creating movies, television, radio and news media? 

Of course, there are marginal or subversive drivers of cultural change as well. But in every social narrative, there are dominant voices–and then there are all the others. A global (ahem, colonial) common factor is that women’s voices have been hushed, along with many other intersecting populations. 

What I propose here is that instead of condemning ourselves as women for the way we speak, perhaps we could embrace our subtle and not-so-subtle differences, and see the potential strengths within them. Perhaps, instead of modeling our professional voices after those of men, we could analyze in what ways we can drive linguistic trends.

What I suggest, is that instead of gaslighting ourselves into filing our pauses and our sensitivities into the “lack of confidence” category, we embrace these and honor the place for them within the professional context. 

Make sense?

Interested in practicing some of these communication styles? Medusa offers 1:1 coaching and workshops for classes, organizations, and small businesses. Get in touch today for practical communication tools.

amy schmidt

Amy Schmidt is the CEO and founder of Medusa Media Collective. She is an editor, writer and teacher. She also teaches yoga, leadership, and empowerment self-defense for women. Her goal in writing is to create connection through empathy, and her passion is working to end gender-based violence. She likes her humor dry and her fruit juicy. 

You Are the Revolution

You Are the Revolution

Lessons from Medusa on Sexuality, Power, & Subversion

“La subversión sumergida en belleza es revolución.” — Colectivo Las Tesis

(Subversion, submerged in beauty, is revolution.”)

Before she is turned into a fearsome snake-headed monster, Medusa is a beautiful maiden. Ovid describes her hair as the, “most wonderful of all her charms.”

The ancient Greeks sure had a knack for dramatic irony. The very feature that made Medusa seductive and irresistible as a woman is what renders her “terrifying” and “repulsive” after her transformation: her hair.

Beauty & Sexuality: The Ultimate Revolution

So let’s dig into the power, seduction, and revolution behind that symbol.


Throughout history and across cultures, women’s hair has been a symbol of: fertility, sensuality, feminine energy, sexuality, and so much more. Why do you think so many religiocultural injunctions demand that we cover up? That stuff is dangerous!

As the logic goes:

Sexuality = Power. Power = Danger (at least when in the hands—or hair—of a woman)

Or something along those lines.

In 2020, Las Tesis (a feminist collective born in Chile) made international waves with their performance, “un vialodor en tu camino” (a rapist in your path). In their manifesto, published to contextualize the performance piece, they write:

“El violador eras tu.” Photo originally published in La Tercera. November 2019.

“Subversion, submerged in beauty, is revolution.”

I wonder if the reverse can’t also be true: “Beauty (or sexuality) submerged in subversion, is revolution.”

In these words we have the outline for (yet another) feminist retelling of the Medusa myth:

Medusa’s hair, “most wonderful of all her charms” is her beauty, symbolically tied to sexuality and power, or the potential for power.

That beauty, submerged in subversion, could describe her transformation following the trauma of sexual violence perpetrated by Poiseidon. The snakes are the embodiment, the realization of her potential to be powerful. Her refusal to cower after suffering violence is, in of itself, a powerful act of subversion.

Beauty, submerged in subversion, is revolution. Medusa, the “monster,” IS the revolution. A woman claiming her power. A woman who has channeled the fury of her injustice into sacred rage. One who inspires fear, perhaps not because she is hideous, but rather because she has harnessed her energy (her hair, the snakes), to do her bidding, and no one else’s. 

In this Medusa, I see a role model and a blueprint for rising above trauma, raising a fist (or a head of snakes) in the face of the patriarchy. She inspires us to live life on our own terms. Read thusly, Medusa can teach us to live unapologetically, with agency, with full autonomy over our body, sexuality, creative energy, and—at the core of it all—our power.

So go ahead, create! Dance! Flaunt your perfections and your flaws.

Raise your snaky head with pride. You are the revolution, and you can do whatever the hell you want with your charms.

Need a nudge in the revolution direction? At Medusa Media Collective we want to support all your creative and entrepreneurial rebellions. Reach out here to see how we can work together!

toby israel
Toby Israel is Medusa’s Chief Brainstormer. She is a vagabondess and a storyteller who has a metaphorical closet full of hats, including: Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, Movement Artist, and Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor. Toby holds a BA in Anthropology from Middlebury College and an MA in Peace and Media Studies from the University for Peace. She speaks four languages, but only edits in English.
Queer Ecology: Why Female Birds Couldn’t Sing Until Recently

Queer Ecology: Why Female Birds Couldn’t Sing Until Recently

The Patriarchal Hush of Female Birds & How Queer Ecology Can Help

Did you know that female birds couldn’t sing? Scientific observation gives us facts and from those facts we build reality, and in this reality, only male birds produce song. That is, until the past two decades when female scientists began to also study birdsong. 

Wait, what? 

That’s right. 

The Complexity of Female Beings is Not Abnormal

For more than 150 years, dating back to Charles Darwin’s writings on sexual selection, scientists generally considered birdsong to be a male trait. According to widely accepted scientific perspectives, bird’s songs were complex vocalizations that male birds produce during breeding season. Female vocalizations were rare or abnormal. 


Female vocalizations were rare or abnormal. Except they weren’t abnormal at all. Female birds could, in fact, sing and had always been singing, long before the colonization of science. Female birds were always capable of complex vocalizations along with their complex male counterparts.

They just couldn’t be heard over the patriarchy. 

In the past two decades, scientists began to “discover” female bird songs. In a recently published study analyzing the research itself, data shows that the key people driving this recent paradigm shift were women.

Traditionally, white men working in countries of the northern hemisphere have conducted much of the research on birdsong. 

Traditionally, white men have led research on many topics. That is because white men and the systems that benefit them have excluded women, BIPOC, queer, and pretty much anyone from the global south from the educational opportunities and professions that do this research–until recently when systemic conditions have improved. Slightly. For some.  It’s still not equal, of course. We (and it’s a giant we) have been excluded from producing cultural knowledge. 

Is it any wonder that female birds lost their songs just as women have been denied our voices for so many generations? Any wonder that female beings of all species seem quiet and simple, vessels for procreation, objects for the use and pleasure of the male species? Perhaps the comparison is a stretch, but I think not. I happen to think that females and males and every other expression of sex or gender is equally and differently complex and beautiful.

We Are All Biased

Science is meant to be objective. Observations, tests and results. However, we also know from the science of quantum physics, that the observer, by observing, tends to affect the outcome of the experiment.

I know I am not the first to point out that science is neither unbiased or objective. Research and observation is seen and reported through the lens of the observer. If the lens through which observation is made is only open so far, the possibilities for observation are limited to that lens’s aperture. 

Men, especially white men, have predominantly done research and controlled the production of knowledge in regards to bird song (specifically birdsong in this article, also knowledge in general).

Is Binary Killing Beauty? 

So if the people who do the observations already carry a herteronormative, binary belief system, then that will be the lens through which they will make observations. That will be the world they see and the world they report to others on. 

This is one fascinating example of how patriarchal and colonial domination has not only oppressed women and others, but is literally robbing the human world of a range of knowledge, or suppressing knowledge that previously existed. Or both. I would imagine that knowledge of various indigenous cultures includes female birdsong and lots of other beautiful things that white supremecist patriarchy has suppressed.

What other information are we lacking about our world because so many of us haven’t had access to professions that observe and create knowledge?

Just imagine. Imagine what other songs are out there. Imagine what else is waiting to be discovered, not just by female scientists, but all kinds of humans who observe through the lenses of different intersecting identities and bring varied lived experiences to their observation. And imagine a kaleidoscope.

We construct our reality through words, language, story, and media. Women and basically everyone else except white men have largely been left out of the production of knowledge and therefore, the creation of reality, to the point that we literally believed female birds to be silent. What other beautiful aspects of life are happening out there, waiting to be heard, seen, touched, felt? What more is there to discover that hasn’t been observed through limited hetereonormative white lenses?

queer ecology, female birdsong

Bring On Queer Ecology

There is an entire field of knowledge blossoming called queer ecology, which combines queer theory and environmental studies with the goal of diversifying our narratives of the natural world–and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. I can’t wait to learn what knowledge exists outside of the binary. My hypothesis? The world will become much more fascinating. 

As much as I am continually frustrated by the injustice of patriarchy and colonialism, I am equally excited for what awaits us on the other side. Excited about the beauty of the world we haven’t tapped into yet, but that is existing there, waiting for the right eyes to see it.

What a beautiful world it will be when we are finally able to see it through many different eyes. What a beautiful world it is already, filled with songs and dances of so many species, dancing right alongside our own species. 

How much more beauty is there in the world that are we capable of observing? How much more beauty can we see and process? Can we feel?

I think the answer is infinite. We can experience infinite beauty. All we have to do is learn to view it through as many lenses as possible.

Perhaps you feel called to share your infinitely beautiful creations with the world too? Join us today in adding more nonbinary, decolonized, patriarchy-smashing knowledge and wonder.

amy schmidt

Amy Schmidt is the CEO and founder of Medusa Media Collective. She is an editor, writer and teacher. She also teaches yoga, leadership, and empowerment self-defense for women. Her goal in writing is connection through empathy, and her passion is working to end gender-based violence. She likes her humor dry and her fruit juicy. 

The Greatest (Male) Thinkers: What Were They Thinking, Actually?

The Greatest (Male) Thinkers: What Were They Thinking, Actually?

Digging Into Philosophy and Coming Up Short On Women

I remember quite clearly the first time I started to question why there were so few women in philosophy – both in the canon (a collection of texts viewed as authoritative in a subject) and in the field itself. I was a junior in my undergraduate program reading Aristotle’s Politics when I came across a little passage on the differences between men and women. 

“As between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.” –Aristotle

The professor with whom I was reading the text, good-hearted and reflective, informed us that this was hardly the only misogynistic passage in Aristotle’s work. Elsewhere, he would call us incomplete men. He often referred to us as passive. He even tried to use the fact that women have fewer teeth than men as evidence of his claims. My professor gave us the space to reflect on why it might be that Aristotle believed such things. We asked what effect this would have on his system of thought.

Why Weren’t Women Included In Philosophy?

Of course, it was already painfully apparent that there weren’t many women in philosophy or female philosophers. A couple slipped through the academic cracks, but they were few and far between. I had previously assumed the reason for this was because the ‘powers that be’ denied women the chance to become philosophers. Society as a whole prevented women from entering academia, of course. I had not considered that philosophy itself had much to do with this exclusion. Would the field of philosophy purposefully close its doors to women? I certainly didn’t think that philosophy might be a large part of the reason why women were viewed as subordinate in the first place. But, believe it or not, reading Aristotle ironically set off the curious philosopher in me. I began to wonder just how deep the philosophical rabbit hole of misogyny was.

It does not take much digging to find thought in the canon in the same vein as Aristotle. In fact, some of the most explicitly misogynistic thought in history can be found in philosophy. Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche – all philosophers still widely read in philosophy classes today – express deeply problematic views about women. What is so nefarious about thought in this tradition is that it undermines the very belief in women as fully human, and it is still profoundly influential. And philosophy, unlike other forms of thought, is in the very business of justifying what it believes. As such, the canon offers up arguments for why it is the case that women are inferior to men. For example, many arguments state that we cannot think as well as men. 

Hegel proclaims that, “Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production… women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions.”

Women In Philosophy: Just a Bunch of Bodies

Additionally, women are understood as tied to nature and incapable of transcending the body into a higher realm of thought. This crumb of Cartesian and Christian thought maintains that the body is inferior, a prison that leads only to temptation and living poorly. Women are seductresses who tempt men with their bodies and trap them into a less virtuous way of living. 

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother,’ asks Augustine, “it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman. . . I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Ouch. The classic “women are useless except as baby-making vessels” belief.

Such harmful thought exists everywhere in my academic home. Obviously, however, I never believed such nonsense. The women I know and love prove that we are deeply rational, capable of anything and more than what male philosophers describe as our limits. 

But I cannot help but wonder what philosophy would be if men – and women – had not believed about us for so long. 

Where Are We Now?

Philosophy plays such a strong role in what we believe about the world. We all have ideas about what the world is like and how it should be. We find different answers to these questions all over the place–in the media, from our religious leaders, our politicians, and our friends. Whether we realize it or not in our modern-day, technologically saturated existence, many of our answers come directly from the philosophical tradition. 

Countless Christian philosophers still influence the Church today. Politicians read philosophy. Our movies, music, and books often reflect thinkers or traditions. And sadly, when misogynistic philosophers influence modern thinkers, we continue to find traces of that problematic perspective in the different views of the world. We must recognize this prevailing theme in philosophical thought, lest we find ourselves also believing that women cannot think the deepest of thoughts and see the world as it is. 

These days, thanks to graduate school and a steady devotion to escaping misogynistic conditioning, I am lucky to know of many female philosophers. These women challenge the views of the world put forth by men – especially any that might call women incapable of philosophical thought. 

I leave you here with a list of female thinkers worth exploring.

  • Judith Butler
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • Elizabeth Anscombe
  • Angela Davis
  • bell hooks
  • Katherine Gines
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Iris Murdoch
  • Hypatia of Alexandria
  • Simone Weil
  • Maria Lugones
  • Sally Haslanger
  • Phillipa Foot
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson
  • Hortense Spillers
  • Luce Irigaray 

You may not consider yourself a philosopher, but we have a strong suspicion that you are. If you’ve got some deep thoughts to share with the world–you can start by sharing them with us. We can help polish your work so it can shine for the world. The world is ready for your deepest thoughts!

women in philosophy

Melissa Bradley is a young professional in Charlotte, North Carolina. She holds an MA in Philosophy and a BA in Philosophy and History. She likes to write, loves to read, and spends most of her time thinking about how the world should be. You can usually find her wandering around outside with her dog.

Medusa Media Collective thanks Melissa for this amazing article. What do you think about the topic? Comment below.


1 Aristotle, Politics, 1254b 13-14.

2 Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 263 (1973)

3 St. Augustine, De genesi ad litteram

4 One book that lists countless of examples of misogyny is Beverly Clack’s Misogyny in the Western Philosophical Tradition