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.

revolution

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.