death of sardanapalus

February 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm (destruction, history, innocence, power, sexuality)


my family had a book of delacroix paintings when we were growing up. i remember being fascinated by this particular painting. i felt naughty looking at it for it hinted of things i didn’t understand…sexuality, the power of men over women, violence…

i couldn’t understand how the man in the bed seemed serene amidst the carnage. the women, so helpless, what had they done to deserve this?

it turns out, sardanapalus was under siege and when he knew defeat was inevitable, he ordered all his riches (including his women) destroyed. still, it puzzles me that he is so relaxed watching such horror unfold. imagine my confusion as a child!

as a young girl, i keenly felt the disparity between men and women. my brothers had masculine chores like taking out the trash and working on the yard. i was relegated to dishes and housework. i protested as soon as i was able. my family was politically liberal but my protests fell on deaf ears.

as a young woman, it bothered me that boys could behave a certain way and be cheered and encouraged. when i tried to pioneer, i felt resistance and sometimes even shame for being so bold.

i resented the physical vulnerability of being female and resented the attention that came from being pretty and charming. it took years for me to grow into my power. even now, i have moments of fear about being attacked, physically and or/psychically. i worry on behalf of my daughter, knowing that just being female means being a target of certain crimes and injustice.

it’s no wonder that for many years i distanced myself from anything too feminine. it just wasn’t safe.

is it safe now?



  1. Michelle (artscapes) said,

    I grew up in a family slightly different but ultimately similar in attitude. Boys matter more. I don’t think this is a unique thing. What was striking was that it was the females that had the most power over this perception. Was this a flaw in what they were taught to believe?

    Great post……

  2. Cheap Like Me said,

    I hear you 100%.

  3. Monique said,

    I still remember the first time I felt afraid while walking home from University late one night. First I was afraid and nervous, and then I experienced anger like I had never felt before. WHY? why did I have to feel afraid because i was walking home? My anger must have shown through every pore in my body because the poor soul who happened to in step behind me, crossed the street as soon as he could!

    I was thankfully raised in a farming family where everyone worked….and it was never regulated out as to who should be doing what…if something needed to be done, well then why aren’t you doing it? lol

    My Grandmother tried very hard to instill her Souther Bell traditions on me while growing up. I remember one Christmas she had showered my brother with gifts and toys and for me, she gave a little child sized broom. My mother was furious and had quite the talk with her about it. I don’t remember that part, because I was too busy riding my new flying broomstick around the house! 😉

    is it safe now? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it will never be safe if we choose to live in the fear that it may not be.

    Live. Laugh. Love. (and confuse the hell out of those who would do otherwise)

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