Complex Women Characters: Recently, I came across a few women in history who truly were complex- Cleopatra, Mata Hari and Harriette Wilson. It is a joy when we find influential women in chronicles that reeks of patriarchy.
However, what, unfortunately, happens to these complex characters is that they are broken down into mere pieces of flesh. It is assumed that they moved their way up with a stroke of luck and beauty. It is important to note that there is no denying the possibility of physical relationships they might have. It is the sheer language and a very convenient yet incorrect personality that history offers them.
Past is filled with stories where people got into conventional and unconventional relationships to gain and expand their influence. Kings across the world have married and courted women in order to expand their territories. But that is called an ‘alliance’. It is seen as a ‘strategy’ that helps in ‘governing’ the empire.
When the same is done by women, there is no ‘strategy’ for safeguarding the ‘subjects’. It is seen as ‘manipulation’ and ‘use of seduction’ for ‘personal gains.’
When kings have affairs, it is often suggested that they have a ‘great taste’ in women. When we see the likes of Cleopatra or Mata Hari having lovers, these are seen as ‘royal whores’ than women who enjoy their sexuality.
Kings across the world have married and courted women in order to expand their territories. But that is called an ‘alliance’. It is seen as a ‘strategy’ that helps in ‘governing’ the empire.
Even someone who overtly was into moving from women to women – Casanova, is seen as a craftsman and his tricks are popularised but imagine how historians would have treated him if he had XX chromosome.
Similarly, diplomats in the court had ‘charm’ which got work done. They were promoted rank after rank when they were charming. Women weren’t defined as charming or funny, they were manipulative and were trying too hard to get into someone’s bed.
The reason it is heartbreaking is that the records haven’t done justice to these amazing figures. They are either simplified or mystified. So let us define them correctly.
Cleopatra was a QUEEN who knew 11 languages and destroyed Romans so hard that to date they try to demean her to save the face of their empire. Mata Hari was a SELFMADE dancer who gained popularity across Europe with her exotic theatrics. Harriette Wilson was a quick-witted, high-spirited COURTESAN who was on the heavier side of the negotiating table.
May we know them, love them and learn from them to live on our own terms and live so wildly that even when the world tries to erase us from history, the goddesses laugh at their futile attempt.
The views expressed are the author’s own.