Cleopatra: Just a Seductress or Just Plain Smart?

Mother’s Day is just three days away! Do you know what you’re doing (or, how you’re gifting) to celebrate and honor your mom?

It’s so important to have strong female role models in your life, no matter if you’re a guy or a gal. I consider myself very lucky in that aspect, not only with my mom and two sisters, but with friends, advisors, and the tough rollergirls I skate with as well.

Of course, one can also look back at history to see some pretty awesome legends of feminine grace and strength. I just finished Stacy Schiff’s book Cleopatra (Little, Brown and Company, 2010), and it’s definitely one for your to-read list.

one of few artifacts depicting Cleopatra

Cleopatra VII was so much more than what the legend that survives her tells us. You have to understand all the mistakes and blunders of her monarchical ancestry (which Schiff does a great job in telling) in order to appreciate everything Cleopatra did for Ptolemaic Egypt. She may have eventually lost everything (and thus aided in the fall of Egypt and the birth of the Roman Empire), but she put up one enormous and calculated fight. This woman was not the mere femme fatale that Hollywood and modern history might have us believe. No one really even knows what she looked like, but there’s no level of physical beauty that could possibly eclipse her quickness of wit, her ability to assess myriad situations, and her resourcefulness. Did that matter over the course of centuries? Nope. She’s seen by the world at large as a wily, ruthless vixen. Cultural connotations will have you believe she seduced the most powerful men of her time (Caesar, Marc Antony) for the sake of her kingdom’s prosperity. With so few concrete details of all the facts, why is it that intelligence and integrity of action are thrown out as a possibilities?! Maybe she was truly in love with Caesar and Antony (not at the same time by the way, if you’re unfamiliar with the history, as I was) AND had the best interests of her country in mind. Why are those two things mutually exclusive??

Those aren’t really questions that anyone, especially one author, can explain, but the book is definitely a much deeper look at the legend than Elizabeth Taylor and Claudette Colbert ever portrayed.

Sadly, I think many modern day woman can identify with this sort of problem. I speak mainly from my own experience and observations, but I do definitely believe that even in the U.S., woman have to fight to be seen as a force to be reckoned with, more than we might have thought we’d have to when we were growing up. No, it’s nowhere near as bad as in some foreign countries, and perhaps it’s just an occasional remark or action every now and then. But it’s still hard, and it’s still not justified.

It’s a complex issue, and it’s not just men versus women, so please don’t think I’m pointing fingers at the opposite gender. Women are guilty of either perpetuating female-gender stereotypes or discriminating against women, too!

It’s definitely a great idea to appreciate the strong women around you and throughout history as much as you can. Because (ladies) some days it’s so tempting to throw up our hands at the very real iniquities. Start asserting yourself now, whether at home or the office. And guys, we want to know you appreciate strength and brains; and if you don’t, let us know early on so we can move on, OK?

Maybe this seems off topic for this blog, but I absolutely think you have to be completely strong and confident on your own before you can sustain any type of serious (and healthy) relationship. Even when you’re not attached, you know what they say–it’s a tough world out there. Don’t let the sharks get ya!

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