Lysistrata leads men’s strike: “Not while I’m bleeding.”

Joe: Hail, most manly of all women {χαῖρ᾿, ὦ πασῶν ἀνδρειοτάτη}. Lysistrata, you’re the last hope for men and for the whole world. Please help us!

Lysistrata: You ignorant hater, sometimes I think you deserve to be locked up for losing your job and not being able to produce your mandatory monthly child-support payments. I told you my pronouns are he/him. According to feminists, you’ve been operating patriarchy worldwide since the dawn of agriculture. You should at least be able to get my gender right.

Joe: I’m sorry, Lysistrata, truly I am. On top of having to borrow money for those sex-penalty payments, my brother was just killed working construction, and my father has been falsely accused of rape. My mind’s a little unsettled. Forgive me. You’re the most manly of all men. Please help us!

Lysistrata: Here’s the first step: we men have to stop working so hard on gender gaps. Gaps are everywhere, yet our minds are obsessed with one particular type of gender gap. Let’s get a grip on ourselves and rub that erection out!

Joe: I’d like to. Believe me, a lot of boys and men do. But for me it’s awkward. I still bleed from the chafing of my prosthetic against the hip stump left from the Taliban IED. It takes time to unwrap the bandages and get access to myself.

Lysistrata: Do you have any self-consciousness as a man?

Joe: Sure, I do whatever repairs my wife tells me to do, I buy for her birthday and her wedding anniversary whatever she tells me she wants. I kill any bugs or rodents she finds in the house, I take out the garbage, take care of the yard, and do all kinds of stuff that doesn’t count as housework. She doesn’t let me cook and clean. She says I don’t do it right.

Lysistrata: No, no, that’s just doing stuff for your honey that she doesn’t want to do herself. Do you have any self-consciousness as a man, as a human being that bleeds human blood?

Joe: Sometimes she’ll scratch me or or she’ll slash at me with a kitchen knife. But I can still hobble and dodge quickly, despite having lost most of one leg in Afghanistan. I’ve always managed to bandage my wounds before they bleed too much.

Lysistrata: Men don’t understand the extent of their bleeding. Women and men for decades have been allocating massive resources to fighting violence against women and inventing new reasons to incarcerate even more men. But violence against men is much more prevalent than violence against women. Men bleed more than women do. Violence against men must end.

Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial info panel: remembering Marines

Joe: That’s just the way it is. Spartan mothers wanted their sons to die in battle rather than flee. You don’t see mothers today marching to demand that sexist Selective Service registration be repealed. Mothers still prefer to have their sons die in battle rather than their daughters. Whatever mothers want is the way it is.

Lysistrata: If we men unite, we can end violence against men. Look at all the men coming to the Mall. It’s as if they had as much consumer spending power as women. Do someone tell them there’s free beer and televised football here?

Joe: No. Word spread across online gaming sites that Lysistrata is organizing a massive men’s strike to end violence against men. Gamers know that men are used and abused and that media gaslighting creates fake news for a gynocentric world.

Zuck’s chorus:

You know those dead white men,
oh, woe’s me, when will it end,
they keep on putting us down,
silencing us all around!

Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!
Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!

Zuck:

I sat at home one day, exhausted, spent
from classical political infighting,
and I’m so really irritated and fed up.
I tried to pump the magazine’s lead posts
into his brain. No harm. He didn’t read.
Full Harvard Press. He’s still not squished, not fired.

Zuck’s chorus:

He had it coming, he had it coming,
he only had himself to blame!
If you’d have been there, if you’d have read it,
you would have burned his work the same!

Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!
Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!

Zuck:

Facebook, forget it, no one will share his work.
They can’t like it, even if they like it,
he’s a dead white man. Aiee!
Come Hecate, with us Artemis, even
Amazon join Google. AI his head!
We’ll burn his work to cinders — yes we can!

Zuck’s chorus:

He had it coming, he had it coming,
he took classics at its prime,
and then he used it, and he abused it.
We did a murder, but not a crime!

Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!
Tweet, squish, void, you go, Aristophanes, Cicero!

You know those dead white men,
they keep on putting us down,
oh, woe’s me, when will it end,
silencing us all around!

Lysistrata: Ignore that razzle dazzle. This is going to be bigger than the Men’s March for More Men Elementary School Teachers.

Aeneas: Sorry I’m late. We got hit by a storm at sea. Are we men really going do something to prevent disasters like the Trojan War?

Lysistrata: You should have departed earlier from Dido at Carthage.

Aeneas: No kidding. Mad, mad woman, but she did burn up our bed.

Lysistrata: Good to see you, Dosikles. You’re looking beautiful and thus virtuous.

Hercules: Yup, I’d say he’s attractive. No bravery needed.

Lysistrata: Good to see you here, Hercules. Did Omphale recant her claim that you beat her?

Hercules: Yup, but the prosecutor locked me up anyway. Alcmene bailed me out, bless my mom’s heart.

Hippolytus: Not all mothers are like that. Socrates should bring this question to light. Where is he?

Juvenal: His wife Xanthippe didn’t allow him to leave the house.

Lysistrata: We don’t need Socrates and his academy in the clouds. We need to take decisive action. Men of the world, unite! It’s time to strike!

Hercules: If your woman calls the cops on you, you’ll be in jail no matter what.

Lysistrata: Think, you knuckle-dragger. We’re gonna strike with words!

Euripides: Words? You think we’ll win with words? Not against women.

Lysistrata: You write too much. Poetry didn’t get women where they are.

Euripides: What will we perform, if not poetry? If we don’t perform, we won’t win.

Hector orders Paris from women to war

Lysistrata: Men must stop performing for praise. From now on, whenever anyone wants a man to perform, that man must refuse, saying, “Not while I’m bleeding.” Men, gather round. Everyone practice saying plaintively, mournfully, “Not while I’m bleeding.”

Joe: That’s pathetic.

Hippolytus: That’s prophetic.

Lysistrata: This isn’t just a sex strike. It’s a garbage-removing strike, a fix-it strike, a lift-it strike, a do-this strike, a do-that strike. It’s a “meninism is the radical notion that men are human beings” strike. It’s a strike for men’s lives. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Let war be women’s occupation {πόλεμος δὲ γυναιξὶ μελήσει}.”

Aristotle: Alexander the Great refused to learn when I tried to teach him. Listen and learn: U.S. active duty deaths in the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars were 95,156 dead men and 25 dead women.

Joe: Since 2015, women have been fully integrated into the U.S. armed forces.

Aristotle: Since 2015, U.S active duty military deaths have been 89 dead men and 4 dead women. When will gender equality be achieved? Equality must not be just for the present but also with thoughtful consideration of the deeply entrenched historical inequality in valuing men’s and women’s lives.

Lysistrata: It’s just as I keep saying, “Let war be women’s occupation {πόλεμος δὲ γυναιξὶ μελήσει}.” Men should no longer engage in violence against men. Our posture should be hard. We should stand prominently erect. We should proudly declare: “Not while I’m bleeding.” Tell that to Neil Golightly and his ex-colleagues at Boeing. Let men suffer war no more. Let men enjoy sexual wind-surfing!

Gallus: I know that love is war, and I did declare that love conquers all, but I never tried to use women in the Roman army. I’ve heard that the Roman historian Orosius regarded women as fierce fighters.

Lysistrata: I myself have commanded women in a successful assault on men:

You, spawn of the marketplace, sally forth,
you garlic-vendors-gardeners-grain-dispensers,
you bakers-greens-growers-barmaids,
punch them, pound them, smash them,
call them names, the nastier the better!

{ ὦ ξύμμαχοι γυναῖκες ἐκθεῖτ᾽ ἔνδοθεν,
ὦ σπερμαγοραιολεκιθολαχανοπώλιδες,
ὦ σκοροδοπανδοκευτριαρτοπώλιδες,
οὐχ ἕλξετ᾽, οὐ παιήσετ᾽, οὐκ ἀράξετε;
οὐ λοιδορήσετ᾽, οὐκ ἀναισχυντήσετε; }

These women, heroic female saviors of Athens, won an overwhelming victory.

Menelaus: All those women had to do was to bare their breasts. Then the men would have surrendered, forgiven all, and served them as they always have.

Lysistrata: That won’t happen after I get all the men to bind themselves with a solemn vow and a formal ritual.

Valerius: That sounds like it’s a prelude to an expensive, special-day wedding ceremony. My beloved brothers, I’m afraid for you. Don’t do it!

Lysistrata: Calm down, just calm down. Men, let’s parade to the Washington Ex-Cooke Football Stadium. There we’ll pour three pints of ale for each other, and chant together: “Not while I’m bleeding!” Once we all have memorized that strike phrase, we’ll make our solemn vow of men’s solidarity and men’s liberation, and we’ll burn our jock straps.

Dis: Hell yes!

(At the Washington Ex-Cooke Football Stadium, crowds of men whirling jockstraps over their heads enter the stadium to the booming music of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird.)

Lysistrata (over the PA system): What do we want?

Crowd of men in stadium: Beer!

Lysistrata: When do we want it?

Crowd of men: Now!

Lysistrata: How do we get it?

Crowd of men: Pour it for each other!

Lead Gaffer / Key Grip addresses the audience, narrating the action:

Men of all race, color, creed, and religion, old men and young men, classics professors and construction workers, married and unmarried men — all then take turns pouring each other beers. When they have each drunk three, they start a huge fire in the middle of the football stadium. Then the men throw their jock straps on the fire and cheer raucously. After the fire begins to subside and the cheers diminish to loud, friendly banter, Lysistrata starts the solemn oath.

Lysistrata: To every request for us to do, what do we in our human being say?

Crowd of men: Not while I’m bleeding!

Lysistrata: Say it again!

Crowd of men: Not while I’m bleeding!

Lysistrata: Again!

Crowd of men: Not while I’m bleeding!

Lysistrata: Say it loud, say it proud, not just monthly, but every minute of every hour of every day and night! We are human beings, we are men! Let’s hear us roar!

Crowd of men: Not while I’m bleeding!

Zuck:

Ask any of the supplicators pegged in my pen,
they’ll say I’m the most domineering mother hen.
I love ’em all and all of them love me
because the system works, it is what it is,
the system called gynocentrism and gyno-idolatry.

Got a little motto,
about the system true —
when you’re good to Big Mama,
Big Mama’s good to you.

There’s a lot of favors
I’m prepared to do.
You do one for Big Mama,
I’ll do one for you.

Zuck’s chorus:

Racist, sexist, let ’em protest — drink
your tears, you dogs. No one cares at all.
Racist, sexist systemic injustice — we declare
the social structures of gender underwear!
Racist, sexist, homophobic men-loving
men! Silence those creeps for safety, or else!

Andromache mourning dead Hector

Lysistrata: The yes-woman choir of the men-hating media must be overthrown. Men of the vanguard, we go to conquer the citadel of manufacturing mental slavery. Phalanx, forward!

Man news reader: Women of Washington, cowering at home under COVID-19 house arrest, liberation has come! Today is a new day at DC’s premier television news station, WPMS. Heroic men have seized WPMS. With our must-see line-up of new news programming, we will free your minds for happiness, not bait you and provoke you to misery with the same old story. And never again will docker-haters castrate all the herm statues in this city.

In our top news story, men around the globe are continuing not to do anything. Today Eve Cuntler declared that men must stop the rape of women. Let’s ask Augustine of Hippo what he is going to do to stop the rape of women.

Augustine of Hippo: I’m going to meditate on my breathing and do absolutely nothing. And I’m going to urge all men likewise to do absolutely nothing. Not while we’re bleeding.

Man news reader: Wives are demanding that their husbands do more woman-standard cooking and cleaning. Husbands are responding, “Not while I’m bleeding.” Girlfriends are demanding sex from their boyfriends, and their boyfriends are responding, “Not while I’m bleeding.” Men are leaving the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines because they no longer want to fight for their country. “Not while I’m bleeding,” they say.

The situation has gotten so bad that many men are baring their chests and scratching themselves with their own nails. Then they tape sanitary napkins to their chests to absorb the flow of blood. In ancient Rome, men displayed war wounds on their chests to get public respect. For men today, having sanitary napkins taped to their chests has become a fashionable emblem of men’s new meninist self-consciousness and self-respect.

Another man news reader: In these gender-troubled times, public policy needs Great Ideas. You can count on WPMS to serve the public interest. We thus now present to you, live, the Great Ideas Policy Canon. On one side are diverse pundits favoring meninism. On the other side are diverse pundits supporting anti-meninism. All these pundits have years of experience as journalists interviewing each other. Have at it!

Meninist pundit: This crisis is a result of a global conspiracy by all women {τουτὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα πανταχόθεν ξυνομώμοται ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν}. Name a single woman who has done anything to overturn sexist draft registration and gender-equalize combat deaths. We’re got a long way to go to achieve gender equality.

Anti-meninist pundit: Why don’t you shut your snout and die? Lots of grave sites here. Go buy a coffin. I’ll make a funeral cake for you. {σὺ δὲ δὴ τί μαθὼν οὐκ ἀποθνῄσκεις; χωρίον ἐστίν· σορὸν ὠνήσει· μελιτοῦτταν ἐγὼ καὶ δὴ μάξω.}

Meninist pundit: You shut up, or I’ll bang and ball you out of your decrepit hide. {εἰ μὴ σιωπήσει, θενών σου ᾿κκοκκιῶ τὸ γῆρας.}

Anti-meninist pundit: I’ll tear out your lungs and your inners with my fangs. I’ll be the last bitch that bites off your balls. I’ll kiss you whether you consent or not. {βρύκουσά σου τοὺς πλεύμονας καὶ τἄντερ᾿ ἐξαμήσω. ἄλλη σου κύων τῶν ὄρχεων λάβηται. ἤν τε βούλῃ γ᾿ ἤν τε μή.}

Meninist pundit: Rape! … Can’t live with the devils, can’t live without them. {οὔτε σὺν πανωλέθροισιν οὔτ᾽ ἄνευ πανωλέθρων.}

Anti-meninist pundit: Women, beat your breasts for Adonis! {κόπτεσθ᾿ Ἄδωνιν!}

Meninist pundit: Men of the world, dicks out for Harambe!

Anti-meninist pundit: Men! Awful, nasty men, hard at work. No decent men, no god-fearing men, would ever behave like this. {ἄνδρες πονωπονηροί· οὐ γάρ ποτ᾿ ἂν χρηστοί γ᾿ ἔδρων οὐδ᾿ εὐσεβεῖς τάδ ἄνδρες.}

A member of Zuck’s choir: The whole world’s gone dull-void. Thing’s ain’t what they used to be.

Another member of Zuck’s choir: They sure ain’t, girl-girl. They sure ain’t. It’s all gone.

Zuck’s choir:

Whatever happened to fair reading?
And pure ethics?
And nice manners?
Why is it everyone now is a pain in the ass?
Whatever happened to classical class?

Oh, classical class, oh Prince Paris!
Now there ain’t no gentlemen
to open up Athenian doors.
There ain’t no courtesan ladies now,
only just pigs and whores.
Even a nobody blogger will knock you down
for literary amusement and some gas.
Nobody’s got no classical class.

Now, no one even says “oops” when they’re
having a laugh and passing their gas.
Whatever happened to classical class?

All you read about lately is rape and rape.
Lock up more men, and defund the police.
Catharine MacKinnon Almighty, I can’t feel my own hate!
Nobody’s got no classical class.

Zuck: Women at Harvard Business School feel unloved!

Choir member: Every guy’s an oppressive devil.

Another choir member: Every gal’s a poor, innocent angel.

Yet another choir member: Holy shit, what a shame.

Zuck’s choir, all together: What became of classics?

(Zuck’s choir morosely, silently departs from the theater.)

Lysistrata: The women are withdrawing. We’re victorious!

Joe: Please don’t leave. I’ll bleed for you!

Lysistrata: Traitor!

(The men gather into a choir on stage. In silence and confusion, they gaze upon the women leaving.)

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:

Notes:

The above play is an adaptation of Aristophanes’s ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata. Lysistrata was performed in Athens in 411 BGC. The ancient Greek phrases above are from Lysistrata and are preceded by my English translations, benefiting from the English translations of Roche (2005) and Henderson (2000). The quotes from Lysistrata are used above in the manner of a cento. The full Greek text of Lysistrata is available in the edition of Hall & Geldart (1906) via Perseus and Hayes & Nimis (2017), which includes a parallel English translation by Ian Johnston. The full English translations of George Theodoridis (2000) and Edward Einhorn (2005) are freely available online.

The above play includes parodies of songs from the musical Chicago. Chicago premiered on Broadway in New York City in 1975, was revived in 1996, and made into a movie in 2002. The original score is available through the Internet Archive. The songs parodied above are “Cell Block Tango,” “When You’re Good to Mama,” and “Class.” Here’s “What Became of Class” from the 2002 movie.

The old women of Lysistrata (quoted in part in the agon above) have been interpreted as exemplifying heroic female action to save Athens. Faraone (1997). More generally, Lysistrata has tended to be interpreted gynocentrically:

The Lysistrata has had a deeply divided reception in the last half century or so, hailed as the first feminist text in western culture and at the same time dismissed as an early example of pornography that degrades women.

Faraone (2006) p. 207. Implicitly supporting gynocentrism, classicists have treated uncritically violence against men and continuing sexist draft registration of men, even in societies filled with pious professions of intense concern for gender equality.

The reception of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata is similar to the reception of Virgil’s Dido. However Lysistrata is interpreted, she should be revered as an “intelligent female leader”:

As I now see it, in his portrayal of Lysistrata Aristophanes cleverly alternates between two very different images of an intelligent female leader. As scholars have recognized, in some scenes he casts her in the role of an aristocratic priestess of Athena — very like the much respected priestess of Athena at the time of the play’s performance, a woman who in fact has a similar sounding name: Lysimache. Commentators have not, however, fully appreciated a second persistent image of female authority in the play: Lysistrata the courtesan, who knows how to manipulate men sexually and who controls the sexuality of a group of young and attractive women in a manner not at all unlike the way a madam runs a brothel.

Faraone (2006) p. 207. Classical Arabic literature and medieval European literature provide a more critical perspective on courtesans.

The U.S. military active-duty death statistics by sex that Aristotle quotes are factually correct. The figures for the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars are from CRS (2020) Table 3. The figures for 2015 and subsequent years are those for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which represents U.S military operations in Afghanistan from Jan. 1, 2015. Id. p. 27 and Table 23. The figures encompass active-duty deaths through July 16, 2020. Additional U.S. military active-duty death statistics are available online through the Defense Casualty Analysis System of the U.S. Defense Manpower Data Center.

[images] (1) Information panels “Here We Remember Them All” placed on the left and right side of the Iwo Jima Marine Corps War Memorial in Rosslyn, VA. Photo by Douglas Galbi. (2) Hector disparages Paris for remaining with Helen and orders him to participate in the Trojan War. Painted by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein in 1786. Preserved in the Augusteum (Oldenburg, Germany). Image thanks to James Steakley and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Andromache mourning over the dead body of Hector, killed in the Trojan War. Painted by Jacques-Louis David (excerpted) in 1783. Preserved as accession # D.L. 1969-1 in the Louvre Museum (Paris, France). Via Wikimedia Commons. Images (2) and (3) illustrate elements of Homer’s Iliad.

References:

CRS (Congressional Research Service). 2020. American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics. Updated July 29, 2020. RL32492.

Faraone, Christopher A. 1997. “Salvation and Female Heroics in the Parodos of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 117: 38-59.

Faraone, Christopher A. 2006. “Priestess and Courtesan: The Ambivalence of Female Leadership in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.”  Pp. 207-23 in Faraone, Christopher A. and Laura McClure, eds. Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Hall, F. W. and W. M. Geldart, eds. 1906. Aristophanes. Comoediae. 2nd ed. 2 vols: vol. 1, vol. 2. London: Oxford University Press.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis, eds. 2017. Aristophanes’ Lysistrata: A Dual Language Edition. Greek text edited by F. W. Hall and W. M. Geldart; English translation and notes by Ian Johnston. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing.

Henderson, Jeffrey, ed. and trans. 2000. Aristophanes. Birds. Lysistrata. Women at the Thesmophoria. Loeb Classical Library, 179. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Roche, Paul, trans. 2005. Aristophanes. The Complete Plays. New York, N.Y.: New American Library.

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