Medusa is another of a long line of tragic figures in Greek mythology. She is 100% a victim, and a model for discrimination against women. She was once a beautiful woman, who was very proud of her hair. And Poseidon took note of this fact. And so he raped her.
Wait, this isn’t the end of the horrors against her.
The rape took place in one of Athena’s temples, and so Athena, childish goddess that she is, punished Medusa, transforming her into a gorgon, complete with snaky hair.
Now this is going to get sticky. I’m fully prepared for hate mail on this one.
As I said before, this story does discriminate against Medusa. She was raped, and yet she is punished. This is what has become known as classic victim-blaming. It happens many times throughout Greek mythology, especially with rape. And, somewhat surprisingly, many times it is a goddess who issues the punishment against other women. We can see it with Hercules who attempted to punish Alcmene and kill Hercules. We see it with Artemis casting out Callisto after Zeus rapes her.
Now, I’m not out to mitigate or explain that those victim-blaming are not bad. I’m not out to lay it at the feet of the victims. I’m going to offer up an explanation as to why the perpetrators were not punished. They couldn’t be.
The gods, by and large, do not have direct conflicts with one another. Zeus kind of did away with that sort of thing, and also put in place a law that one god cannot undo what another god did. It was the only way to prevent chaos.
So Poseidon rapes Medusa. The only person that Athena can punish for this is Medusa. She can’t do anything substantial to Poseidon. She might complain to Zeus, but that’s about as far as it would go. Yes, the responsibility for not getting raped was put onto the victims in this manner, and it’s horribly tragic. It was also just a fact of the reality of the times. It also underscores what I’ve said before, that the gods are very childish. Even Athena, the goddess of wisdom, cannot help but throw tantrums and blame Medusa for what Poseidon did.
This is also not to say that it doesn’t happen when the genders are reversed. The Greek goddesses did their own share of raping, but that’s for other myths.