The seen and unseen: How the image of Medusa in art reflects women in law and society

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Piper Keel


Medusa, mythology, law, art, society, representation, gender, feminism, misogyny


This essay explores the importance of image and visibility within society, and how this equates to representation in the law, by exploring who is visible in art and the evolution of how they are represented. Representation in art is a reflection of representation in society—politically, socially, and legally—and thus representation, being seen, is ultimately linked with having a voice in society. This way of looking at art, and who is seen in art, can be used to trace the evolution of the representation of women and victims of sexual violence throughout history. Through a close study of the image of Medusa and the law during the period in which each image was produced, this essay explores how art reflects changes in our justice and legal systems and addresses women’s justice, primarily in relation to sexual assault. The development of Medusa’s story in art from Ancient Greece to #MeToo aids in tracking the development of the ‘rape narrative’ in the legal system. The exploration of this evolution highlights the link between image—the act of being seen by society—and law, and how those who are not given proper representation in art are often not given equal representation before the law.

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