Rewriting The Story of Medusa

How the Story of Medusa Coincides with Feminism and Greek Culture

by Henry Travis / Garnet & Black

Versace, founded by Gianni Versace in 1978, is an Italian luxury brand that holds a reputation as one of the top design houses internationally. Versace was inspired by Greek culture and mythology, hence Versace’s Medusa logo and use of Greek accents. He also created his brand on a foundation of feminism. Donatella Versace, Versace’s current artistic director, has strengthened this foundation. In an interview with Donatella per Grazia Magazine, a women’s magazine in Italy, Ms. Versace discusses her motivations when designing her collections. “Women live complex lives; we’re complex people, with many different sides to what we do every single day. When I'm designing my collections, I’m always thinking about the woman today and the intricacies in her life.” Recognizing the power of women today, Ms. Versace said, “[this is] the power I want to express in my shows.” Ms. Versace sees fashion as a way for women to embrace their beauty and power.

The story of Medusa is open to interpretation as the story has developed into many forms, from ancient poets and writers to creatives today. While early interpretations describe Medusa as a monster from birth, others claim her to be a beautiful maiden who is turned into a monster. In 8 AD, the poet Ovid describes in his epic "Metamorphosis" that Medusa is a beautiful maiden with even more stunning hair, which caught the attention of many suitors. Poseidon sexually assaulted Medusa in a temple of the goddess Athena. Athena, disgusted that her temple had been defiled, blamed Medusa for the assault due to her captivating looks. Out of rage, Athena transforms her into a monster as punishment. While a monster, Medusa has the power to turn anyone who meets her eyes into stone. The Greek hero Perseus then decapitates Medusa for a prize. Ovid’s story gives more light on Medusa's nature, but regardless, the powerful Medusa still falls under the hands of a society with a skewed mindset.

This photo story was created to highlight the women of Greece and what inspires them about their culture. With help from models Danai Angelidis and Maria Georgopoulos, this piece discusses the influence of Greek culture firsthand. In Greece, individuality is commonly practiced through fashion. The culture of Greece is collectively very fashion-forward and fashion-conscious when compared to the United States. People put thought into every outfit, no matter the occasion. Angelidis said, “I don't want to dress the way that American girls dress. I still dress the way I would in Greece; that is the one thing I can’t let go of.” Angelidis goes on to explain that the typical woman in America will wear jeans and a top to go out, whereas a woman in Greece will dress, “to the nines.”

Being in America is a significant change for Angelidis and Georgopoulos. In the U.S., cars are the primary source of transportation, and homes are the primary source of entertainment. In Greece, Angelidis and Georgopoulos are never home. Greeks are always outside with friends and family. Whether they’re walking to the marina or enjoying a coffee in the square, the value of togetherness makes the culture special. In a country so different from their origin, Angelidis and Georgopoulos stay connected to their culture in the U.S. by spending time with their immediate family in the States and engaging in Greek dance.  In addition, they use fashion as an outlet to connect to their culture. Angelidis shares that she gets her inspiration for her personal style from the fashion scene in Greece. Examples of common fashion trends include jewelry, mixing and matching simple items with dressier clothing and choosing distinctive styles to represent one's personality. “I see what’s popular in Greece, and I go with that,” Angelidis said. By being conscious of their style choices in the U.S., Angelidis and Georgopoulos are able to express their background and strengthen their sense of identity. 

A person’s background ultimately shapes who they are. For Angelidis and Georgopoulos, their Greek background is what empowers them. Geogopoulos speaks for both Angelidis and herself when she says being Greek, "is a conversation starter and a confidence boost. I like the fact that I’m different from other people.” Georgopoulos admits that this isn’t how she always felt and that it took her a while to gain confidence. Now, she proudly shares and embraces her background with excitement. However, Angelidis and Georgopoulos's background is commonly misinterpreted. Western society tends to dramatize Greek mythology and its influence on the people of Greece. In terms of Greek gods and goddesses, Angelidis said, “I hate when people assume that we worship them.” Georgopoulos doesn’t like when, “people think that Greek people are in-tune with mythology, but nobody talks about it in Greece.” She points out that Greece is a very diverse country, representing people from all walks of life. 

Angelidis and Georgopoulos both have strong and successful women in their lives to look up to. For Angelidis, this is her grandma. “I always looked up to my grandma. My grandma grew up in a poor village as a middle child of five, and she was the first person in my family to go to college. Way back in the 1930s, she became one of the most famous lawyers in Athens. She made a name for herself and my mom became a doctor after her.” Georgopoulos mentions that in general, she knows a lot of strong women, but she specifically talks about her cousin, "She is my role model. She works for a good company and is doing what I want to do. She is a girlboss." Because Angelidis and Georgopoulos were raised by women with such work ethics and strength, they have learned to embody these traits. Aside from the women in their families, Georgopoulos and Angelidis also make it clear that overall the women in Greece are very independent and career-focused. Not only do all of these women influence Angelidis and Georgopoulos to develop their own stance on feminism, but they give them confidence and motivation to practice their independence and achieve a career.

In Greece, the cultural display of women's empowerment ignites national advocacy when there is unrest. Georgopoulos and Angelidis agree that Greek mythology is dramatized, but they also believe that it can be interpreted in any way. Thus, Medusa can be argued to be a symbol of empowerment. Medusa was powerful both as a maiden and a monster because she possessed the power to allure men and inflict death. Though the “hero” Perseus took her power in the end, Medusa remains a symbol of strength and power for women. These women look to Medusa as her story represents the reality we experience today: women's loss of power. “I hate that she was such a powerful woman, and she was only used to further a man’s story.” Angelidis says. Georgopoulos adds, “she was a side aspect when she should’ve been the main character.”

Medusa's story alludes to the fact that society views women as intimidating when they present their power, knowledge and independence. This piece offers a positive perception of Medusa, encouraging women to align with the outlook that their power is not a threat but something to be celebrated. The piece specifically aims to show the beautiful women of Greece and the richness and influence of their culture: a culture that inspires fashion, spreads light through togetherness and raises role models. This is a culture to be shared.