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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Women can affect appetite for war

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Columnist

Disgusted with a war that drags on without end, the women of Athens stage a sexual strike, denying their men pleasure until they reconcile themselves to peace.

The strategy works in the bawdy play "Lysistrata," bringing an end to the ruinous Peloponnesian War. But the playwright had only to play out the logic of classical mythology: The Greek god of war, Ares — a trouble child always spoiling for a fight — could be tamed only by the goddess Aphrodite, also known as Venus.

Today, we women seem to have lost faith in this primal source of power, the one conferred by our uniquely feminine status.

There is little sign today of mothers and wives and daughters demanding an end to this senseless war.

Let's face it: Masculinity will always find reasons for needing to fight.

And these always come cloaked in the noble garments of abstraction — honor, freedom, justice, security — before being unmasked as a lust for power. This much has not changed since the Greeks sacked Troy.

But the status of the feminine apparently has slid since war could be motivated by the loss of the beautiful Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships. Today we trot along beside the male, carrying his banners and consoling the loss of our bravest children with patriotic slogans.

I'm sorry the feminist movement has worked to downgrade that mighty feminine force, what one of my co-workers — a local girl through and through — called the power of T&A.

Indeed, Aphrodite has been recast in our time as a harlot. For the ancient Greeks, however, it was understood that the sensual included life's highest aspirations, for Aphrodite was also the goddess of art, beauty, diplomacy and peace.

It makes perfect sense that she alone could drop the testosterone-crazed warrior to his knees.

What is needed to make this world a sweeter, more peaceful, more civilized place to live? More guns? More money? We don't consider elevating the importance of laughter, pleasure, beauty, sensuality and peace.

The sacred feminine power — which doesn't belong only to women, by the way — has been gagged and neuroticized so that all agree to assign it a frivolous second place.

Equal opportunity means balancing male to female bodies in the workplace, while true stability eludes us in the constant sacrifice of pleasure for labor, beauty for power, diplomacy for war.

Look inside any family, however, and it becomes clear that we discredit Aphrodite at our peril.

It is only in union with her that Ares rises beyond being a brute. Let her once refuse to laugh, pack up the children, tear down the flowered curtains and withdraw, and the house will go dark. Ares may rule the world, and find little sweetness in his reward.

Reach Keiko Ohnuma at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com.