When wrapping up the Aeneid in these past few weeks of Humanities Core, Professor Zissos had offered up various themes that was given by Virgil in his epic. One of the themes in Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid that Professor Zissos discusses is the concept of gender roles and how they dictate the fate and actions of certain characters. Men are depicted to be those who have power and take control, and women are shown to be perpetually below them, never to be those in power and instead obey the orders of men. There seem to be drastic consequences for those that defy these set norms, as seen with Dido, queen of Carthage, who although had founded a great and powerful city, had ultimately been fated to fail and die. This is also seen with Juno; although she was great and held powerful abilities as a goddess, she eventually lost the battle against fate.
This idea of extremely powerful and qualified women being destined to never achieve what men can is not only a notion that existed in the ancient Roman empire. It can be seen in our own society today. The concept that most fits this idea is the “glass ceiling theory.” The glass ceiling theory is a term coined by 20th century feminists and it is a metaphor that is defined to be the “unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the career ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements” (1). Despite many believing that we have achieved gender equality in this age, there are many conflicts that stem from gender that prevent this glass ceiling from being shattered.
One thing that halts the breaching of this barrier is the wage gap between male and female workers. A study posted on The Washington Post reported that the “median salary for women working full-time is about 80% of men’s” (2). Whilst having a similar skill level and experience, women still continuously earn less than their male counterparts in a similar occupation. Although other factors such as the occupations chosen and education level come into play, a significant difference in the average pay in men and women still exists. Due to the fact that few acknowledge this gap in pay, women are unable to earn a salary that is equal to a man’s, and thus this glass ceiling has yet to be broken.
One famous modern example of a woman being unable to rise up in the career hierarchy despite being far more qualified than her male counterpart is the 2016 Presidential Election. Although having much more political experience, Hillary Clinton still lost to Donald Trump. This was a chance for the glass ceiling to finally break, however it seems that some women themselves do not want to go against these set societal norms, as 53% of white women voted for Trump. Although winning the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, the system still elected the male candidate. In the end, the glass ceiling again could not be damaged, and women continued to be seen as less than men in the eyes of society.
Of course, the consequences of defying the set societal gender roles and norms are not nearly as extreme as they are depicted in the Aeneid. In addition, our modern society is clearly vastly different from ancient Roman society; women are now unafraid and have enough courage to speak up against these gender roles. The fate of women to be constantly viewed as lower than men will soon cease.