The Cassandra Metaphor

January 7, 2019
The Cassandra metaphor refers to when a woman's achievements are ignored in patriarchal societies. Learn all about this phenomenon here!

The Cassandra metaphor is used to refer to a person who believes they can predict the future but is powerless to change it. This odd phenomenon can torment people who have it when they make predictions that other people don’t believe.

In Greek Mythology, Cassandra was one of the princesses of Troy. She was Priam and Hecuba’s daughter. She was a beautiful woman who was blessed with the gift of being able to see the future. However, nobody believed her predictions.

Cassandra was able to anticipate the result of many disastrous events. For example, she predicted that her people would accept the famous Trojan Horse. Cassandra’s family thought she was crazy and didn’t believe her seemingly nonsensical story about the Greeks’ intentions to attack the city. As we all know, Cassandra was right. The Trojans were defeated and their city was sacked and destroyed.

Cassandra was a woman who no one understood. Some versions of the myth say that her gift was a divine punishment the god Apollo imposed upon her. This punishment came about because Cassandra rejected the deity. He got his revenge on her by bestowing a gift upon her that would only frustrate her.

The Cassandra complex is named after a character in greek myth.

The Cassandra metaphor and the invisibility of women

The term Cassandra metaphor was coined based on Cassandra’s stories. People have applied it to those who tend to make predictions, often catastrophic ones, that other people don’t believe. Due to scientific advancement, our society tends to lean toward rationality and empiricism. This type of thinking ignores irrational notions such as imaginative visions.

As such, most people ignore these types of findings or believe them to be simple coincidences. Even in Ancient Greece, the ruling patriarchal society considered femininity synonymous with incompleteness, weakness, and a susceptibility to be dominated and exploited.

Submission and silence were virtues women had to have at the time. This mentality, which still persists to some extent today, has pushed many women into invisibility.

The Cassandra metaphor might explain how patriarchal reasoning has taken responsibility for some women’s achievements. Thus, it doesn’t recognize women’s achievements and transfers them to figures such as their fathers, brothers, or husbands. These days, it’s not difficult to see this invisibility among women. For example, in the media, a woman’s success depends on her physical appearance.

An overworked woman.

Woman as merchandise and property

The myth tells that, once the Greeks sacked and invaded Troy, the soldiers delivered Cassandra to the Greek King Agamemnon as a gift. This tale is an ancient mirror that also shows us how society sees a woman’s body as merchandise. People still consider it to be an object for the pleasure of men or a form of advertisement to sell products.

The objectification of the female body is the order of the day. That’s one reason why most women find significant barriers to their personal and professional development. In other words, society judges women on their physical appearance or age more than on their abilities, intellectual potential, or achievements.

Additionally, many women have to deal with institutional skepticism. The patriarchal society often marginalizes or silences women who want to fight to destroy gender roles and stereotypes.

Some women, after overcoming multiple obstacles and disadvantages, manage to access positions of power. They also acquire recognition for roles beyond those traditionally expected of them. Some examples of these traditional qualities are beauty or the ability to take care of others.

Many women are often delegitimized, disqualified, or simply not taken seriously. We can link this directly to the Cassandra metaphor. It’s the perfect example of how society turns a deaf ear to the achievements of women who rise above stereotypes.