Menkaure and His Wife

“Behind every great man is a great woman” is a common phrase for successful men, one that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to modern feminists, who have in turn adopted slogans such as, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Gender equality seems to be a new movement, eager to slough off the patriarchy of the past. This statue, however, “Pharaoh Menkaure and his wife,” seems to challenge the idea that gender inequality has been a constant. It is and was controversial, however. In a time when the pharaoh would have been shown as double the size of anyone else in the piece, he stands in equal size and stance as his wife. Pharaohs were also so interested in showing power that their images would be without any identifying facial features, or human emotion, and yet pains were taken to show affection between Menkaure and his wife. Their pose, the pharaoh’s wife standing at his side with her arm hooked around her husband, seems to suggest that each needs the other. This idea would have been staggering to ancient viewers and shows a level of gender equality that seems modern. Menkaure’s wife’s arms hook more than just her husband.

–Alana Nardini