I just had to read the Odyssey for my lit class. I wrote 2 different papers on the book about gender hierarchies. The first claimed that the novel is misogynistic and portrayed woman in a negative light. Many of the female characters are used for their beauty, and often trick and manipulate Odysseus and his crew. Kirke's for instance, a semi goddess turns Odysseus's men into swine, but is unable to work her magic on Odysseus who then asserts his power over her and basically rapes her. She is seen as being to sexual and the he must put her in her place. While Odysseus is off taking on multiple lovers while his wife Penelope cries endlessly and refuses to take on another suitor in hopes that her husband will return.
I also wrote a paper arguing the opposite case. I said that if it weren't for the woman in the story, Odysseus and his crew would never have made it home. The goddess Athena is constantly getting Odysseus out of trouble and guiding his way home. His wife Penelope out wits her many suitors by announcing she will choose a husband when she is done weaving a shroud for her father in law, but every night she unties what she worked on the day so she will never finish and never have to remarry. The nymphs and seductresses are strong empowered women secure in their sexuality
I thought it was interesting to have to argue from both sides, and I feel that a lot of topics of sex and gender hierarchies can be viewed from two different ways depending on the perspective. It's also interesting to learn how classic novels do depict sex and gender, since they are so highly looked upon in our society.