University of Venus. A very catchy name. It sounds good, with the resonant repetition of the middle “ve”: uniVErsity of VEnus. It clicks on the tongue and in the brain. But is it really under the sign of Venus that we should want to start our endeavor? As someone who spent the past seven years of her life looking at the role of myths in contemporary politics, I was immediately provoked by the title of our blog.
Venus. Is Venus “right” for our virtual venture? Venus is the name the Romans gave to Aphrodite, the goddess they borrowed from the Greeks. Who is Venus? According to my favorite source of information about words, the OED, Venus is “the goddess of beauty and love (esp. sensual love)”. The sensual side of things is further connoted by the other meanings of the word: it designates a palæolithic fertility figure or “the desire for sexual intercourse; indulgence of sexual desire; lust, venery” (the last word a direct descendant of our original noun). Finally, “Venus” can be lifted to a high level of abstraction defining the very idea of charm and beauty, or can be taken down to earth to refer to the attractive and beautiful women one meets in everyday life.
What are we left with as a general impression? The very ideal of the feminine, as we have been used to since Antiquity, perfectly illustrated by Botticelli’s painting.
Venus is how a woman should be, the unattainable standard of perfection. But, and here comes my critique, this is the ideal of a woman as seen by a man. Should we embrace this definition of the feminine in this blog, which specifically aims to change the predominance of the male element? And moreover, should we take Venus, the goddess of love, of sex, of the body, of sensual beauty to be our protective spirit?
My first reaction was NO. I am more of a Minerva type, I thought. Minerva, perhaps not as gorgeous but certainly much wiser. The goddess of reason and not of the emotions. The rather cold-hearted Minerva, beweaponed, a strategist on the battle field, a planner, an achiever, determined, combative, brilliant. The University of Minerva. Well, I can definitely feel the obvious lack of clang. It does not sound as good, does not resonate with the public. We want to be heard, we want to be read.
And then, The University of Venus may be actually a better choice not only for promotion purposes. It embraces a label we might not automatically agree with, and turns it on its head. We are the mind of the heart, emotional intelligence, intelligence tout court. The University of Venus brings together women, beautiful, emotionally developed women, passionate about their cause. The same women who not only can reflect theoretically, but can also feel, believe, engage with the world. We are both Minerva and Venus. The brain is in fact the headquarters of both reason and feelings. And least be forgotten, the heart is just a muscle.