A New Type of Role Model

Ad agency dubs “young women who embrace their independence” “Atalantas” (link no longer available).

Sounds wonderful, although I’m leery of agency-driven anything. Not a bad collection of qualities, though:

How to Spot an Atalanta

— She is independent: Single throughout her 20s, she is unwilling to settle for less than the best.
— She has a bold attitude: And a lot of it. Some may call her unswaying or stubborn; we see it as her need to assert herself.
— She loves to travel: A yearning for adventure and a spirit that can’t be contained in one place is part of what makes her unique.
— She stands out wherever she is, both for her ideals and her devil-may-care attitude.
— Living in the public eye may not define the Atalanta, but it’s something she is comfortable with and sometimes relishes.

The role models listed are too actress-heavy in lieu of other types of accomplished women, in my opinion, but I want to know why I didn’t hear about THIS myth when we studied legends in school:

In Greek mythology, Atalanta broke with convention and refused to settle down until she finished her education and saw the world; when she finally did marry, it was on her own terms.

14 Responses to “A New Type of Role Model”

  1. Ali Kokmen Says:

    Hey, I remember the story of Atalanta from Free to Be You and Me, but yeah, I do think it’s fair to say that it’s been perhaps strangely under-represented in the modern day.

  2. Thom Says:

    Atalanta? Who desired perpetual virginity but had many admirers of her beauty-whome she killed if they lost to her in competitions? Who married a man because he was able to defeat her? The version they provide seems a bit romaticized and whitewashed.

  3. Ragenll Says:

    What school did you go to? I read that myth three times in Elementary School. Once in the library, once in reading class as a Greek story, and once as a fairy tale castle-princess adaptation.

  4. david brothers Says:

    Yeah, I thought the story of Atalanta was pretty well known?

  5. David Oakes Says:

    Didn’t get it in school – we read Odysseus, three seperate times – but I did get it in everything from “Bullfinch’s Mythology” to the TIME/LIFE Big Book o’ Greek Stuff.

    And yeah, great role model. So vain that she would kill anyone who couldn’t match up to her ideal. (Which, I would point out, is a man that could dominate her.) And so greedy that she would lose a race just to pick up a few lumps of gold. (Or use it as an excuse to throw the race, because deep down she really wanted to be “won” by a man.)

    But as the only female Argonaut, she totally kicks ass. (Paging Diana Prince…)

  6. Johanna Says:

    I suspect some of you are younger than I am, which may account for different schooling. :)

    Thom: oooh, whitewashing! So she was the Red Sonja of her time?

  7. Thom Says:

    I just find it funny that they tweak the myth to fit modern ideas…she was not actually putting off marriage. She was avoiding it entirely because she was told a prophesy that marriage would be her ruin. Not quite the same as putting it off until she had travelled and seen the world and got an education. :)

    She may very well be the Greek Red Sonya. :)

  8. Ali Kokmen Says:

    The version they provide seems a bit romaticized and whitewashed.

    And other myths aren’t? In some versions of their stories Hercules, Theseus, Jason are hardly moral exemplars (none of the have entirely healthy husband/wife relationships for example…) and those aspects of their stories are sometimes overlooked or downplayed as they’re retold for whatever parable purpose.

    Reframing mythology to fit more modern sensibility is nothing new. It’s important to be aware of what may be glossed over or whitewashed, sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any new version of that mythology is invalid or deficient.

  9. Thom Says:


    I don’t disagree…but I think going back to the greek myths for role models is pretty much an exercise in re-writing the myths. Greek myths are less about role models and more about tragedy. So it kind of makes me chuckle when I see how they get re-written for modern tastes and sensibilities.

  10. Bill D. Says:

    You’re not alone, Johanna. Between English and Latin classes, we covered all kinds of mythology in high school, and I don’t recall Atalanta coming up at all.

  11. David Oakes Says:

    “I think going back to the greek myths for role models is pretty much an exercise in re-writing the myths.”

    Yeah, but naming a target group “Elizabeth Cady Stantons” doesn’t have the same cachet for Marketing.

    And yes, I do feel that “new versions” of the myth are invalid and deficient. There is a range where they can be understood in context, especially where gender politics are concerned. And greater understanding might bring to light original variants that had been banished by someone else’s agenda. But when you try and give yourself Classical importance by taking the myth as your own, but keep only the name and the race – and have her win – I don’t think you are doing anyone any good.

    Since there are examples of women who did “put off marriage until they got an education and travelled, and then on there terms”, why not give them the credit as Role Models they deserve, rather than trying to convince everyone that the Greeks did it first?

  12. Ralf Haring Says:

    I knew the myth, but I don’t think we covered it in school. I don’t think we ever had a really comprehensive section on mythology other than the occasional Greek play in English.

  13. Ragenll Says:

    I suspect some of you are younger than I am, which may account for different schooling. :)

    I think the 20-40 year old textbooks in my school might adjust for that.

  14. Sabrina Says:





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