Goddess Troubles: Gender & Femininity in Lore Olympus

by: , March 30, 2023

A contemporary retelling of the Persephone myth is bound to address the gendered dynamics of the original. Rachel Smythe’s comic Lore Olympus (2018-) does so, situating Persephone in a modern city where she experiences the harassment and sexism that any modern young woman faces.  The revised setting sets the stage for updated characters and conflicts, whose modernised lives and troubles spool out weekly in a kind of digital comic soap opera. The serial form provides the time and space to thoroughly explore not only the original Persephone myth, but Persephone’s interactions with other mythological figures and stories, creating a network of mythological plot and characters rather than disparate (albeit connected) individual tales. Thus, the reader can see Persephone not as an isolated young woman, but as a social being embedded in a society with certain expectations and conventions around gender. Smythe also uses Greek myth and the visual dimension of comics to draw a link between modern quotidian forms of misogyny and a deeper psychosocial fear of the creative potential of women. Lore Olympus is a critical text as well as a fictional one, positing a world in which femininity is characterised by the ability to grow and create, and misogyny driven by fear and envy of that ability and of what change may come out of it. This ability to grow and create stems from the metaphorical womb, the ability to create life in the literal womb metaphorised into the overall potential for creation and change. Some writers have argued elsewhere that this creates ‘womb envy,’ a parallel to Freud’s ‘penis envy:’ the envy that men have for women’s ability to create children (Bayne). Writer Emma Bayne argues that this womb envy may motivate misogyny, as men react violently toward the objects of their envy. In Lore Olympus, Smythe appears to agree, presenting Persephone as an exemplar of femininity through female sex appeal, feminine power, vulnerability, wrath, fertility, and literal plant growth. Though this depiction is powerful, making a theoretical argument as well as a social one, it is also bioessentialist in nature.

Bioessentialism, or biological essentialism, is the belief that people’s biological characteristics (usually gender or race) absolutely determine aspects of their selfhood, such as abilities, personality, skills, preferences, and more. It is often used to argue the inherent superiority of one group over others; for instance, bioessentialism is the ethos that undergirds race science, the attempt to prove ‘scientifically’ that black people are inferior to whites. Tying the core of femininity to wombs, even metaphorically, is a bioessentialist vision of womanhood, restricting womanhood to the ability to carry children, harming transgender as well as cisgender women by reducing them to their physical capacities. In a study on how essentialist beliefs affect a person’s willingness to uphold the status quo, Victoria Brescoll et al write, ‘One way of justifying the system and existing status hierarchies, such as those between men and women, may be to explain group differences as immutable’ (892). They define essentialism in part as ‘identity-determining, historically invariant, and immutable’ (892), or as the explanation used to justify status hierarchies. Because of essentialism’s role in upholding misogyny and other forms of hierarchy-producing bias, it is ironic to find it in Lore Olympus, where Smythe otherwise seems to be embarked on a feminist project. It is not impossible for women to be misogynistic, or to subscribe to bioessentialism, but it hampers the efficacy of a feminist argument. In this paper, I seek to untangle how Smythe uses Greek myth to represent misogyny and argue for the creative essence of women, as well as how she attempts to subvert the bioessentialist nature of tying womanhood to fertility.

Firstly, I argue that Lore Olympus acts as a feminist text, due not only to its content but also to its form. Lore Olympus is hosted on Webtoon (stylised on the site as WEBTOON), a platform that is particularly well-suited to addressing the contemporary conversation about sexism. Webtoon is the platform of choice for many young people reading comics online. The site itself mostly draws people under the age of 24, and as of 2020 has 60 million active monthly users, or 15 million hits per day; 50% of these readers are female (Ji-Hoon 2020, Reid 2019). Of the many comics hosted on the site, Lore Olympus is one of the most popular, marketed aggressively both on the site itself and in media coverage (Lehoczky 2021, Salkowitz 2021, and others).  It has been optioned for a movie adaption by The Jim Henson Company and published in print by HarperCollins. Furthermore, Webtoon is structured with reader participation in mind (Lamerichs 2020: 218), encouraging readers to react to the comic and share their own stories. Ahrum Jeon writes that ‘the Webtoon reader discussion forum is a space where youth and young adults from geographically disparate places can discursively engage in literacy practices regardless of previously held affiliations’ (2021: 558). They analyse the messages, themes, plots, characters, and other aspects of the literary productions that bring them together in that affinity space. This forms a space for literary practice, as Jeon writes, but also social commentary and connection.  In the case of Lore Olympus, this includes readers sharing further information about the original myths, interpreting how Smythe has changed them and why. It also includes analysis of the comic’s depictions of misogyny, together with personal stories related to those depictions. It is a rich space for discussion about not only the comic, but also the greater experience of misogyny both in ancient Greece and today. It is worth noting that the comments section is strictly a post-hoc discussion; the comments are not responded to in the text of the comic. While this reduces the amount of apparent interaction between the comic/Smythe and the comments section/readers, it also means that there is no culture of discussion that assumes the author is monitoring or reading the comments. There is no moderation, except for  in the event of threats or hate speech that violate Webtoon’s terms of use, leaving room for a wide variety of perspectives to be shared.

Indeed, Jeon describes the comments section as a space of care, ‘constructing a community through comments, liking or disliking, and writing relevant replies’ such that ‘the discussion forum was full of mutual respect, and the members of the community ensured that the care was felt, shared, and circulated across the globe’ (2021: 660). Jeon specifically addresses the comments of a different Webtoon, which also features the daily life of a young woman protagonist. She notes that the troubles of the main character, in this case bullying, prompt readers to share their own experiences with bullying—but also to talk about methods of handling bullying in real life, as well as ethical concerns and possible moral obligations. Jeon writes, ‘[a]lthough the reader discussion forum was not created for a didactic purpose, it served here as a place of learning about social justice and social responsibility, where it empowered the participants to be better people with more fulfilling lives’ (2021: 661). Because the equivalent reader comments section for Lore Olympus is filled with many reactions to a story about Persephone’s experiences of misogyny, Lore Olympus similarly works as a feminist text, prompting its readers to learn about feminist issues and misogyny’s influence on contemporary women. Like the forum Jeon analysed, it may not have been intended as a didactic space, but it is nonetheless a learning space.

This makes it particularly concerning if the comic promotes a bioessentialist view of gender; bioessentialist feminism can contribute to gender policing such as anti-trans+ and gender nonconforming harassment, which is particularly common online (Pearce, Erikainen, and Vincent 2020). [1] As I demonstrate below, the comic prevaricates on the subject, centring growth/creation/fertility as the core of femininity, but also including non-biological creation acts within the narrative. While gender studies and trans studies scholars write extensively on how gender is performed and perceived, the fact remains that to many people a woman is defined primarily by her imagined capacity (whether fulfilled or not) to give birth. If that is no longer seen as a viable criterion, due to valuable political work by feminists and other activists, then what defines womanhood and femininity? The battle over the meaning of womanhood can be seen playing out in many online spaces, fought by transgender and non-conforming people, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, proponents of ‘traditional’ [2] family structures, and others. The struggle to find a commonsense definition that is not bioessentialist has real stakes: confusion over gender norms and increasingly expansive gender practices fuels, in part, anti-trans violence and political action, as well as regressive social movements like the trad wife movement (see footnote 2 below). Feminists fought for much of the 20th century for women not to be defined by childbirth; now Smythe and other cultural producers attempt to answer the question: if women are not defined by childbearing, how can they be defined? Lore Olympus and its comments section act as a public forum for discussion of these issues, shaped by Smythe’s argument in the form of her retelling of Persephone’s story.

History of Persephone

Persephone, also called Kore, also known as Proserpina to the Romans, is the daughter of Demeter. Demeter is an agricultural goddess, associated with the harvest. Kore, which means ‘maiden,’ or ‘girl,’ is the name often used when emphasising the goddess’s role as Demeter’s daughter, whereas Persephone, usually taken to mean ‘bringer of death’ [3] (Smith 1873), is used to emphasise her connection to Hades (Proserpina is simply the Roman version of Persephone). Persephone/Kore is associated with a number of cults and worship traditions, often spanning her role as a goddess of growth, harvest, and related topics due to her ties to Demeter, and her role as a goddess of death and the underworld, due to her marriage to Hades, king of the underworld (San Cristóbal 2020). In the story as told by Homer (in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter), Persephone is playing in a field when she is abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld, and taken below to become his bride. Demeter rages and mourns her lost daughter, as she cannot travel to the Underworld. As a result, the crops fail and the humans starve; more importantly, they cannot make offerings to the gods. As a result, Zeus agrees to send Hermes to retrieve Persephone, in order to placate Demeter. However, while in the Underworld, Persephone eats a varying number of pomegranate seeds, depending on the source (the Homeric Hymn says one; the number is increased by later writers such as Ovid), which bind her to returning to the Underworld for at least part of the year (Gantz 1996). So it is that half the year, when Persephone and Demeter are together, there is abundance, and the land is fertile: spring and summer. In the other half, Persephone reigns as the Queen of the Underworld beside Hades, and Demeter grieves, bringing about fall and winter. A myth that explains the origin of the seasons also carries with it powerful messages about gender, marriage, death, fertility, and grief, which shows in the diversity of types of worship Persephone received—fertility and agrarian rites as part of the Thesmophoroi, eschatological as part of the Eleusinian mysteries, and more. It is often interpreted as an etiological myth about the changing of the seasons, as well as a myth concerning the transformation from unmarried daughter to married woman (San Cristóbal 2020).

Margot K. Louis writes, ‘The goddess Koré [sic], Persephone, Proserpina moves powerfully through the literature written in English over the past century and a half,’ partially because of ‘interest in goddesses generally revived in the nineteenth century’ (2016: 1). The use of her myth has varied widely. Susan Gubar notes that feminists ‘condemn the myth for perpetuating destructive stereotypes of female passivity and masochism,’ referring to Persephone’s abduction and subsequent marriage and co-rulership with Hades, but that other women writers ‘have used the myth in quite divergent ways to explore their attitudes toward their gender’ (1979: 302-303)—for example, casting Persephone as a woman in love who chooses to move to the Underworld. [4] This speaks to the antiquity of the story, as it has been told, retold, and re-interpreted throughout the years, as well as the truth that ‘historical depictions of [Persephone] reveal the cultural norms pertaining to nature and gender at particular times and places’ (Dilly 2009: 63). For example, is the forced marriage a rape, only an abduction, or an accepted marriage practice of the time? Does Persephone consent to eating the pomegranate or is she forced? If she eats it under her own volition, does she know that it will tie her to the underworld? These questions are answered differently even when different scholars interpret the same classical sources, as the Ancient Greek word used can mean both rape in the modern sense, and seizure in a non-sexual sense. Further complicating the matter, Ancient Greek marriage traditions had little to do with the wishes of the bride and could be construed as against her wishes without being a rape in the same way as the word now implies (Seitkasimova 2019: 53).

Even within the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, one of the historical sources of the myth, ‘when related through the female characters of the Hymn (Demeter, Persephone, and Hekate) the emphasis is on violence, rape, and death. The male characters (Helios and Hades) interpret the same event as a marriage. Each of the characters views the events in a different way, according to his or her own role and gender’ (DeBloois 1997: 248). This is replicated in Lore Olympus, as Apollo and Persephone have a sexual encounter that Persephone views as rape, but Apollo insists was consensual at the time. In the Homeric Hymn, Demeter asks Helios who stole Persephone away, and Helios tells them it was Hades, but adds, ‘But I urge you, goddess: stop your loud cry of lamentation … It is not unseemly to have, of all the immortals, such a son-in-law as Hades’ (Homer, lines 82-84). In Lore Olympus, Apollo also tells Persephone that she would be lucky to be with an immortal like him. ‘Imagine it,’ he says. ‘With my help, you could become an Olympian! [I] know you might be a little intimidated since I’m already an Olympian. But don’t worry, I don’t consider it a downgrade’ (Smythe 2018: 101). Though Helios and Apollo are different gods, they share the impression that the importance of the male aggressor to godly society should more than make up for any distress caused thus far. Despite these admonishments, Demeter and Persephone continue to protest the situations in their respective stories. These parallel stories demonstrate that even when the myth’s details are changed, it can still work on a similar thematic level, underscoring the difference of perspective, values, and emotions between the genders.

The interpretations of the story have also followed a similar trajectory, according to Barbara J. Dilly. In a society that relies relied on agricultural success, Demeter was a powerful goddess, capable of causing mass suffering. The feminine power over life and death, both of plants and people, cast Demeter as the main character. However, as time went on, ‘Demeter is increasingly subordinated by male artists … [g]radually, images of Persephone reflect the transition in the popular culture away from independent female subjects who dominate life, death, and the creative cycles of renewal in nature. Persephone becomes the object of male desires’ (Dilly 2009: 65). In the contemporary moment, Persephone can represent many things, while Demeter continues to be a less central character. Persephone is available for symbolic deployment as an object of male desire, yes, but also as an independent woman, an innocent victim, a lost daughter, a lost subjecthood, an explorer of the subterranean, and more, including her own stint as an absent mother figure in the recent massively successful video game Hades, in which her son Zagreus searches for her in a kind of role reversal of the original myth.

In Lore Olympus, fertility and growth are vital themes, holding equal weight with themes of sexuality and heterosexual relations. Smythe places Persephone at the centre but does not neglect the thematic weight of Demeter’s agricultural domain. Instead, she grants Persephone the powers of a fertility goddess, capable of controlling the growth of plant life even in the underworld where nothing blooms. [5] By combining Persephone’s traditional role with powers usually given to her mother, Smythe creates a Persephone who encapsulates different layers and aspects of constructed femininity in the world of the comic. She directly connects an avatar of femininity and an avatar of fertility, implying that femininity and fertility are at least partially co-constitutive. This implication is at the heart of Lore Olympus’s gender constructions—part conservative emphasis on fertility as a vital part of womanhood, part expansive re-definition of what fertility can encompass. Lore Olympus uses the figure of Persephone to attempt to answer the question of what makes a woman, and what makes someone feminine, while trying to avoid gender essentialist narratives of pregnancy as womanhood.

Lore Olympus’s Persephone

In the world of Lore Olympus, the mortal realm is recognisably Ancient Greece, but the realm of the gods is far more current—the gods have smartphones, post pictures to ‘Fatesbook,’ and party in outfits drawn from contemporary fashion magazines. As the comic begins, Persephone has just enrolled in university, leaving behind the Mortal Realm where she was raised and joining the rest of the gods in Olympus for the first time. Few have ever heard of her, because her mother Demeter kept her existence secret, but within the first few pages, she is entangled with Olympian royalty, as King of the Underworld Hades is enchanted by her beauty. From there, the story follows a complicated route, weaving through interpersonal relationships romantic, familial, and friendly; power conflicts among the three kings (Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus) as well as between Zeus and his wife Hera; and the mystery of Persephone’s growing powers. Underneath it all, literally as well as figuratively, is the looming threat of Kronos, the former king of the gods who became a tyrant, swallowed his children (the current kings), and only with great effort was defeated and held prisoner in Tartarus.


Figure 1. Persephone’s first appearance emphasises her femininity and innocence (1).


Before the reader is introduced to any of that, however, they see Persephone: a pink and curvaceous young woman with large, sparkling eyes, and a tendency to accidentally sprout flowers from her hair (Smythe 2018: 1). Smythe’s art style is organic and hazy; washes of bright colour fill the panels. While mortals are coloured realistically, every immortal character has a chromatic theme: Hera is yellow, Artemis and Apollo are both purple, Poseidon is green, and so on. Persephone’s colour is pink, underscoring her femininity and connection to flowers, especially roses (within the comic: the myth makes no special mention of roses). She is also noticeably shorter and curvier than the other characters, doubling down on traditional female traits. The first panel in which the reader sees her full self (not just her eyes or another piece of her) also shows her in a white dress with a veil. It is meant to be a party dress, but also clearly resembles a wedding gown, reminding readers of the primary event in her myth as well as her virginal status. It also emphasises her cleavage and hips. Thus, from the beginning, Persephone is set up as an avatar of femininity and gendered sex appeal, in what is initially an uncomplicated fashion—that is to say, what we are accustomed to seeing as the product of the male gaze. She is both sexually mature, as portrayed by her curvaceous form, and virginal, as portrayed by her wedding dress-like apparel and the innocence and naivete required to wear such a thing to a party: the ideal woman, according to the traditional patriarchal gaze.

We are also introduced to Hades; earlier in the first episode, in fact. He is blue, a traditionally masculine colour, with lighter hair that emphasises his greater age. In contrast with Persephone, his character design has a sharp jawline, even sharper nose, and broad angled shoulders, emphasising both masculinity and a certain dangerous or aggressive element. In later scenes where the two of them are together, Persephone appears to be approximately half his height (and shoulder width), emphasising sexual dimorphism, another bioessentialist trait. Initially, Smythe does not contrast Hades and Persephone, but rather Persephone and Apollo, in the first of her explorations of forms of misogyny.

Daylight Misogyny

Before Apollo ever appears in the comic, it is mentioned that he is popular, but also grating; Hades says, ‘How you ladies tolerate him is beyond me’ (Smythe 2018: 10). [6] Nonetheless, because Persephone is staying with Artemis, she meets Apollo, who is Artemis’s brother. Among the things he does soon after meeting her are: say Hades ‘was only being nice so he could get in your pants’ (Smythe 2018: 23); criticise Artemis’s outfit, saying ‘I can see your damned belly button. Maybe you should cover up’ (Smythe 2018: 24); and then excuse himself for his bad behaviour by saying, ‘I got frustrated because you don’t seem to realise that you were in a lot of danger [meeting Hades] … This wouldn’t have happened if I had been at the party’ (Smythe 2018: 24). Persephone objects to his statements and his actions, such as putting his coat on her or grabbing her to take a picture without her permission, but he does not take her objections seriously, and Artemis apologises on behalf of her brother without fully understanding the meaning of his actions, even though allowing him in the space breaks her ban on men entering the home in the first place. This sort of treatment is familiar to many people who have been dismissed or had their personal space invaded by men; it is the background noise of misogyny.

Figure 2. Persephone gives up on actively resisting Apollo (26).


Unfortunately for Persephone, Apollo continues to follow the script, and eventually pressures her into having sex. He claims that she’s been flirting with him, that she should be flattered by the attention, and that refusing is immature. She doesn’t say no directly, but pushes him away, and reminds him that she is attending university under a scholarship granted with the stipulation that she remain a sacred virgin. He pushes her further, and eventually she reluctantly says, ‘Ok!’ (Smythe 2018: 26). The art shows, however, that this is far from enthusiastic consent—her brows are furrowed, and she looks away from Apollo and the reader, frowning slightly. A bar of light appears over her face; this is glow from Apollo’s eyes, appearing to almost pin her in place. After the event, during which Persephone appears to disassociate—the panels show only her inner monologue and a fantasy version of herself—Apollo takes a photo of her without asking, and says, ‘Now, remember, just keep this between you and me. You’re my girl, ok’ (Smythe 2018: 26). Then he leaves. Persephone’s hair is noticeably longer, which the reader has previously been told is a sign of distress, but she says nothing. Instead, she almost fades into the background, a violet colour that looks like pink stained with purple—Persephone’s colour darkened by Apollo’s.

The trauma of this event continues throughout the rest of the story, as Apollo claims that they are in a relationship, and Persephone tries to avoid him, suffering from traumatic responses when she is forced to confront him. Black parallel lines, reminiscent of the music notation staff (Apollo is the god of music as well as the sun) creep through panels in which Apollo or the rape is mentioned, visually representing its lingering impact. Like a song stuck in her head, it can remain in the background and still change the tone of the moment, bringing panic, shame, and anger. The tension comes to a head when Persephone definitively rejects Apollo, saying, ‘You don’t have feelings for me, just this unfounded impulse to control me’ (Smythe 2018: 101). Apollo brushes this aside at first, but then seems to understand that Persephone does not like him—and takes it in stride, saying ‘I don’t need you to like me to be my wife’ (Smythe 2018: 101). He is determined to have her, regardless of her own feelings.

The concept of unwilling marriage is original to the myth, of course, and here Apollo signs on knowingly, admitting his willingness to marry Persephone regardless of how she feels about him. This is contrasted with a moment earlier in the comic, where Zeus suggests an ‘old-fashioned’ marriage via abduction to Hades, and he refuses (Smythe 2018: 88). In the ancient sources, Zeus arranges for Hades to marry Persephone, whereas in the comic Hades says ‘I would want her to love me … I don’t want her to be my wife against her will’ (Smythe 2018: 88). The abduction portion of the myth is wholly moved to Apollo, rather than Hades, because he is the one who is willing to ignore Persephone’s desires. The question is, what function does that serve?


Figure 3. Apollo offers a loveless marriage to Persephone, whose rage has turned her eyes red (101). Above her head is a crown of thorns, which she grows only when extremely upset—a reference to Christian themes of suffering and sacrifice.


By choosing Apollo as the vehicle for Persephone’s assault, Smythe makes an argument about the everyday nature of such misogyny. Apollo is the god of the sun, music, and healing—a benevolent and popular god, not at all like the dark and deathly figure of Hades. One might expect such actions from a god of death. However, Smythe makes it clear that this type of treatment is not a ghastly exception, but rather a common occurrence, something that happens ‘in the light of day.’ It also draws a clear causative relationship between everyday misogyny and ongoing trauma.

It is particularly pointed for Smythe to convey a feminist message via a Greek myth, and in particular the myth of Persephone. Ancient Greek culture was highly divided by gender—Froma I. Zeitlin describes it as ‘the typically Greek notion of an aggressive sexual antagonism, evident in myth as in cult, that situates males and females on adversarial sides’ (1996: 3). This is evident in the original myth, which ‘deserves special mention as a principal model that addresses on the immortal level the experiences of feminine life’ (1996: 9) and which ‘equate[s] marriage with death (the husband is Hades, lord of the underworld) and configur[es] it along the lines of a forced seizure’ (1996: 10). This depiction of marriage is, Zeitlin argues, not distinct to Persephone’s experience, but part of the ancient Greek vision of marriage—it is a man’s prerogative and desire, and a violent event for the woman, one that is expected to be undesirable. To be a woman is to be subject to masculine aggression, a truism that is unfortunately still applicable today, in the real world as in Persephone’s modernised Olympus. By associating marriage with death, as well as with the masculine prerogative, masculinity is associated in the myth transitively with death and stagnation, as opposed to the feminine principle of growth.

In changing the aggressor to Apollo, the comic also has striking resonances with another contemporary reinterpretation of that god—that of the alt-right religion, Apolloism. Josh Vandiver explains how Mark Brahmin leads a religion focused on the Greek god Apollo, claiming him as the ultimate expression of masculinity and the savior of the Aryan race. [7] For adherents, Apollo represents an ideal masculinity that retains patriarchal ownership over women and their bodies—similar to that displayed by Apollo in the comic. Smythe may or may not be aware of this movement, but it is clear that there is a similar interpretation (if different agendas) at work, seeing Apollo as the avatar of a form of patriarchal masculinity that better fits the violent sexual and marital dynamic of the original myth, when adapted to a contemporary setting. In fact, Apolloism specifically calls for the eradication of underworld gods (Vandiver 2022: 145), setting the sun god of patriarchy against a non-patriarchal, non-Aryan underworld pantheon. This form of patriarchy and misogyny is deliberately above-ground. Just as the sun rises every day, women and gender non-conforming femmes in contemporary Western society face a consistent pattern of belittling, judgment, sex negativity, and controlling behaviours, as well as outright sexual assault.

The readers of the comic reacted very strongly to Apollo; comments often refer to him as ‘Ass-pollo.’ Alongside comments about their hatred and anger for Apollo and his actions, readers also share stories of their own experiences and warnings for others. [8] On the page in which the rape scene is shown, multiple people have shared that they are sexual assault survivors and that the story reflected their experience. Many anonymous commenters also write directly to other readers, encouraging them to stand up for their own boundaries, to understand that ‘you are more than allowed to say no,’ ‘you can stop at ANY time,’ and that ‘you are not alone,’ among other encouraging words. As Jeon describes, they create a community of care. They also push back at other comments and seek to advance the conversation, such as in several comments where writers remind the community that the problem was not that Hades and Persephone would not share her ‘first time,’ but that Persephone was raped. Commenters remind each other that even unintentionally sexist comments—such as saying that Hades had a right to Persephone’s virginity—are unacceptable and can influence real-world conversations. Another commenter describes how Apollo’s statements are realistic red flags that people should heed if they hear them in real life. It is also clear that at least some people learned from the comic and from the comments, such as a commenter who acknowledges that they had never fully felt the emotional weight of how terrible rape could be, until now. These comments and reactions demonstrate that Smythe’s work makes space for a conversation on sexual assault and misogyny; it offers an opportunity for education, care, and discussion.

Subterranean Misogyny

Apollo represents the daily forms of oppression that Persephone must struggle through—while rape is not everyday, the attitudes he expresses around it are—but Smythe also offers another angle for considering the treatment of women, a more archetypal exploration of the roots of hatred of woman. The avatar of this is Kronos, the former king of the gods, now imprisoned in the Underworld’s isolated region of Tartarus. He was defeated by the current dynasty of gods, and while he is locked away, he represents an ongoing threat to Olympus. This is partially because he knows a secret that few others do: it is possible to draw on the powers of a fertility goddess to become more powerful than other gods, and thus overthrow them. He used the powers of Rhea, an earth and fertility goddess, to fight the Titans and become king of the gods; Zeus likewise used Metis’s powers to defeat Kronos. In the comic, Kronos craves the kind of power that will allow him to resume his place on the throne, and that means finding another fertility goddess. This, it turns out, is why Demeter raised Persephone in isolation—she does not want others to find out that Persephone is a fertility goddess and try to use her power. In the course of the comic (so far; it has not yet ended), we see a gradual increase in Kronos’s presence as he tries to gain access to Persephone. The statements he and others make about the use of fertility goddesses’ power are very gendered, drawing on familiar sexist tropes but also on a deeper fear of the creative essence within fertility goddesses.


Figure 4.  Kronos consumes Hades as Rhea screams (27). The dark colours are typical of depictions of Kronos in the comic, who often appears as mostly a shadow, in contrast with the lively and bright colours of the fertility goddesses


Before Kronos appears ‘on screen,’ he haunts Hades in trauma-induced nightmares, which also show the reader a glimpse of Kronos’s disposition toward women. Hades is playing with his mother Rhea, when Rhea hears Kronos approaching and tells Hades to hide. ‘Don’t fight with me,’ she says. ‘You know we cannot outrun him.’ Nonetheless, Kronos demands Rhea give him her son, saying ‘Motherhood has made you weak.’ He grabs Hades and swallows him as Rhea screams in horror and grief. He explains: ‘If I let him live, he could destroy us’ (Smythe 2018: 27). He fears his own sons, and more specifically, he both craves and fears the result of Rhea’s fertility, her creative ability to bring more life into the world. This is also an early demonstration of the womb envy that motivates his actions. Though Rhea begs him not to, Kronos swallows all of her children. He figuratively undoes the work of the mother; he takes the children back into his body, inverting the birth process. His main method of neutralising his fears is swallowing people, whom he keeps alive within himself in a kind of forced adult gestation. It seems as if Kronos is trying to negate Rhea’s ability to give birth by undoing it. Motherhood represents a threat to his dominion as patriarch of the gods; he is also threatened by her creations, who may supplant him. Nonetheless, he mirrors the thing he hates by bearing his victims in his own body. He cannot create, only destroy, but his chosen method of destruction paints a clear picture of his envy of the creative potential.

In ‘Womb envy: the cause of misogyny and even male achievement?’ Emma Bayne summarises some of the literature on womb envy, the feminine counterpart to penis envy, writing, ‘male envy of women is older, and therefore more fundamental, than female envy of man … Eschbach says that womb envy may be considered the most primordial of all envies’ (2011: 152). She ventures, ‘[i]t is sometimes argued that no single cause for misogyny exists but, given the cultural and anthropological pervasiveness of the womb envy concept, it could, in fact, be such a single cause’ (Bayne 2011: 158). Womb envy is a fraught term in psychoanalysis—not least because of Freud and his subsequent adherents’ patriarchal bias—but it does speak to an envy or even jealousy of the ability to give birth, the fertile and creative essence that stands for femaleness. Though Lore Olympus does not explicitly reference psychoanalysis, it nonetheless argues through its storyline that misogyny is caused by a kind of womb envy, which provokes a controlling and dominating reaction in men.

In Lore Olympus, fear of Kronos’s influence affects the treatment of fertility goddesses throughout the following centuries, including the treatment of Persephone in the current time  frame of the comic. Kronos’s influence begins to escape Tartarus, sending multiple gods into coma-like sleep as the potential for life and growth is robbed from them. Hades, who should be guarding Tartarus, is not speaking to the rest of Olympus after Zeus exiled Persephone back to the Mortal Realm. Persephone is framed as a direct counter to Kronos’s power, as Zeus wonders how to fix the problem, and Athena snarls, ‘Put Persephone back in the Underworld. It’s not rocket science’ (Smythe 2018: 204). Zeus, who knows that Persephone is a fertility goddess, is afraid of doing that—he fears her power, and fears that power falling into the hands of Kronos. However, at the same time, Persephone sneaks into the Underworld to look for Hades, and encounters Kronos. He immediately addresses her in a gendered and sexualised manner, saying, ‘Little goddess … you’ll look so nice sitting at my feet’ (Smythe 2018: 204). She escapes him, and runs into Zeus, who finally explains the full dynamic of the fertility goddesses’ power, flashing back to Rhea, who told him that to defeat Kronos, ‘You must find a fertility goddess. A being overflowing with the power of life. So much so, that there is an abundance of power that you can use for yourself in any way you wish’ (Smythe 2018: 204). Here, fertility goddesses are framed as the most powerful gods in the pantheon, overflowing with power in fact—but also as tools to acquire patriarchal control. The fertility of a goddess, according to this patriarchal perspective, is not hers to control, but a path for male gods to follow to the throne. This is clearly how Kronos sees Persephone: a tool who must be appropriately dominated to provide Kronos with the opportunity to re-take his throne. People with the capacity for fertility—i.e. goddesses, and more specifically women—are in Kronos’s mind something that one must possess and dominate. And it is women, specifically—there are no fertility gods, just fertility goddesses. Hephaestus, the god of crafting and building, does not count as a god of creation in this particular way, because it is specifically biological creation that makes a fertility god/dess. The ‘overflowing with life’ is pictured onscreen as plants, mostly, but the very term ‘fertility’ suggests that human fertility, i.e. conceiving and giving birth, is the most awe-inspiring of the powers of a fertility goddess, and the very one Kronos fears in Rhea.

Kronos’s escape and subsequent vanquishing of the other gods causes Persephone to decide to fight him directly. In order to do so, she eats a pomegranate from a tree in Tartarus, which grants her queenship over the Underworld. It is not marriage to Hades, but this decision that makes her Queen. Smythe portrays the moment as one of strength, and also femininity. Persephone strikes a confident pose, in Hera’s fur coat and sky-high heels, her long pink hair loose as she drinks golden pomegranate juice in a kind of coronation. Instead of joining the Underworld through a coerced marriage ceremony, she takes the power of the Underworld for herself. Immediately, she grows to Titan size, sporting a black crown and new black dress with a sexy yet intimidating cut (a deep V neckline with shoulders that come up in spikes). Having crowned herself queen, she is able to fight Kronos directly, using her fertility powers to conjure plants to bind him, to move the earth itself, and even to emit a swarm of bees to attack him (Smythe 2018: 211). All her abilities are born from both her literal powers of creation, and her almost-whimsical creativity in attacking—Kronos grabs and bites, but Persephone makes flowers and bees, and makes alliances with the pre-god powers of the Underworld (the incarnation of Tartarus, for instance). Persephone is not crowned queen of the underworld through Hades or any man at all, but as a result of her own considered choices. Many of the readers’ comments on the page focus on how her assumption of the throne is her individual choice. One reader in particular writes that they experienced catharsis in reading the story, after recent events curtailing women’s rights in the U.S. They mentioned feeling that there was power in femininity because of this portrayal of Persephone.


Figure 5. Persephone eats the Underworld pomegranate and becomes Queen (210). The fur coat is a gift from Hades, but had originally been a gift to Hera, queen of the gods, who had a premonition that it would be important to a future relationship and gave it back to Hades. Persephone wearing it in this scene symbolises both her connection to Hades, and her queendom as an equal to Queen Hera.


Smythe here connects the powers of fertility with the powers of the Underworld; both have traditionally been connected to femininity. Judy Schavrien writes that Demeter and Persephone ‘in contrast with the Mt. Olympus, sky-congregating gods … extended back to an earlier pantheon of earth and chthonic deities’ (2012: 17), a contrast and tension which plays out in The Eumenides, The Oresteia, and other works as ‘the battle between the new he-gods and the old she-gods’ (2012: 26), the celestial versus the chthonic gods. In this understanding, Persephone’s rightful place is underground in the underworld; she is a chthonic goddess, as are the other fertility goddesses such as Demeter. Kronos, on the other hand, is an aggressively masculine god who is known in historical sources as the ‘one who introduced the principle of kingship’ (i.e. autocratic rule) (Versnel 1994: 95), and as a celestial/planetary deity (he is the equivalent to the Roman god Saturn).  He is imprisoned in the underworld, while Persephone sees the underworld as a home and source of strength, through her connection to Hades, her eventual crowning, and through her empathy for the mortal dead. Schavrien also connects growth and agriculture with the underworld, writing, ‘[t]hat Minoan underworld, in which Demeter, Persephone, and the Erinyes have a stake as earth and underworld goddesses, exists in analogy to the incubation phase in the farming cycle; in such a cycle, the seed has a hopeful dormancy in the earth’ (2012: 46). Growth comes from the earth; therefore, it also comes from under the earth, deep in the soil. Kronos sees this kind of growth as a threat; cthonic gods and celestial gods are classically at odds (Schavrien 2012: 17), and the underworld’s association with plant growth also evokes his fear of Rhea and of fertility writ large.

The simultaneous appropriation and fear of the fertility goddesses’ power makes up Smythe’s implicit argument about misogyny: it grows from the desire to control and the fear of what you cannot control. Multiple times, it is underscored that men in power find the potential Persephone represents appealing if they can control it, threatening if they cannot. Zeus exiles Persephone expressly to prevent other gods from gaining access to her powers; he also implies that Apollo’s interest in her is due to the latter’s desire to supplant Zeus (Smythe 2018: 195). Persephone’s ability to create freely is powerful but it is also why she is targeted. Although Zeus is not interested in Persephone sexually—unlike Apollo—he still attempts to control her for fear of what she will do—or be made to do—otherwise, unfairly prosecuting her for treason and exiling her, as well as refusing to lift the exile, simply to separate her from the other gods and thus limit her potential effect. His interest in controlling her has nothing to do with Persephone herself, only with what she represents as a fertility goddess. Likewise, Apollo and Kronos may attempt to marry, seduce, or capture Persephone, but they are exclusively interested in controlling her abilities.

Themes of Growth

The primary power of Persephone is her ability to produce the growth of plants (including from her own body), but Smythe does attempt to unlink the concept of fertility from childbirth. While womb envy may be straightforward in the expression of envy over the ability to bear children, the metaphor of growth in Lore Olympus is more capacious. It includes the ways in which women are controlled and/or constrained, and the ways in which they break free, for good or ill. Smythe portrays women who are subject to difficult social expectations, and who are further subjected to anger and misogyny when they attempt to break free of those roles. It is here that we see growth and its connection to femininity take on a more metaphorical valence—growth as not just flora and fauna, but growth beyond social expectations and burdens.  This growth is part of Smythe’s project of celebrating femininity and womanhood without restricting it to bioessentialist definitions. The length of the comic provides her the space to explore these alternative and more expansive types of growth, but also means that it takes a long time for her to adequately dispel the bioessential potential of the idea.

Smythe shows how, even in the modernised version of Olympus, there are restrictive societal roles that hamper women’s self-expression and actions. Persephone is only able to attend college because she is given a scholarship as a prospective member of The Goddesses of Eternal Maidenhood (TGOEM), a group comprised of sacred virgins Hestia, Athena, Artemis, and Demeter. This requires her to remain a virgin to stay in school, which becomes another tool Apollo uses to control her after the rape. She must pretend both to want to be in TGOEM, and that she is a virgin, although neither signing up for the organisation nor having sex were her ideas. Her mother is very determined to keep her in TGOEM, further contributing to Persephone’s inability to tell even the people closest to her about the rape. The comments section takes particular notice of this phenomenon, emphasising how the ‘repercussions’ of sexual assault can multiply the harms caused, and exhorting each other to support survivors in the face of negating cultural narratives such as the ones invoked by Apollo (for example, that refusing to date is cruel if someone has feelings for you or that you are obligated to listen to them and give them a chance) (Smythe 2018: 100-101).

The roles available for women in the world of Lore Olympus are restrictive and do not allow emotional maturation or fulfilment. And yet, growth manifests anyway—Persephone quits TGOEM, for instance. However, this growth is violent and difficult, like sprouts struggling to break through rocky earth. Internalised patriarchy and standards lead other women to act against both Persephone’s and their own interests: Persephone’s mother is furious about her relationship with Hades, and another woman’s jealousy of Persephone leads, eventually, to Persephone being put on trial for treason—which then in turn leads to Kronos almost possessing her powers and taking over Olympus. In Demeter’s case, her anger is due to her inability to believe in growth, ie, in Hades’ ability to grow and change. The trial is caused by Minthe, who has been persuaded by society that she is worthless, valuable only when Hades wants her, but never as a full partner—the epitome of a disposable sex object in the sexist structure of the patriarchy. While Minthe is later able to heal from this perspective, this is not until the trial’s damage is already done. When Persephone learns she is being accused of treason, she is so upset that she hides in an abandoned car, and vines grow out of her, completely covering her body and the surrounding junkyard. It is literal growth, but it is defensive rather than creative, and thus endangers her health and safety. In a previous event, Persephone learns that her companions, the flower nymphs, die in front of her as mortals pick the sacred flowers they are connected to. In sorrow and rage, Persephone becomes giant and causes an enormous tree to grow in the centre of their village, killing many mortals even as she tries to stop. Her wrath empowers her to great acts of magic which she could not do otherwise, performing feats of uncontrolled growth. The tree is just one example; there are multiple other times where the reader sees Persephone’s eyes go red and vines begin to snake their way out of her (see Figure 4 for instance).

These negative examples of rage as growth are also key to Smythe’s portrayal of womanhood. It is partially society that makes positive growth difficult for Persephone and the other women of Lore Olympus. But the wrath and jealousy are important too. Misogyny’s envy of women also minimises women’s complexity as people, defining women primarily as childbirthers, their capacity for growth as directed entirely at procreation. Persephone’s wrath is depicted as an essential part of her being, which is often provoked when other people are trying to control her. Wrath, Smythe seems to imply, is also a productive force that allows people to resist external pressures and insist on fair treatment. It cannot be allowed to rule unchecked (Persephone greatly regrets killing humans in an act of wrath), but the impulse of rage is a valuable barometer, an indication that justice is not being served. In this, it is different from mere anger, which can arise from annoyance or selfish and petty motives. Wrath is a powerful motivator for change and, accordingly, for growth. It may be a response to trauma (such as Persephone’s rage at Apollo), but when it is, it works to change the dynamic that originally permitted the trauma, guarding the wrathful person from repeated traumatisation.

Despite the potential bioessentialism of her focus on fertility, Smythe implicitly critiques misogyny or feminisms that presume women are primarily defined by their ability to give birth. Smythe portrays Persephone standing with a scythe, the symbol of both death and agriculture, just before her act of wrath against the mortals (Smythe 2018: 133). She holds the potential for life-giving and death-giving, growth of the fields as well as growth of trees that break buildings. In fact, her name means Bringer of Death. It is this potential for wrath and destruction that differentiates Persephone (and by extension of the metaphor, women) from a sanitised/Christian vision of women as natural mothers and only mothers, or else simply maidens and whores. Growth is not opposed to death; it is opposed to stagnation. Stagnation is caused by constriction, by repressive expectations and societal constraints. Smythe seems to argue that patriarchy strives to control women because of their ability to grow outside of societal roles. Fertility is not only about creating progeny, but here represents the ability to create a new version of something, a new version of oneself, of justice, of a relationship. It can be fueled by positive emotions such as love, or negative ones like rage, but the outcome is productive growth.

However, this more open definition of growth and fertility does not completely avoid the association that Smythe creates between womanly power and childbirth fertility. She is explicit that fertility is not just about giving birth, but also that fertility is something intrinsically female. What else about women is particularly growth-focused, that does not also exist in men? Why tie fertility to womanhood—or to gender at all—if not for the biological ability to give birth? Even if there were another trait to tie it to, that would also be bioessentialist. As of the current writing, there are no masculine-coded people in the comic with fertility powers; nor are there any people who appear to be or are confirmed to be transgender. That potentially points to a bioessentialist system of gender within the world of Lore Olympus, or at least a lack of sufficient effort to dislodge to bioessentialist underpinnings of the world of Greek myth.

The factor that most complicates the bioessentialist reading of Lore Olympus is that many of the births are not wholly biological. Metis, the second fertility goddess we see (after Rhea), creates Demeter from earth, Hestia from fire, and Hera from the stars (Smythe 2019: 194). She creates them fully formed as adults, completely circumventing biological pregnancy and birth. Demeter is not a fertility goddess, but also creates Persephone from ‘my own will and, of course, one million perfect roses’ (194). [9] She does carry her to term in the conventional way, because ‘I didn’t have the same skills as Metis’ (194), implying that, surprisingly enough, being a fertility goddess allows one to avoid pregnancy in a way that other goddesses cannot. While creating new beings is still done by women, it is not explicitly connected to sexual biology. Nonetheless, Smythe still emphasises the life-giving properties of female goddesses—they may have magical powers, and thus methods of creating children that are not available to mortals, but it is still a woman’s domain.


Persephone ‘is a dynamic figure, illuminating—and perhaps enabling—for women discovering at once their oppression and their potential energies,’ writes Louis (2016: 2). Smythe repurposes Persephone’s story for a feminist retelling that commentates on contemporary gender dynamics. Smythe demonstrates how both society and misogynistic individuals continue to punish women for acting outside societal boundaries, and how that very growth and challenging of the status quo is exactly what gives women their power. However, she also reinforces a bioessentialist understanding of womanhood, whether intentionally or not.  As discussions of gender and power continue to play out across the internet, the messaging is not straightforwardly conservative or progressive, feminist or misogynist: it reflects a complicated understanding of what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Smythe’s story reflects on the nature of femininity and misogyny and encourages readers to find solidarity in their experiences of gendered bias. However, it also critically considers the potential psychoanalytic basis of misogyny without questioning the nature of gender and how it is constructed. Nonetheless, Lore Olympus serves as a feminist text and discussion space in one, where readers are able to explore issues of gender, sexual violence, and more while also remaining a part of a community of care. Perhaps the value of Lore Olympus in the wider cultural conversation is the space it makes for discussion of gendered qualities without questioning gender itself, a kind of midway point in the project of dismantling gendered systems of oppression. It successfully pushes against the patriarchal modes of control that are plain in Ancient Greek myth, and which Western society has inherited and continued to practice, albeit not unchanged. It is less successful at dislodging bioessentialist definitions of womanhood—however, as Smythe expands the potential definitions of growth, fertility, and other womanhood-aligned qualities, the narrowness inherent in bioessentialism is gradually weakened. Smythe and the discussion forum commenters are collaborating on a feminist project of expanding what it means to be a woman, moving toward a future in which genders are not defined by bioessentialism, tradition, or sexism, but by shared lived experiences.


[1] For further reading on this subject, see The Sociological Review’s special issue on the topic, volume 68, issue 4, 2020.

[2] In this case, the term ‘traditional’ refers to an extreme conservative view of gender roles. This term is often deployed as part of ‘trad wife,’ a self-designation used by some women who view their role as explicitly subservient mothers, caretakers, and housekeepers to their husbands (Kelly 2018).

[3] This is the most common folk etymology, but the exact etymology is uncertain.

[4] Many explanations of the myth claim that a common feature of modern retellings is Persephone willingly going to Hades. However, few of them cite any sources—the modern retellings I have been able to find that do this are largely comics and romances, as described here: https://bookriot.com/power-of-the-hades-persephone-myth/

[5] For example, she creates a whole new ecosystem in Tartarus, the deepest level of the Underworld, as referenced specifically in episode 214.

[6] Lore Olympus has ‘episodes’ that are long vertical scrolls, rather than pages, so these citations refer to episodes rather than specific pages. The episodes also have two numbering systems, which is confusing. I use the number indicated in the Webtoon navigation system and at the end of the URL, which sometimes conflicts with the title of the episode. For instance, what I call episode 101, in which Persephone confronts Apollo, is titled Episode 97 within the comic itself. It is, however, the 101st post in the comic.

[7] White supremacy is a key part of the movement, as is eugenics and patriarchal power.

[8] I have avoided direct quotes or naming the users to preserve a degree of anonymity. The comments are, however, publicly available to read.

[9] Some readers may note that Zeus is supposed to be Persephone’s father. Smythe changes some of the family relationships to avoid the incest of the original myths.


Bayne, Emma (2011), ‘Womb Envy: The Cause of Misogyny and Even Male Achievement?,’ Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 151-160.

DeBloois, Nanci (1997), ‘Rape, Marriage, or Death? Gender Perspectives in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter,’ Philological Quarterly, Vol. 76, No. 3, pp. 245-262.

Dilly, Barbara J. (2009), ‘Persephone and Susanna in the Garden: Patriarchal Seductions of Nature and Virtue,’ Journal of Religion & Society, Supplement Series 5, pp. 62-75.

Gantz, Timothy (1996), Early Greek Myth: a guide to literary and artistic sources, John Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Gubar, Susan (1979), ‘Mother, maiden and the marriage of death: Women writers and an ancient myth,’ Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 301-315.

Homer, ‘Homeric Hymn to Demeter,’ trans. Gregory Nagy, published online by The Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University, 2 Nov. 2020, chs.harvard.edu/primary-source/homeric-hymn-to-demeter-sb

Jeon, Ahrum (2021), ‘Care as a Border-Crossing Language: The Webtoon Reader Discussion Forum as Mediascape,’ Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 64, No. 6, pp. 657-664.

Kelly, Annie (2018), ‘The Housewives of White Supremacy,’ New York Times, 1 June 2018.

Lamerichs, Nicolle (2020), ‘Scrolling, swiping, selling: Understanding Webtoons and the data-driven participatory culture around comics,’ Participations Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 211-229.

Lehoczky, Etelka (2021), ‘The Greek gods – they’re just like us in “Lore Olympus”,’ NPR, 27 October 2021.

Louis, Margot K. (2015), Persephone Rises, 1860-1927: Mythography, Gender, and the Creation of a New Spirituality, Taylor & Francis.

Pearce, Ruth, Sonja Erikainen & Ben Vincent (2020). ‘TERF wars: An introduction,’ The Sociological Review, Vol. 68, No. 4, pp. 677-698.

Reid, Calvin (2019), ‘Webtoon Builds An Audience For Webcomics,’ Publishers Weekly, 30 August 2019.

Salkowitz, Rob (2021), ‘Webtoon CEO Sees Massive Growth And New Opportunities In U.S. Market,’ Forbes, 2 November 2021

San Cristóbal & Ana Isabel Jiménez (2020), ‘Persephone/Kore,’ Oxford Classical Dictionary, 30 July 2020.

Schavrien, Judy (2012), ‘War and Nature in Classical Athens and Today: Demoting and Restoring the Underground Goddesses,’ Culture and Philosophy, 2012/2013, pp. 16-54.

Seikasimova, Zhulduz Amangelidyevna (2019), ‘Status of Women in Ancient Greece,’ Open Journal for Anthropological Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 49-54.

Smith, William (1873), ‘Persephone,’ A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London. Accessed through the Perseus Digital Library Project, ed. Gregory R. Crane, Tufts University, perseus.tufts.edu/hopper (last accessed 20 March 2023).

Smythe, Rachel (2018-ongoing), Lore Olympus, https://www.webtoons.com/en/romance/lore-olympus/list?title_no=1320 (last accessed 20 March 2023).

Vandiver, Josh (2022), ‘”Apollo Has Saved Us!”: Global Ambition and Metapolitical Warfare in Alt-Right Religion,’ Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 135-181.

Versnel, Henk (1994), ‘Kronos and the Kronia,’ Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion, Vol. 2, pp. 89-135.

Zeitlin, Froma I. (1996), Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature, The University of Chicago Press

Download article


Feeling inspired by MAI? Dedicated to intersectional gender politics in visual culture? Want to keep your feminist imagination on fire? MAI newsletter will help refresh your zeal for feminism with first-hand news on our new content. 

Subscribe below to stay up-to-date.

* We'll never share your email address with any third parties.


The team of MAI supporters and contributors is always expanding. We’re honoured to have a specialist collective of editors, whose enthusiasm & talent gave birth to MAI.

However, to turn our MAI dream into reality, we also relied on assistance from high-quality experts in web design, development and photography. Here we’d like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to the feminist cause. Our feminist ‘thank you’ goes to:

Dots+Circles – a digital agency determined to make a difference, who’ve designed and built our MAI website. Their continuous support became a digital catalyst to our idealistic project.
Guy Martin – an award-winning and widely published British photographer who’s kindly agreed to share his images with our readers

Chandler Jernigan – a talented young American photographer whose portraits hugely enriched the visuals of MAI website
Matt Gillespie – a gifted professional British photographer who with no hesitation gave us permission to use some of his work
Julia Carbonell – an emerging Spanish photographer whose sharp outlook at contemporary women grasped our feminist attention
Ana Pedreira – a self-taught Portuguese photographer whose imagery from women protests beams with feminist aura
And other photographers whose images have been reproduced here: Cezanne Ali, Les Anderson, Mike Wilson, Annie Spratt, Cristian Newman, Peter Hershey