An excerpt from Aristophanes’ Congresswomen,

ca. 392, after Agyrrhius instituted pay for attending assembly


(Praxagora leads the women in a plan to disguise themselves as men and take over the assembly. Here she practices her  speech proposing that Women take over the government. She is dressed in male garb, wears a false beard, and has been working on her tan). She begins in a deep, cowboy voice:

[loosely adapted from Doug Parker's creative version]


'My fellow Athenians: I bear my fair share, as you all do, in this fine land of ours.

So I cannot help but voice my growing concern. I fear for the fate of our great state.

Something is rotten in Athens. Our leaders, our elected officials, are uniformly rapacious.

If any one of them ever does an honest days work, he pays himself back

with a month of grab-n-git.  Find another man to do the job, and he plumbs yet deeper

depths of depravity. All because of your bass-ackward behavior--I'm fed up with

giving you my good advice. You treat anybody who might be a friend

like you think he's gonna stab you in the back, while you go on your knees

to woo your worst enemies. It shakes my faith in government: A few years back,

we never convened the Congress at all, but we knew one thing for certain:

we  all agreed Agyrrhios was a crook.

But then this crook established a salary

for showing up at congress. So now we convene every chance we get...

and those of us who get paid cain't say enuff in his praise,

while those of us who don't get any are equally loud

in demanding death for those who get paid to pass laws.


FIRST WOMAN (giggling): Goodness gracious, what a lovely speech!


PRAXAGORA  (woman's voice, exasperated) --Can't you stop that harebrained swearing? Goodness gracious ... that would sound just peachy in Congress.


FIRST WOMAN (meekly): I wouldn't say it there.


PRAXAGORA: Don't get in the habit. (Back  to the speech. again in deep voice)

--Or take the current Alliance against the Spartans: debating the issue we all agreed

 that Athens' future depended upon it; alliance or ruin. But once we voted it in

and the League was established, reaction arose with a vengeance, so savage and swift that the man who'd manufactured this unholy alliance had to get the hell out o' Dodge.


--An’ how ‘bout  your flip-floppin’ on seapower:  Should Athens launch a fighting-man’s navy? Well, the poor man thinks of getting paid,  and votes YES; the rich man thinks of taxes to pay, and he votes, hell NO. The farm folk can only think, they’ll have hell to pay (havin' furriners plunder our fields),  and so they side with the rich.


--And Korinth: Only yesterday you detested Korinth, and Korinth detested you.

Today we're best of friends and allies too --swing your partner, dos-i-do...

Nobody trusts any man with any sense: we think the expert hasn't a brain in his head;

but the cluelessest moron in town is going to be our Sage and Savior. ...


SECOND WOMAN (also in cowboy voice): This feller talks like he’s got good sense.


PRAXAGORA: (normal voice) Now, that, sweety, is proper praise.

(back to deep voice)--Of all the mixed-messages of moral confusion

YOU stand guilty, Men of Athens. You get paid for sittin’ in Congress

with blinders on,  so’s all you can see is Private Profit,

while General Welfare stumbles along like a drunken cripple.

H-o-w-ever, All is Not Lost:

Give me your support, and you may yet be saved. I here propose that we relinquish the State

to a trained managerial c1ass, trustees and directors of our happy homes

--to our wives and daughters--in short, to the W omen.


WOMEN: Hurray! Hurrah! Huzzah! -Hear! Hear!


PRAXAGORA: The superior nature of the female's behavior pattern

to that of the common male--(deep voice) like you or me--

is easi1y shown. Example: Every girl jill of them

washes her wool in hot water, just like her mother before her;

you never catch them pokin' around for a newfangled method.

But male-run Athens has always been in hot water, for doing just the opposite:

We menfolk (deep voice) can never resist improving on something that works;

If ain't broke, fix it, 'til we have fixed this City right into the ground.

Not so the womenfolk -- thank heaven ...for little


(breaking into song) W-o-m--e-n!

they’re true conservatives—they never change

W omen kneel to bake their bread,

tote their laundry on the head,

--just like Mother always did.


They always follow the recipe,

Keep Demeter's yearly spree, *

--just like Mother.


Nag their husbands till they're dead,

hide their lovers under the bed,

--just like Mother.

Pad the grocery bill with snacks,

take a drink or three to relax,

prefer their pleasure on their backs,

happy nymphomaniacs,

--just like Mother.


Therefore (deep voice) gentlemen, why waste time in debate?

Why dither and deliberate over what to do, what to do?

Simply hand over the City and let the Women Rule.

You need convincin’? Consider:

Mothers all, their first desire will be to keep their soldier boys safe.


Provisions? Who quicker than the hand that rocks the cradle at filling the mouth?

Finances? Nothing more wily than women at scrounging a budget-

--and rest assured that, once in power they won't allow embezzlement of public funds;

by thorough training, they themselves are Athens' finest embezzlers.

‘Nuff said. Give me

your support, and vote yourselves a life of bliss.


Lovely, Praxagora darling. Right on the button.



But where did you learn to talk so beautifully, baby?


PRAXAGORA: During the Terror (under the Thirty), my husband and I hid out on the Pnyx,  where Congress meets, lost in the crowd of politicians. Learned their stuff by heart.



After the plot succeeds, Praxagora reveals her agenda


I humbly request your attention. Do not interrupt the proposal, please, before you have heard it,

-- and kindly refrain from rebuttal until you grasp the concept:


Compulsory Universal Community Property is what I propose to propose;

 across-the-board Economic Equality, to fill those fissures that scar our society's face.

No more the division between Rich and Poor, the ditch that separates the squire at ease

sitting on his ... acres from the wretch who can’t afford a plot to be buried in; the gulf

that secludes the nabob, swimming in slaves, from the needy nobody who can't keep a houseboy.

                                     Such segregation must end!                   Instead,

I'11 institute total communalization: We'll wear the same c1othes, and share the same food . . .


BLEPYROS  (her husband): What sort of food will we share?


PRAXAGORA (furious at the interruption):  Oh, shit!


BLEPYROS:  Ah ha. You can have my share.

PRAXAGORA:            No, no, I didn't mean that.

As I was about to say when I was so rudely interrupted:

My first move will be to communalize land, and money, and a11 other property, personal and real.

 From the Common Fund thus created, we women will then proceed to supply you, employing our talents for Budgeting, Encumbering, and Forward Thinking.

BLEPYROS: But take the landless man who has hidden wealth. . . because

be keeps his silver and gold out of sight. What about him?

PRAXAGORA: He'll deposit it all in THE FUND.


BLEPYROS: Suppose be keeps it?


PRAXAGORA: Well, then he'll be guilty of perjury.


BLEPYROS: He's guilty already. That's how be got it.


PRAXAGORA: But keeping it simply won't do him any good.

BLEPYROS: It won't?



Economic motives, the pressures of want, will cease to exist when everyone owns everything

from bread to cake, from wine to woolies, from filets to fillets. So where is the profit in not depositing?

Well?   If you find an answer, please explain.


BLEPYROS: Well, these men with money . . . they're all thieves.

PRAXAGORA: They were . . . during the obsolete system of the old democracy. But now, when all the needs and means of existence are common and open to all, I repeat: Where is the possible profit in not depositing?

BLEPYROS: Suppose he sees a fine piece of booty and decides he wants to get him some. He'll need to dip into prívate capital to entice the girl into bed before he puts in for a share of her assets.


PRAXAGORA: Pointless. Your man will be able to sleep with her free. I'm pooling the women, creating a public hoard for the use of every man who wishes to take them to bed and make babies.


BLEPYROS: You'll start a war. The men will all be shoving to stick the best-stacked girl in stock.

PRAXAGORA: They'll be arranged in rows, the ugly and snub-nosed right beside the really divine. The man who wants the latter will have to take a crack at the gruesome first.


BLEPYROS: That's quite a layout. But have a heart for us senior citizens. If we have to dicker with the real dogs first, we won't have any cock left by the time we've screwed our way to the raving beauties at the end of the queue.

PRAXAGORA: They won't complain. Don't worry yourself about it. Cheer up. They won't complain.

BLEPYROS: About what?


PRAXAGORA: About not getting laid.


BLEPYROS: ... From the women's angle, this is a wonderful way to fill ...the need.

There won't be an unplugged loophole left in town. But you haven't gone to the root of the matter;

 the men may be left hanging. The women'll shy away from the ugly ones, and spread themselves on the handsome.



The totallosses will keep an eye on the hero types as they leave dinner, and patrol them in public.

Then, too, we'll enjoin the women from climbing in bed with the tall and handsome

before they've raised the spirits and warmed the cockles of the short and homely....


This is ultimate democracy!