Emma Watson + why the Artemis archetype makes for awesome heroines




Emma Watson gave a UN speech over the weekend in which she declared herself a feminist, called for women’s equality and a loosening of gender roles.

Emma represents an archetype emerging in this culture that – judging by the success of characters like Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander and Anastasia Steele – girls in particular are hungering for, a femininity with fire in its soul.

It was originally Jo from Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN: the unconventional sister in the March family who had a temper, a desire for adventure and independence, and a fierce determination to be a writer. Like Katniss, Lisbeth and Anastasia – or Arya Stark, Sarah Conner, Ripley, Buffy, Xena – Jo embodies the Artemis archetype, characterized most of all by an indomitable will.

An archetype is a recurring pattern of human behavior shared across cultures and mythologies. Jung believed that archetypes live within the collective unconscious: we know them and respond to them on a deep level. We project them onto others; we sense them activated within ourselves.

In her book GODDESSES IN EVERYWOMAN, Jean Shinoda Bolen put forth the major Greek goddesses as female archetypes, each one representing a different way of being in the world. Although one archetype tends to be prominent at any given time, different stages of our lives can call forth different archetypes.

Everywhere you look – on billboards, in magazines, on Victoria’s Secret runways – you see sexy Aphrodite. In a recent issue of Esquire, Tom Junod drew some online fire with his In Praise of 42 Year Old Women, which was truly in praise of Aphrodite women.

You see the goddess Demeter in the so-called soccer moms: packing their kids into minivans, running errands in yoga pants.

The goddess Hera – wife to Zeus, not known for his monogamy – comes alive in the “jealous, crazy” ex-girlfriend. She’s the one who slashes your tires or sticks pins into dolls bearing a striking resemblance to you. When his daughter Dylan accused Woody Allen of molesting her as a child, many people pointed fingers at ex-wife Mia Farrow, depicting her as another version of crazy, bitter, bitchy Hera. They dismissed Dylan’s story as the brainwashed delusion of a frail and damaged maiden: a Persephone.

Every time a confident, successful woman like Marissa Meyer distances herself from feminism, I think of Athena. Athena women, with all their brilliance and strategy, are the ones smashing up through layers of glass. They tend to identify with men, keeping femininity at a distance.

Like Athena, Artemis is a badass. She’s a competitor and a goal achiever.

But she’s also a feminist and an advocate for sisterhood. She comes to the rescue of girls and women not yet in the position to rescue themselves.

Artemis women often have difficult childhoods. She’s the kid who seeks comfort in the woods, or animals, or books. If trapped in an authoritarian family, she blends in to get by – but keeps a fierce autonomy inside her head and heart, looking to the day she breaks free.

She engages in the pursuit of mastery (Artemis can handle the bow and arrow like nobody’s business). Jean Shinoda Bolen writes:

“The bow and quiver of arrows which makes a sculpture or a painting of a goddess recognizable as Artemis is a meaningful symbol. To send an arrow to a target of your own choosing requires aim, intention, determination, focus and power. You can bring down game to feed yourself and others, punish enemies, or demonstrate confidence: metaphorically, you can take care of yourself.”

These women use their intuition and depth and courage to drive themselves out of their comfort zone. They are not subdued. They are not broken. Each in her own way must venture into strange territory: blazing trails, navigating a metaphoric wilderness.

She is Jane Goodall studying the chimps in the woods and revolutionizing our entire understanding of them. She is Eve Ensler conquering cancer to finish building the City of Joy — a rehabilitative and educational community for sexually assaulted women — in the Congo. She is Sheryl Sandberg on the TED stage urging women to claim their place at the table.

She is the high school girl accompanying her friend to the rape crisis center at three in the morning, then taking her home and making her tea.

She is the still-hot woman in her forties who starts to find deep satisfaction in pursuing her goals, and starts recognizing men as friends and brother figures and not just potential lovers.

She is the middle-aged mother of three who watches her kids set off for college, then rediscovers her wanderlust and goes trekking in Nepal.

She is Malala, targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head and still resolute, fighting for a girl’s right to be educated. She is Elizabeth Smart, abducted from her bedroom at 11 years of age, surviving nine months of captivity and abuse, telling teenagers at the Key Club International conference to “Never be afraid to speak out. Never be afraid to live your life. Never let your past dictate your future.”

She is Emma Watson on the UN stage, saying that both genders should be equally free to express who they are, inviting boys and men to join the fight for equality.

She is formidable.

Sep 24, 2014

13 comments · Add Yours

When reading this article I was surprised at the portrayal of the goddess Athena. That is described as relating to men. That it stated above that she is cold and distance form other women. While, she did not always get along with the other goddess she was dictated to her duties. Athena in her myths, while sometimes jealous or vain, as seen in the story about the gold apple, protected people. In other stories she can either show compassion or jealous, see the story about arachne. Athena protected women; she was borne fully armed and fully grown. She protected all the warriors of Greece. She fought for women and there rights. She was displeased that in win the city that would later be named for her, that the women would lose their right to vote and be considered citizens’.

She is the rational aspect of war. War not for the sake of war, but because it is necessary. That fighting and lose are sometimes necessary. She a goddess who has often been, considered to masculine, because she is a fighter. While Artemis was a fighter and Maiden. Athena was the general and Warrior. This goddess is at the center of many feminism stories and sometimes considered one of the deities that sparked modern feminism.

Much of what we know about female goddess has been changed to fit the male narrative.
Athena did not have children, she did not have constant lover. She was considered intelligent and rational. She was ruled by reason rather than emotion or compassion. Not saying that she was uncompassionate, but she held the facts and reason closer. She is very similar to many modern women who work and have decided to forgo children in favor of career. She shares a title with Artemis: the virgin goddess. Now this title has many meanings, it dose not mean that these goddess did not have lovers, it meant that they were ruled by no one. That no person had dominion over them, that they were virgin.



Yes, I am. Thank you so much for that. I feel very much at home in my Artemis skin. That archetype is at least 40% of ‘me’.

btw, if others aren’t sure and are curious and want to take a test in a book, the archetype test in Woolger and Woolger: _The Goddess Within_ is very good.


I’m never really sure if/how/when to comment on your blog write-ups, Justine, or just let them be read by the people who sign on rapturously… So a brief note and I hope taken respectfully, again. The most eloquent speaker you source has to be Elizabeth Smart, who like Maya Angelou in ‘I Rise’, dares the universe to not allow them to live, regardless of past or heritage. That said, I do not know anything about you other than this blog, but I must say, your writings tend to have a fairly anti-male surface layer (covering over what I suspect is actually a deeper and broader mass of ‘other’…what that is I would not venture to guess online). A balanced picture of what you seek to redress/undress/obsess in your post might also point out (for full disclosure) that three of the five producers for “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” are female…and so on. Point is: not all men are ‘bad’ and not all women ‘noble’. If a therapist has egged you on to believing so, your art suffers for a cause with unsupported fundamentals.


@Ametra Yes, Athena’s complicated. In the versions of her that I’ve read — particularly Jean Shinoda Bolen — she’s an amazing woman, and also a supporter of patriarchy. Whereas Artemis, the activist, is genuinely subversive to the status quo. I think Athena would spark off modern feminism just by being her admirable self + setting an example — also wondering if her character maybe evolved over time. I think she was just one of those women who looked out for women but preferred the company of men.

I know what you mean about the goddess narrative shifting when patriarchal culture brought in the sky gods and modified the stories…I truly believe that, for example, Hades did not abduct Persephone. I think she was attracted to the bad boy and went of her own free will, and deliberately ate the pomegranate in order to maintain ties to the underworld. In the other underworld stories, the woman descends willingly…Maybe Perseph just wanted to get away from a suffocating mother. :)

@Amara Graps That book looks interesting, I ordered. Thanks.


Thank you for this beauty. I hadn’t recognized the Artemis archetype in myself before, but turns out it’s fierce in me!


Great article Justine, I believe we all embody aspects of every Goddess to some degree with some dominating our natures more than others. Queen Boadicia is my favourite heroine because I’m Scottish. She was a Celtic Queen who was dispossessed of her homeland and everything she owned, by Invaders. They raped her and her two young daughters in front of her when they sacked her Castle. She had no home, no land but still inspired and rallied her army to fight and inflict retribution on her enemies for years and years, always on the go with her sizeble army. The amazing part was that after the day her daughters were raped, (one became mute) she rode at the front of her army in her Chariot, with her daughters curled up at her feet, she refused to ever again let them out of her sight. She did this for years. When I’m feeling like it’s all too much, I think of her and draw on her rage and courage to fight instead of inwardly collapse.


Your post made me cry, in a good way, Justine. I’ve long looked up to Artemis and most relate to her in the Priestess card of the Crowley-Thoth tarot deck. As the author of the Henrietta The Dragon Slayer series, I think a lot about young women and leadership and how we can be role models for women. Thank you for being one of them!


Goodness, the author of the article you lined to was really off the mark. I would argue that Anne Bancroft was as alluring as the actresses of today he mentions, and he seems to have misunderstood Dustin Hoffman’s character’s feelings about her. Oh, well.

When I hear young women say “I’m not a feminist,” it’s encouraging to see others like Emily Watson taking a firm stance, and to read your blogposts. That gives me great hope.

By the way, I do not recall ever reading any “anti-male” blogposts from you. (Insert rolling eyed emotion here). Celebrating female archetypes does not mean one is thereby diminishing men. Oh, well.


Whoops, that should read “linked” in the first sentence.


This was so completely beautiful! I love seeing the echoes of the goddess in modern day culture! And Emma Watson especially!! Mythology is so alive today!


@Stephen Green I am interested in whether there was ever a response to the idea that not all men are “bad’ and all women are “noble”. I am intrigued by this subject yet find it difficult to listen to the man bashing that has a tendency to go along with it.


Anyone who reads through my site knows that I regard both men and women as highly complex (and interesting) human beings. People who are anti-feminist like to parade this idea that feminism = man-bashing, but that’s just as ludicrous as claiming that “all men are rapists”. If you are genuinely intrigued by the subject, let me assure you, there are a number of writers out there who explore the problems of patriarchy without ‘bashing’ either gender. You only have to read them.


Thank you Justine for having the courage to speak your truth! I really wanted you to know that you are making such a difference in my life. I found your blog only yesterday and I am so encouraged by your words.
I was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer in 2012. My diagnosis has brought about a major shift in my perspective on life. I am no longer working so I spend a lot of my time reading and well…trying to be happy.
I grew up in the south and wanted so badly to fit in, but something never felt right. I just did not fit into the “good Baptist girl” size. I tended to be labeled by family, bosses, etc. as too sensitive, too this or too that. Anger & depression consumed me at times.
I have been trying so hard to quiet myself and to become more agreeable. It’s not working because it’s not who I am nor is it who I was meant to be. Your blog is giving me the courage to honor and embrace who I am. I am proud to be a feminist and truly believe that we will ALL expand into our greatness when we let go of the fear of equality for all.
Thank you for shining such a bright light to lead others to their truth :)


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