8 Donna Zuckerberg’s editorial “Welcome to the New Eidolon” and LKM Maisal’s “Women are Made, But from What?”

1. Welcome to the New Eidolon!

Today, as the moon temporarily blots out the sun, marks the beginning of Eidolon’s second chapter. On the surface, things may look pretty much the same: we’re still on Medium, although we’ve updated our logos and branding. The editorial team is the same, and we’re going to have roughly the same publishing schedule. But we’ve made a few subtle changes that we hope will have significant ramifications, and I’m excited to tell you about them.

First, we’ve completely rewritten our to reflect how we feel Eidolon’s mission has changed since we first launched. When I drafted Eidolon’s first mission statement, my goal was to create a space for informal, personal essays about the intersections of the ancient and modern world, aimed at a general audience. That vision is still at the core of Eidolon. But when we thought back on our most successful and impactful articles, we realized that the pieces we’re proudest of have tended to be those where the writers try to define the complicated and problematic role of the classicist in twenty-first century society. Where does Classics (and the professional study of Classics) fit into contemporary culture? How can we, as a discipline, do better? Be better? What is our ethical place in this world?

These are thorny, difficult questions, and we look forward to providing a platform where writers and readers can continue to tangle with them. As the editorial team discussed how to facilitate those discussions, however, it became increasingly clear to us that “a modern way to write about the ancient world” no longer suffices as a description for what Eidolon does and can do. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

Part of our revamped mission is an open confirmation of something that will already have been obvious to regular readers: Eidolon is now a space for unapologetic progressive and inclusive approaches to Classics. Our goal is to model a Classics that is ethical, diverse, intersectional, and especially feminist. Before I explain what that means, I want to confront what it absolutely does not mean: rebranding as an explicitly feminist publication does not mean that Eidolon will now only publish content about gender, abortion, and lipstick in the ancient world. Not everything we publish will be, specifically, about feminism.

Several people have expressed concerns to me that being explicit about Eidolon’s feminist politics will lead to a narrowing of our content. I don’t believe that it will, unless potential writers and readers choose to understand what “feminism” means in extremely bad faith. Progressive feminism is a capacious enough category that it can include content about reproductive rights and fashion but also philology and military history and textual criticism and many, many other topics.

What does it mean to me that Eidolon is a progressive, feminist publication with a commitment to social justice? If you’re thinking, “Is Eidolon still for me even though I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a feminist because [insert reason here],” I believe that it is. You may not like some of our articles, but that was probably true already. All that this change means is that this is not the place for you to elaborate on whatever goes inside those [insert reason here] square brackets. There are plenty of venues where it might be appropriate to explain why you don’t personally feel that feminism is for you, but Eidolon’s articles and comment sections aren’t those venues. This is not a forum to debate the merits of feminism (although we welcome feminist critique of contemporary feminism!), anti-racism, or diversity in Classics. If you feel the need to expound on your opinion that progressivism is politically correct virtue-signaling SJW bullshit, then maybe the journal isn’t for you after all.

Will this shift lead to a less diverse Eidolon? Our writers always have been, and will continue to be, a diverse group. Our writer pool has excellent diversity of race, age, gender, professional status, and sexuality. We work hard to keep it that way. But we’ve been accused of not being “ideologically diverse.” This charge is a common one, but I think it is misguided, in addition to being morally bankrupt. Making ideological diversity a primary objective is fundamentally incompatible with fighting against racism, sexism, and other forms of structural oppression, and we choose to prioritize the latter.

Everyone may deserve a platform, but not everyone deserves a place on this platform. If a group of conservative classicists would like to start their own online journal championing the merits of a traditionalist approach to Classics, then I salute them. I’d even be interested in collaborating with them.

But Eidolon isn’t going to publish articles arguing that identity politics are ruining Classics. I don’t feel any obligation to represent that view here. I don’t believe that political neutrality is either achievable or desirable. Classics as a discipline has deep roots in fascism and reactionary politics and white supremacy, and those ideologies exert a powerful gravitational pull on the discipline’s practitioners. If we want to fight those forces, we need to actively work against them.

We hope that Eidolon will be a platform for energetic, thoughtful discussion about how best to achieve these goals, both in our articles and in the comments sections on Medium and Facebook. But we’ve come to realize that, if we want that kind of discussion, we’re going to need a new commenting policy. Unfortunately, when you allow open comment sections on the internet, truly lively and respectful discourse becomes impossible. A few condescending, trolling comments can have a profoundly chilling effect on the conversation.

In the past we only deleted comments that were openly bigoted or hateful. But from now on, we’ll be monitoring and moderating comments on Medium and Facebook much more heavily. We hope that they will lead to a comment section where academics and interested non-specialists can add thoughtful contributions that build on our articles and address important topics with sensitivity and nuance — a comment section that could really form the basis of a community of people who care about making Classics better.

If you appreciate Eidolon, we hope that you’ll continue to support us by reading our articles, commenting, and sending pitches — and maybe also by supporting us in a more concrete manner. Now that Eidolon is independent, we will rely on reader support to pay our writers and hardworking editors. We’ll be launching a Patreon account soon to provide extra content to patrons, and before the holidays we plan to open an online store selling merchandise featuring our beautiful original art.

I’m so excited for this next chapter, and I think the changes we’re making around here will help Eidolon continue to push the discipline forward. I hope you’ll come with us for the journey!

is the Editor-in-Chief of Eidolon. She received her PhD in Classics from Princeton, and her writing has appeared in Jezebel, The Establishment, and Avidly. Her book Not All Dead White Men, a study of the reception of Classics in Red Pill communities, is under contract with Harvard University Press.

2. Women Are Made, But From What?



Gender and Sexuality in Ancient Rome Copyright © by Jody Valentine. All Rights Reserved.

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