"as if she had been Medusa"

 

A famous character in Greek mythology, Medusa was one of the Gorgons.  According to Ovid, she had once been a beautiful woman and a priestess in Athena's temple, but she angered the goddess when she was raped by Poseidon there.  As punishment, Athena turned Medusa's hair into serpents, and made her face so awful that to look at her turned men to stone.  She was beheaded by Perseus, who then used the head as a weapon before presenting it to Athena for her to place on her shield.  In recent years, Medusa has been reclaimed as a feminist symbol, as demonstrated in this poem by Carol Ann Duffy.  Instead of representing terror, many people now view her as a potent representation of female rage - certainly appropiate for here for our narrator's Maman.  Medusa's image is also part of the logo of the fashion house of Versace.