But I owe most to Helen Morales, once my colleague in Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, now Professor at the Univerity of California, Santa Barbara. We talked through the issues, classical and otherwise, of women's power and voice over long trans-atlantic phone calls. Among many other things, she pointed me in the direction of the Medusa imagery. This book is for her.
Women in the West have a lot to celebrate; let's not forget.
I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to 'shut up'; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public.
The Public Voice of Women.
In 1915 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a funny, but unsettling, story entitled Herland.
Women in Power.
Turning lectures into permanent print can be a tricky business.
Afterword, September 2017.
When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.
But for all that - as I hope this book shows - Telemachus' rebuke to his mother Penelope when she dares to open her mouth in public is one that still, too often, being replayed in the twenty-first century.
Both 'The Public Voice of Women' and 'Women in Power' were originally lectures presented by Mary Beard in the LRB Winter Lecture series. Versions of the lectures appeared in the London Review of Books, 20 March 2014 and 16 March 2017 respectively. The lectures in this book have undergone "some very light updating".
Why the popular resonance of 'mansplaining' (despite the intense dislike of the term felt by many men)? It hits home for us because it points straight to what it feels like not to be taken seriously: a bit like when I get lectured on Roman history on Twitter.
Britain's best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, our cultural assumptions about women's relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template.
With personal reflections on her own experiences of the sexism and gendered aggression she has endured online, Mary asks: if women aren't perceived to be within the structures of power, isn't it power that we need to redefine?
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Two essays connect the past with the present, tracing the history of misogyny to its ancient roots and examining the pitfalls of gender.