"A modern feminist classic."The GuardianFrom the internationally acclaimed classicist and New York Times best-selling author comes this timely manifesto on women and power.
At long last, Mary Beard addresses in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Mary herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. As far back as Homer’s Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech being defined as inherently male. From Medusa to Philomela (whose tongue was cut out), from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren (who was told to sit down), Beard draws illuminating parallels between our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship to powerand how powerful women provide a necessary example for all women who must resist being vacuumed into a male template. With personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine? And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?
Mary Beard is the author of multiple books, including the NBCC finalist Confronting the Classics, and most recently, the best-selling SPQR. A popular blogger and television personality and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, Beard is a professor of classics at the University of Cambridge.
…[Beard's] sparkling and forceful manifesto…is a straight shot of adrenaline, animated less by lament than impatience and quick wit…It's a tonic to encounter a book that doesn't just describe the scale of a problem but suggests remediesand exciting ones at that.The New York Times - Parul Sehgal
Based on a lecture from the London Review of Books lecture series, this essay from Beard (SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome) uses examples from literature to show deep roots of misogyny in Western culture. Beard uses clear and elegant prose to explore the ways in which men have silenced women and excluded them from the public sphere throughout history. She traces the phenomenon from Homer’s Odyssey, which Beard cites as the “first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up,’” to the hostile treatment of women politicians today, which Beard sees as exemplified by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stopping Sen. Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the Senate floor in early 2017. Beard argues that there is still no clear concept of what a powerful woman looks like, except “that she looks rather like a man,” this being why numerous Western political leaders wear “regulation trouser suits.” Beard ends on an open note that questions the nature of power itself: “If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?” This slim and timely volume leaves readers to contemplate how women can reconfigure society’s current perceptions of power. (Dec.)
“Beard is our most famous classicist, with a gift for bringing ancient Greece and Rome alive on the page like no one else. She is a writer of exceptional erudition and biting wit, and reading her is always a pleasure. This latest manifesto...is no exception…Beard has written an indictment, perhaps her most uncompromising to date, of an ancient past that she is hardly asking us – has never unequivocally asked us – to celebrate. As far as women are concerned, in relation to this ancestral legacy, there is very little to be proud about…The question I finally take from this brilliant book is: what would such power – no rape, no guns, no shutting up of women – look like?”The Guardian
“There’s something about Women & Power that ensures it stands out from the rest though. Beard’s is a manifesto firmly grounded in rigorous academic study made legible for the masses, and her proposal for change as radical as it is reasonable and – we can but hope – realistic.”The National
“Troll slayer.”The New Yorker
“Battling back her antagonists [Beard has become] something of a folk hero.”New York Times
“What she says is always powerful and interesting.”Guardian
“A Cambridge professor and a television lecturer of irresistible salty charm.”New York Times Book Review
“A pithy exploration of misogyny’s tangled cultural roots. Based on a series of lectures, this slim volume draws on Beard’s deep knowledge of the classical world and her personal experience as a target of online sexist abuse. She reflects on the gendered structures of power, from voiceless women in Ovid’s Metamorphoses to feminists “reclaiming” Medusa. With clearsightedness and wry humour, this self-described “gobby woman” proves public speech is no longer the preserve of maleness. More power to her.”Financial Times
★ 2017-11-14Kirkus Reviews
Noted classicist and essayist Beard (S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015, etc.) looks deep into the past and hard at the present to examine the power of women—and more often, their powerlessness—in a world of impatient men.Sen. Elizabeth Warren was far from the first woman to be silenced, publicly, by a man who did not want to hear what she had to say. As the author chronicles in the first of two lectures in this slim but potent volume, Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, hushed his mother, Penelope, saying, "speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all." Penelope retreats to her quarters, although in fact she does have something important to say. Women who managed to make themselves heard in the ancient world usually did so with asterisks attached, as when Maesia, who defended herself in a Roman court, was successful because, a contemporary recorded, "she really had a man's nature behind the appearance of a woman." The classical inheritance has provided a template that holds to this day—and when not silenced, women are threatened and trolled, as Beard is every time she writes an essay for nonacademic readers. Silence links to power or the lack thereof; in this regard, argues the author, women do not recognize their achievements and the possibilities of self-governance—or, perhaps more to the point, "have no template for what a powerful woman looks like, except that she looks rather like a man." In closing her provocative, thoughtful, and elegantly but lightly worn literary argument, Beard observes that were she writing her lectures afresh, she would "find more space to defend women's right to be wrong," since they have to be unimpeachably correct in order to be taken seriously—if then.An urgent feminist cri de coeur, spot-on in its utterly reasonable plea that a woman "who dares to open her mouth in public" actually be given a hearing.