Women & Power: A Manifesto — Mary Beard

(pub. 2017)

Two essays pub­lished in the London Review of Books in 2014 and 2017
In the Public Voice of Women, Beard shows the depth and breadth of the prac­tice of the silenc­ing of women. She begins with the silenc­ing of Penelope by her son Telemachus in the Odyssey. When Penelope enters the hall to ask that the singer to lit­er­al­ly change his tune, her young son Telemachus tells his moth­er to be qui­et and go back up stairs, 

using the words “speech will be the busi­ness of men” Through out clas­si­cal Greece and Rome speech is over and over again made to be the sphere of men. Folly, mad­ness, and unwom­an­li­ness are the accu­sa­tions lev­eled at women who dare to speak. With exam­ple after exam­ple Beard shows the depth to which the pro­hi­bi­tion against women speak­ing pub­licly and the den­i­gra­tion of their pub­lic speech has con­tin­ued to be cod­ed into the west­ern culture.
In Women in Power, Beard exam­ines the dialec­tic of women and pow­er. She points out that even mod­ern women do not often come into pow­er and when they do it is nec­es­sary for them to code their behav­iors as mas­cu­line. She under­lines the fact that pow­er is a mas­cu­line con­cept in our cul­ture and that to ele­vate women to an equal sta­tus with regard to pow­er (polit­i­cal pow­er in par­tic­u­lar) with­out them hav­ing to assume the tra­di­tion­al mas­cu­line trap­pings of pow­er it will be nec­es­sary to remake the nature of our under­stand­ing of pow­er. She’s lit­tle light on what this recod­ing might be — but her basic point — that how pow­er is seen by our cul­ture is a major stum­bling block to equal­i­ty is well taken.

* the clas­si­cist in me nods her head *