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 *