Thank god Mary Beard is out there doing the hard work of being a classical studies feminist so the rest of us don’t have to labor in the Latin & Greek trenches. This latest book encompasses two lectures she’s given in the last few years, born of her experience of being threatened/harassed/trolled on Twitter for committing the crime of being a woman with something to say. She also apparently gets mansplained about ancient Rome by these idiots.
She takes women’s silencing back all the way back to the first written tale—Homer’s Odyssey. Telemachus tells his mom Penelope to pipe down and head back to her weaving because speech is the “business of men, all men, and of me most of all.” From there we only have thousands of other years of examples of women being told to shut up.
Despite how it sounds, it’s a delightful romp. You’ve got Hilary Clinton & Angela Merkel alongside Medusa, Lysistrata, the Amazons, Herland from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Lucretia, Sojourner Truth, Fulvia, Queen Elizabeth I, and Clytemnestra. And Beard’s sass sneaks in as well, how she bought a pair of blue tights for her first interview for an academic job: “If you interviewers are going to be thinking that I’m a right bluestocking, let me just show you that I know that’s what you’re thinking and that I got there first.”