Author: Mary Beard
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
Mary Beard is widely known as a preeminent classicist, most famous for the widely lauded SPQR (a history of the Roman empire). In this slim volume, two of her recent lectures addressing women and power are presented for the reader in essay form.
Beard, as always, brings formidable historical knowledge to bear, finding roots to present day misogyny and gendered conceptions of power in ancient Greece and Rome. She highlights historical texts and ancient myths and guides the reader in an examination of what these sources reveal about the role of women and how we have, over centuries, conceived of power as an inherent masculine trait. Framing her discussion of modern day misogyny in historical context adds depth to her points, and underscores how insidious and stubborn the barriers to power are for women.
These essays look at the normalization of violence against women (as evidenced in the tenor of online attacks by trolls), the discomfort society has with women in power (often casting them as Medusas or harpies, in short as somehow unnatural), and asks whether we need a new concept of power.
A thoughtful and thought-provoking pair of essays (with the added benefit of some visual aids, cartoons, and art), and a wonderful opportunity to hear Beard as more than just a scholar, but as a person with wit, personality, and strength of will.