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Mary Beard on Women and Power, with Miriam González and Laurie Penny

Mary Beard is Britain’s best known classicist. Widely admired for her scholarship and popular television programmes about the ancient world, she is also one of this country’s most prominent feminists.

Mary Beard is Britain’s best known classicist. Widely admired for her scholarship and popular television programmes about the ancient world, she is also one of this country’s most prominent feminists. By refusing to be cowed by the misogynistic trolls who have abused her on Twitter, she has become a heroine for our times.

In 2018 Beard came to the Intelligence Squared stage to talk about the themes of her No. 1 bestselling book Women and Power: A Manifesto. Examining misogyny’s deep cultural roots, she explored the ways in which women have been excluded from power for thousands of years. Take the decapitated, snake-haired head of Medusa in Greek mythology – seen by Freud as a castrator figure. It has been used recently to demonise Theresa May, Angela Merkel, and in the 2016 presidential campaign Hillary Clinton, who appeared in a meme as Medusa, with Trump holding her severed head aloft. The message? That the ultimate way to silence a woman is to kill her. Beard also highlighted a passage in Homer’s Odyssey, some 3,000 years old, where Penelope’s son tells her to shut up and go back to her spinning and weaving because speech is ‘the business of men.’ Muted women, men as aggressors: the injustices that the #MeToo movement is addressing are millennia old.

So how do we combat misogyny in all its forms? Is the kind of collective action we have seen recently in the Women’s March and #MeToo going to effect the change longed for by so many? Should women who seek political power simply accept the status quo and follow the male template, or do we need a radical rethink of the entire nature of power and spoken authority?

Beard explored these urgent questions, in conversation with lawyer and campaigner Miriam González and radical commentator Laurie Penny, with writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch in the chair.


Speakers

Chair

Afua Hirsch

Writer and broadcaster


Writer and broadcaster, Social Affairs Editor of Sky News and former specialist correspondent at the Guardian. Before journalism, she practised law as a barrister, specialising in criminal defence, public and international law. She’s the author of Brit(ish), a book about Britishness and identity, which will be published by next year.
Featuring

Mary Beard

Professor of Classics at Cambridge University


Professor of Classics at Cambridge University and Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement. She has written extensively on the ancient world, and her books include Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up. She writes the popular ‘A Don’s Life’ blog for the TLS and is a regular broadcaster. She presented the BBC2 programme ‘Meet the Romans with Mary Beard’ in 2013. Her latest book is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.

Miriam González

Co-chair of law firm Dechert LLP’s International Trade and Government Regulation practice


Co-chair of law firm Dechert LLP’s International Trade and Government Regulation practice, where she advises clients on Brexit and EU trade law policy. She is also the founder and chair of Inspiring Girls, a charity dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting schoolgirls with female role models. The campaign has been launched so far in Serbia, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Colombia with several more countries in the pipeline for 2018 and beyond.

Laurie Penny

Author and commentator


Author and commentator, who has been described as ‘one of the most accomplished and acerbic of the new, young journalists emerging from the protest movements of the 2010s’. She is a contributing editor to The New Statesman and has also written for The Guardian, Time magazine, Buzzfeed, The New York Times and Vice. She has written five books including Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults and Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution.