Verdict: Interesting, but ultimately too short for me.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Published by Profile Books, 2017
Britain’s best known classicist, Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit she shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Elizabeth Warren as she explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, how we look at women who exercise power, our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template.
With personal reflections on her own experiences of sexism online and the gendered violence she has endured as a woman in the public eye, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be fully within the structures of power, isn’t it power we need to redefine?
I don’t have all that much too say about this book which is why my review will be rather on the short side (quite like the book). This book collects two speeches Mary Beard has given, one called “The Public Voice Of Women” and one “Women & Power” and as speeches I am sure this worked wonderfully. As a book however, it really fell a bit short for me. I might not be the target audience and this might work better as an introduction to feminist thinking but for me, while I agreed with Mary Beard and appreciated her expertise in history, it just did not blow my mind.
I do like her emphasis on changing structure to really be able to achieve change and I think that social structure is too often ignored in feminist analysis. There are so many things we just take for granted that Mary Beard shines a light on. But I also thought that her dialectic use of “male” and “female” is too easy and her examples are often too neat to be all that convincing.