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Women & Power: A Manifesto
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Women & Power: A Manifesto (Hardback)

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Why the popular resonance of 'mansplaining' (despite the intense dislike of the term felt by many men)? It hits home for us because it points straight to what it feels like not to be taken seriously: a bit like when I get lectured on Roman history on Twitter. Britain's best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Elizabeth Warren. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, 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 the sexism and gendered aggression she has endured online, Mary asks: if women aren't perceived to be within the structures of power, isn't it power that we need to redefine?

History & PoliticsHistory: specific events & topicsSocial & cultural historyLGBT & Gender StudiesGender studiesGender studies: womenPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesSocial groupsPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesSocial issues & processesFeminism & feminist theory Publisher: Profile Books Ltd Publication Date: 02/11/2017 ISBN-13: 9781788160605  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the Classics editor of the TLS. She has world-wide academic acclaim, and is a fellow of the British Academy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her previous books include most recently SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, and the bestselling, Wolfson Prize-winning Pompeii, The Roman Triumph, also The Parthenon and Confronting the Classics. Her blog has been collected in the books It's a Don's Life and All in a Don's Day.

More books by Mary Beard

Customer Reviews

I bought this as a gift for a colleague who'd gone out of her way to help me recently, knowing her interest in history, politics and feminism. She was delighted and is finding it a fascinating, well-written, thought-provoking read. She tells me it is both erudite yet accessible, and I'm intending to borrow it to read myself when she's finished!

- 29/01/2018
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Mary Beard has written a powerful and beautiful book. A book that you can carry in your bag, read it and then re-read it, and read it once more (I have already read it twice). We live in an era that women, around the world, have more power than ever before. But women are less represented in the sectors and positions with the most power – men still dominate decision-making and our cultural and mental template for a powerful person remains absolutely male. Mary Beard’s subject is the ways women get silenced in public discourse. From Ancient Greece to Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton. From Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey, 3000 year ago, when Telemachus effectively told her to “shut up” to Senator Elizabeth Warren which, on February 2017, was silenced for reading at the Senate, a 30-year-old letter written by Coretta Scott King criticizing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions. But Senate Republicans notably didn’t object when Sanders and three other male senators later read portions of the same letter on the Senate floor. But the book is not only about women in the highest echelons of power in international politics. It is about all of us, all women that work and participate in public life. Women that are often subject to sexism and prejudice. Yes, there is misogyny, and misogyny is a good place to start in understanding the general phenomenon, but what is going on today is a bit more complicated. It has to do with authority, male authority to be precise. Women pay a very high price for being heard. Many women, including Mary Beard, have been the targets of misogynistic abuse via social media. Such hateful and hostile reactions are frequently directed at women who challenge men’s power and authority and they are liable to be written off as nasty, greedy, selfish and domineering. Misogyny and abuse are corrosive of women’s participation in public life, but this is something entirely different, it is about demeaning, trivialising, even threatening, it is an enforced silencing of women. Medusa has been used for centuries to criticize powerful women. In Western culture, strong women have historically been imagined as threats that need to be controlled and, for centuries, Medusa, a symbol of seduction and power, feminist and castration threat, has been used to criticise and demonize female authority. It is no surprise then, that Medusa has cropped up repeatedly to depict influential female figures as the mythological snake-haired monster. A few minutes on google search shows that it is a trend, to photoshop women in power as Medusas. Nancy Pelosi, Angela Merkel, Teresa May, Hillary Clinton, all are presented with snaky hair. But this is the 21st century. We have been silenced for too long. Not anymore.

- 03/12/2017
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A short book, a powerful book and a well written book. This is, as it says, on the cover, a manifesto, a cry for women to have a voice and crucially to be heard, and for women to have the right not to be demonised. In the form of two lectures, with plenty of pictures to back up the text, this is a book written against the background of wide events; Hilary Clinton’s defeat in the Presidential elections, women’s declarations of past abuse and much else. Beard also uses her personal experience of internet abuse and unfair treatment in the media to explain why her arguments throughout this consistently written book are so powerfully needed in today’s networked world. As you would expect from a Classics Professor, this book is full of allusions to the Greek and Roman world, stories and images of women punished for offences committed against them, and their voices denied. If you are not an expert, do not fear as this experienced teacher gives enough of the backstory of each metaphor or reference that it is always abundantly clear what she is trying to put over to the reader. The illustrations are clear and relevant to her argument; a more modern one is the “Miss Triggs” cartoon in which the chair of a meeting compliments Miss Triggs on her suggestion by asking one of the men present to make it. This is a theme which Beard continues to develop; how women’s voices are covered by men’s whatever they say in every context. She acknowledges that recent times have seen improvements, the number of women M.Ps increasing for example, but how even the significant speeches of women are still being edited and made more acceptable. A wide variety of examples are cited of women having to conform or being restricted to having their words changed or mediated through men, or having to acknowledge their restrictions as not having a voice in their own right, even when they are a Queen of England rallying troops at Tilbury in the late 1500s. This is a confidently written book by a woman of insight and courage. She is definitely not a man hater, but a feminist arguing from a position of knowledge. The most touching section is in the introduction when she recalls her mother, a very able and successful woman, frustrated by her lack of a University education and so pleased to see her daughter able to graduate. There are images which disturb; the Medusa in particular in all its variants. These two lectures deserve this book to be read and appreciated by many: anyone who has experienced a “Miss Triggs” moment, anyone who just feels that the world is unfair to half of the population, and anyone who appreciates a clear argument, well delivered.

- 03/11/2017
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