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To understand the aversion to powerful women, look to the Greeks, says Mary Beard

The Western world’s demonisation of women in power can be traced back to Ancient Greece, argues the celebrated UK classicist Mary Beard. For clear evidence of this centuries-long thread, look no further than the online depictions of Hillary Clinton as Medusa, freshly beheaded by a Trumpified Perseus, that made the rounds in the US presidential election in 2016. In this lecture at the British Museum in 2017, Beard contends that this Ancient Greek disdain for female power continues to shape language and attitudes in less obvious, but similarly destructive ways. With sharp humour and a slew of incisive examples, Beard makes the case that, to truly overcome archetypes of powerful women as irresponsible, dangerous and conniving, female power needs a new framework focused on results, and decoupled from prestige.

For a brief take on similar themes, watch this short documentary, which was commissioned by the Getty Museum on the occasion of Beard receiving their 2019 Getty Medal for contributions to the arts.

1 October 2020

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