Why Medusa lives on – Mary Beard on the persistent legacy of Ancient Greek misogyny
‘To be men, they have to learn to silence women. I don’t think we’ve entirely got over that.’
From philosophy and politics to literature and art, the Western world has inherited much from Ancient Greece. But one disturbing cultural legacy is the enduring view of women as lesser beings who should shut up and stay out of the public intellectual sphere. Our social media is rife with examples of this persistent misogyny, which casts vocal women as stupid, shrill or some combination of the two. As the classicist Mary Beard of the University of Cambridge argues, nearly every leading female politician has been at some point depicted as Medusa – that beautiful woman of Ancient Greek myth who was transformed into a hideous beast as punishment for her own rape. In this video, commissioned by the Getty Museum on the occasion of Beard receiving their 2019 Getty Medal for contributions to the arts, she elaborates on the telling similarities between Ancient Greek depictions of women and those in our own times.