Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Mary Beard | Women in Power

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

The Western world’s demonization 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 humor 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.


Dame Winifred Mary Beard, DBE, FSA, FBA, FRSL (born 1955) is an English scholar of Ancient Roman civilization. The New Yorker characterizes her as “learned but accessible”. She is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of Newnham College, and Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Ancient Literature. She is the classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement, where she also writes a regular blog, “A Don’s Life”. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements have led to her being described as “Britain’s best-known classicist”. Beard was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to the study of classical civilisations.

Video by the London Review of Books

Text by Psyche

Running time: 72 minutes

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.

One of many depictions of Hillary Clinton as Medusa beheaded by Donald Trump as Perseus (Pinterest)

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