Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Mary Beard on the Silencing of Women’s Voices

Mary Beard, Image by Janet Cameron
Mary Beard speaks to women about being heard and respected. Image by Janet Cameron, all rights reserved
In her lecture, “Oh Do Shut Up, Dear,” Professor Mary Beard quoted a typical modern-day male technique that silences women in the boardroom. She calls it “The Failed Intervention.”
The woman takes her turn to speak, then waits, expecting a response relevant to her argument. Then a man will intercede, picking up from a previous comment: “What I was saying was…” he begins again, with no reference to what she has just said.
It is as though she does not exist; as though nothing of any consequence has happened during the previous few moments. The men ignore her, dehumanize her– and silence her!
People usually instruct women in this position to disregard the insult and “keep mum.”  
“An integral part of growing up as a man is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species,” says Mary Beard. This has happened throughout history.

The fact that it still happens today is a matter for serious concern. Professor Mary Beard of Cambridge University, a charismatic and accomplished speaker, delivered her lecture in the British Museum to a captive audience.

The Ancient Art of Silencing Women, from Life and from Literature

There are numerous examples in literature of female characters being routinely silenced. These are just a few, quoted by Beard, in her lecture:
In Homer’s The Odyssey,  written around three thousand years ago, Telemachus tells his mother Penelope: “Go back to your quarters… Speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all, for mine is the power in the household.”  
Much later, in the early 4th Century BC, Aristophanes wrote a comedy fantasy about women taking over the running of the state. The men thought it was hilarious, since women were “unable to speak properly in public.”  
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zeus turnsone female character, Io, into a cow and she can only “moo.” Zeus’ wife, Hera, punishes another, Echo, by not allowing her control over her own voice. She can only repeat the words of others.
One of the main techniques used to silence women has frequently been that of scorn and derision. Men accused assertive women of those times of being androgynous and freakish; in other words, a female form with a man’s nature. They described female speech as  “yapping” or “barking.”
A  lecturer and guru, Dio Chrysostom from the second century, posited a situation where “an entire community experienced a strange affliction. The men’s voices became female. No one could speak in a manly manner.” The learned “guru” concluded it would be worse than the plague.

The Modern Art of Silencing Women in Life and on Social Networks

The intention to silence is still practised in modern life, although different methods may be used, for example, that of abuse or attack through social media. Recently, the support for a female logo on a banknote evoked outrage and abusive comments on Twitter.
Distressingly, someone who disliked Beard’s politics sent her sick, abusive tweets. When she objected, tweeting that she was “gobsmacked,” one male commentator responded, “‘The misogyny is truly gobsmacking,’ she whined.” The same commentator quoted above runs a “lighthearted” sideline. This is a contest to find “…the most stupid woman to appear on Question Time.” 
Through social media, Beard has also been called an “ignorant moron” and she has been threatened with sickening physical violence.
Women receive threatening (including death threats) and sexually abusive tweets more frequently than men, with thirty women targeted for every single male, says Beard.
Further, although women who speak in public today are not normally described as “barking” or “yapping,”critics often call them “strident.”
From these few, brief examples we can see how prejudice against women speaking in public is still with us. While Beard  agrees that Western culture cannot entirely place the blame on the Greeks and Romans for our present-day gendered speaking, their culture, rules and conventions remain with us.
“The modern techniques of rhetoric and persuasion formulated in the Renaissance were drawn explicitly from ancient speeches and handbooks,” she says. Authority figures from the nineteenth century were taught in this way, and today we still experience this subversive influence.
Mary Beardsley Lecturing in the British Museum. Image by Janet Cameron
Mary Beard Lecturing in the British Museum. Image by Janet Cameron, all rights reserved.

Margaret Thatcher’s Voice Training

The tradition of gendered speaking goes right back into ancient history, to Aristotle and to Cicero. According to Mary Beard, President Obama uses rhetorical “tricks” taken directly from Cicero.
When Britain elected Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister, advisors considered it necessary to raise her profile – by lowering the pitch of her voice. As it was, it simply was not “authoritative” enough. “And that’s fine, in a way, if it works,” says Mary Beard, “but all tactics of that type tend to leave women still feeling on the outside, impersonators of rhetorical roles that they don’t feel they own.
“Putting it bluntly, having women pretend to be men may be a quick fix, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.”
However, Beard says there is no reason within our culture that we should perceive a male voice as exuding more authority. Nor is there any neurological reason why this should be so.
Why, then, do we accept that the deep timbre of a male voice has a superior and more authoritative quality except that tradition drums this into us, and has become hard-wired into our brains?

Consciousness-Raising Tactics

The truth is, as Mary Beard explains, that women pay a very high price in order to be heard. She points out that the public regards men with craggy, wrinkled faces as mature and wise, where the same people consider women of a similar age and cragginess as “past their use-by date.”  
She concludes her lecture with the following suggestion:
“What we need is some old fashioned consciousness-raising about what we mean by the voice of authority and how we’ve come to construct it. We need to work that out before we figure out how we modern Penelopes might answer back to our own Telemachuses.”

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Blimey - What Next?

The park where I was followed.

Hi, doesn't life go up and down? When mine is up, is very up and when it's down I am in despair and ready to throw myself off the pier. (That's not as dramatic as it sounds if you've ever seen Littlehampton Pier!) Anyway, after my trials which I posted recently on FB, another thing happened. I was followed.

Yes, I know, if an old lady says she's been followed by a bloke everyone says, "Poor old dear, she's fantasizing about her youth." But I'm not and he was, but probably wanted to get a hold on my handbag, my credit cards and my phone.

I was sitting in the park, by the lake. He passsed me, said "Good evening" then stood on the narrow bridge over the stream that feeds the lake, blocking my way back to my home and started talking to me in incomprehensible slurry language.

I got up and started walking to the other end of the park. I glanced back, he was walking behind me. I walked faster. So did he. Now any decent man would know that this is frightening for a woman alone in a park and would have slowed down or hung back. He didn't and I was terrified. There was no one else in the park.

Then I saw a young man ahead by the cafe at the sea end and I yelled at him to wait for me. I started to run, insofar as I am capable of running! He was pretty surprised and I apologised and asked him to talk to me as if he knew me because I was being harrassed. At that moment the stalker passed by and the young man said, "You are right, he does look weird."

I said I felt stupid but I was scared so he said, "Would you like a hug?" and spread out his arms. I said, "Yes please," and he gave me a cuddle, bless his heart, which was very sweet and I think very unusual - I am old enough to be his Gran!

Next day when I took my blood pressure which is under review it was 190 over 100, the second highest it's ever been. My knee hurt like crazy after running the previous night. I managed to get some temporary blood pressure pills from the herbalist while I wait for my doctor's appointment, and now it is stable and much lower, thank heavens.

Meantime, I'm on an "up." Seven poems now placed and to be published shortly, a dozen or so more submitted, and I'm starting another ebook utilising material from my MA in poetry. Yes, I know I said I wouldn't do any more books. I believed that at the time.

Also I have become a Great Aunt to a beautiful little baby. And, shallow of me to mention it amidst all the other news, but I have lost 5lbs.

Friday, 7 July 2017

5 Things I HATE about Hairdressers !!

Public Domain Cartoon
There are any number of reasons why I get the heeby-jeebies about going to the hairdressers.

Maybe it's me, but it seems I always go off my hairdresser eventually, although I have outlasted one or two who went on to better things in posher, more exxpensive salons.

I'm not a monster though. I can forgive the occasional mistake, but some things are DEAL BREAKERS!


My current hairdresser is very good, but I'm never going back there again. She does a great job and my hair always looks wonderful, but, boy, does she leave me with a sore head.

She's so rough, pulling and grimacing as though my hair is a force to be subdued, not crafted into a delightful concoction that will transform my looks until the next high wind or rainy day.

I suspect - although I may be wrong - that this is deliberate. Surely she must know that her relentless yanking must hurt like hell, especially as I am wincing and squishing my eyes together like a terrified rabbit facing a shotgun.

Why don't I say something?  I'm a wimp about some things. I guess I think she might take it out on me in some other way. The woman with the scissors wields a lot of power. Easier to go somewhere else.


Getting my hair cut is the worst thing. I love my hair short but not right up the back of my neck, thank you very much. Once I was driven to drawing in extra little wispy hairs down the back of my neck with an eyebrow pencil. No one, but the youngest, slenderest, prettiest girl looks good with hair cropped right up to the top of her ears.


This happens when the salon overbooks. There's not time to take out my colour because my hairdresser is in the middle of removing the split ends from a fellow customer with a lot more hair than I have. As a result, my brown has gone black and black hair only suits (yes, you got it!) the youngest, slenderest, prettiest girls.


This is sheer laziness and ineptitude and no one should ever leave her hairdresser with a product tidemark on the back of her neck. (Always be suspicious if your hairdresser fails to use a mirror to show you the back of your head.)


I do try not to do this, but sometimes there's not time to get to the hairdresser and if I can't see under my fringe, I give it a little trim. Usually it looks okay. Once I made a mess because my regular root touch-up was not available and I bought a different product. It looked terrible but, after all...


Oh well, onward I go. I do believe there's a salon I haven't tried in Bognor.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

PASSIVE and PASSENGER are Equally Contentious Labels

Everyone tells me I don't need a car. I mean, let's face it, at my age! Why do I need to go out in the evening when the buses only run once an hour? Why do I need transport at my fingertips? Buses are good enough. Fgs, the Government gave me a bus pass, for which I am eminently grateful. Of course, on odd occasions, someone might give me a lift. Sometimes it works out fine, and I appreciate that, I really do.


Something terrible happens to perfectly nice people when they are IN CONTROL of the car and you are a PASSIVE PASSENGER.  PASSIVE and PASSENGER are equally contentious labels.

There are the usual problems which every non-car driver experiences.

  1. You have to leave when your lift decides to leave. You can't leave early because you are p....d off, or even later because you just met this incredibly dishy man. And that's fair enough. You can't expect your lift to inconvenience themselves, otherwise what's the point of a car?
  2. If you can't get a lift, and the buses finish before you leave your event, then you can't go. That's that.
  3. Whenever you travel by public transport, you arrive windswept and exhausted from whizzing over platform bridges or standing on the station in a wind tunnel. Or being rained on at the bus stop because the bus is running late. And the cold, the biting cold in winter, when the bus is nowhere to be seen and everything around is dark and miserable.
  4. Without wanting to be unkind to the unfortunate, it can be hard when someone very dirty and smelly sits next to you. I do understand this person has problems, but ... I am squeamish about stuff like that.
  5. You have to carry very heavy stuff, or else arrange for it to be delivered or buy online. This means you have a constantly aching back or feet. Or you have to use a shopping trolley which makes you feel 90 years old.

People tell me I don't need a car because I can get a taxi from time to time when I need one. But it's not a one-off. It's a whole lifestyle that is having to be adjusted to what is available in the area where I live. It was better in when I lived in Brighton as the buses go everywhere and run all night.

So taxis are out. If I used taxis every time I needed a car rather than a bus, I would be broke.

Then there are the occasional TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES a person can have when accepting lifts. It's not just me. Friends in the same position have also encountered similar problems. For example:

  1. When I first moved to Rustington, a woman I knew wanted to take me everywhere. I think her heart was in the right place in the beginning, but it became impossible. She was so intense and eager to please that I accepted even though I could, in some cases, easily have gone by bus. Then she would turn up 30 minutes early or even longer, and sit outside my apartment block blasting her horn and I was still in my underwear.

    To cap it all, I'd believe we were going to the cinema, or maybe for a drink in the pub, but we'd have to spend an hour in the garden centre, or maybe the supermarket, first. There was plenty of time. She'd made sure of that. I hate going to the garden centre or the supermarket and trailing around with a trolley when I think I am going to see a film, and when I definitely don't want any shopping or plants. Generally speaking, I hate shopping. I only go when I run out of marmalade. But in someone else's car, you are done for. I made a big mistake. I got in her car and she was in control, the Boss Lady.  It was soooo hard to extricate myself from this situation.
  2. "Don't worry, we will take you ALL THE WAY HOME. No, there's no need to drop you off halfway at a convenient bus stop."  Okay, sounds fair enough. But I am in the back of the car. The front windows are wide open, to allow the smoke to drift out. But science is not that kind. The draught thundering through the windows channels that smoke straight back into the car, depriving me (floundering in the back) of oxygen and creating enough toxic fumes in my tiny bit of air space to practically choke me. 
  3. When I was offered a lift to a regular event, the male driver in question was gallantry itself, until a couple of people made remarks about us arriving together. Sort of suggesting, by implication, we were an item. He was raging by the time he drove me home and ranted at me, as though it was my fault. Perhaps he thought I'd told people he was my man-friend, who knows? Some men are so arrogant. It's quite scary, having your driver in a state of, well not exactly road-rage, but something close. I told him the fact he had given me a lift did not mean I wanted to have his baby. Eventually, we made it up, and are now civil to each other. But that experience made me wary of accepting lifts from men unless I know them well.
  4. Then there was the intimidating woman-driver who took me to an event. I paid my share of the petrol so it should have been okay. But what an aggressive driver! She gave all the other drivers the finger, accelerated to within half a metre of the car in front, and then slammed on the brakes. At one point a car was trying to edge out of a difficult position onto the main road. She would not give way and missed hitting it by a heartbeat. At one point it passed us in the faster lane, and then she sat so close to its back bumper I was tensing up for the bang. She must have had her two fingers up in front of the windscreen for at least a mile.

So that's why I need a car. It's about freedom, movement and independence. 

I found a super one on the Internet, see photo and I'm going to look at it tomorrow. I've checked out the current values, and the insurance. 

It seems perfect, so only something truly awful will stop me buying it. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

I Can't Stand Nosey Parkers.

I can't stand Nosey Parkers. Real, unashamed Nosey Parkers. The sort of Nosey Parker whose nose twitches like an excited squirrel about to unearth his nuts after a long, long hibernation!

What is so fascinating about what is going on in my living room?

Okay, so we are all, to some extent, curious. I understand that. We're all interested in other people. At least, most of us are. But now I'm talking about those human-twitchers always on the lookout, always nosing into other people's business, and who don't understand the meaning of the word "privacy."

Being on the ground floor, people have to walk past my patio window en route to the car park. I don't mind that. I like people. Most don't trot past with their eyes burning anxiously as they try to peer through my window glass. Hoping to see what?

The case in point is a married couple in my block of flats. They are both irrepressible twitchers of human activity. Rubber-neckers. When I first moved in, before I managed to get my blinds sorted, I felt like a specimen at the zoo. I contemplated putting up a sign. HOMO SAPIEN, (FEMALE) FEEDING TIME 7PM.

Sometimes I had a sense of humour about it. My friend and I would giggle, watching them as they walked past, not realising that we could see them rubber-necking.

He has taken Holy Orders, so maybe he hopes to catch me out in some minor sin that he can help me to repent of. But - eventually - the blinds went up, and the curtains went up. Incredibly their necks remained intact and not dislocated.

Now my blinds and curtains have had to come down again.

The workmen are here doing my damp proofing and plaster repairs. This evening, though, I wanted some privacy. The bookcase placed on its side in front of the window helped, with cushions and table mats on top, and a chair beside, see my photo above.

His Holiness comes up the apartment steps, veers left towards my window and peers through the glass patio door, over the two bags on top of the chair I pushed in front of it.


Fortunately they will be moving in May. Let's hope the new neighbours will have a life of their own and won't need to rubber-neck mine!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Giacomo Casanova, The World's Most Famous Womanizer, was Born This Day, 2 April

Casanova - by Adriano C. Public Domain
I'm not sure why I'm posting this on Msanthropeonline. After all, he LOVED women, and so, he must have been very charming. Maybe I would have fallen for him if I'd lived in the 18th century and met him. Yes, knowing me, I can be taken in by a sparkling wit and and engaging manner.

But he was ruthless and manipulative and deceitful. And women were his "victims" although possibly that is too strong a word.

He was born in Venice on 2 April 1725 and called himself by all manner of uppity titles, Baron, Count, Chevalier, to impress the ladies and other useful contacts. He hobnobbed with the best of society, Voltaire, Goethe and Mozart, and was on familiar terms with royalty.

His autobiography which he wrote while working as a librarian in Bohemia, was Histoire de ma vie. (Story of my life.) 

The following quote he made about love is courtesy of his page on Wikipedia.

Real love is the love that sometimes arises after sensual pleasure: if it does, it is immortal; the other kind inevitably goes stale, for it lies in mere fantasy. 

So, clearly, this intellectual did have some idea of what real love was; nevertheless he is known for his numerous and brief amorous adventures with women.  

One particularly bizarre incident occurred in Paris. He managed to convince an aristocratic woman, Marquise d'Urfe, that he could use his knowledge of the occult to turn her into a young man, his goal being some sort of payoff. Of course, as he would have known, his plan didn't work and the lady lost interest in his alleged occult abilities.

Why was Casanova impelled to pursue and seduce so many women?  

For a start, he was constantly in debt. As a result, he moved around Europe at an alarming rate. Perhaps he was never able to stay anywhere long enough to develop anything concrete.

There could be another likely cause. At age 9, his mother, a theatre actress who was constantly on tour, packed him off to a boarding house in Padua. (His father had already died when he was eight years old.)  The conditions were terrible and he felt angry and abandoned. Maybe this caused him to go off in search of love - and yet not be able to trust anyone sufficiently to commit to a lifetime relationship. (All this is just speculation on my part. No doubt a deeper study of the man might produce further possibilities.)

If I get around to reading his autobiography I will let you know! 

Casanova died in 1798. 

You can find a short biography with a video about Casanova here.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Six delegates, five men and one woman, are at a business meeting after hours. The refectory is closed and the coffee machine has broken down.

 After a gruelling session one of the men says, "I could murder a coffee."

"Right," says the man next to him. "I'll get the girl to fix it."