Mary Beard speaks out on women's voices in Q&A session

Mary Beard particpated in a Q&A session at John's last night
Image credit: YouTube

Mary Beard drew a large crowd last night at a St. John’s Women’s Society event, calling for a ‘gradual revolution’ enabling women’s voices to be heard.

The Classics professor and popular TV historian is known for her straight-talking style and was recently in the headlines as a victim of a bomb threat on Twitter after the UK boss of the social networking site apologised to women who have experienced abuse.

Mary’s talk last night was focused on the potential power of women’s voices. In response to a question asked concerning whether it was right for students to be told to “write like a man”, she asserted that “I am totally and utterly committed to women’s voices themselves sounding authoritative”.

Yet she continued with an anecdote, citing how in a bleary morning state, she would listen to some female politicians on the radio, admitting that “I don’t always take them seriously”. Whilst being sure that this was an issue, she was at loss for a solution, stating that “I don’t know how we retune our ears. Why is it that someone with a high pitched voice is not listened to as much as someone with a low pitched voice?”

Mary Beard went on to talk about her experience at Cambridge, both as a student and academic, recalling the nostalgia of some of her colleagues and addressing the issue of “getting old”.

Asked whether men can do anything to help women be heard, she responded that it would have to be a “communal project”. In furthering this point, she acknowledged that she felt she often had more support from male colleagues than female, particularly in the 70s.

“The greatest myth of modern liberal politics is that social change happens without casualties” she went on, warning that there will always be ‘victims’ to societal change. She suggested that white, middle-class women may have benefitted from social changes, but “upper-class toffs” suffered from it. She added that we must be prepared for more victims along the way and was keen to emphasise the changes which are still needed in order to diversify the education system.

She was well-received by the large crowd of students, many of whom joined her after the Q&A session for a drink and further discussion.

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