Mary Beard voiced an opinion...

(275 Posts)
AbigailAdams Mon 21-Jan-13 13:53:16

... and received vicious misogynistic remarks as a reward.

Just in case anyone was in any doubt that women were targetted, specifically because of their sex. Mary Beard was recently on Question Time. She has experienced a horrible backlash for this. Mainly focussed around her sex and her looks, rather than what she said. Also not just her, her children as well.

Mary's hellish misogynistic internet experience

She is not alone. There really is a special type of wrath and insults saved for women. It is desgined to silence us. And this is really just a continutation on from Beachcomber's thread on women's voices being drowned (and kim's thread on MN and misogyny). It really doesn't matter about the subject matter, women aren't supposed to have opinions. Unless they of course they uphold the patriarchy.

It also raises questions about keeping anonymity, when speaking out. We shouldn't have to but when you are threatened with "we know where you live" type comments, it is easy to see why it is necessary.

I haven't really got a question, other than why should we have to put up with this shit? What can we do about it?

I think Mary did a really good thing in highlighting what happened to her and Louise Mensch involved the police and these are probably the ways to go with dealing with it. But god, it is so exhausting. So I suppose this is just a rant really.

Abitwobblynow Wed 23-Jan-13 08:56:22

The thing about Mary Beard that I found annoying, is that being a progressive, she makes Enlightened statements of Good Intentions as though they are a manifestation of the absolute truth. (Read: The Vision of the Anointed (Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy) by Thomas Sowell, about exactly how destructive liberal left social theories actually are).

So I (and I suppose the silent majority) get irritated. And then, I have to admit, I look at her bad grooming and think she should get a bloody hair cut.

But of course that is as far as it goes. The way she thinks irritates me, full stop. I am not too sure why being a classicist gives you the moral authority to harp on about political social theory, and why she is deferred to in this way. Hell, if she knows that much about the Roman Empire she should know that the West is showing all the hallmarks of it's decline. I personally have never heard her utter a word about growing centralised bureaucracy, declining production and ever-increasing taxation that marked its end! The centre cannot hold, folks.

The misogyny that she arouses is a deeper and darker matter (and should be combatted severely). But I have no doubt it is originally sparked off by the oblivious right-on BS that she spouts.

Catriona100 Wed 23-Jan-13 08:59:22

There may well have been some stupid remarks about her appearance, but I think the issue was what she did (or at least tried to do) on question time. A man who did the same would have recieved equal treatment (and if he had unusual looks, then he'd have had that pointed out in a rather nasty way too).

sieglinde Wed 23-Jan-13 09:02:23

I still think her views are a red herring. Hell, I don't generally agree with her academically either, and tbh the one time I met her I was irritated by her, but I wouldn't rant on about her hair or her lower body parts to make a point about the decline of Rome.

GirlOutNumbered Wed 23-Jan-13 09:05:29

It's unfair to suggest that only women face Internet abuse.
James cordon on the same website has a picture of the marshmallow man and people call him things from a salad dodger to a fat cunt.
That's just one example, there are plenty more.

Abitwobblynow Wed 23-Jan-13 09:09:56

No, and you notice I didn't.

The point I am making is that once the irritation is sparked off, the ugly and vile things come out.

I am an absolute scruff, fat and not very attractive. It (my appearance) definitely affects the way I am perceived. Without a doubt.

So even in an abusive situation like this, there is a dynamic. If I want to be taken more seriously, I should lose weight and dress better. I have that choice and that option to take. Perhaps Mary could address how she comes across.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 23-Jan-13 09:19:14

It's not a personal choice to be an older woman. I can guarantee that even if she cut her hair and dyed it blonde a la Ann Widdecombe, the misogyny would not stop.
The only personal choice she can exercise here that would protect her from this is to shut up. And I would rather society had a go at fixing the awful behaviour than blamed the victims for not dressing right.

fromparistoberlin Wed 23-Jan-13 09:21:47

its thoroughly depressing

and it IS sexist, as she does not look like the usual dollied up woman (and she is perfectly respectable looking) she gets an incredible level of spite

Vile vile vile

and it would put me off, for sure

If I want to be taken more seriously, I should lose weight and dress better

Does that not make you angry, Abit? That the worth of your thoughts is defined by society's current obsession with looking a particluar way?

Tunip is right, it would not stop whatever Mary Beard did to herself. Yes, men are lampooned by the inarticulate for their looks too, but not as often, or as viciously as women.

sieglinde Wed 23-Jan-13 09:51:58

Yy to Tunip and BeerTricks. The point is that there's a way in which the abuse is MEANT to silence her, as if a bit of the world is saying that middle-aged women shouldn't have a voice. Agree too that ageism is part of this, but so too is a very particular loathing of middle-aged women.

GirlOutNumbered Wed 23-Jan-13 09:52:30

The fact that she is actually on the television and a well known public figure means that we can't all think that women should be dolled up.... Doesn't it?

AbigailAdams Wed 23-Jan-13 09:52:40

"It's unfair to suggest that only women face Internet abuse." Who has suggested that? In fact both links I have posted have stressed that men get abuse as well. But they don't get their abuse with a heavy dose of misogyny. They tend not to get threatened with rape, for example.

And well said BeerTricks. It is incredibly patriarchal (and misogynistic) to judge a woman on her looks.

melika Wed 23-Jan-13 09:52:56

I have just looked up Mary Beard on youtube and found her explaining roman numerals.
She is such a wonderful teacher. I wish I had her for my teacher, I would have learned a lot more. I cannot understand how anyone could be critical when we have men on tv who are less 'finished' than her.

I do hope she ignores it and wish her all the best.

Treats Wed 23-Jan-13 10:01:19

o/t a bit but someone mentioned Saturday's Times upthread. In its defence, it also included a column from the chair of the Muslim Institute reflecting on the gang rape in India. Quote below (can't link):

"It is not women but men who need to change. Violence against women is not a “problem of women”. It is a problem of men. To describe atrocious behaviour by men as a “women’s issue” is a category mistake that places the emphasis on the powerlessness of the victims and potential victims. Theology and tradition are nourishing a kind of misogynist man who sees women as inherently weak, agents of immorality, commodities to be exploited and unsuitable for religious office. The sooner the terminology accurately locates the root of the problem the better.

In all religions men are the model of behaviour and action. Rabbis, bishops and mullahs are all men; scripture is interpreted exclusively by men. Men define virtue, propriety and rectitude. What is said about women is inferred from this model. In essence all religion is implicitly about man because it deals with “mankind”. This is why the role, status and participation of women in organised religion is problematic across all religious traditions."

It was really inspiring - and surprising - to read such a straightforwardly feminist piece by such a prominent Muslim.

Sorry for slight thread hijack, but I'd meant to post about it here at the weekend and forgot, and reading this post has reminded me.

CaptainVonTrapp Wed 23-Jan-13 10:02:03

I dsiagree abitwobbly.

I think if she was young, well groomed, pretty then her credibility would be called into question for other reasons...

Along the lines of "What is this bimbo doing having an opinion / telling us about immigration" (or whatever the topic was)

TunipTheVegedude Wed 23-Jan-13 10:02:34

GirlOutNumbered - yes, absolutely. When the A.A. Gill stuff happened (he slagged off her appearance in a review of her tv prog) the vast outpouring of support for her from all ages and sexes showed that actually most people ARE more interested in what someone has to say than what they look like. It was quite a hopeful moment in that respect.
I believe the nasty comments are only from a minority, but when the minority is doing really intimidating things like rape threats and 'I know where you live' and making comments about someone's children, it can become silencing out of proportion to how widespread it is.

GirlOutNumbered Wed 23-Jan-13 10:06:59

Yes tunip and all of these comments made more public by the few because of places such as twitter etc.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 23-Jan-13 10:13:35

Melika - read her Pompeii book, it's great.

I was lucky enough to have her as my PhD supervisor <waves to Mary in case she's self-Googling today> and yes she is a wonderful teacher.

zamantha Wed 23-Jan-13 10:17:29

I think if people are really vile on twitter - they should be prosecuted to stop these unsorted people going mad online. It is not funny, offenisve adn anti-social behaviour which would not be allowed on the street. Society should put a stop to people being so offensive before it becomes normal!! sad

Thanks MB for being a woman, out there, giving us your views - which I for one enjoy! smile I wish you would have some prosecuted but I prsume you fear it is an overreaction. Someone has to say no to this.

WhatKindofFool Wed 23-Jan-13 10:20:06

If sexist tweets were dealt with in the same way by the police as racist or homophobic ones, then I think we'd see the idiots wind their necks in a bit...

I like that idea.

ArtemisTheHunter Wed 23-Jan-13 10:21:03

Hi all

I'm glad this is being discussed on here because I think it affects us all.

I'm really horrified by the vitriol that's been thrown at Mary Beard, and not for the first time. The similar kind of venom flung at women like Louise Mensch and Laurie Penny suggests that, even if Mary was young and attractive, she'd still get abuse based on her looks and the fact that she's female. Women in public life can't win. If you're old and unattractive, that means you have no right to speak. If you're young and attractive, well you must have used your looks to get where you are so you have no right to speak. It doesn't matter what kind of opinion women are proposing, where they are along the political divide, or what the basis is for their being in public life, they will get abuse based on the way they look rather than what they say. Whatever you think of the politics of people like Ann Widdecombe and Louise Mensch (and I can't bear either of them), they have been elected into public office and they should be able to actively participate in public debate without having to contend with personal abuse directed at them because of their looks. I honestly can't think of a woman in public life who hasn't been criticised for the way she looks. Thatcher, maybe. She'd have nuked anyone who tried grin

I agree men get abuse too, but I would argue to nowhere near the same extent and without the level of personal threat or sexual insults/threats that women have to contend with. Think of the kind of ribbing Clarkson and May get for having bad hair and bad jeans. It just doesn't have the same level of vitriol or personal bile, and it doesn't get in the way of Clarkson spouting his opinions on political matters that he arguably has less qualification to be airing in public than someone like Mary Beard does. By all means argue with her opinions, the basis on which she's invited on shows like QT, and the arguments she uses in support of her views. But it's not valid to dismiss someone's (anyone's) opinions based on the way they look. It poisons the conversation while bringing nothing at all to the debate.

This wouldn't be tolerated if it happened in the same way to men. Imagine it. Paxman, Dimbleby, Jon Snow. What are they doing on TV? Get them a haircut, a dye job and a facelift immediately or get them off the screen. You wouldn't buy it, would you? Or if Mary Beard was being slagged off for her race rather than her gender. Transpose the insults she's been getting as if they were targeted at a man, or at someone from a non-white background, and they would be widely deemed unacceptable. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our society we just don't see it for what it is.

I'm sorry, I'm going off on a rant, this is a subject that has riled me for as long as I can remember. But I'm interested in the OP's second question: what can we do about it? i don't know. I follow a number of women like Mary on twitter who often RT foul comments they've received and I will sometimes talk back to the abuser but I don't know if it does anything (other than attract abuse back at me). Speak out, or keep quiet and ignore it? There are no clear answers either way.

AbigailAdams Wed 23-Jan-13 10:22:03

Another good blog post about it.

"It is not women but men who need to change. Violence against women is not a “problem of women”. It is a problem of men. To describe atrocious behaviour by men as a “women’s issue” is a category mistake that places the emphasis on the powerlessness of the victims and potential victims. " << That!

This type of abuse comes from the same root as male violence. And the reaction is still the same as to male violence. Women should modify their behaviour.

WowOoo Wed 23-Jan-13 10:28:52

Me too, WhatKind of fool and Zamantha.

Wow, Tunip - you were lucky. I saw her Roman programmes and thought she was superb.

Thanks for all these links and threads.

rainbowrainbowrainbow Wed 23-Jan-13 11:02:50
rainbowrainbowrainbow Wed 23-Jan-13 11:05:10

Your last post at 1022

I'm shocked. How can people sink so low? DH and I enjoy her programmes. Hope Mary keeps up the fight against these idiots. There are some seriously unattractive men on the television, but nobody berates or bullies them (quite rightly), however, women are seen as fair game.

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