Women in Power - A Manifesto (2018)

Mary Beard

05 Aug 2020

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I’m a big fan of Mary Beard. As a writer she has a clarity with words which is rare and refreshing. As a historian, she always scrutinises historical evidence for what the leavers of those bits of history had as their motives. How history is told by the victors – the powerful – the ones with a reason to tell things a certain way. Other historians don’t share her rigour for the search for truth, they don’t want to spoil the narrative or the accepted plot of history by dicussing the messy reality of how things probably really played out or why a writer in the past may have told events a certain way.

Women in Power is a short compilation of two speaches delivered by Beard on women and power in history and today from the Amazons to the Me Too movement. She argues that women have been silenced throughout history, and continue to be, in public debate and in everyday life and that this silencing is enacted by men to maintain power. Power, she describes should not simply be though of a noun (i.e. possession of which is to be totally dominant), but rather a verb – as in, to excersise power at varying levels from the boardroom to private life. Women in power have had to ‘appear more male’ in order to help legitimise their perceived right to power. Think Margaret Thatcher getting voice training to lower the timbre of her voice, or the ubiquitous pant suit donned by female politicians world-wide.

The value in the book is in how it knits together the historical framework of how women have been considered in positions of power, or left out of them with examples from ancient Greece to the Thatcher years. And how this also relates to 2020’s modern understanding of women in power and voices of women relative to men.