Over the past short while I've been working on a few products to celebrate the release of the paperback edition of Mary Beard's "modern feminist classic" Women & Power, with the book's publisher, Profile Books.
Our collaboration has produced two new items inspired by Mary Beard's manifesto;
- a 'Power Grabber' pocket mirror, with wording which is a play on a headline that said the new female chief of London's Met Police was ‘grabbing power’
- A large 'Troll Slayer' sticker, based on the online abuse that Mary Beard and all feminists who dare to speak are forced to fight everyday, and a perfect addition to any laptop
Buy purchasing one of these items, you'll not only receive a voucher for 20% off Mary Beard's Women & Power manifesto (UK only), but £1 of every sale of the mirror and 50p from every sticker will be donated to the Malala Fund. So you not only get a little bit of feminist goodness for yourself, but you'll help young girls access education and learn how to lead.
As a big history buff, I've known Mary Beard well for many years, and as a fellow feminist, I was delighted to work on this project. I've just recently finished reading Beard's speeches in the book, along with the new afterword written in light of the #MeToo movement. And it's such a fascinating and enlightening read, reenforcing in my mind what I've always felt; how misogyny is at the core of so many of our cultural underpinnings, and that for so long women have only been listened to when we speak with a 'male' voice. Or how we are only given a public forum when we speak of issues that solely relate to women.
As soon as we speak outside of our domestic wheelhouse, we are depicted as hysterical, whinging and whining, or our speech is only a preface to suicide (there are more than a few mythical accounts of such events). We have been taught not to hear the authority in women’s voices since the time of the Greeks and Romans, to the point that it is now an unconscious act.
One of the most interesting little bits of history I learned while reading the book was how Elizabeth I's most famous quote, "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king…" were in fact words put into her mouth some 40 years later by a man reforming her dialogue into an androgynous tone. Even women with so-called ‘God-given’ power can’t escape being rewritten.
Beard talks of how we need to re-educate ourselves, from something that has been the norm in our culture for thousands of years, if women are to grab true power, and not just the power we garner by repackaging ourselves into a male template, as we see in so many women politicians such as Thatcher, Merkel and Hilary Clinton. We need to think "more about the fault-lines and fractures that underline dominant male discourse" (p. 40), rather than a quick-fix of training women to speak with a more ‘authoritative’ (read: male) tone.
So do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Mary Beard's Power & Women; to truly fight the cause of gender equality we need to arm ourselves with the knowledge as to how we got here in the first place.