Mary Beard, 61, Is Not Afraid To Look 59

Photo by Alex Welsh

Photo by Alex Welsh

"Ms. Beard, a professor at the University of Cambridge and the author of more than 10 books on the classics and classical era, is an authority on ancient Roman culture, but the line that got the biggest response struck a modern (though by no means exclusively modern) note.

Ms. Beard was recounting her response to a criticism once lobbed at her in print: not of her scholarship, but of her appearance. A few years ago, in response to one of the television documentaries for which she is well known in England, the (male) critic A. A. Gill wrote in The Sunday Times, in London, that she was less fit for a history program than for "The Undateables," a British reality show for the lovelorn disabled or disfigured.

Rather than mutely accept such barbs, Ms. Beard, with good cheer and a professorial drive to correct error wherever it may cross her path, responded in the pages of The Daily Mail with an essay headlined, 'Too Ugly for TV? No, I’m Too Brainy for Men Who Fear Clever Women.'

Time has not mellowed her take.

"When you look at me on the telly, and say she should be on 'The Undateables,'" she explained, in retelling, to the crowd, “you are looking at a 59-year-old woman. That is what 59-year-old women who have not had work done look like. Get it?” (In fact, Ms. Beard was 57 at the time, but the point stands.)

Ms. Beard has found herself an inspiration to such women, and at a time when trolling seems more widespread, and at ever-higher levels — all the way to the presidential race. Ms. Brown said this year’s Women in the World Summit came after “such a year of misogyny,” and called out Donald J. Trump in particular. “The injection of pure derogatory comments about women throughout has been so ugly,” she said, “and the fact that he seems to have liberated the voices of others to agree.” 

-  Matthew Schneier via The New York Times

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