“The Public Voice of Women”


Mary Beard writes about gender, speech, and the depiction of the sound of women’s voices from Homer’s time until now. “I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public. I’m thinking of a moment immortalised at the start of the Odyssey.”


About Author


  1. Not to be flippant about this, because it is important, but the ancient Greeks were pretty horrible in terms of gender roles. The ideal for women was that they basically never left the house and spent all their time spinning. Still, I don’t know if I ever thought about that passage in that way before (it’s also been years and years since I last read it)…laid right out in their foundation documents.

  2. Carol Borden on

    I thought it was part of Beard’s point that the status of women in ancient Greece was pretty horrible. I think she might not play it up because she’s Classics scholar and might just be very familiar with it–or because she wants to focus on speech.

  3. I should probably read the entire article and not just skim it.

    Great piece-I’ve never made these connections between ancient rhetoric about women’s place in the public sphere and modern, but they really do link up.

    • It’s something I think we’ve all done–especially when it’s an area of interest.

      Yeah, I found it quite interesting and it is quite a through-line in history. I actually had to explain to some poor guy who was being accused of “white knighting” when he was criticizing abusive behavior toward a female games writer that the guys accusing him were using it as a tactic to silence him. It seemed so obvious to me, because of my own experience. But thinking about it again, in this context, I can see how it would be almost unimaginable for him that someone would try to silence him. And that they would try to silence him about women’s place in the public sphere.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: