The Public Voice of Women, an article by Mary Beard talks about women in the public sphere of speech. It discusses the silencing of women over the years in the west with the first recorded example being that of Penelope being silenced by her son Telemachus Mother, he says, go back up into your quarters, and take up your own work, the loom and the distaff speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all; for mine is the power in this household. It also talks of the public domain being regarded as only a mans area of speech. Mary Beard seeks to establish that women have been denied the chance of public speaking over the years. This paper shows that females should be respected and valued equality to males in the community.
In the article, women have been shown to be deprived of the opportunity to speak. Penelope is shut down by her son Telemachus. She finds a bard performing to her suitors about the difficulties faced by the Greek heroes in reaching home. She is not pleased with the choice of song and therefore asks the bard to perform another one at which instant her son tells her to go back to her quarters and get herself busy which she does. The fact that Penelope did as her young son asked her to do indicates that women are deprived of their right and cannot make a decision. The narrative poem The Metamorphoses by Ovid also shows Io and Echo being denied the chance to speak. Io is turned into a cow by Jupiter while Nymphs voice is taken away from her such that she only repeats the words of others.
Attempts have also been shown to keep women out of public discourse. In the book Bostonians by Henry James, Verena Tarrant has her voice reprivatized by her suitor Basil Ransom who insists that she keeps her soothing words only for him Keep your soothing words for me. This takes her away from the public setting given that she was a feminist campaigner and a speaker. One of the stories in Voids Metamorphoses talks of a young princess by the name Philomela who was raped and afterwards had her tongue cut out to prevent her from publicly denouncing the rapist. She is able to do so by weaving the ordeal into a tapestry. In the play, Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare Lavinia is also raped and her tongue is ripped out. Her rapist took caution so that she may not be able to denounce him in the style of Philomela and therefore cut off her hands too.
The women who spoke out were considered androgynes and freaks. Maesia successfully defended herself in the courts and was considered to have a mans nature behind the appearance of a woman and was therefore referred to as androgynes. Afrania used to initiate legal cases herself and was impertinent enough to plead in person making everyone tired of her. Her date of death was recorded but that of birth was not because she was considered a freak We are told that she died in 48 BC, because with unnatural freaks like this its more important to record when they died than when they were born.Elizabeth I was also considered androgynes and seemed to acknowledge that she was one through a slogan in which she says that she may be physically weak, but she has the heart of a king.
Public speech was considered to be a mans domain. Telemachus words to his mother included him saying that speech will be the business of men. His mother did not speak back, but went to her quarters as she was told. This could have been because she also acknowledged that public speech was not a womans field. Jacqui Oatley had insults hurled at her because she became the first woman commentator on Match of Day, a job that was male dominated. Beard associated this with public speech given that commentating involves commenting through speech for the masses to hear. It can also be looked at from the perspective that Jacqui was getting into a field that was domineered by men resulting in a bit of resistance from people with it having nothing to do with public speech.
Whatever women said was viewed as worthless. In speaking out women are said to whinge and whine. Mary Beard says that she is reported to whine about the misogyny when she tweeted that comments on her genitalia were astounding. She says that when listeners hear the voice of a woman, they do not associate it with authority. Henry James, author of the Bostonians has the standpoint that womens voice is polluting and socially destructive. Beard says that when controversial, unpopular or different views are voiced by a woman, she is regarded as stupid.
Beard associates internet threats and abuse with frustrations. She says that Twitter was created as a platform for the common man to communicate with those in power and create democratic conversation. However, tweeting the pope or prime minister does not create conversation as they just read the tweets and do not reply and even when there are replies there are usually not made by them themselves. This makes the people who were hoping to communicate with them get frustrated and then take out their frustrations on the women, a convenient target. This line of thought is fallacious. Those frustrated over communication with those in power are most likely to take out their frustration by writing a public letter in the newspaper than attack a woman who has nothing to do with power or authority.
Mary Beard clearly airs the grievances of women in her article; they are being shunned from the public speech. She has shown women have been silenced over the years with the instances of Lavinia and Philomela having their tongues ripped out and even when they manage to speak are viewed as freaks. She has also shown how the words of women have no value as they are just viewed as mere complaints. In doing so, Mary Beard has successfully managed to persuade the reader that women have been denied the chance of public speaking.
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