Professor Mary Beard has opened up about the reaction to her long, grey hair, admitting people get ‘anxious’ about it and she has been called a ‘witch’.
The broadcaster, 66, revealed that people on Twitter had called her a ‘witch’ when she rose to fame with her early BBC series because of her hair.
She wrote in Radio Times magazine: ‘Throughout many periods of history in the West there has been a real worry about what you do with women who are past their childbearing years.
‘As I can confirm, women with long grey hair can make people anxious. In the ancient Greek and the ancient Roman world, they worried that old women were sexual predators.
‘We’ve inherited many of their anxieties and these still fuel the insults some men throw at women today.
‘I know that well, as I have frequently been called a witch on Twitter. But instead of the accusation of witchcraft being used to put women down, perhaps women can use the power of witchcraft for themselves?’
She added that women being labelled witches – and often historically being put to death for the accusation – was used to ‘disempower and punish what seemed to be the threat of women in society.’
The classicist explained: ‘There was a fear of female agency, a fear of women communing with a supernatural world where – perish the thought! – the patriarchy was not fully in place and, perhaps most profoundly, a fear of older women.’
Professor Beard is dedicating an episode of the BBC Two show Inside Culture to look at the ways women are once again reengaging with nature and spirituality, adding: ‘We all hope, at times, that there is something else out there.’
The full interview with Professor Mary Beard is available in Radio Times magazine now.