Mary Beard says women with long, grey hair can 'make people anxious'

Amy Johnson
·2 min read
Mary Beard, writer and feminist, at the Oxford Literary Festival 2019 on April 3, 2019 in Oxford, England. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Mary Beard, writer and feminist, at the Oxford Literary Festival 2019 on April 3, 2019 in Oxford, England. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Professor Mary Beard has said her long, grey hair may make some people anxious - and that she has "frequently" been called a witch on Twitter.

Writing in the Radio Times magazine, the 66-year-old compared the ancient Greeks and Romans' worries about older women to how they are treated in today's society in the West.

“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,” she said.

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Mary Beard poses with her medal and insignia after she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on December 7, 2018. (Photo by STEVE PARSONS / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Beard poses with her medal and insignia after she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on December 7, 2018. (Photo by STEVE PARSONS / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

“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."

Beard then suggested that women could reclaim ownership of the "power of witchcraft" for themselves rather that the accusation being used to put them down.

Professor Mary Beard at the International Congress of Parliamentary Women's Caucuses at Dublin castle today. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Professor Mary Beard at the International Congress of Parliamentary Women's Caucuses at Dublin castle today. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)

She shared that witchcraft “is seen by its practitioners [today] as a way for women to re-engage with nature and their spirituality and also take back some of the negative power associated with the term".

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It comes as the broadcaster is dedicating an episode of BBC Two show Inside Culture to a “phenomenon I think of as a search for other worlds as much as belief in spirit forces”, adding: “We all hope, at times, that there is something else out there.”

With additional reporting by PA.

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