I recently read an article that made me feel like a bratty, treasonous, ignoble woman, so naturally, I'd like to talk about it.

I'm referring to "Too ugly for TV? No, I'm too brainy for men who fear clever women", written by classicist and television host Mary Beard in response to some poisonous, unfunny comments from a British television reviewer named AA Gill. 

He wrote the following charming, make-you-want-to-date-him things about her after watching her show Meet the Romans:

"Mary Beard really should be kept away from cameras altogether."

"For someone who looks this closely at the past, it is strange she hasn't had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of a camera."

"...because she's this far from being the subject of a Channel 4 dating documentary" (referring, apparently, to The Undateables, a show about disabled people looking for love).

All those comments are repugnant and shallow and reveal him to be the kind of person who probably inspired the coining of the phrase "total prick". But I have managed to be bothered also by her response to these repugnant and shallow comments.

She writes: "Throughout Western history [just an aside: invariably the manner in which the very worst undergraduate essays begin] there have always been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds, and I guess, as a professor of Classics at Cambridge University, I'm one of them."

It is entirely possible that Gill is a disgusting misogynist. Certainly when he watches a show about the Romans, he should be more concerned about its accuracy than the hair-style and tooth-size of the presenter. But just because he doesn't think television presenters should be frowsy and unpolished (and I haven't heard that he thinks male presenters are allowed to be either of things) doesn't mean he hates women; and even if he does maintain a double-standard about the extent to which men and women on the small screen are required to look like realtors or meteorologists, that just means  he has issues with women and attractiveness, not necessarily with bright women and attractiveness. 

When I was in high school and a boy (contrary to the demands of good sense) insisted on not wanting to date me, invariably someone would say, "It's obvious - he's just intimidated by you." I don't deny that my staggering intelligence and gorgeousness were impressive and fearsome, but that explanation always bothered me. Some people just won't like me. Some people will not like me, and will make fun of me, and will not want to date me, and not because I am brilliant and gorgeous and they just can't take it. 

Gill, in an article about The Undateables, described it as a "mocking freak show of grotesques and embarrassments".  As far as I know, not all those featured were women, and not all of them were Classics professors at Cambridge. He seems to be an asshole who has an issue with all those who aren't conventionally attractive and conventionally presentable. It's entirely possible he made cutting and unfunny comments about Mary Beard just because he thinks she's funny-looking, not because he's secretly shamed by her intellect. I'm not saying that's any better; it's just a different crappy kind of motivation.

Beard also commented: "...maybe it's precisely because he did not go to university that he never quite learned the rigour of intellectual argument and thinks that he can pass off insults as wit" and with that she managed to bother me even more powerfully. I attended university for approximately eighty-five years, and so I can authoritatively state that anyone who thinks that everyone who goes to university has learned how to argue in an intellectually rigourous fashion and that everyone who has not attended university has not, is a) deluded, and b) almost certainly a graduate of graduate school. 

Beard closes by suggesting various ways in which Gill could be punished: he should have to watch her shows - all of them - , he should have to discuss them with her...etc...etc... But as I'm not convinced he hates smart women in particular (although he might), and I am convinced he is for whatever reason extremely bothered by people who aren't conventionally attractive (or don't put the appropriate effort into trying to appear that way) I think the only truly fitting punishment for his crime would be for him to have to appear on television unshaven, unwashed, wearing unfashionable trousers and a hopelessly out-of-style sweater, and sporting a startlingly dowdy bowl cut. I'm sure that would hurt him more than watching Beard's shows or being reminded he doesn't teach at Cambridge.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

7/5/2012 11:42:26 am

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It is strange she hasn't had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of a camera."

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