During an election season in which a presidential candidate is accused of “playing the woman’s card” simply for CWF (campaigning while female), the Women in the World New York Summit, held earlier this month, produced some noteworthy sessions.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly lamented the media’s cowardly refusal to ask Donald Trump tough questions—scared away, she suggested, by The Donald’s contemptuous response to that tough question she asked him at the first Republican debate.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the human rights activist living under a fatwa because of her condemnation of Sharia law, debated the future for women in Islam with Sharia-defender Hibaaq Osman.

And Mary Beard was on hand to trace the origins of  misogyny. Beard, a distinguished professor of classics at Cambridge University, is herself a constant target for sexist scorn: for years her appearances on TV have provoked a torrent of emails threatening sexual violence. They do not faze her: “I’ve just stood up to the bastards,” she told one interviewer.

Brigit Katz reports on the professor’s Summit session in an article on the site NYTimes.com Women in the World It is Beard’s contention that the misogyny prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome has shaped modern attitudes toward women. She points to the passage in The Odyssey in which that strong woman, Penelope, who has run her household for 10 years while Odysseus was away, tries to speak in front of a group of male guests: Penelope’s “really wimpy teenage son” silences her: “Speech will be the business of men . . . . Classical texts constantly want to silence women.”

“Beard argues that the pernicious essence of misogyny—a Greek word — comes through in translation,’” Katz notes. “’What it means is hating women,’” she said. “’It’s not sexism, it’s not blockish banter … It’s hating women. And I think it means, more than anything, wanting a world — at least in the imagination — in which women didn’t exist. It’s about the eradication of women.’”

Katz continues: “Beard’s interest in Roman attitudes toward women is not solely historical. Ancient instances of misogyny, Beard told [interviewer William] Dalrymple, form a pattern that has been stamped throughout Western history and continues into recent times.”

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