Mary Beard: MeToo hashtag does not solve the problem

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Cambridge classicist Mary Beard has warned that although the #MeToo campaign is useful, a “hashtag doesn’t solve the problem”.

Harassment and gender inequality have been brought into the spotlight by the Time’s Up campaign, which was launched in the wake of the entertainment industry’s sexual assault scandal.

Beard, 63, told Radio Times magazine: “#MeToo is useful, it puts the problem in the public domain. But a hashtag doesn’t solve the problem.

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Harassment and gender inequality are not exclusive to Hollywood, says Mary Beard (Yui Mok/PA)

“Hollywood is very important, but there’s the ordinary office where this is happening as well… the cleaners, the supervisors, the technicians.

“We are all interested in what happens in hotel rooms in Hollywood, but we’re also interested in what happens next to the photocopier in your average office.”

Asked if the campaign had made her think differently at any incidents in her own career, she said: “That’s difficult because we were living in a totally different culture.

“I think there is a tendency to cherry-pick events and take them out of context. Perhaps we are too worried about isolated examples of inappropriate behaviour by men. We all have bits of mistaken casual behaviour that we regret, right?”

The academic is set to present the forthcoming BBC Two series of Front Row, having come to television relatively late in her career.

“I’m really, really glad that I didn’t do any telly until I was gone 50 because it meant I enjoyed it,” she said.

“By the time you’ve got to my age and AA Gill has had his go at you, you’ve got a degree of resilience. And it doesn’t matter so much, does it?”

Beard also opened up to the magazine about experiencing criticism online and in the media, which she believes is partly due to her age.

She said: “There is a problem with where post-menopausal women fit within culture; people deem you to be past your sell-by date. It’s, ‘Oh, come on old lady’. But it happens to women across the board.”

She said some men appear to be enraged because she is a woman who has opinions that she shares publicly.

“I see death threats on social media specifically directed at women speaking,” she said. “Things like, ‘I’m going to cut your tongue out’.”

She received a tweet in 2013 giving the time of the explosion that was apparently going to kill her.

She said: “You’re sitting there with your phone, and you read, ‘I’m going to blow your house up at 9.17 in the morning.’ And you just think, ‘What?’”

The Radio Times is out on Tuesday.