Cambridge Classics professor, Mary Beard, has been at the center of a controversy recently in the UK. After expressing her views on immigration on a BBC debate show, Beard received an avalanche of hate mail, the bulk of which attacked her appearance. Beard has her own look: she keeps her long hair gray, likes loose comfortable clothes, and fanciful tights. It’s a look and it’s her own.
Beard decided to adopt a “high risk strategy” in response to all the abusive emails by publishing some of them on he blog, It’s a Don’s Life. In one of her posts she defends her appearance and write: “it’s the real me in the mirror – somewhere in between the young self and the granny. I’m every inch the 57-year-old academic, half proud of her wrinkles, her crow’s feet, even her hunched shoulders (from all those misspent years poring over a library desk).
I used to be scared of looking like this, but now I couldn’t wish to be any different. Never mind the masochism of Botox, I can’t even imagine dyeing my hair. It’s not just the boring hours it would take. It’s that every time you did it, you’d be reminded that you were hiding something. And how do you stop once you’ve started?
It’s not for me. Though I do nurture a little fantasy of going bright pink for a week, just for the hell of it.”
In a recent interview with the NYTimes, Beard said: “I’ve chosen to be this way because that’s how I feel comfortable with myself. . .That’s how I am. It’s about joining up the dots between how you look and how you feel inside, and I think that’s what I’ve done, and I think people do it differently.”
“That’s how I am” and “connecting the dots between one’s inner and outer self”–well said, Mary Beard! After I sent Beard my post she sent me additional comments about her thoughts about dress. “I think that, if I were to add anything, it would be that my sense of style is part of what I have worked towards over years and years.. in the effort of feeling that I am me! It doesn’t (as some people have thought) mean that I am not INTERESTED in how I look.. of course I am (and everyone is).. and I get pleasure out of clothes.. bought a new macintosh that I love yesterday, for example.. But all that is different from the botox routine! I couldn’t agree more. There’s a world of difference between honing one’s look and making it your own and turning oneself into an immobile mask with botox.