Mary Beard's troll-taming is a lesson for us all

Some will say the professor is playing into the hands of sad twerps by responding to their abuse

Share

Further proof, if any were needed, that Mary Beard is a total genius. The Classics professor, prolific author and Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, proved last week that she is also an expert negotiator and acute psychological observer as well as having the patience of a saint – nay, a goddess. The good professor, it turns out, has tamed some trolls. She even went to lunch with one of them, and ended up writing him a character reference because she was worried that his well-publicised treatment of her may harm his prospects of getting a job. Not bad, for a friendship that started online when he tweeted her to say: "You filthy old slut. I bet your vagina is disgusting."

Troll One (let's not dignify him with a name, we don't all have the patience of goddesses) is not the only anonymous little online twit whom Professor Beard has rehabilitated, though. A man who posted a digitally altered image of her apologised after she engaged with him, and a man who called her "evil" now checks that she's okay every time someone else gives her a hard time on Twitter (sweet).

Professor Beard clearly does not take the popular approach that the best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. She has more trolls than most, so perhaps she knows best, but unfortunately not everybody has her troll-whispering talents.

Back in March, when I wrote about children's books that are only "for girls" or "for boys", I stirred up a hornet's nest of commentators who were all really cross and completely anonymous. It's always tempting to try to reason with these people, and so a children's author and I attempted to engage with one of them. "Why are you so angry?" we asked him. "Because feminists want to neuter all men," he said. "Why do you think that?" we asked. He didn't reply, perhaps because his head had exploded.

The people who tweet and tell me that I shouldn't have opinions about books because they hate my hair, I ignore. Though if anyone can think of a sensible response to that particular criticism, please tell me what it is. There will be others who say that Mary Beard is playing into the hands of sad little twerps by responding to their attention-seeking online abuse. As we know from training dogs and children, we should reward good behaviour and ignore the bad. Certainly it seems that lunch with one of our most engaging communicators is a strange reward for someone with such an unhealthy obsession about her vagina.

Typically, Professor Beard has played down her own brilliance, and told The Independent last week, "Please don't overplay this. I am just a sensible middle-aged woman who does what sensible middle-aged women do: move on." If only there were more sensible middle-aged women to go around, Twitter, and the world, would be a better place.

twitter.com/@katyguest36912

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000

£14000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued success, this ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Design Consultant - Kitchens & Interiors

£12000 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Surveyor

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Security Officer

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of commercial security solution...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I predicted MH370 would end up at Reunion Island. Its discovery could debunk conspiracy theories

Charitha Pattiaratchi
A protestor from the 'Robin Hood Tax Campaign,'  

The Robin Hood Tax is a more sensible and fairer way of helping our economy to recover

Jeremy Corbyn
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works