Current Affairs

Mary Beard posts picture of her crying following backlash over defence of Oxfam aid workers

Meka Beresford February 19, 2018
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Mary Beard has shared pictures of her crying online after she received an onslaught of criticism for defending Oxfam aid workers.

The famed Cambridge historian tried to excuse Oxfam aid workers in Haiti after reports accused the workers of sexual exploitation of women and children.

It was revealed that over a decade ago some aid workers were carrying out sexual misconduct after a 2008 report sent to the charity’s CEO warned of the conduct.

Professor Beard, who formerly described herself as “not 100% straight, took to Twitter to write that the alleged behaviour could not be “condoned” but that she wondered “how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone”.

Mary Beard

“I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us wd not tread,” she added.

The comments were slammed by critics including Priyamvada Gopal, a fellow academic at Cambridge, who wrote that “Obviously it’s not a great idea to randomly get your d**k out, rape people etc.

“But it’s not easy to be politically correct while in s**tholes. And overall I still respect people who head out to s**tholes ‘cos I sure as hell wouldn’t dream of it’.”

Beard responded that she was “amazed that after decades of Lord of the Flies being a GCSE English set book we haven’t got the point about the breakdown of morality in danger zones!! Just saying and this is NOT to condone the actions of a few aid workers”.

She later revealed that she had been called a “‘pervert’, ‘sick cow’, ‘disgusting creature’” over the comments and posted a photo of herself “sitting here crying” because of the abuse.


She was also sent messages such as “‘how hard is it not to gangrape women in a disaster zone?’. ‘you’ve lost your house, your family are dead, fancy a shag? Do you take PayPal?’ (I didn’t really want to include that, but I felt that you needed to see the tasteless too.)”

Beard went on to defend her comments, writing: “I find it hard to imagine that anyone out there could possibly think that I am wanting to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women and children” and that “while we deplore what has happened and expect better, it is worth thinking of the context in which it took place.

“99% of us have no idea of the stresses of working in these environments (and yes, living in them is worse, as there is no escape route). Most aid workers deal with that, I suspect, by drink and cigarettes. But that kind of societal, infrastructural breakdown provides a space for much worse.

“That is not to condone the awful things that happened but to contextualise them. And that is what we need to do, if we want to stop this happening again,” she added.


She was slammed once again for sharing a picture of herself crying.

One feminist writer, Flavia Dzodan, said: “Mary Beard, a prominent woman with almost 200k followers posted a photo of herself crying her white feminist tears. I am amazed by the extent of sentimentality people will go through, debasing themselves if necessary in order to sustain their ignorance, bigotry or both.”

Another, Kelechi Okafor, accused Beard of “failing to see the humanity in Blackness”.

“If it had been a country of white children and women who were sexually violated for the sake of “charity” you wouldn’t be opening your long neck to spew this nonsense,” Okafor added.

Related topics: crying, lgbtq, Mary Beard, oxfam

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