Donna Zuckerberg

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Donna Zuckerberg
Portrait of donna zuckerberg.png
Born1987 (age 31–32)
Dobbs Ferry, New York, United States
  • Writer
  • Classical scholar
Parent(s)Karen Kempner (mother), Edward Zuckerberg (father)
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisThe Oversubtle Maxim Chasers: Aristophanes, Euripides, and their Reciprocal Pursuit of Poetic Identity (2014)
Doctoral advisorAndrew Ford
Academic work
Sub-disciplineAncient tragedy
Notable worksNot all Dead White Men (2018)

Donna Zuckerberg is an American classicist, editor-in-chief of the journal Eidolon[1] and author of the book Not All Dead White Men (2018) on the appropriation of classics by misogynist groups on the Internet.


Zuckerberg earned her Ph.D. in classics at Princeton University in 2014, specializing in the study of ancient tragedy.[2][3][4] The title of her doctoral thesis was The Oversubtle Maxim Chasers: Aristophanes, Euripides, and their Reciprocal Pursuit of Poetic Identity.[5] Her doctoral adviser was Professor Andrew Ford.[5]

Eidolon and scholarship[edit]

The classicist Natalie Haynes notes that Zuckerberg 'is a classicist with a strong Internet pedigree'.[6] Zuckerberg is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online journal Eidolon, which publishes texts about classics that are not formal scholarship.[7] Its authors are well-established classicists as well as new experts in the field.[4][8][9]

Aside from Eidolon, Zuckerberg's work has been published in numerous popular publications, including the Times Literary Supplement, Jezebel, The Establishment, and Avidly.[10] She has also written for mainstream publications about the use of the classics by the alt-right movement. In a 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post, she argues that the sexism and racism found in classic texts should be studied and discussed rather than ignored or, as right-wing ideologues are doing, celebrated.[11] Natalie Haynes agrees with Zuckerberg's ideological stance, arguing that "ignoring these people is no longer the answer".[12]

Not All Dead White Men[edit]

Zuckerberg's first monograph Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age was published by Harvard University Press in October, 2018. It has been described as 'one of the first books to examine the online formation known as the Red Pill...also known as the manosphere'.[13] The 'manosphere' includes numerous factions such as men's rights activists, pickup artists, and Men Going Their Own Way.[13] The groups are united by the understanding that they are disadvantaged by contemporary society which operates in favor of women.[13] Zuckerberg's book is a reception study. It describes how the Red Pill movement online finds support for its sexist ideology in texts from ancient Greece and Rome, tracing the phenomenon back to its origins and describing its misappropriation of Ovid, Euripides, Xenophon's Oeconomicus and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. The book touches on the links between the Red Pill community and the white supremacy movement.[2][3][8][13][14]

The 'Red Pill' is a cultural reference to the film The Matrix (1999), where Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) offers Neo (Keanu Reeves) the choice of the blue or red pill, giving blissful ignorance or gritty, painful truth respectively.[7] Zuckerberg argues that "[t]he red pill metaphor really encapsulates for them [alt-right groups] the fact that they really see their misogyny and racism as a form of enlightenment. They are able to see the world more clearly than the rest of us… and what they see is that white, heterosexual men are discriminated against in our society."[15]

Zuckerberg's book also explores the popularity of stoicism within the manosphere. It book describes how Red Pill men use stoicism to support their belief in a dichotomy between the rational nature of males and the emotional nature of women. Zuckerberg argues that the point of the Red Pill discourse "is not for everything to hang together logically and to be totally immune to criticism. The point is to make people feel something—to make their audience feel validated and justified and scared and angry—and [get] any reaction [out of] them".[4][11][16] Zuckerberg takes a feminist approach to classical antiquity, arguing that the ancient world was deeply misogynistic: 'it was a time when there was no word for rape, feminism did not exist and women's actions were determined by male relatives'.[7] Alt-right groups are using classical texts, distorted and stripped of context, to add weight and authority to campaigns of misogyny and white supremacy.[7]

Zuckerberg's interest in the topic began in 2015 when she realized an article about Ovid in Eidolon saw heavy traffic from the Red Pill community on Reddit. In the same period, she read an interview with Neil Strauss, who mentioned seduction advice by Ovid. That research interest became a magazine article, then a book.[2][3][4][14][16][17]

The final draft of her book was submitted days before the 2016 United States elections. It then became relevant outside academia, as the grievances of many of the groups she studied entered the political mainstream at the highest level. Zuckerberg says that while her book was in production, the Red Pill movement started to focus more on policing women's reproductive rights, away from the more traditional "men's rights" issues such as child custody.[14] [4] The book has been generally well received. Natalie Haynes, Samuel Argyle, and Sarah Bond reviewed it positively, concurring with Zuckerberg's conclusions.[18][19][20] The classicist Emily Wilson deems it an "important and very timely book" in which Zuckerberg "makes a persuasive case for why we need a new, more critical, and less comfortable relationship between the ancient and modern worlds ".[21] Similarly Sarah Bond locates Zuckerberg within 'a new generation of classicists, archaeologists, and premodern historians [who] have begun to realize that an insulated approach to scholarship is itself a form of privileged monasticism that we can no longer retreat to'.[19] Bond sees the work as shedding light into the crevices of the internet.[19] Rachel O'Neill applauds Zuckerberg's willingness to subject the manosphere to scrutiny, given the lack of scholarship on the topic.[22] Paul Cartledge argues that Zuckerberg's is a 'brilliant new book [that] offers a must-read analysis of classicizing antifeminist diatribes that will enlighten or serve as a timely warning to all liberals, as well as to members of the Alt-Right and Red Pill men's groups (if only they would read it).'[23] It has been described as 'a rare book from a university press that will probably be a crossover bestseller in non-academic markets'.[24]

Jaspreet Singh Boparai is harshly critical of the book's methodology, focusing on an apparent lack of mastery of ancient languages, and on what Bopari regards as Zuckerberg's mistranslations and poor choices in translation.[25] Bopari represents Zuckerberg as 'out of her depth' when writing about ancient philosophy.[25] Bopari dismisses the premise of Zuckerberg's work, writing 'How many of this book's subjects turn out simply to be frustrated, isolated twenty-year-olds with limited professional prospects?'[25] Bopari takes issue with Zuckerberg's assertion that "in Herodotus’s text the line between rape and abduction … was not sharply defined," arguing that the conflation is Zukerberg's, not Herodotus' because while the noun ἁρπαγή (harpagē) can mean ‘seizure’, ‘robbery’ or ‘rape,’ "in context it is invariably clear which of these is meant."[25] Bopari denies that ancient societies were formulated around rape culture or that rape was normalized within antiquity.[25] He also questions the connection between sexual violence and the Red Pill community.[25] Bopari accuses Zuckerberg of deliberately misleading the reader in a way that 'verges on libel'.[25] In addition, Matthew J. Sharpe has also questioned whether Zuckerberg's portrayal of ancient Stoicism is wholly accurate.[26]

Criticism of social media[edit]

Zuckerberg has spoken out against social media, arguing that it has created a toxic culture and given men 'with anti-feminist ideas to broadcast their views to more people than ever before – and to spread conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation'.[7] Zuckerberg understands that social media has elevated misogyny to 'entirely new levels of violence and virulence'.[7]

Career and honors[edit]

Zuckerberg was the recipient of the 2017-18 Award for Special Service from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.[27]

Zuckerberg will speak at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2019 where she will be in conversation with biographer Patrick French and writer and editor Sharmila Sen.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Zuckerberg's parents, a dentist and a psychologist, lived in Dobbs Ferry, New York, when she was born in 1987, the third of four children.[7] She says the family was tight-knit and the parents encouraged their children to develop whatever talents they had. All three of her siblings, Mark Zuckerberg, Randi Zuckerberg and Arielle Zuckerberg, work in the technology sector.[7] Zuckerberg currently lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and her two children.[10][29][30]

While she was doing her graduate studies, Zuckerberg wrote a food blog called Sugar Mountain Treats.[31]


  • Not All Dead White Men. Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press, 2018)
Articles and book chapters
  • 'The Clothes Make the Man: Aristophanes and the Ragged Hero in Euripides' Helen', Classical Philology, vol. 111, issue 3 (2016)
  • 'Branding Irony: Comedy and Crafting the Public Persona', Brill's companion to the reception of Aristophanes edited by Philip Walsh (Leiden: Brill, 2016)
  • Donna Zuckerberg (2018), "The Curious Incident of the Intertextual Debt in the Frogs", Didaskalia, 14 (2)Wikidata Q59241127


  1. ^ "About EIDOLON". EIDOLON. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  2. ^ a b c Fetters, Ashley (October 10, 2018). "Why Pickup Artists Are Reading Ovid". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Zuckerberg, Donna (October 8, 2018). "So I Wrote a Thing". Eidolon. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ryan Stitt (October 7, 2018). "Special Guest Episode on Classics and Misogyny w/Donna Zuckerberg". The History of Ancient Greece Podcast (Podcast). Ryan Stitt. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "The oversubtle maxim chasers : Aristophanes, Euripides, and their Reciprocal Pursuit of Poetic Identity. - Princeton University Library Catalog". Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  6. ^ "Must Ovid be hijacked by the alt-right? | The Spectator". The Spectator. 2018-11-03. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Iqbal, Nosheen (2018-11-11). "Donna Zuckerberg: 'Social media has elevated misogyny to new levels of violence'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  8. ^ a b Rothman, Lily (October 9, 2018). "Why Modern Misogynists Love Ancient History, and What They Get Wrong About It, According to an Expert". Times Magazine. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  9. ^ "About Eilodon". Eilodon. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Zuckerberg, Donna (September 2018). "This Is How I Have It All". Eilodon. Archived from the original on October 28, 2018. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Zuckerberg, Donna (November 2, 2018). "Guess who's championing Homer? Radical online conservatives". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 3, 2018. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  12. ^ "Must Ovid be hijacked by the alt-right?". The Spectator. 2018-11-03. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  13. ^ a b c d "Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age, by Donna Zuckerberg". Times Higher Education (THE). 2018-11-15. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  14. ^ a b c Wanda Merrigan, Tara (October 16, 2018). "Donna Zuckerberg's Not All Dead White Men and Red Pill Reductionism". Ploughshares at Emerson College. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  15. ^ "Donna Zuckerberg on how the alt-right is weaponising the Classics". ABC News. 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  16. ^ a b Balcazar, Dahlia (October 8, 2018). "Donna Zuckerberg on how misogyny red-pilled the classics". Bitch Media. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  17. ^ Zuckerberg, Donna (May 26, 2015). "How to Teach an Ancient Rape Joke". Jezebel. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  18. ^ Haynes, Natalie (2018-11-03). "Must Ovid be hijacked by the alt-right?". The Spectator. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  19. ^ a b c "Book Note | Not All Dead White Men". ANCIENT JEW REVIEW. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  20. ^ Argyle, Samuel. "Reading the Classics to Resist Misogyny". BLARB. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  21. ^ "Not All Dead White Men — Donna Zuckerberg". Harvard University Press. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  22. ^ "Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age, by Donna Zuckerberg". Times Higher Education (THE). 2018-11-15. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  23. ^ "Not All Dead White Men — Donna Zuckerberg | Harvard University Press". Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  24. ^ "When Sexually Frustrated Angry White Men (Mis)Read the Classics". PopMatters. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Bopari, Jaspreet Singh (11 December 2018). "Not All Dead White Men—A Review". Quillette. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  26. ^ Sharpe, Matthew. "Into the Heart of Darkness Or: Alt-Stoicism? Actually, No. Eidos: A Journal for Philosophy of Culture, 4 6, 2018". Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  27. ^ "CAMWS Awards for Special Service". CAMWS. Archived from the original on October 18, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  28. ^ "There is a stellar line-up of women speakers at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2019". The Indian Express. 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  29. ^ Zuckerberg, Donna (2018). Not all Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780674975552.
  30. ^ Iqbal, Nosheen (2018-11-11). "Donna Zuckerberg: 'Social media has elevated misogyny to new levels of violence'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  31. ^ Shaer, Matthew (May 6, 2012). "The Zuckerbergs of Dobbs Ferry". New York magazine. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.

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