Torture

Anyone who watches thrillers sees a lot of torture scenes, on film or TV. This is a good thing, enabling writers to examine characters under duress, and real confrontations in a fantasy setting. I don’t watch the kind of drama where it is merely for shock value. My first was in Genesis of the Daleks, when I was eight. It is played straight: the Doctor is interrogated, while his companions are strapped to a machine which induces pain. Shortly after I saw my first satirised torture scene, the Vogon poetry reading.

People confront each other in real life all the time. Sometimes, one desires to crush the other- sometimes they succeed. You can be in a position where backing off or running away is impossible. Instruments of torture make the cruelty and destructiveness explicit, and often there is a consoling ending: the character tortured recovers. The torture scene enables us to contemplate such encounters at a safe distance, before we meet them in real life.

In Casino Royale (2006), James Bond is whipped in the testicles. He responds by acting as if the pain is some benefit. This is a useful technique with pain, to see good coming of it, which makes epilation easier. And the Hero, as always, refuses to back down or give up, though his situation appears hopeless- I love such stories, of human beings overcoming all odds, they are reassuring. My radical feminist friend loathes men’s action movies, where the Hero is in a series of unlikely situations, achieving his goals by shooting or beating up a series of mooks, getting away when the chasers crash and burn, etc. Well, they can be samey, they have a small repertoire of scenes, but there can be humour and creativity in the execution, just as Burns did so much with Standard Habbie.

Maybe I do watch for shock value.

In The Transporter TV series, there is a woman who threatens to remove fingers with secateurs, smiling delightedly as if she loves the game of it. The amputations happen off screen, but the fantasy element of it- I giggle nervously, and say “Ooh! Gross!“- is a way of distancing the viewer from the situation, enabling us to approach destructive confrontation. It is like a lurid, brightly coloured cartoon, showing a real facial expression.

In Versailles, M. Marchal usually kills his victims. He is the quiet, imperturbable policeman, getting on with the job, doing what he needs to do to preserve his master’s rule. I loved defiance in some, and the abject terror of the Chevalier de Lorraine, who was not chastened after, at all. People, confronting an irresistible force, not backing down.

In Cardinal, there is some exploration as to why the torturer might want to torture another. Why does he induct his apprentice? He says, because once she has done this no-one will be able to oppress her. He enjoys the teacher’s role, getting her to stand in the middle of the road with her arms out and legs spread. Make yourself as big as possible. His teaching works- she graduates to cutting off a finger with secateurs. Cardinal is full of people whose jobs do not use their talents- the torturer is just one such. Some resent it and act up, in self-destructive ways; Cardinal himself, the detective, just gets on with the job.

I was sitting in the yard when a kite flew overhead, and I saw its action silhouetted against the sun. A haiku:

Red kite nibbles at
the morsel in its talons
adjusts tail, flies on

Integrating the self

I have not spoken to my counsellor for over a month, so have a lot of material to work with. I tell her of my dispute with Quakers, lunch with my friend, my holiday.

-I did a little light bullying.
-I don’t think anyone has ever said something like that to me. “How was your holiday?” “Oh, I did a little light bullying.”

I worked quite hard to make sure my friend had as good a holiday as possible, and when I could not find a way threw my weight around to make sure I got what I wanted from it. In particular I was not going to do boring things because conventionally they are supposed to be fun, especially as my companions had such limited ideas of what those were. And because he values my company so much, my friend has to take a certain amount of shit from me.

-You are very hard on yourself.

Yes. “Bullying” and “giving shit” are harsh words for me. I was kind. I was reasonably self-assertive. I was as creative as I could be. My judgment of myself is harsh, and I am allowing the judgment and trying to stop it preventing me doing what I want. Bullying is wrong. My inner critic calls my action bullying, yet I do it anyway. In unsatisfactory circumstances I am happy enough with my conduct.

At one point we reach a stop, and she says she has a question. Fire away.

-You said your internal policeman tasered you for not being sufficiently manly. Did he not get the memo?

We laugh. Apparently not. It is good to be conscious of him, though, rather than just being paralysed. I love the way I make her laugh. I am telling my stories as elegantly and quickly as I can, wanting to get the meaning over, but enjoying how I word them well.

Before lunch, H told me a coat would look good on me. I am playing control games. I like them. If that is her controlling me- what does that do for me? It is what I want. It gives me a sense of connection.

-Would you have bought the coat yourself?
-No. Never. But I love it.
-So she is appreciating a part of you which is usually silent, and giving it a voice.

I am addicted to attention. Or at least that is approaching the truth, one facet of it.
-You are being attractive, and valuing that.
-Crying in public could be that addiction. Yet it seems to me that when I cry my unconscious communicates to my conscious how strong my feeling is, and if I can fully accept my depth of feeling I need not show external symptoms. That can be useful.

She does not demur to that.

I have known I am screwed up and at war with myself all my adult life. I am closer to finding the cause of that than I have ever been, and to finding ways round it. My father was feminine, my mother liked that, they both knew it was utterly shameful and no-one must ever find out. I had one honest conversation with my father about it, three months before he died.

This is my work. It is intensely valuable, because I am valuable.

Being controlled, and passive. My best experience of sex so far was with a man who let me lie back, doing nothing, and with gentleness, empathy and generosity opened me up. I was curled up and self-protective, and he got me to open myself to him. He licked me out. “You taste Goood,” he said. I want to do none of the work, and be accepted.

Bullying. It is a harsh judgment. I am crying.

She says it is difficult to integrate the self when it is so repressed. At her request, I show her my yellow coat. It is very yellow.

We arrange another appointment, and then I watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I like it. It is decades-old SF entertainment for teenagers, and I still like it. It is beautifully done. I pause it to think.

Do I need it to be in some way objectively good, before I am allowed- can allow myself- to like it? Now I am weeping hard. NO! I like it! Yet this is an exceptionally good episode, ep 3/7, “Civil Defense”. I love the clever ways they come up with to reduce the threat, always making it worse until the end. I love the way the characters respond in ways like themselves: Quark and Odo flirt together beautifully, subtly showing their regard and care for each other as they bicker. It is funny. At the end, there is surely the tiredest cliché- the computer counts down the seconds to Self Destruct- and the tension of it grips me. I love their heroism: continually knocked back, everyone keeps buggering on. I loved the sense of the characters, and see it is the only DS9 writing credit of Mike Krohn- his only other credit is one TV movie, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct: Lightning. I may watch that episode again, however ridiculous the whole world might find such a complete waste of time.

Rules for survival

How might we survive the new world order? In the UK, we are six months ahead into the darkness the US is entering.

Maria Alexandrovna Gessen would know, having lived under Mr Putin, and left Russia in 2013 because she feared as a lesbian that her adopted son would be taken from her. The day after the election, she wrote her rules.

1. Believe the autocrat, when he says something ridiculous or vile. He may lie as he will, pretending to consider more sensible views. He met Mr Gore before appointing Mr Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He met Mr Romney before appointing Mr Tillerson. He was playing with you. Yes, he means to lock her up. He will twist judicial appointments to that end.

2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. The world has not ended, and life proceeds; but calamitous change has begun.

3. Institutions will not save you. Trump will work to undermine and control them. Honest journalists will lose access.

4. Be outraged. Maintain your capacity for shock. There are some things which people do better together, through government, than by unaccountable and opaque foreign companies. In the UK market fundamentalism rules, seeking support from Nationalist stoking of hatred of minorities and foreigners- winning support through nostalgia for strong civil society even as it uses its power to destroy it. Probation services should be carried out impartially by the state, as rehabilitation is too important for the grasping incompetence of MTC. The sell-off continues.

5. Don’t make compromises. Trump will corrupt all who work for him.

6. Remember the future. Resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be normal.

The Electoral College will not save you. All those minor Republican electors will vote for Mr Trump, or enough for him to have a majority, despite Alexander Hamilton’s hope in [people] most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. They will not vote for Mrs Clinton, and if enough deserted Trump it would be for the House of Representatives to select a president.

TV drama gives a lead. There is the charmless, endless NCIS, in which the police, trusted authority figures, find awful criminals and put them away; but three new shows seem more realistic. We have seen two episodes of This is us in the UK, and it seemed to me to have sweet outcomes while raising subjects which could end very very badly. Spoilers for those episodes. A woman tells her husband to stop drinking. He does so, because he loves her. A man finds his father, who abandoned him as a baby. He wants to say “screw you” and storm off, but instead invites the man into his home. The father spends all day away- he could be drinking or taking drugs, but instead he is feeding his cat. In each case we get the happy outcome where Love wins, and are left to imagine how bad it could have been. Timeless is hokum, in which a woman is told she has to save humanity by going back in time to thwart a master-criminal who wishes to change the timeline. It could be the good guys, authority figures, a government agency and a billionaire tech genius, saving the world, but already there is moral ambiguity. Already we see we cannot trust them.

And Class, a children’s spin-off from Doctor Who, already shown in Britain Canada and Australia, to be shown by BBC America, has teenagers saving the World, but it’s a darker, stranger world than children’s programmes when I was a bairn. The authority figures, teachers, are not trustworthy, and anyone can die.

Drama matters as part of the national conversation, affecting how we see events. Powerless despite our facebook grousing, I find some hope in dismantling trust. We have to look out for each other.

Masha Gessen.

Knowing nothing

I know nothing.

The Rabbi was in the square when the Cossack shouted at him, “Hey! Rabbi! Where’re you going!”

The Rabbi responded, “I don’t know”.

The Cossack got angry. “You’re trying to make a fool of me. It won’t work. You always go to the synagogue at this time. I’ll show you you can’t make a fool of me. You’re coming to the lock-up.”

In the lock-up, the Rabbi said to the Cossack, “You asked me where I was going, and I did not know.”

On my facebook feed I can find an understanding of Mr Trump. He is casually corrupt; he has forgotten any number of campaign promises already- the wall, in many places, will just be a fence, and he is not going to torture suspected terrorists; and he appoints dreadful people to his cabinet, including the racist Steve Bannon, the racist Jeff Sessions, and the climate denialist Myron Ebell. He threatens the end of the Republic as a functioning democracy, and may be a kleptocrat as formerly seen in the Philippines and Nigeria. We must be saved from him, by the Electoral College whose purpose is to prevent demagogues (rather than to give a disproportionately large voice to smaller states) or by Jill Stein’s recounts, though no recount has ever overturned such a large majority.

Unfortunately, other people simply do not recognise this. Lots of people are inspired by hope in him and what he will achieve.

“NW” by Zadie Smith is an angry novel. (I saw the TV dramatisation.) Keisha from the council estate works hard, goes to university, and becomes barrister Natalie, effortless dinner party hostess. She is instructed, not to represent the prosecution but merely to appear as a black barrister in the prosecution of a black man, before a black jury. She downloads a hookup app, and sexually humiliates random men. She stands on the parapet of a bridge over a busy road. An old friend begs her to come down, then walks off, loathing her. In the end she goes back to her childhood best friend, who has not had such a career, who is white, and they slump on a hammock. I was reminded, she cannot be colour-blind, she is always aware of skin colour and its social effect. It is chaotic and episodic, not just the happy story of a woman succeeding against all the odds.

The Investigatory Powers Bill requires every ISP to keep our Histories for a year, to surrender on demand to any number of government agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions. No doubt the DWP could disqualify any number of benefit cheats, requiring them to pay back any money paid to them, on the basis that their internet practices were inconsistent with being unfit for work, or their eBay activities showed them to be self-employed traders, a conclusion to be applauded by the Daily Mail. Any number of criminals could be unmasked. Religious extremists may also be caught. Parliament Must Debate the Investigatory Powers Bill Again, said HuffPo. It has been passed by Commons and Lords. Perhaps the Queen will save us from it- as much chance as Jill Stein’s recounts.

from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. I find this verse unpleasant to contemplate. I know I am alright for the moment. What I have, perhaps, is false hope.

suzanne-valadon-self-portrait

Looking good

I am proud of this photograph.

OM97.10

I looked good. These were the glamorous photographs, with studio make-up, that helped me to see I could look feminine. I fitted conventional thoughts of beauty at the time. The photographer worked to make me comfortable and relaxed. Having your portrait done is a lovely experience.

lair-of-the-frog

This one is not too bad either. I used the timer on my camera. I like the surroundings, the quizzical look, the hair and clothes are OK. I like my face. It is more lined than it was twenty years ago, and lines add character.

This programme on image is fascinating. An artist with very short limbs and a fashion photographer took pictures of people who disliked their appearance, and made them look beautiful. One had all her hair fall out when she was eleven, and he made her feel feminine and attractive for the first time, without her wig. One had lost his left leg in an accident, and he looks fine, standing tall on his prosthesis. One had body dysmorphic disorder. She finds the sight of her face unbearable, though she looks pretty enough to me, to the photographer, and to her mother. Her beautiful portrait still did not satisfy her, she still hated how she looked. Having seen herself as beautiful, bald, the other could go out without her wig for the first time.

The first two are physical issues. Hairlessness is not how a woman should be. Limblessness is not how a person should be. Yet- it has to do with thinking positively or negatively. Thinking negatively, I perceive a lack, which is distressing. Thinking positively, I perceive a person with strengths and beauties, and the lack will not vitiate that. That is not to say, the lack does not matter; but that it is not the only important thing. Mourn, accept, move on; recognise everything that is good.

It is OK to be a woman who is bald. She has such beautiful cheekbones. It is OK to be you, just the way you are. Let us celebrate your strengths. Alison Lapper’s ways of getting around in a motorised wheelchair and adapted car- far more expensive than Motability would ever have paid for- overcome her limitations, and let us celebrate the creativity which lets her transcend.

I don’t know whether there are “real” trans women who simply are women, in some way different from me, who would transition even if there were no differences at all in gender roles and expectations apart from the physical reproductive system. That some people might assert that they are does not reduce my uncertainty. For me, it feels that it was not OK to be me as a man, but it was OK to be me, expressing myself female. This Celebrate Yourself gospel pains me, because I could not- so I made the changes so that I could, and am now told they were unnecessary? It had felt that I was not acting, expressing myself female, and now the wig feels like an act; though returning were as tedious as go o’er.

I cycled into Swanston this morning to shop. It drizzled a bit as I went there, and one puddle stretched almost the width of the road. It seemed the cars were not giving me as much space, when passing- the Highway Code says 1.5m, or five feet, is the necessary gap. I hate that scuzzy old waterproof jacket. The fruit stall was not in its usual place, and there was no fruit on the market. As it was raining when I got to the supermarket, I went inside before putting on my wig: I am self-conscious about that, no matter what Alison Lapper says about the beauty of baldness, or my refusal to skulk about changing in lavatories. If I had money, it would have been different. I would be in better clothes, dry, having got out of a car, my wig presentable having been sheltered by an umbrella. The coward slave, we pass him by- I loathe looking poor, and my shame for once seems related to reality. The self-checkout machine did not recognise the weight of the tuna, and I slammed the tins down on the scale then was rude to the assistant. I hate that unavoidable irritations move me to rudeness and violence. Then I pedalled home, telling myself- the weather is good, on the whole. The rain is light. The wind is behind me.

And- that beautiful photograph can still comfort me. I am a beautiful person.

Recent drama

Dicte, about a Danish journalist, has a blistering opening. Why would a woman have a towel over her eyes as she gave birth? So she would not see the child before it is taken from her, for adoption. Decades later she sees her mother, calls out to her, and her mother and father ignore her, going into a building which we see is a Jehovah’s Witness church.

After that, it becomes predictable and silly. It is aimed at me: Middle-aged woman saves the day! She gets involved with a criminal surrogate mother ring, against journalistic ethics I understand, steals her colleague’s photographs and gives them to the police yet gets forgiven, and through a series of improbable coincidences apprehends the baddies. Meanwhile her recently divorced ex-husband is an idiot, and she has meaningful conversations with her teenage daughter who loves and respects her, and sex with a dishy paediatrician. Everything is about her feelings.

Aimed at young men starting their first job is New Blood. Young man starting his first serious job saves the day! The new trainee detective constable sees the connections the thick sergeant, who resents him, does not see. He finds a photograph, and finds three of the five people in it have been killed in the past month. Through a series of improbable coincidences, he finds a fourth man, who seems unperturbed that he has something in common with three people who have just died violent deaths. The police sergeant, however, does not notice this oddity. I quite liked the two robotic female assassins. There’s a moment when one of them shoots the witness, but not the Young Hero who is standing beside him, with a whole magazine from an assault rifle, and changes magazine before he thinks to run away. Which multinational corporation is the baddie? Both of them! One is murdering subjects of a medical research programme which went wrong, and the other seeks to reveal this to cause a share collapse and engineer a takeover. Both fail, and the beautiful young assassins murder the executive of one- I did not know which, but it did not matter.

Much, much better is Disparue, about a teenager murdered in Lyon. The city is beautiful: the river with the bridges, the trams, the wide streets. The mother is beautiful, and the camera sits on her face as single muscles in it move, showing changing emotions so beautifully. You have to notice details, like the name of the police officer’s boyfriend on her mobile phone, to follow it. Through a series of reasonable deductions, the police find the clues. They go to see the mother of the prostitute Jenny, a witness. “I had a daughter called Veronique” says the mother, and I gasp at the shock, and the economy of its delivery- what it says about their relationship!

The third is the last series of The Musketeers. Well, bad guys plot, good guys discover them, and after a bit of running about, shouting and sword-play Good Triumphs- it gets repetitive, and scenes of men in rough taverns do too. I am very bored. I have little to do. Much, much better is Versailles. The King sees his new-born baby is black, and his very very intense face gets a degree more intense. His brother attends a ball in a lady’s gown, and I am utterly delighted. Oh for a drama aimed at middle-aged trans women!

Signac, portrait of Felix Feneon

The “A” Word

In The α word, people are more than cyphers, and no-one gets murdered. There is hope for British TV drama yet.

Joe’s life revolves around his self-soothing activities. Autistic and five, he blocks his family out with his father’s loud music, repeating what people say to him word for word, and walking off down the Pennine lane. Who can blame him? His mother approaches with a ghastly grin on her face, pretending that some activity she wants him to engage in will be delightful for both of them, rather than perplexity and misery. So he learns to block her: if she asks him anything he will say “Well, let’s see-” but nothing follows.

She wants him to express emotion, and because he does not in ways she can recognise she imagines that he does not feel. Certainly he feels, but as everyone else in the family is more concerned with appearance than reality- what should we be feeling? Let us pretend to feel that, even to ourselves- he would have learned that it is not safe to feel authentically or express feeling anyway.

She wants him to be normal, and enjoy normal things. She spots him briefly in the school playground with two other low-status boys, and invites them over for a sleepover, without any preamble or getting to know the parents. This is a normal activity and it must be undertaken, whatever the discomfort for everyone involved.

She is enraged and terrified, and when something appears to help Joe she is desperate for it to continue. She hangs around outside offices until people agree to see her, then shouts at them.

-You really got through to him!
-It was just a technique, the speech therapist tells her.

At one point, other boys are having a football party, to which Joe has not been invited, and the family choose to have a picnic in the same park. They knew the party was going on, and in the Pennine town there will not be more than one park, so this is ill-judged. The father has a football, which he attempts to kick to Joe, but Joe evinces no interest in kicking it back.

(How wonderful! You don’t want to do it, you don’t see the point, so you just don’t! Yet if we can communicate enthusiasm within a family or group, then we can share it.)

For some reason they wander over to the other boys, rather than fleeing. Joe gets in the middle of the field but does his random thing rather than conforming or following instructions. I find this unbearable. I am weeping in embarrassment.

Andrea Vaccaro, penitent Magdalene

Cops on the edge

“Strong bloody violence from the start and throughout,” as Channel 5 would say- and I’m thinking-

aww- what about the strong language and the scenes of a sexual nature?

Here’s the “Police hunting for the next victim” scene. That’s odd, as it normally comes at the end of the drama, when the Murderer is arrested. Stretch the tantalising anticipation- they have found her. What a relief! This drama goes with Women’s Problems- here, the cop has personal clashes with the people in the office, the other cop’s daughter is arrested. So, not exactly quotidian problems, but we can relate to teenage daughter in trouble.

After bloody but unbowed stressed hero cops in Shetland and Trapped as in The Killing, Marcella takes it to the limit. She has fugues, during one of which she may have killed someone. She’s really afraid when she finds the body. She’s also obsessed with a particular suspect, who has made a complaint about her- stay away from him, says her superior officer just like so many superior officers before him- but the twist here is that we see the other suspect actually doing a murder. I don’t know how they’re going to end this one.

For a month we had that fortissimo MI LAH DO RAY ostinato advertising Call Line of Duty until in the words of the chief inspector, repeated nightly for that month, “God Give Me Strength”. Then it’s really complex, but it seems that the corrupt coppers are getting away with it. There’s a torture scene and a man dies gargling his own blood. Was it something to do with child abuse? I can’t remember, I am just confused. Yeah, that was it: nice touch seeing a police firearms officer kill a man who had surrendered, then torture his mate, but bring him some sympathy when it’s revealed they abused him as a teenager in a care home.

I have had two fugues, once when drunk, and in both people saw me doing something embarrassing but did not tell me the precise details.

Anyway, two blokes are playing a game where they challenge each other to kill some random person, film it, and put the film on the Dark Web. We start with a witness saying “I thought he was coming back for me, but he just stood there and filmed him dying on his phone”. Ooh, yuck. How extreme will these get? Does it matter? I am still reading The Iliad, and the introduction promises me Patroclus pushing his spear through the face of a charioteer, then pulling him out of his chariot like a fish on a hook. Among other violence. Then, the Greek city states were in a state of constant cold, regular hot war, any sign of weakness inspiring attack.

The world…
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight…

Am I watching too much television, or is it really like that?

Gerda Wegener 1927

Culture, myth, reality

We only understand anything through language. We distinguish one thing from another through the words we use: Structuralism says that language is a system, one thing, and words relate to each other rather than to discrete things out there. Post-structuralism says I am born into a world of language, which defines what I might do or think. Orwell imagined Newspeak preventing anyone ever thinking an unorthodox thought: perhaps English does, too. Deconstructionism asserts that meanings are not fixed, but must always be ideological constructs, which attempt to make that which is the product of a particular culture or thought system seem natural, inevitable and objectively true. To destroy slavery, including slavery to concepts of masculinity, we need new language.

Back to that later, perhaps. Language comes before reality in the Bible: In the beginning was the Word; the Earth was a formless void until God speaks, and calls our world into existence. Yet in Christianity, God made revealed Truth. Human beings simply have to tune into revelation of this ready made divine order of things, and fit themselves into it. 

Yet I believe in continuing revelation, human beings working things out, seeing things anew.

I have just been watching a television drama, Thirteen, in which a girl was kidnapped and imprisoned for thirteen years before she escaped. I don’t believe her post-traumatic responses, necessarily, it is a drama of events more than ideas, and one for the quotidian rather than extreme- couples split and reform, people choose between spouses and lovers; so as well as the threat of the Murderer- will he kill the ten year old he has kidnapped now?- I am offered a vision of what it means to be in a couple.

I have a choice of many such stories, in fifty-year soap operas or novellas, millions of versions, from four millennia of civilisation. They are hot, with strong threat and emotion, or cool and contemplative. There are great Myths, and English-speaking peoples are shaped by the King James Bible and Shakespeare. We have no sure way of relating the Jewish teacher, Y’shua, to the Jesus of the Gospels, but we have those stories, of being born of a virgin, changing water into wine, dying and rising again.

There are continual new interpretations of these stories. Humans use them for our own purposes. They do not trap us into one understanding but free us for greater understanding as we continually explore. Stories enable us to share glimpses of truth, as well as the clear detailed descriptions of truth in scientific papers; and to feel our way into empathy as well as thinking into understanding.

Different languages give different understandings of the world, divide it up in different ways.

I am not saying any philosopher considering language has a lesser view than this, but for me, language is a good enough tool to explore my world, and the cage is porous enough for humanity to stretch it: it is not a cage, but scaffolding, for us to create greater understanding. The stories can free us.

I started on this because I have been reading Derek Guiton who apparently fears that David Boulton will drive belief in God out of the Religious Society of Friends. Possibly no-one reading this has my precise interests, yet I hope you get something from it. Here I have looked at Boulton’s explanation of stories in The Trouble with God and found it compatible with belief in God as well as useful in understanding my world.

Bronzino, fresco from the chapel of the old palace in Florence, 2

Man hating

“Happy Valley” is a police drama by Sally Wainwright set in and around Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. The most fleshed-out male characters are the three murderers, two of whom are violent rapists. One other main male character is drunk and disorderly, making a fool of himself outside a pub, and the most sympathetic male character is a loser who has gone back to his mother after being thrown out by his wife for having an affair. Occasionally, he says sensible things. The protagonist, Sgt. Catherine Cawood, whose nickname in the nick is “Brunnhilde”, is a saint in human form. Always seeking to do the right, compassionate thing, always considering implications and the long term, she bears up under great stress. Her daughter killed herself after giving birth to her rapist’s child, and Caroline is bringing up her grandson and caring for her recovering alcoholic/addict sister.

In the last scene, the grandson is chatting away about wanting a dog- an alsatian or pit-bull or rottweiler- and my distinct impression is that Caroline is wondering if he will grow up to be like his murderous rapist father. I almost don’t want to admit it because that is so horrible.

In Middlemarch, the women in every case rule their men. Mary loves Frank but insists he get a good income before she will consent to marry him. Mrs Bulstrode cares for Mr Bulstrode in his disgrace. Though the Doctor is far more intelligent and sensible than poor Rosamund, she runs rings round him, always getting her way. Dorothea wants a husband more intelligent than she. It’s not possible, and her attempt is a disaster. He is mean cowardly and impotent, and falsely impugns her honour, publicly. So she picks her second husband because he is physically attractive.

All men are stupid I can cope with. All men are arrogant fools with a colossal sense of entitlement and resentment, and potential for extreme violence- even the ones in suits with responsible jobs- is more difficult, especially as women saying this probably think I’m a man. Margaret Atwood said Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. Er- steady on-

I like to imagine I am not murderous. Really.

Here’s Storyending, who went for a drink with a man she loathed because she needed some information from him. She overcame her patriarchal conditioning and used men’s argument techniques on him, with the result that she defeated him completely in argument.

Though-

In both series of Les Hommes de L’Ombre, there is a strong female main character, but with a flaw. In the second series, the woman is blackmailed because she paid a fixer to arrange her international adoption- “bought a child”. In both, women go mad for love of the Gregory Fitoussi character. Women might not feel flattered.

I googled “All men are rapists” and found this article considering whether the human aversion to violence against humans is innate or inculcated.

To my women readers: are you frightened of men?

Gentileschi, Judith and her maidservant