Thursday 28 April 2011
Julie Burchill: Something's wrong when it's only men who take out gagging orders
They say that no man is a hero to his valet, but in recent years the rise of the super-injunction has attempted to build a phoney shield of decency around selected celebrity sleazes rich enough to afford one. Though injunctions are modern inventions, their intention is as old as Adam; they seek to return relations between the sexes to the level of those idealised in Downton Abbey and shown in surprisingly harsh reality in the earlier and far superior Upstairs, Downstairs, when rich men could do exactly as they pleased to parlour maids, prostitutes and showgirls and get away with it.
If there is a law which is used by one gender only, we should surely be very suspicious of it, as the MP Louise Bagshawe has pointed out. The feeling that women and girls should be seen and not heard, which the law seems to perpetuate with the light punishments it hands out to rapists, child abusers and wife-killers, has now been extended to take in this new development whereby men, if they are rich enough, can be heard and not seen.
The monstrous regiment of right-wing judges who haven't heard of Emmeline Pankhurst is compounded by the liberal lawyers who seem to believe that once you have ticked the box that says brotherhood of man, you can treat women in a way that you would never dream of treating ethnic minorities.
The vile John Mortimer was forever chortling on about what jolly good fun it was defending wife-murderers, and what absolutely delightful chappies they were – he would never have said the same about racial attackers. Michael Mansfield famously took his wife and his popsy to the same hotel, flitting between floors. What a man of integrity!
How morally repugnant it is to see men of wealth and/or power ganging up on young women whose only currency is their youthful beauty in order to frighten them into silence! That Andrew Marr was not strictly one of them, picking on someone his own size, takes away some of the bullying aspect, but in other ways it was worse, because he should have known better. He wasn't some kid plucked out of school at 16 because his brains were in his feet, though apparently he kept them in another equally inappropriate place.
And these footballers and entertainers can't be accused of the same level of hypocrisy as Marr, as they to my knowledge have never publicly criticised the use of injunctions to create privacy law through the courts rather than Parliament, as he has. If he'd have seen some Honourable Member hiding behind his wife and family while pretending to "protect" them, he'd have joined in the quite justified chorus of ridicule from the press corps. Yet he had the front to tell the Daily Mail: "The injunction allowed me and my family the time and space needed to repair and heal itself at a very difficult time." Move over Sarah Ferguson, there's a new New Age self-justifying bullshitter on the block!
The moral stench of the nation has racketed up quite a few notches in recent years as we have witnessed wealthy judges, politicians, entertainers and sportsmen band together to bully women through the medium of gagging orders. But, in a way, we expected that, having such low expectations of such low-lifes. The involvement of a journalist – and one who is paid such a vast sum of our money by the BBC – in this sort of deceit makes me feel sick, though. Sure, we are a dirty lot, but we're good-bad, not evil. We drink, gamble, adulterise – but we don't tend to go around flashing our money at judges and whining for them to muzzle our exes.
When I had an adulterous affair in the 1990s, and the Daily Mail found out and sent a man in a grubby mac to doorstep us at my girl's flat, I actually tapped on his window when he fell asleep in his car outside, all the better to give a fellow hack a fighting chance of going back to the DM with his smutty story.
OK, admittedly that's a bit babyish and show-offy. But it's a damn sight better than being a pompous, two-faced windbag who – despite coming on like a man of the people when faced with a wealthy politician such as David Cameron – made the best of there being one law for the rich and another for the poor when it comes to buying the full power of the law to gag one's fellow scribblers in their desperate striving to turn an honest buck.
The secret of a good marriage? Separate houses
Boredom has been named as one of the main murderers of marriage on the part of women – quelle surprise!
As someone who married the first time out of friendship and the second time out of passion, boredom was definitely the common factor which drove me to sapphism for six months and then to a very happy 16-year relationship in which I live across the road from my husband.
While we do argue quite a bit (yes, about Israel!) I can honestly say that we never bore each other, and while some of this has to do with our scintillating personalities and banter, a lot has to do with the fact that we are not in each other's faces 24/7.
It's pretty simple really. When you live with someone, they become your family. And what sort of perv wants to have sex with one of their family? As Saki's Reginald said: "No really provident woman lunches regularly with her husband if she wishes to burst upon him as a revelation at dinner. He must have time to forget; an afternoon is not enough."
I know I am privileged, and that two can reputedly live as cheaply as one, but if you end up driving each other nuts you're going to end up maintaining two different households anyway, and with a bad humour to boot. Why not do it voluntarily, and cheerfully, from the get-go?
Pop stars die but the squabbling goes on forever
Poor Poly Styrene, who I knew slightly, has died of cancer. It's stopped now, but for years whenever a musician died, someone would put out an embarrassing record about it, usually mooting the notion that, in the words of one of them: "If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, you know they've got a hell of a band."
Where, in fact, the spitting spats that musicians are prone to would simply go on ad infinitum. Biggie and Tupac would have to be kept apart physically, fighting over who slept with whose wife, and Billy Mackenzie and Jeff Buckley would squabble over who got to do the high notes.
And then Jeff's dad would have wanted to join the band, and everyone would give up in disgust and go home.
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