In praise of the Daily Mail……
Posted on November 29, 2009
A bizarre title for me I know, and one I never thought I’d find myself writing, but credit where it’s due and all that.
I have to admit I’ve always been a bit of a Bel Mooney fan, but this is probably one of the best responses by an advice columnist I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
To a woman who writes in asking for help on how to understand her racist abusive husband, a husband who, four years on, still refuses to have any contact with his own granddaughter on the grounds that she’s of mixed race, Mooney says:
You are asking me an impossible question, I’m afraid. To be blunt, nothing in the world could make me even begin to understand his behaviour (especially since his own parents are not racists) and my primitive instinct is that I’d like to shoot him.
Yes, personally. Had the little girl just been born I might try to read his disgraceful attitude as a shock response. But four years on?
Let’s be very clear about one thing. Having views about the issue of Britain’s borders and/or judging that immigration policies of recent years have not been wise is a very different thing from rejecting a four-year-old child because of the colour of her skin.
People cry ‘racism’ too easily nowadays, which serves to detract from the terrible gravity of the real, gut prejudice your husband displays, described in wrenching detail in your longer letter.
The man is a monster and, unfortunately, the world is full of people like him – responsible for the evil of the Holocaust, of Rwanda, of Kosovo, of Darfur, and of countless other seething, poisonous cauldrons of hatred since time began.
I’m afraid my sincere intention is not to help you understand this man, but to urge you to have the courage to leave him alone, to hate all by himself.
To that end, I’m going to do something unusual on this page, which is to ask the question, ‘Why do so many women accept being helplessly trapped with appalling men?’ And answer it, in effect, over two weeks.
I want you to hold what I say in your mind, and read next week’s letter as a continuation. The issue comes up frequently, but never before have I received two letters that I found so shocking and frustrating in equal measure, as yours and next week’s.
It’s vital for people to understand how many women fall into a state of terrified acceptance when ill-treated by their husbands, believing in their hearts that they deserve what’s happening.
Ground down over years, they believe the verbal abuse and, often, accept physical abuse too, because they feel worthless.
If a woman miraculously finds the strength to break the cycle in order to protect her children (and mercifully it does happen), she is obeying a deeper instinct, the protective mother defeating the abject woman at last.
This is no place for an analysis of domestic violence. What I want you to understand is that you are suffering from a version of the same, and it is time you rebelled.
This is the moment to be a mother and grandmother first of all. You say you’ve thought of leaving this apology for a husband and father. Why can you not do so?
You describe this man as your ‘carer’, but I beg you not to use such an honourable term. He does not care for you; he has no interest in your feelings, your welfare, but he does everything to make you unhappy.
I feel very sorry for your physical condition, yet since you have travelled alone to see your granddaughter, I have to assume you have some mobility. You also have three grown-up sons – and I believe it’s time they all looked after the woman who gave them life. Ask them for help.
At 55, you have (God willing) many years of life ahead of you – years in which you could read to your granddaughter, help her make Christmas cards and presents for her mum and dad, play games with her when they are busy, watch her grow.
You have to choose between that happiness and accepting your prison. And it is a choice, Rosemary. It’s not easy, but you have to act.
Tell this son that you would like to move near him. He must cease his futile efforts to talk his father round, and focus on his mother.
Ask him to work with your older sons to find you accommodation and move your belongings. I assume you have benefits; the Citizens Advice Bureau where he lives should be able to help.
His partner’s family may have suggestions – and will be all the more welcoming to you because of your principled courage and love.
You say you can’t go on like this. Then – listen! – don’t.
Spot on! Well okay, apart from the annoying bit about immigration policies and people crying racism too easily these days. Apart from those bits then, what a breath of fresh air this is, especially in comparison to the kind of drivel Pamela Stephenson Connolly or Tracey Cox regularly come out with. They’d have probably tried to convince the poor woman to have sex with the bloke or something, which appears to be their cure-all for any and all dysfunctional relationships, but not Mooney, oh no.
Basically her advice boils down to: The man’s a bastard, now get the fuck out of there Rosemary.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Bel Mooney is usually quite sound. It happens, even in the Male.
I wonder if Mooney’s a bit too genteel to drop in a DTMFA
Ha, that has to be the post title I thought least likely for you, ever, Cath.
Muh, the ‘crying racism’ rubbish ruined the piece for me though.
Luke ,I think the first spelling was right 🙂
I rarely disagree with radfem posts, but I have to disagree here, with propogation of the myth that the victims of domestic abuse do not leave because they are weak, afraid, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. How many times does the situation in which an abused partner TRIES to leave an abuser, children or not, and ends up back in the relationship? Asking “Why doesn’t she leave?” amounts to victim blame. The correct question is, “Why won’t he let her leave?” But that would affix responsibility for abuse on the abuser, and the patriarchy doesn’t allow such nonsense.
I strongly recommend the book, Coercive Control. It examines the situation of domestic abuse from the perspective of the kidnapping victim / POW, since it most closely resembles these situations and domestic abusers are a lot like kidnappers / enemy combatants, just worse.