I recently finished putting together a book with a good friend of mine, the incomparably cool Ajit Kumar, on the equally incomparably cool Doris Lessing. We collected a series of essays on the Author from experts from round the globe and contributed an essay each ourselves. Its due out this year from Seven Towers. Personally I loved writing the piece on Lessing. Previously I had worked on another piece on Virginia Woolf for another volume, and what engaged me more than anything during these writing projects was the absence that hung behind both of these authors, the matrix of patriarchy that they struggled against and wrote against that was everywhere around them and yet at the same time was the most intangible and pernicious of foes. Basically I hold this to be something of a self evident truth when it comes to feminism:
The notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for female reproductive rights but on the idea of every woman’s legal and moral right to control of her own body. Similarly the notion of any fundamental feminist theory does not extend to female political rights but to the primordial recognition of women as co legislator with their male counterpart in any political and legislative dialogue. By extension the notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for equal pay between man and woman, but on the parity of productive potential between the sexes and the elimination of all discrimination on gender grounds, especially on the grounds of the necessity of maternity/paternity leave and childcare time. Finally a notion of any fundamental feminist theory postulates women’s full possession of their minds and bodies and thereby the radical elimination of all forms of sexual oppression, of any culture of rape of women, including rape within marriage.
I said something not unlike that in the introduction to the Lessing volume, and I unashamedly say I hope this book sells by the truckload. I only wish my essay were half as good as some of the other contributors.
I suppose I mentioned the Lessing book to partly announce my feminist credentials, partly because of late I have become obsessed with the life and career of Woody Allen, and why he is being tried and of found guilty in the new incredibly powerful arena of justice – the media – for raping Dylan when she was a child. No evidence of any substance exists to either try or convict Allen of this despite the fact the judge in the case told Allen his behaviour was grossly inappropriate and despite the fact the prosecutor in the case said he had probable cause to prosecute a case against Allen but wouldn’t because of the vulnerability of Dylan as a child and despite the fact that Allen changed his story about being in the Attic that day. If there were actual evidence, rest assured he would be convicted, and should be. What astonished me most is the amount of unclear dubious opinion based conjecture about a Allen’s guilt, especially in the artistic community, and much of it based on the opinion of those whose job it was to prosecute the case, and the presumption of guilt many of the most fair minded people carry about him. This is the hub of it all: Presumption of guilt based on public opinion is extremely dangerous. It involves the handing over of our critical faculties to authorities or to the court of public opinion – not a wise move ever. I personally dislike Allen, and always have, though I love many of his movies. I have no agenda in keeping him out of reach of the law if he committed such a horrific crime. My point is this: the trial by media of Allen does nothing to advance the cause of encouraging victims of abuse to come forward. It is tawdry and vicious and involves the dredging up of events that are two decades old and were already dealt with at length. Further more if there exists evidence he has committed a crime – why not prosecute the case? Furthermore again, how come no other potential victim has ever come forward? The presumption here underlying what I am writing is that the assumption is Dylan is lying or is somehow suffering false memory syndrome. Not at all. I cannot make such an assumption, nor can anyone else. Nor do I evenly remotely hold such an opinion. If anything the Allen- Mia Farrow – Dylan saga has all the elements of a Greek tragedy where a couple who have long parted ways are still engaged in a terrible almost inevitable struggle thorough the next generation, where each is forced to take sides against the other. It is something we have seen far too often. It can not end well.
On a personal note, I expect my obsession with Allen never to go away. I will be gathering biographies of him, and re reading his books, and maybe even watching a few of his movies. The other good news, having had what is probably my last ultimately pointless debate on Facebook, I finally decided to close my account. I have spent far too much valuable reading time on Facebook, and everything you say and do is harvested in data centres and monitored. There’s real evidence out there to actually support that theory. My friends know how to contact me. That’s all that matters.