Women & War



When I left class on Wednesday 21 March to get home, I was confronted by some
  officers, about eleven men hiding behind the flowers and the university fence...The
first officer slapped me, kicked me, and then I saw what looked like a gun butt coming... When
I woke up in a dark room, everything was gone. For thirteen days, I was raped by I do not
know how many men..."    
University of Liberia, a peaceful rally stormed by security forces, March 21st 2001                       

   "...So here I am, she reflected. Where I knew I would end up, from the moment the shit
                            hit the fan. Left behind by the heroes, down among the women. Reduced to the status of
                             a domestic animal -and getting fucked by the bastard who took over, because I go with the
                              the territory..."

                                             CASTLES MADE OF SAND, CHAPTER 8: THE NIGHT BELONGS TO FIORINDA

Chretien de Troyes, who is much closer to the Celtic traditional texts than Thomas Malory, can be seen to be struggling
    in his Romances, between the obvious chattel status of the noble "heroines" in his source material, and the need to provide
   intelligent female characters with agency and wisdom, for his readership and his patroness,at the court of Marie, Countess
   of Champagne.... Thus, in the case of the lady in the Romance, Yvain, or the Knight of the Lion, we see the witty and prudent
    damosel Lunette arguing with her lady, whose husband has just been hacked to pieces, that it would be very sensible and politic to accept the victor as her new husband.... Which, after some parley, she duly does.

(adapted from D.ROwen's Introduction to the Everyman edition)



  Who knows, maybe Chretien's fantasy heroines had some meaning and some  effect (Lunette is really cool). But agency and physical security are still hard to come by. You think the idea of a woman being burned alive in public is a fantasy? (Or stoned to death?) Think again. Current estimates say three women a day die in 'honor killings', in Pakistan alone. And that's in the peacetime, domestic ordinary world, they're killed by blokes with mobile phones in their pockets. We haven't even got back to the dark ages yet.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that even though violence against women has been made illegal in many countries, such violence has, in fact, increased... www.amnesty.org.uk

Bringing it all back home: I didn't make up what happens to Fiorinda, except for the fantasy element that says the bad guy uses the body of a dead man as his instrument of torture... which isn't much of a distortion of the truth. Dead men, men with no autonomy, no self respect, easily become monsters in times of conflict. Dead men are everywhere. You think the typical fantasy and sci-fi plot of mayhem, rapine and slaughter is harmless escapism? And you could never do those video-game things in real life, you just love the splatter and the feeling of power... Well, I hope you're right. Wake up. Look around you. CASTLES is not a wild dystopian vision, it's a displacement of what's happening right now, right here, on this globalized earth, and getting closer to where you live, every day.