JENNI MURRAY: Have we all forgotten the dark side of Sean Connery?11/05/2020
JENNI MURRAY: Have we all forgotten the dark side of Sean Connery?
- Jenni Murray reminds people of Sean Connery’s dark side following his death
- She praises the decision to provide female-only toilets in public buildings
- Jenni also talks about her parents’ fake teeth and the state of dental care today
The summer I turned 12, my best friend and I blagged our way into the Barnsley Odeon to see a film called Dr No. We were blown away.
Partly by the stunning Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in that bikini, but mostly by the gorgeous Sean Connery as James Bond. We fell hopelessly in love.
And yet I’m afraid I can’t mourn his passing last weekend, interestingly on the last day of domestic violence awareness month.
For years, I saw all his films and thought him the most handsome man alive — until, in the Eighties, I learned of the interview Connery had given to the American journalist Barbara Walters.
Jenni Murray (pictured) said she will not mourn the death of actor Sean Connery because of his views about the way women should be treated
He didn’t think it was that bad to slap a woman, with an open hand, if she merits it. ‘Merit’ meant a woman who talked back.
His view echoed one we heard so often in those days, with judges letting off men who murdered their wives because they had been so ‘provoked by her nagging’.
I was in my 30s by then, and was already a supporter of a major campaign, prompted by the burgeoning women’s movement, to change attitudes to it, led by politicians such as Harriet Harman and the lawyer Helena Kennedy.
As a young journalist, I would meet women such as Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Sara Thornton and Emma Humphreys, all sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering the men who had raped, abused and brutally beaten them for years.
All three were released from prison when it was finally accepted their suffering had led to diminished responsibility. The term ‘battered wife’ became familiar and the police and courts began to develop a greater understanding of what domestic violence really meant for women who suffered it.
Jenni once heard Connery (left) speaking to American journalist Barbara Walters and say it was acceptable to slap a woman if she merited it
Back then, we thought primitive views such as Connery’s were becoming a thing of the past. Sadly, it seems we were wrong.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard of the death of Claire Parry, strangled in a car by the Dorset police officer Timothy Brehmer. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was acquitted of the murder charge, after claiming there was a ‘kerfuffle’ when she informed his wife of their long affair.
Some ‘kerfuffle’ that leads to a death! It’s outrageous how often the words ‘after she’ are used in defence of the perpetrator’s actions. For Connery, it was ‘after she’ tried to have the last word.
We’re back to that old idea of a ‘difficult’ woman inviting harm to herself. But really it’s the crimes of the abusers that never seem to go away. Take Johnny Depp, who after a lurid, weeks-long trial has lost his libel case against The Sun for calling him a ‘wife-beater’.
The judge told him plainly that he was one — and a ‘monster’ to boot.
Johnny Depp (right) recently lost a court battle against The Sun for calling him a ‘wife-beater’
Now we’re in lockdown again, ever more women will be in fear of their lives. Two women a week are killed by a current or ex-partner.
There was one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds in the last lockdown. So are the police coming to the defence of often defenceless women?
Not if you listen to David Thompson, the chief constable of the West Midlands force, who has said his officers should be freed from handling domestic abuse and harassment claims so they can focus on ‘emergencies’.
‘There are 1,000 harassment reports a week,’ he said. ‘That volume of work, that’s largely around policing relationships, is growing so enormously that it’s consuming more and more resources.’
His words took me right back to the days when police referred to men’s abuse as ‘just a domestic’; when Connery said it was fine to slap a woman who talked back.
The police must remember coercive control and abuse are crimes. It is never ‘just a domestic’.
Actor Sean Connery (pictured, playing James Bond in Never Say Never Again) died this week aged 90
At last, ministers give women a toilet break
Finally, a guarantee from the Government that women will be provided with female-only toilets in public buildings.
So many women have said they don’t want a gender- neutral loo where they have to pass men using urinals to get to the cubicles they need for privacy.
One mum told the campaign group Fair Play for Women of her young daughter’s horrific experience when she began her first period, found no single sex toilet in which to clean herself up and had to pass men on her way to wash her bloodied hands.
After wasting half my life waiting in a queue, I can tell ministers what’s required. More toilets everywhere please, clearly marked men only, women only and gender-neutral.
A new battle for brave Doreen
There are few people I have met in my long experience as an interviewer who have impressed me as much as Doreen Lawrence.
She bore the brutal murder of her son, Stephen, with grace and determination to find justice for him, despite unthinkable grief.
I last spoke to her when she was elevated to the House of Lords. Baroness Lawrence was shy, a little overwhelmed, but hoped that her son would have been proud.
Now she has to endure the investigation into the ‘spy cops’ scandal which opened this week.
How could an undercover officer have been given the job of infiltrating her family’s campaign to find ‘dirt’ to ‘smear’ the Lawrences? The police should have known a dignified, grieving mother would never give up.
Doreen Lawrence (pictured) will have to endure a new investigation into the ‘spy cops’ scandal that broke this week
My mum’s 21st present? False teeth!
I remember Dad’s response when we watched the 1966 World Cup win, laughing at Nobby Stiles — who died last week — dancing around the pitch at Wembley, false teeth in his hand and a great gap at the front showing as he grinned.
‘He’s lucky,’ said my dad. ‘He’s only got falsies at the front.’
Both my parents had a full set of ‘falsies’ — to save money on dental fees. For her 21st birthday present, all my mother’s teeth were extracted and false ones inserted.
My generation was blessed with excellent dental treatment on the NHS. But, today, thousands are in agony as waiting times have doubled because of the pandemic. I reckon no pain is worse than toothache. No one should be left to suffer it.
Good news for environmentally concerned chocaholics this week. Sailboat chocolate is said to be 99 per cent free of carbon emissions having been processed in a solar-powered factory, sailed across the Atlantic and transported to Fortnum & Mason in a fleet of electric vans.
And the bad news? It costs more than £8 for a small bar — and it will still make you fat!
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