Do Not Forward This - Not a Joke
by Esmerelda Weatherwax (Oct. 2008)
I received this e-mail a few weeks ago - Fwd: Important info..... NOT a joke!
And the person who sent it to me and about 25 other women urged us to “Read right to the bottom”
To appear to digress, one of my favourite films is a black and white film from 1944 by Powell and Pressburger called A Canterbury Tale. It isn’t as well known as One of Our Aircraft is Missing or the Black Narcissus probably because the central plot is preposterous but I love it for the real story which is the journey taken by the three central characters, and the photgraphy of Canterbury itself.
One night during the war three people get off a train in the dark at a village near Canterbury. They are an American Soldier on leave and keen to see more of England, a British soldier joining his unit who are camped nearby and a young woman of the Land Army on her way to her post on a nearby farm. Before the young woman has gone far down the street she is assaulted and glue is thrown in her hair. She is the latest victim of a series of similar attacks and the three decide to find out who is responsible.
As the film continues we find out that the young woman’s fiancé (a historian with a special interest in the Canterbury pilgrims) is missing in action, the American’s girlfriend has not written to him in months and the Englishman is a musician in civilian life.
The Town Clerk gives a series of lectures on the history of the area for “men in uniform”. They all attend, insisting that women are fighting alongside men in this war, and that the Land Army is a valuable uniformed service. By the end of the film the woman’s fiancé has been found alive, the American’s girlfriend writes from a US Army hospital in Australia and the Englishman gets to play Bach on the organ in Canterbury Cathedral prior to embarkation. The glueman is unmasked as the Town Clerk. He was anxious to deter servicemen from going out with local women so that they would attend his lectures instead. Hence his efforts to ensure that women stayed at home. Like I said, preposterous.
If you get a chance to see the film do so. If only it had been made in colour because some of the photography is stunning. The Canterbury Cathedral organ sequence is a set as the real Cathedral was boarded up after a raid but that doesn’t matter.
I then replied to the person who sent me the e-mail “this is a hoax. It is obviously a hoax because . . . ” and I pointed out the obvious inconsistencies. Then I referred her to one of the hoax buster websites which have traced the first story back via the US where much of the language used originated (purse for handbag, shift for gear level, guy, store etc) to Australia.
The advice is not to forward these stories as they
The answer I got back was that if these stories make us think twice when out and about it has done its job, and in her opinion, passing them on has been worthwhile.
Worthwhile to who? Who benefits from women being scared to travel alone, or without a man? Who has a vested interest in keeping women fearful in their homes?
Well it is not the glueman that’s for sure. He saw the error of his ways and his scheme was roundly condemned because we have this tradition in England of woman having freedom of movement.
In the 16th century Emanuel Van Meteran the Dutch ambassador observed that Englishwomen "were not shut up or kept so strictly as in Spain and some other countries. On the contrary, they had free management of their households and could go and could go out to market to buy what they liked best to eat. They are well dressed and fond of taking it easy; they sit decked out in fine clothes, in order to see and be seen by the passers-by.
Thomas Platter of Basle who visited London in 1599 said "Now the women-folk of England, who have mostly blue-grey eyes and are fair and pretty, have far more liberty than in other lands, and know just how to make good use of it, for they often stroll out or drive by coach in very gorgeous clothes, and the men must put up with such ways”.
Shakespeare described Mistress Page, a respectable, merry and good wife of Windsor thus, “never a wife in Windsor leads a better life than she does, do what she will, say what she will, take all, pay all, . . . all is as she list”.
There was one attempt in the 19th century to curtail our freedom of movement.
This meant that in certain named garrison and dockyard towns women out alone or otherwise suspected of being a prostitute were required to attend a medical examination. Feminists and campaigners for women’s suffrage lead by Josephine Butler formed a campaign for its repeal. Aside from an Englishwoman’s right to go where ever she wishes it impinged on the work of District Nurses, midwives, missionaries and the like and it was repealed in 1886.
However even today women in the rest of the world suffer restrictions on their movement. Readers will be familiar with the laws of places like Saudi Arabia where women cannot leave the house without their male mahram. Other countries will allow a woman to leave the house, but only with the written permission of her husband or father.
Reuters reported recently that :-
As I said above who benefits from women being scared to travel alone, or without a man and who has a vested interest in keeping women fearful in their homes?
If you are sent an e-mail of this kind assess the narrative for yourself. Then check with one of the hoaxbuster sites. Do not obediently hit “forward” to inadvertently spread gloom, doom and terror.
Jihad takes many forms. These urban myths are old but the impetus to spread fear is older still.
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