A new literary prize was launched in 2018 to honour crime writing where ‘no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.’ Called the Staunch Prize, its been founded by author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless, who is providing the £2,000 award herself.
The Prize website: http://staunchbookprize.com/about-2/
Overall, I’m glad that someone has stepped forward to highlight the way that violence against women is used as a form of entertainment. How long before similar attention is paid towards films, television dramas and music? However, there are a few contradictions raised by this prize, that no one is addressing, though Val McDermid makes some valid points in the article.
Before I write anything else, let me state that I’m against violence towards women. I’ve worked as a marriage guidance counsellor and rape crisis switchboard adviser, and at least half of my girlfriends suffered abuse that had long-term effects on them, so I know the consequences of violence better than most men.
There’s a problem in criticising anything that’s riding the bow wave of political correctness, in that if you say anything remotely disapproving of the flood of accusations, then its turned back on you as if you’re one of the abusers. Bizarrely, this happened recently to Margaret Atwood, who quite mildly (and correctly) pointed out that legal due process was being ignored, in how men were being accused and condemned.
Curious about my own crime writing, in four novels and several short stories and novellas, I totted up how many victims of each gender were ‘beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered’, I found that 14 women were victims, while 15 men suffered. Two women were perpetrators of violence, including the murder of female victims. My WIP, The Dead Need Nobody, starts with a cold-hearted murder of a female painter, by defenestration
The killing is casually done and wasn’t really necessary, but my fictional male murderer has also disposed of two other victims in an equally uncaring way, as he simply throws away what he doesn’t need any more. The murders have no more meaning to him than switching off a light. My story’s theme is not really the murders, but more about how society values possessions, in this case, expensive paintings, more than it does the artists that created them, who often died as paupers.
One of the problems with the Staunch Prize is that while it’s taking the moral high ground in condemning crime stories that trade on women being victims, it ignores who the consumers of such lurid tales are—which is mainly women! I’ve seen various statistics bandied about, from 57%-70% female readership of all the different sub-genres of crime writing.
Thus, we have the peculiar situation, where a female screenwriter of crime stories founds and funds* a writing prize for a crime story without violence against women, yet the biggest fans of violent stories are women themselves—who are, presumably, being given a smack on the wrist for liking what they do! I’m guessing, that under the rules of the contest, as many men can be slaughtered as possible.
*Except, that Bridget Lawless isn’t really funding it with her own money, for there’s a £20 entry fee. With £2000 going to the winner, I wonder how the rest of the entry money will be dispersed…I’d be more impressed if there was a statement on the Staunch Prize website, that surplus funds would be donated to a charity fighting violence against women.
It strikes me that Bridget Lawless is capitalising on the current debate, helping to raise her profile as a writer, while making some welcome money.
What’s your reaction to this new writing prize?
I came across this interview with Bridget Lawless, founder of the Staunch Prize.
It’s one of the most sycophantic interviews I’ve read—with an added pong of hypocrisy, for interviewer J.J. Marsh writes crime stories that feature sexual violence and the murder of female victims!
Again, there’s no mention of who actually reads gruesome thrillers and murder mysteries the most—women. Nor is anything said about who gets all of the loot generated by jumping on this bandwagon. If 1,000 writers enter at £20 a manuscript, with £2,000 paid to the winner, that leaves £18,000 minus whatever Bridget Lawless pays to the three judges (including herself).
There’s money in misery….