EXTRACT: This extract is taken from a restaurant scene in Chapter four. It is a conversation between two main characters about meninism – the fictional political equivalent of feminism in a matriarchy, which is where Nailing Jess is set.
‘Look, don’t shoot the messenger!’ Wayne exclaimed. ‘I’m not saying you shouldn’t be a meninist, in your free time, I’m just saying, a meninist group in Withering police station, is probably not a good idea. Let’s be honest, most of our boys couldn’t even spell meninist!’
‘Because we’re men and we’re too stupid, yeah? I get it. But it’s 2017. The argument that men are naturally stupid, their brain size being inversely proportionate to their intellect, has been completely disproven,’ Ben replied.
‘See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, all that pseudo intellectual crap. I’m telling you Campbell, cops aren’t big thinkers. You know Peachy still hasn’t finished that copy of 50 Shades of Pink I bought him, says he’s seen the movie now, so there’s no point.’
Wayne wiped her masala gravy in some naan bread and swallowed it whole, groaning with pleasure. She glanced at the dishes filling their small table and decided on the prawn balti, heaping four spoonfuls on to her plate, then added some rice. Ben tucked into the lamb jalfrezi between gulps of beer, loosening his shirt as the heat of the dish kicked in. Wayne finished the balti and then searched in her pockets for her wallet. Finding it, she retrieved a small white card from her pocket and handed it to her colleague. The words S.W.P. Membership Card were printed on it. Wayne’s name was handwritten underneath.
‘There, look! Do I tell everyone in work about this? Do I suck? Because it’s not relevant to how I police and because it sucks both my workmates and the public off! Why would I do that?’
‘It’s not the same thing,’ Ben replied.
‘Why not? Everybody hates socialists. Everybody hates menenists. If you ask me, I’ve found the perfect comparison.’
‘And how about I ask you this, why are you a socialist?’
‘I’ve always been a socialist. My mother was a socialist. My mother’s mother was a socialist. My Grandma was one of the founding members of the miners’ union in this country. It’s in my blood.’
‘So, you don’t actually know why you’re a socialist, do you? If your mother had been a catholic you’d be showing me a crucifix instead. Why don’t you ask me why I’m a menenist?’
‘Because I don’t care why you’re a menenist. You should keep that sort of thing to yourself.’
‘My dad certainly wasn’t a meninist, that’s for sure. Dad was a broken man, right from the day my mum walked out on us. I don’t think I ever saw him smile after that, like really smile. I don’t think I ever heard him laugh. I hated him drinking, but I understood why he did. It was the only time he ever looked alright, not happy or anything, but okay. The rest of the time, he was trapped in this god-awful place in his mind.’ Ben paused and took a gulp of his drink. ‘He saw so many different doctors, and was in and out of the local institution so often, he had his own bed, but nothing ever seemed to help. Every new pill he took just deadened his eyes a little more. He’d swallow a month’s supply about twice a year, and we would have this mad dash to hospital and he’d have his stomach pumped and his bed made up for a few nights. Eventually, he beat the surveillance team that was me and my two sisters, and the ambulance team that actually knew us by name.’ Ben blinked back a tear. ‘He was pronounced dead as we turned into the hospital car park.’
‘Shit happens,’ said Wayne, moving uncomfortably in her seat.
‘Yeah, that’s what I thought at the time, and for the next ten years. That was until my old girl walked out on me – then I finally understood the root of my dad’s problems. Sucking women! My dad didn’t just wake up crazy one day. He was driven there, because he couldn’t cope with the stigma and shame, not to mention the reality of single parenthood. He couldn’t understand why my mother had left him, left us all. The poor bastard didn’t know what he’d done wrong, but he figured it must have been something big. He had no idea that women behave the way they do because they can. Thousands of years of matriarchal rule had left the world in a state of complete imbalance. He probably didn’t even know what a matriarchy was, which is ironic, when you think it killed him.’
‘Did it though?’ asked Wayne. ‘Couldn’t we look at it from a purely Darwinian angle? Your dad just couldn’t hack it?’
‘Okay, let’s look at it from Darwin’s perspective, remembering first that Charlotte Darwin was a woman. All her theories were based upon the observations of humans within a matriarchy.’
‘You’re losing me here. Science is science. Facts: plain and simple.’
‘Is it though? Science, philosophy, medicine, theology, psychiatry, psychology, and of course art, all disciplines created and maintained almost exclusively by women, until about a hundred years ago. How much truth can any of these teachings hold if they were the preserve of only one gender? And how about the questions we asked, the answers we sought, the language we sought them in? All feminine. Yet females make up half, in fact a little less than half, of the population. What about the second half? Us? Or the Other, as we came to be known?’
‘Look, you can’t argue that. Science is science. It doesn’t matter which of us heats water, it will still boil at 100 degrees.’
‘But why did we choose to heat water? Because some woman decided it was worth trying. And how did we end up walking on the moon, because some woman was feeling stir crazy. And why did we build nuclear bombs? Because some girl wanted to see if she could wipe us off the face of the planet. Of course, the other girls thought it sounded cool, so they signed off on her right to do it. Do you get me now, Wayne?’
‘Nope, science is science, and politics is politics. Look, all I’m saying is you’re a bright boy Campbell, and you’re educated, and Withering is crying out for a sophisticated male presence to hide behind. You could go the whole way, if you just worked a bit harder on your physical appearance and worked a little less hard on your politics.’
‘Shave, get myself a hair implant, and leave the meninist books at home. That’s your advice?’
‘And don’t forget the walk,’ Wayne added. ‘You’ll go a lot further if you learn to stoop a bit.’