Like many intelligent men of my acquaintance, I’ve always carried something of a torch for Nigella Lawson, the well-known British television cook, popular author, and media personality. I’m not sure whether it’s her exotically maternal beauty, or the way she brings an intelligent sensuality to the enjoyment of good food, or just that slightly husky, posh voice that sends the heart a-fluttering, but there you are. If, as has been commented before, Dame Helen Mirren is the thinking man’s actress, then Nigella is clearly the thinking man’s foodie.
Thus when I learnt of what took place recently between her and her husband, PR guru and promoter of exceptionally bad art Charles Saatchi, at my favorite restaurant in London, I was absolutely appalled. If there were no pictures of the event, one simply would not have believed it. Mr. Saatchi, who is 70, is not exactly superhero material either in size or anything else, and one would think that a lady as intelligent as Ms. Lawson would not have allowed such an event to take place. If someone had asked me what I thought would have played out in such a scenario, my prediction would have been that the moment the bounder reached to grab his wife’s throat, she would have jumped up from the table and left. Instead, she simply took the assault he dished out.
Ms. Lawson and her children have apparently moved out of the home she shared with her husband, who has been cautioned by the police. Fortunately she is in a position with respect to family, friends, and resources to get help, which sadly many victims of domestic violence are not. I hope that both of these people get the help they need, since as we all know these cycles of abuse tend to repeat themselves.
Yet what I want us to think about in this situation is not why these incidents of domestic violence happen among supposedly educated people, or how to address them, since to that end I would direct you to an excellent piece on these questions by Conservative MP Dr. Sarah Wollaston in today’s Torygraph. I want to ask a different question raised by the incident and specifically by these photographs, which might not occur to you at first glance. Specifically: why did not a single man in that restaurant stand up to defend Ms. Lawson?
In asking this question I am not in any way discounting the ladies among my readers, who of course have an equal moral obligation to do something to aid someone in distress if they are capable of doing so. After all, we only recently saw the incredible bravery of three British women who tried to aid the victim of a brutal murder carried out on a British soldier by Muslim fundamentalists in London. Nor am I advocating a change to the judicial code, whereby one has a legal obligation to involve oneself in other people’s domestic disputes.
Yet we should not need a written code provision to tell us that when he sees someone physically assaulting a lady in public, no matter the identity of the assaulter, a gentleman intervenes. How a restaurant full of management, waitstaff and patrons, let alone passersby outside where the couple were sitting, could simply stand there and do nothing EXCEPT TAKE PICTURES, simply boggles my mind. It is clear that many of us men need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, and ask what has happened to our sense of honor, in standing up for those who are not in a position to do so for themselves, particularly women and children.
If this attitude strikes you as rather old-fashioned, then good: it’s meant to. It seems we have so emasculated ourselves as a culture that, bizarrely enough, treatment of women has grown worse, not better. She has become simply another sack of finite genetic material, and not a beautiful gift from God, as Eve was to Adam, meant to be treasured and protected. Whatever our supposed multi-cultural sophistication today, the fact remains that if you choose to stand by and do nothing in a situation like this, then please do not have the gall to call yourself a gentleman, let alone a man. A real man does not allow weaker people, particularly the ladies, to be taken advantage of by bullies.
A society which does nothing to help its weakest members is one riddled with relativism and sophistry, which Edmund Burke would recognize as lethal to its survival. So yes, fellow, you should open AND hold the door for women; allow them to go through the doorway ahead of you; pull out their chair for them when they want to sit at table, and so on. Most of all, however, you should never look the other way when you see your sister in distress. For even if no one sees you walk by or avert your gaze, you can be sure that the Man Upstairs certainly has seen it. And He is the most impartial of all judges.
This should never have happened.