#WhatsYourVerdict? The word to Araminta Hall...

Society has tried to silence women for as far back as history goes. Female attributes, skills, emotions and desires have always been seen as lesser. Traditionally, bringing up children, caring for relatives and making a home have all been considered of little worth and importance. ‘Caring’ professions are badly paid and doors have been constantly shut in the faces of the female work force. As a result, our experience, opinions and abilities have not been listened to or taken seriously. We’ve only been able to vote for a hundred years and sexual discrimination and harassment have been an accepted part of life. Women who complain are prudish, frigid, prick-tease; whilst women who have a healthy sexual appetite are often called promiscuous, whore, tart. The double standards we have lived with for so long are why millions of women across the world are now standing together to say Times Up.

I wanted to address all these issues in my new novel, Our Kind of Cruelty. I have written about a successful couple, who’ve been together nearly a decade since university. They play quite a tame, but secret sexual game they call ‘The Crave’, which involves them going to a bar and waiting for Verity to be chatted up so that Mike can swoop in and rescue her. When the relationship ends, however, Mike cannot accept it is over and even though Verity is marrying another man, he is convinced it is all just a new part of their Crave. Things escalate, someone is killed, and the last third of the book features a high-profile court case. Their history, backgrounds, sexuality and game are all used as evidence, but the moral judgements made not just in the court, but also in the media, are so different for each character.

I set up the book this way because I wanted to ask the reader to make a judgement. However, the book is told only from Mike’s viewpoint. At no moment do we leave his head, which we know, especially by the trial, is a deluded and damaged place to be. I thought long and hard about this and I was of course itching to give Verity her voice. But in the end this way felt more authentic. Because women are so often denied their voices, even when allowed to speak. We so often don’t listen to the words women say, but instead judge them on things like what they’re wearing, how many drinks they’ve had or how many people they’ve slept with. 

I have been truly amazed by how many people have disliked Verity, or attributed thoughts and actions to her which we have no idea if she’s done because we only have Mike’s word for it. People have called her ruthless and manipulative and have cited the game they played as the reason why. But, these same people have excused Mike’s either identical or much more suspect behaviour to some degree.

It is so important for us as a society to start to recognise how differently we see men and women and how harshly we judge women for behaviour we excuse in men. We must start listening to women and stop silencing our experience because only then will we achieve true equality. If this book achieves one thing I hope it’s that the next time you hear a salacious story about a woman you wait and listen to what she has to say before making a judgement. I might have silenced Verity in this book but, in doing so, I hope I’ve given other women the chance to be heard.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall is out now in eBook and hardback (Century, £12.99). and you can read my review here.


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