London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: May 2002
A letter of complaint
I have had a complaint about a section of ‘Lynda’s London’ and have permission from the writer to print what she has said. I am also printing my reply so you can make your own mind up about it. As for my personal view, you can read it at the bottom of this page.
I've been looking over your London thing, trying to get some kind of picture of the cramped inside of your mind. Do you have any idea what prostitution is all about? Don't read on for a moment. I really mean it, don't read on for a moment - have a biscuit and think about the root of prostitution, and then come back.
Ready now? What did you come up with? Thinking it through, did you manage to come up with prostitution being the kind of living those girls loathe? Did you discover why it is they stand on the corner, as you put it, "without showing any fear"? You mention Jack the Ripper - did the fact that they know at least as much about him as you do make you have a second thought, while writing about them as a sub-species, regarding why they chance everything they have, their bodies, their minds and their lives, to take a few coins from men? Did you find out why they "blatantly" swing their handbags? Maybe not. I think definitely not. I don't see anything in your contemptible "prozzy watch" to suggest you can see beyond the simple evidence of your eyes. Did you ever remember they were once children? Not that long ago, either, some of them. Did you stumble on what brought each of them to consider the role of prostitution? Did you spare a thought for their mothers and fathers, their relatives and friends? Did you ever think what their occupation will do to them, to their minds and bodies? Or what kind of life they can expect when their attractiveness is all gone? I suspect your superficial glance wouldn't have taken a scrap of that on board.
You may not see what I mean, and so here's an example: When the absurd Hugh Grant was driving through America, he spied a woman standing around ready to make a trade. "Hmm," he thought to himself, "I wouldn't mind a little taste of some of that myself." Did you happen to notice what the woman said, in the ensuing media coverage, about why she happened to be standing there? She was out selling what most women treasure, that which they GIVE only to very special people in their lives, because she was putting her child through high school and needed the money. Mr Grant, an actor, is a very rich upper class Englishman. He could afford to buy what she would really rather not put up for sale. The root of prostitution is economics. Please try to remember that when you write your blinkered, fatuous drivel about it.
I am very sorry that my writing upsets you. In answer to your question do I know anything about prostitution the answer is yes - I have met and been good friends with several girls on the streets and I understand the lives they had before running away to London, how they got into the clutches of sick men who betrayed them and what it did to them mentally by destroying their confidence and self worth. In fact it is for the reasons that you give that I wrote about them in the first place. I hope to put young girls off by showing the sordid side of what these girls can become and how easy it is to fall pray to the pimps. I pointed out the dangers and I know for a fact that some girls don't have a chance to escape once they become a pimps toy. Two of my friends were regularly beaten and put into hospital by their pimps. They still chose to go back even with people willing to help them financially and by offering 9 till 5 jobs, which they turned down.
What I have tried to do is to show the real London at night. Do you know why the police are more likely to arrest curb crawlers? It is because they pester and frighten girls on their way home at night who do not want to sell themselves and that includes tourists who do not know the area too well. I believe we all should have a choice and prostitutes are providing a trade that is wanted. Why shouldn't they be legal and looked after like any other employee or self-employed person? The fact is that most are not and they fend for themselves with or without a pimp.
As I have said, my intention is to write a journal of London as we see it for those who are interested. ‘Prozzy watch’ is about what we saw the night before it is written, not a slur on the people who have chosen the job. There are no pictures of them and my website is NOT about prostitutes or the plights of their career.
I am sorry to have upset you. What would you like me to do? I am happy to publish your letter on the site along with my reply if you want me to. As you know, I don't publish names and I try not to be too personal. As a writer I do have thought for my subjects when writing true life - that's why I chose not to be a tabloid journalist.
Second letter from K:
The pitiful and wretched aspects of prostitution which you touch on are the common knowledge of everyone over twelve years of age. But I asked did you know what prostitution was all about, what it's root is, and not about any prostitutes you may have known. Because why it exists, the canker it actually is and what it does, were certainly not present in your mind when writing-up your nauseating observations. I will not reiterate what I've said already - please refer to my previous email for that - but if you really want to "show the real London at night" then don't do this: don't present those unfortunate women like some kind of side-show overseen by a clown selling peanuts at a funfair. "Prozzy Watch" indeed! What do you think that conveys? "Prozzy watch was good tonight." What jolly good fun for you.
The often preached popular philosophy, "I believe we should all have a choice and prostitutes are providing a trade that is wanted," is so blinkered and silly that it makes me think you might be a seventeen-year-old trying to act grown-up with her elders. My mother didn't allow me, or any of my sisters, the choice of becoming prostitutes. I'm glad about that. My own daughter did not have a choice. I'd say she's pleased. The root of prostitution is economics. As I said. Remember that one. Relative economic stability extends far beyond the monetary. And do this: winkle-out "prostitutes are providing a trade that is wanted" and examine it for a while, and then consider all - all! - the ramifications. However popular a philosophical belief may be it must be able to withstand everything brought to bear on it. So do this as well: write out "we should all have a choice," and then consider the present age, and all ages past. See if you find anyone you would rather had been denied one choice or another. Then consider what socialization is all about.
What would I like you to do? I would say this, by all means do keep writing, but stop writing about serious subjects until you're able to look logically, sensitively, and in an altogether more adult manner, into what you are writing about. Because despite what you say it can be very clearly seen that while putting together "prozzy watch" you hadn't the least 'thought' for your 'subjects' at all. And yes, do print my emails on your site, and your responses, too; although I will not be returning. What else would I like you to do? Forget about me altogether now but remember what I've said. Especially when writing.
This communication is now closed. You will not hear from me again.
After this episode I asked fellow writers the question ‘should a writer justify everything he/she writes.’ The verdict is ‘no,’ not if the writer takes into consideration the original complain and finds it unfounded and there are no grounds for slander then writers should not justify what is written.
In my defence and my personal opinion:
K does not know me and has no right to assume anything about me. I have no right to assume anything about her or anyone I write about purely from observation, which I don’t. I am a writer who knows the moral rules and can easily place myself in the position of another. Readers often assume that a writer has an opinion of what he/she has written even if it is a straightforward report. Should I justify why I observe people and choose to write about them? No. It is a journal of London at night and this section is called 'prozzy watch,' a term used by Londoners. ‘K’ assumed I knew nothing about my observation and went on to insult me personally. On one article I mentioned that this place was once the haunt of Jack the Ripper. It was and there is documented evidence to prove it. I went on to explain several opinions, taken from separate sources, of who Jack the Ripper might have been and what he did. The woman told me I knew nothing about him or did she really belittle prostitutes by assuming they are uneducated, don't watch TV or read books? Correct me if I am wrong but I mentioned several theories, which all depends on which book you read as to the thoughts of who he was and a TV program. As for what he did, I have over 50 books on criminology with pictures taken of his victims to back up my claim.
My site is not about the career of the girls or about thoughts of why they do it. I do not mention my opinion of the moral issues and describe what I see them doing. I do describe the area as creepy, which it is, and the fact that these girls are putting themselves in danger. I hope to put girls off running away to London by these descriptions and mentioning that some end up on the streets after being betrayed by pimps who befriend them only to make them repay the debt. I know how this is done by word or mouth not hearsay or studying economics. I don’t need to be intellectual to see what is in front of me.
I asked what K wanted me to do about it and the reply did not have a good alternative. I don't mind criticism if it is useful or the complainer has an idea of how to better my website.
As for other parts of Lynda's London, I hope they show what goes on here, right or wrong. If you don't like the way I portray the ignorance of drivers then I hope you remember not to act in such a way when you drive through here. I try to be as honest as possible and leave you to your own conclusions. My explanation here is a one-off that I hope readers will think about before insulting other writers who bring real life to your attention.
Will complaints cause other writers not to write or to explain the self-explanatory too? I hope not.
‘K’ did read the journal because she mentioned several things I had written before assuming I was ignorant and should think beyond my blinkered eyes.
I don’t think the insults that I have received are justified nor warranted. I have re read and taken into account the options I have as a writer to portray London as it really is and decided to let my articles stand. Prostitution has always been a way of life on London streets whether we like it or not and I cannot ignore the fact that some are there by choice. As I said in my reply to K, I know girls who were given the option of a 9 – 5 job and they laughed because the wage for one week was less than they can earn in one day. I also know that their parents often don’t know what they do or sometimes don’t care. As a professional counsellor and mother of 5 I also know that we don't always know what our children do in adulthood, can’t always force them to live as we do or push things we don’t like under a carpet no matter what we advise.
I don’t think that ignoring what is unsavoury to some is useful to anyone. If we ignore the harder aspects of life or the things people do then we are the blinkered ones.
So what is a writers’ job when portraying facts?
A reporter or journalist – reports what is seen and heard. Providing there are no lies or cause for personal slander then the information given should be useful to someone and should not be ignored. If the subject is controversial it will upset someone and the writer needs to accept that not everyone will like what is written.
A novelist – can take what is seen and heard and alter the facts to make a fictional story based on the events. Names can be changed, so can areas. Most of my short stories have been written based on facts and observation. After submitting them to a critique group most told me they were not believable and would not happen in ‘real’ life. Sorry, that is so very wrong. Life really is stranger than fiction at times. I came to the conclusion that my life is not as sheltered as some. I get out and about, talk, watch, listen, observe and write. I cannot be responsible for a few narrow minds.
London will always be a dynamic and diverse area with people of all nationalities and cultures, living side-by-side.
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© Lynda Archard