“LOVE IS STRONGEST WHEN IT’S CRUEL” – Harlots Season 2

Being a fan of anything that might be seen as objectionable, I of course had to check out the show Harlots on Hulu. At first it seemed like it was going to be a soap opera in the world of prostitutes; two madams of two different houses looking for ways to outdo the other, a theme that has been done in all sectors of life, not just those that involve madams. My husband wanted to quit watching it right away. But he’s squeamish, although he’ll deny that to his last breath. Being also a huge fan of Jessica Findlay Brown, I stuck it out and I’m glad I did, because half way through season one I was hooked.

It got me thinking about a few different things in life. First of all, the show doesn’t glorify prostitution, but merely shows it as another arena for life to take place. They do what they do because they have no other choice. Women who appear at first to be shallow and feather-brained turn out to be anything but. Yes, their ways of expression are different given their lack of breeding, but the thoughts are there and the depth of emotions is there. Ultimately it’s about human nature…the good, the bad, the ugly…about how abuse breeds abuse, and hate breeds hate, about man’s need for validation, for power over women.

– “Women will always be at the mercy of men’s power.”

– “It’s not your power we’re at the mercy of. It’s your weakness.” — Harlots, Season Two

Wow, wasn’t expecting that! That kind of depth from a prostitute who is supposed to be uneducated and the lowest of society. And it’s believable. It does not take a college education to give people insights into life. Perhaps experience, another kind of education, is more valuable when it comes to that.

Second, the issue of “tough love”. Margaret Wells, recruited when she was only ten to sell her body, knows nothing else. So she raises her own daughters to be prostitutes because, in her mind, that is the best she can do for them. No one was kind and gentle with her – how would she even know what those words mean?

Tough love, believed in by many even now, is the only kind of love in the show.

– “Love is strongest when it’s cruel.

– “Does it ease your pain inflicting it upon others?” – Harlots season 2

Whoa…that made me stop and think. Is love strongest when it’s cruel? And is that love? What if those who dish it out believe that is love and know no other way of showing it? That’s what they were subjected to by their parents. They felt the pain. But then why would they dish it out to their kids and not stop it? Why would they not adopt a kinder, more compassionate love? Children will face enough hurt and misery in life without getting it from family. Shouldn’t family provide support, compassion and kindness, the cushion for the fall when life becomes painful?

Maybe they don’t question their parents “cruel love” because people like to believe their parents love them. If they admitted their parents were wrong, maybe they would have to question that love. Because if you truly love someone, why would you hurt them? So people ease the pain inflicted on them by their parents by inflicting pain on their offspring. It’s a vicious cycle.

My father was all about tough love, both verbally and physically. I have no doubt he loved me, but I couldn’t wait to get away from him. When my son was a teenager, I caught myself behaving in ways my father would have, and was backed by others who believed in tough love and encouraged me. Then I saw the effect it was having on my child. Our words have a huge effect on our children. And a wise friend said to me, “Be kind to your child. Love him.” That doesn’t mean spoil him or give him everything he wants, but essentially speak to him from a place of love, not anger and frustration. I became mindful of this and threw in a “sweetheart” or “honey” when I spoke to him, then changed my entire approach to motherhood. Because I did not want to be my father and did not want my child to feel like he couldn’t wait to get away from me.

It was a changing point in all our lives. All of a sudden he became hard working, responsible, considerate. I saw the results of compassion versus anger. Maybe I was trying to ease my own pain by inflicting it on him, by continuing the cycle of tough love, but I was also hurting myself and my family. When I decided it was not about me anymore, but about him, I eased my own pain and his. It took the focus off pain and put it on love and growth.

In the end, I think the only way our pain is eased is not by inflicting it on others, but by consciously choosing not to. By consciously choosing to be kind and compassionate.

The show “Harlots” is nothing if not thought provoking and once again Jessica Brown Findlay does not disappoint!

Have you seen it? What do you think of the show and the issues in the show?

Prostitution: freedom for women in the 1800s

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La Espera Margot, Pablo Picasso

While doing research on prostitution in the Old West for my upcoming novel, Owl Manor – the Dawning, set in Denver in the 1800s, I discovered some things about them that made me think. When I hear of prostitutes, I usually feel sorry for them. It’s unimaginable that selling one’s body for money could be anything but the most degrading, humiliating and shameful experience. No amount of money would make it worth it. Right? These poor women must be either forced into doing it or are doing it out of desperation. Either way, they’ve been brutally stripped of their freedom to choose. That’s what it boils down to: the freedom to choose, one of the most basic rights of every human being regardless of gender, race, culture and status. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex, and is forced to, she is being deprived of her right to choose, and these are the prostitutes we mostly hear about in books, movies, T.V.: the streetwalkers, the victims of sex trafficking, the ones who were forced into it. However, there are women who make informed decisions to have sex for money, and that is their prerogative. We’ve all heard of high class “escorts”, either independent or from an agency, who charge exorbitant prices. Many of them choose their profession, probably looking at the early retirement the money might bring them.

I was sure these were not the type of prostitutes we would see in the Old West, or the Wild West, the rough and untamed land in the 1800s west of the Mississippi River: the Midwest, Texas, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and the West Coast. The settlements that formed there were based on the discovery of natural resources, like oil, gold, etc. So these settlements were populated mostly with uneducated, lower class men since their muscle was required to mine these resources. Savage, whiskey-laden men who, I thought, would be forcing poor young women to have sex with them, turning them into ladies of the night, abusing them. I thought the stories of the prostitutes there would be those of the unfortunate streetwalkers, the ones we feel sorry for.

I was wrong. Their stories, actually, are those of the high paid escorts. Women in frontier towns went into this trade because, in the 1800s, when women were still expected to submit without question to the authority of men, prostitution became a way for them to be free, independent; to be in charge of their own lives. Thaddeus Russell writes in his controversial book A Renegade History of the United States: “In the nineteenth century, a woman who owned property, made high wages, had sex outside of marriage…used birth control, consorted with men of other races, danced, drank, or walked alone in public, wore makeup, perfume, or stylish clothes — and was not ashamed — was probably a whore.” It empowered them at a time when women were denied power.

They were not young girls who had run away from home, or been stolen and sold into slavery. They were older, mostly in their early twenties, and the choice to join the trade was their own. There are several reasons why. One: they made more money. They made in a day what girls in other jobs, such as cleaning or cooking, made in a week. (Russell) Madams in the trade became some of the wealthiest women in the country. Two: at a time when women were not allowed to own property, they owned land. Jennie Rogers, the “Queen of the Colorado Underworld,” for instance, made so much money that she was able to buy prized land in Denver, and also shares from an irrigation and reservoir project in the city, thereby contributing to the growth and development of the town. (Russell) Three: madams provided health care and police protection for their women, so they were well cared for. And four: I think the most important one, is that they answered to no one but themselves. They answered to no man, indeed had power over men, and were in complete charge of their own lives. And they were respected because of the money they had.

So while it’s unimaginable that selling one’s body for money could be anything but the most degrading, humiliating and shameful experience, maybe it’s all in the perspective. It is that way for many who aren’t given any choice. But these women from the Old West in the1800s made conscious decisions to join the trade because at the time it was their best option. They were exercising their freedom to choose. And look at what they gained from it: independence, wealth, health care, land, social status. These women were not ones to feel sorry for.

My thanks to Thaddeus Russell for this illuminating and exciting information in
A Renegade History of the United States.

The Vision of your True Destiny

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“Never surrender your hopes and dreams to the fateful limitations others have placed on their own lives. The vision of your true destiny does not reside within the blinkered outlook of the naysayers and the doom prophets. Judge not by their words, but accept advice based on the evidence of actual results. Do not be surprised should you find a complete absence of anything mystical or miraculous in the manifested reality of those who are so eager to advise you. Friends and family who suffer the lack of abundance, joy, love, fulfillment and prosperity in their own lives really have no business imposing their self-limiting beliefs on your reality experience.” 

― Anthon St. Maarten

 
 Wish I had read his writing when I was growing up!
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Giordano Bruno an Inspiration

While the white marble classical statuary of Rome is stunning, this brass statue of Giordano Bruno, a 16th century Dominican friar, contradictorily philosopher, poet, mathematician, and cosmologist, is haunting. Built at the very spot in the Campo de Fiore in Rome, Italy, where he was burned at the stake for his progressive thinking, it is memorably different from other classical statues.

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First of all, it’s clothed.2_emoji copyThe first marble statue you see of a naked hero or God makes you “ooh” and “aah” at the skill of the artist, the ability to convincingly extract flesh from stone, all while trying not to stare obviously at the glaring genitals in your face. By the time you reach statue number 50, or perhaps even sooner, “oohs” and “aahs” are replaced by “ho hums” and “meh.” A little humor before I go into the serious stuff!!

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The fact that the statue of Giordano Bruno is clothed is actually a sign of it’s importance. It took more effort, time and skill to sculpt fabric.

Secondly it doesn’t have the blank, expressionless stare of other statues that make them look like they’re made of stone, or dead, which they are.

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It feels cognizant, watchful. It throbs with anger, an eternal fatigue, humility, tragedy, and says one doesn’t have to be dazzling and grand, like everything Vatican, to make an impact. Boundlessly spiritual in a way that transcends all the pettiness in the world, it speaks of the oppression of progressive thinking, of what makes sense, what’s logical, all doctrine and policy aside. And it makes me want to cry for all the people who are misunderstood an misjudged. It’s grim, Gothic, reeks of the darkness that characterized the 16th century (lack of individual thought and logic, strong belief in the supernatural, violent persecution of those that questioned current religious views). It’s powerful.

Why is he an inspiration? In an era ruled by inflexibility of thought dictated by doctrine and the need for self glorification, when the popular theory was that the earth was at the center of the universe, Giordano Bruno believed in the Copernican model of the solar system, which gave the sun that honor. Shame on him for stirring up doubts about the glory of the earth. Fact and accuracy be damned.

A bigger thorn in the side of those who were “ordained” by the almighty was the fact that he was also a Pantheist, believing there was no God with human attributes and human judgment ruling over life, and that divinity existed in all living things. So, sorry, sire, you do not have the power to condemn me to eternal damnation. Well! What gives you the right, Bruno???

The Roman Inquisition evidently did not believe he had that right. They tried and found him guilty of heresy in 1593. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake, his ashes strewn in the Tiber.

Like most great men, his recognition was posthumous. In the more enlightened 19th and early 20th centuries, Giordano Bruno rose to fame as a martyr for science. His case remains a landmark in the history of free thought. His statue, created by Ettore Ferrari (nope, no connection to the car at all!), was put up in the Campo di Fiore, Rome in 1889. The inscription on the base reads: “ A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE” – Translation: “To Bruno – From the Age he Predicted – Here Where the Fire Burned.” Sounds more momentous in Italian, doesn’t it?

He towers over the tourists and flower stalls during the day, and in the shadows of the lit up cafes and bars at night, forever reminding us, the revelers, not to take our freedoms for granted. That life is much more than what is told by those who would be in power, to never give up thinking for ourselves, to question what we are told if it doesn’t make sense, and to look deep inside ourselves for what does. He is an inspiration.

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By the way his statue was built facing the Vatican, which really pissed them off!