Who Counts as a Wench Anyway? Aphra Behn Speaks Out*

It’s not easy being one of the only wenches on Grub Street. Dread of woman, among the woman-born, never seems to go out of fashion, even though–in fact, because of–the fact that every person who ever walked the earth owes their very life to a woman, to her body, and her care. Life can be hard, yes indeed, but how’s that for gratitude?**

Resentment rides high. I should know, for I live and write at the tail-end of the Burning Times. European women are still made to watch their mothers burned alive in the public square by vengeful hunters wielding state apparatus.

This hammering of witches serves as a warning to girls to watch their tongues. I choose not to heed the warning. Instead I thumb my nose at it, in high style and with maximum fabulosity, writing my way into the history books.

The scribbler’s scene is something of a sausage-fest, but I’m not about take this one sitting down. Did you hear the one about the swain who scooped the Wench’s Prize? Alas, I kid you not.

The Wench’s Prize for fiction was set up by accomplished novelist Biddy Mosse to encourage wenches inclined to write. Mosse, seeing that sausage-havers reviewed and rewarded each others’ works and tended to ignore the wenches, decided to remedy the situation.

For many years, The Wench’s Prize did a brilliant job. Since 1969, 32 men have won Ye Booker, compared to 18 women. Since The Wench’s Prize was set up, far more women have won, and been shortlisted for, Ye Booker, and women’s writing has a much higher profile than it used to. Progress for wenches, indeed, and a most excellent way to elevate their dignity and influence.

The goodly, thought-provoking and entertaining quality of women’s writing won the hearts and minds of readers and theatregoers. Rueing the loss of their protection racket, the magic circle of sausage-havers devised a cunning plan to restore the status quo, and thus keep the wenches further from juicy prizes and cultural influence: cross-dressing swains would infiltrate, and usurp the prize for themselves.

One would have hoped that they would put up a good fight, but instead the venerable ladies of the WP have set about pouring the contents of a chamber pot all over their substantial achievement. The WP helped to feminise the canon, no less. Now sausage-havers want to shunt wenches back into a corner, wearing scolds’ bridles.

Pity and kindness for the cross-dressers is how we are thus manoeuvred. Tis terribly feminine-gendered to be meekly quiet, and cowed in the face of such manipulation. Tis a fact that wench’s livelihoods be more precarious, and the standards of behaviour to which we are held are a good deal higher than swains.’

So, when I did read that The WP had longlisted a swain, I near flipped my lid. What encouragement are we writing wenches to have, if a swain can pen a misogynistic screed, don a diaphanous dress, waltz in and scoop the prize? Is it to be renamed The Diaphanous Dress-Wearer’s Prize, perchance?

When I read extracts of the swain’s book, I saw red. What is this steaming heap of wench-hating drivel, I thought to myself. Doth he–and the venerable, “progressive” ladies–seriously believe that we would fail loudly to remark upon “he dressed up like one those nice white Winchester mothers, the better to be knocked about by some knuckle-dragging swain”–packaged up as wench’s literature? I think not.

And so it was with seething heart that I lifted my quill to pen a missive to the “Wench’s” Prize with regard to their most egregious insult to womankind. This policy fiasco may land them in hot water soon enough–especially if the swain (who hath tweeted many a dubious tweet) should scoop the prize of 30,000 sovereigns, and all the shortlisted women pretend to smile, while instructing their lawyers to sue for loss of a chance.

Egads–what is this legal-esque bafflegab they have spewed forth onto the interwebs? Though it be a prize FOR WENCHES, yet they bleat that they are “firmly opposed to any form of discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexuality, gender identity, and all other protected characteristics.” Give me strength! Which characteristic have they missed out, but SEX–the one which explicitly *allows* them to *lawfully discriminate against swains*! It beggareth belief.

If these ninnies spent five minutes looking at the Equality Act, or asked a decent lawyer, they would know that “gender identity” is nowhere to be seen, and that sexual orientation–not “sexuality,” is protected, too. What is going on? Could it be that the ninnies have been sold a pup in the form of Stonewall “law,” that solvent fluid which dissolveth the meanings of words, and makes laws all vague and slippery, and which is in fact no law at all?

Perhaps the exalted ladies of the Wench’s Prize have simply lost their bearings. They say their rules have not changed in 26 years. 26 years ago, nobody in their right mind would claim that transvestites and transexuals were actual wenches! 26 years ago, no scurvy swain was trying to get away with renaming wenches as “cis-wenches,” just so that some wench-loathing sausage-havers who think wenchood a mere costume could call themselves “transwenches” and take what is ours.

Nothing hath changed, eh? My arse! The Wench’s Prize’s charitable objects be “…restricted specifically to the advancement of the art of literature for the public benefit and in particular to foster and promote literature of merit written by women in all its forms.” The charity hath thus changed from being for the benefit of adult human females, to being for the benefit of any old sausage-haver who verily believes that wenchood means wearing a dress and enjoying being beaten by abusive men.

Enjoying it! Gadzooks! This misogynistic madness showeth how far from being wenches they are, and that it be time for the charity to change its name so as not to mislead the reading public.

Forsooth, hath the prize not been parasitised by this accursed, aggressive cross-dressers’ mythology, such that it be now a mere vehicle for annointing wannabe-wenches? Like the fungus which doth invade the ant’s brain, and turn that zombie towards its own ends, now it is the Wenchmaker Prize: any sausage-haver who passeth their confused eligibility test can crow that he doth be the most womanly writing-wench of all.

Perhaps the exalted ladies of the “Wench’s Prize” would care to explain what they mean by saying that they are “legally bound by gender definitions as set out in law…” Find me these gender definitions on the rolls, and I will eat my quill. Having scoured the Equality Act 2010 and the poxy, outdated & mischievous Gender Recognition Act 2004, I can find no reference to these purported “gender definitions.”

Perchance they mean “gender reassignment,” an administrative process, with cursory medical gatekeeping, which people who want to be treated like the opposite sex go through in order that Philip (S) may get a new birth certificate which says “Philomel (W),” and the rather obvious “secret” of his sex be kept under lock and key at the highest levels of security clearance in the land?

A wench, they tell us, “equates to a cis woman, or a transgender woman who is legally defined as a woman.” Circular logic, much? Perchance to swerve the embarrassment of having to admit “we think a woman is any man who says he feels like one.” This begs the question, doth the swain in question actually hold a Gender Recognition Certificate–that magic parchment you get for filling out some forms and pinkie promising to “live as” the opposite sex forever and ever amen?

For he is a citizen of the New World. International private law doth say that a foreign registration of legal sex change will not be recognised unless the holder also acquires a GRC in this sceptred isle. Has the prize established the legal sex of the male scribbler? And if he hath not such a document, surely he should be disqualified forthwith?

[Aside: I well know that he will not be disqualified, and would not object if he won, as that would open more eyes to what trans “rights” is about: aggressing against women, against sex itself, against material reality. The Wench’s Prize is making up the rules as it goes along–flinging brimming chamberpots at wenches all the while. In 2019, a black female author cancelled herself from the WP, because she wished she were not a woman, and so refused to furnish documents confirming herself to be of the female sex; yet, in 2021, the WP decided a male is eligible despite probably not being in possession of the right document to prove his legal sex is the opposite to his actual sex. What can I say? The law is an ass in this regard. The GRA should be repealed. And the optics! A black female author sacrificed her own chance to clear space for a white male…Much progress, I’m sure you will agree.]

If this is a case of ye private donors’ endowment fund coming with strings attached which oblige the exalted ladies to sell out their own sex, and pretend that swains are wenches, then let them rebel against the swains’ agenda and stand firm for wenches!

[Aside: I well know they won’t. Rebellion is less lucrative than conformism, and why would such exalted ladies give a damn about pulling up the ladder behind them when they’ve got theirs, Jack? No women’s organisation wants to assert the Schedule 3 exemptions for women’s benefit, as that requires considerable spine, ample economic security, a sense of principle, and a willingness to lose some social capital in much the way JK Rowling did. I cannot promise that, in their position, I would not do the same, but I would hope that I would show courage.]

All in all, this doth be an ignoble chapter in the history of the Prize, and a low point in the progress of woman towards equal humanity under a system which continues to centre the sausage. I would greatly urge thee to share excerpts from the offending book, so at least the connection between cross-dressers’ extreme political demands, the lewd “sissy p*rn” genre and the resulting social contagion in autogynephilia, might at least be apparent to some more discerning readers.

Aphra Behn

(yeah speaking from beyond the grave, get over it you literal-minded nincompoops)

*Not *liderally*, kids.

**Strict historical accuracy of language and idiom cannot be guaranteed because this is a C21st riff on Rabelaisain *satire*

2 thoughts on “Who Counts as a Wench Anyway? Aphra Behn Speaks Out*

  1. I enjoyed this. Thank you.

    It’s unbelievable. We can’t have one thing that celebrates us.

    I am in the states, but I am curious to know if any woman that has won this prize, or been nominated to win it, has immediately received offers of turning her book into a television show? Or is it just the males that write books conflating HIV infection with pregnancy and about how being “obliterated by dick” is so totally female that receive television show offers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome.

      We can’t have one thing, can we? It’s pathological, the efficiency with which this policy capture invades every space reserved for women.

      I can’t speak to TV offers for all the former Women’s Prize longlistees since it was inaugurated, but strongly suspect that this…unique contribution to the canon (!) may be an outlier in terms of cultural cachet awarded from the top.

      Yay for “inclusion.”

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s