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I keep running across a not-quite-trope -- an argument -- that I find immensely problematic. I'm going to talk about it now, through my own feminism, which may not be yours. Consider yourself warned for that, along with discussions of violence and sexual assault.

Fellow fans of things, take a point if you’ve ever heard anything along these lines:

“You just know that if Hermione were a guy, people would be all ABUSE!!!11!! about the birds.”

“If Éowyn were a man, people wouldn’t like her nearly so much.”

“If the Doctor were a woman, everyone would be up in arms about Amy’s behaviour.”

“If Susan were a man, nobody would assume her apostasy had anything to do with gender.”

“If Edward were a girl, people would probably think he was just kind of sad.”

I have varying opinions1 on the scenarios in question, of course. And I just put them in a footnote because they’re not especially relevant to what I’m trying to get at (so please don’t tell me “but there really is a double standard!” -- I know that). This isn’t about any of the particular instances, as such.

What this is about? The “if [x] were different” argument in general. X can be anything, really: I used gender for my examples, since that’s what I’m most familiar with, but I’ve heard versions with race, sexuality, gender identity, class, etc etc. Anyway.

The argument is inherently flawed.

It’s predicated upon the assumption that, all other things being equal, one standard is being applied to women and another to men. Men who exhibit physical violence (of any kind) towards their wives/girlfriends are seen as abusive whereas women who do the exact same thing are seen as -- maybe intemperate. We cry “you go, girl!” at badass girls, while men seem considerably less impressive in the exact same circumstances. Women making unwanted sexual advances is generally played for laughs, but men doing the exact same thing are almost never funny. Male stalkers are creepy; female stalkers are pathetic, but only occasionally frightening.

This is true. We are more horrified at, say, men assaulting women than women assaulting men. Partly, yes, it’s the cult of female weakness -- never hit a girl and all that. But what people don’t seem willing to admit is there’s another, equally significant aspect to it.

Everything I just said about applying different standards in “the exact same” situation is nonsense. If the gender is different, then the situation is different. By its very nature, male-->female violence is dramatically different from female-->male violence, or frankly, female-->anyone violence. Maybe it’s something that we, predominately women, would rather not think about, but let’s be honest.

Violence against males happens, sometimes, and it sucks, and it sucks more that the aforementioned cult of female weakness, and its brother, the cult of male strength, often frames it as a shameful failure of masculinity. Nobody is denying that this is awful. But what I am denying is that there is any kind of established, widespread violence against men in the way that there is against women. Not as men alone. It is not systematic.

The idea of guys being subjects of violence is, ludicrously, seen as ridiculous for the same basic reason that the idea of boys playing with Barbie dolls is seen as ridiculous. It’s for girls. And being a victim, especially of violence, and especially-especially of sexual violence, often seems like it’s seen as the ultimate expression of femininity, the most girly thing you can “do.”

(Yes, these are deliberate scare quotes; getting attacked is not something one does, but it’s often phrased that way -- we hear much less about men assaulting women, though it’s almost always the case, and much more about women being assaulted by no one-in-particular.)

Men who are shamed for failing at masculinity are men who are implicated in what are assumed to be uniquely female experiences of the world. Men who like pink, or dolls, or fashion; men who cry; men who are gentle, sweet, and/or emotional; men who cook, clean, look after children; men who get beaten, especially by spouses; men who get raped. Misandry exists only in relation to misogyny.

And yes, this may be heavy for “you’re interrogating the text from the wrong perspective!” But just about every time I hear “well, if it were a woman attacking a man,” my brain nearly explodes. Because the implication is that when a man abuses his wife or girlfriend, we should just see a person abusing their spouse, and ignore the power structures bolstering him up, structures which have been entrenched in our culture for millennia.

A male stalker relies on authority that a female stalker could never have. Edward Cullen is exercising power that Romilda Vane, however creepy she may be, can never access. When Anakin Skywalker chokes his wife until she faints, he’s participating in a long-established pattern of male domination and violence that his daughter Leia could never share, even if she became the most cacklingly evil Sith Lord ever. When Han Solo insists that her “no” really means “yes,” he, too, is perpetuating that system in a way that Amy Pond is not capable of when she refuses to accept the Doctor’s rejection of her.

To clarify, I am not arguing that, for instance, Amy’s assault on the Doctor is not wrong, bad, skeevy as hell, whatever -- only that it isn’t shored up by a system that reinforces a denial of male agency, or by socially-enforced power over him. It’s one of those horrible things that people sometimes do to one another, not a pervasive trend that every man must be on his guard against.

Power differentials matter. A woman doing the same thing as a man is no longer doing the same thing, because the context is always different. “All other things being equal” doesn’t work; all other things aren’t equal. And it’s frankly disingenuous to demand that real egalitarianism pretends they are.

Title: First Impressions (6/13, 7/13)

Fanverse: First Impressions

Blurb: Jane goes to the Gardiners' and Henry to the Collinses'; Henry meets Lady Catherine, Anne, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and (once again) Catherine; many hints are dropped.


Chapter Six

The months after Mary's marriage passed in a sort of dreary blur.

Jane and Henry did miss her, a little; Longbourn did not seem Longbourn without the occasional irrelevant quotation from Hannah More or James Fordyce. They wrote to her faithfully.

Lydia and Kitty flirted with the officers, encouraged by their mother; Mr Bennet retreated to his library, content with the company of his books and his son. Jane pined after Bingley, and Mrs Bennet raged on her behalf, deepening the wound still further.

Even Henry soon gave up expectation of his return. Jane never wept, but he could not ignore the signs that everybody else missed. He longed to rush to London and demand an explanation, or at the least write a very cutting note, but what could it accomplish? Jane's pride would be further trampled, and in any case, he had already promised her that he would do nothing of the sort.

"Charm and easy manners are very desirable qualities in a suitor," observed Mr Bennet, "but, fortunately for you and your sisters, they are not at all necessary in a husband."

Henry, leaning against the mantelpiece, scowled at one of his childhood sketches. "I suppose," he said, "that if Bingley is so absurdly weak-minded as to give up Jane at his sisters' behest – well, can you imagine the sort of fatuous, inane arguments they must have put forth?"

Mr Bennet chuckled. "Easily," said he.

"Rank – privilege – matching one fortune with another. A man who could be swayed by such concerns, when he has a comfortable, a more than comfortable, independence of his own, certainly does not deserve Jane."

"Quite true – though I understand that such concerns are common in many parts of the world. The Hysilgani peoples of Niatirb, you know, have a peculiar tradition of paying men to marry their daughters. The fathers announce how much they are willing to pay for each girl. Then the families arrange the marriages with an eye to increasing their holdings, and only occasional reference to the young people in question. An utterly heathen practise, of course, and unheard of throughout the enlightened states of Christendom."

"Very clever, sir," said Henry.

It was not in his nature to be miserable, for himself or for others; nevertheless, the arrival of his uncle and aunt Gardiner came as a blessed relief.

Mr Gardiner was Mrs Bennet's younger brother, as much her superior in intelligence and kindness as education, and much more happily married. In his youth, he had left Meryton to pursue a respectable line of trade in the City, and now, fifteen years later, he had a more than comfortable income and a flourishing family. They were great favourites with their Longbourn nephew and nieces; Henry stayed with them when he went to town, and Jane often accompanied him.

The Gardiners had only been a few days in Hertfordshire when Mrs Gardiner requested his company on a long walk, away from the others.

"Hal," she said, looking even graver than usual, "this matter of Jane and Mr Bingley was not a casual flirtation?"

"No. I do not suppose Jane has ever so much as imagined herself in love before this. She would not know what a casual flirtation is."

Mrs Gardiner paused. "By Jenny's account in her letters, theirs was a love to be immortalised in song or epic poetry, but I confess I did not attend to her concerns overmuch. It seems I was mistaken."

It took Henry a moment to remember that Jenny was Mrs Bennet. None of her own older, more formal generation used Christian names at all; but then, Mrs Gardiner was just thirty – a mere handful of years older than himself. Henry shifted uncomfortably.

"Bingley gave every impression of a man violently in love," he said after a moment.

Mrs Gardiner smiled. "Oh, every young man with a passing fancy is violently in love, these days. You should know that, Hal; when you first stayed with us in Gracechurch Street, were you not yourself violently in love every other week?"

Henry laughed and acknowledged this to be true. "Nevertheless, Mr Bingley's attachment appeared both deep and genuine. I believe he sincerely valued her, and would have married her but for his lamentable weakness of character. Perhaps it is a mercy that he did not."

Mrs Gardiner glanced sharply at him, but kept her thoughts on that point to herself. "My sister Bennet means well, undoubtedly," she said, in her most diplomatic tones; "however, I do not imagine that it eases Jane's sufferings to have the matter constantly raked over. It might be better if she were to stay with us for a time."

"If it is no inconvenience, I should think it a vast improvement over her present situation," Henry replied. "As always, we owe more to your generosity, and my uncle's, than we can possibly repay."

Mrs Gardiner waved this aside. "You were to come in the spring. Bring her with you then, and she shall stay with us while you go gallivanting off with your Oxford friends."

"I shall be honoured, of course, but – alas! – you have made a small error, ma'am." Henry grimaced. "Mr Collins is a Cambridge man."

Jane assented to the plan with pleasure, if not enthusiasm.

"I hope I may be of use to the children," she said, flushing a little. Henry kissed her cheek.

"I am sure you will."

By March, even she was relieved to escape from the stifling state of affairs at Longbourn.

Henry drove Jane to London. At Mr and Mrs Gardiner's urging, he stayed a few days with them in Gracechurch Street, amusing the children, enjoying long conversations with his uncle, and generally admiring the Gardiners' felicity. When they invited him to join them the following summer, on their tour of the Lakes, he was only too glad to accept.

From there he went to Hunsford.

Almost as soon as he stepped out of the carriage, Mary and Collins appeared at the door, beaming in unison. Henry hesitated, wondering if they had always resembled one another so closely – hadn't Mr Bennet often said that Lydia favoured the Collins side? – then returned their smiles.

"I am very glad to see you, Henry," Mary said.

"Thank you," said Henry, kissing her cheek.

Collins shook his hand. "I hope that your – our – family is in good health, particularly my dear father and mother."

"Yes, thank – "

"And Catherine has recovered from her latest illness, I trust?"

"Yes, she – "

"Kitty is always sickly," said Mary. "What of Jane? Mama wrote to me about her, but – "

"It may be a comfort to all of us, that our sister has conducted herself with the utmost propriety in each circumstance which has befallen her. She could not possibly be blamed for the faithlessness so common to those gentleman who lack the strict principles granted by a properly regulated upbringing."

"Certainly not!" Mary replied. "Jane would be a perfect model of womanhood, if she could find a husband to guide her steps, and to be elevated by the purity of her example."

Henry cleared his throat. "Perhaps we should go in," he said.

Thankfully, Mr and Mrs Collins required only a moment of discussion to agree to this much, and led him into the house.

"I can see that you admire the neatness of the entrance," Mr Collins told him.

"It is very . . . tidy."

Mary seemed pleased. "You look tired, brother. Would you like something to drink?"

"I – "

"Welcome," said Mr Collins, preceding them into the parlour, "to my humble abode. We are deeply honoured by your condescension in accepting our invitation, and hope that you will be comfortable for the duration of your time here. Naturally, no convenience will be denied to my Mary's brother, and – "

Mary coughed.

" – and you must require some refreshment."

"Yes, thank you," Henry managed to say, before Mary and Collins commandeered the conversation once more.

The parsonage was neat and comfortable, and Mary seemed very happy – happier than she had ever been at Longbourn. She scolded the parishioners and commanded her servants with almost palpable pleasure. She and her husband even appeared devoted to one another, their conversations composed almost entirely of perfect, contented agreement on the failings of the less worthy, or veneration of Lady Catherine, or praise of each other.

He had not the slightest idea why Mary had begged him to stay with her – not only at her wedding, when she might have been plagued with bridal anxieties, but in all her letters afterward. It was all unutterably dull.

On the third day after his arrival, there was at least one minor diversion: as he composed a letter to Jane, he saw a phaeton stop at the gate. The occupants, an old lady and a very small, very fair woman, spoke to a shivering Mary for at least ten minutes, then continued on their way.

"That was Miss de Bourgh and her companion, Mrs Jenkinson," Mary told him, once she returned to the house. "She – Miss de Bourgh – was kind enough to invite us all to dinner on Sunday, and to advise me on some parish matters."

"She was abominably rude to keep you out in the wind," Henry said, then softened his voice. "I beg your pardon. Undoubtedly she meant well."

"Yes." She hesitated. "Your fraternal concerns do you credit, Henry. I am most appreciative. However, I hope that, when you are introduced to Lady Catherine, you will be at – at your most agreeable. I am sure you are the cause of this invitation."

"I? Surely her protégé's brother-in-law is rather below her notice?"

"Lady Catherine is a great woman," said Mary fervently. "Nothing is beneath her notice. Why, she even condescended to advise me that my meat cuts were too large for our family."

Henry glanced away. "Her condescension is clearly beyond all description."

On Sunday, they walked the half-mile to Rosings. Mr Collins boasted of the trees, the furniture, the servants, the dinner-plates, the window-glazings; Mary clung to Henry's arm and breathlessly echoed her husband. Henry, less than awed by such ostentatious magnificence, suppressed a sigh.

"Miss de Bourgh told me – "

"Lady Catherine has often said – "

"I hope," said Henry, "that we are permitted to walk in the park? It seems very well-tended."

"Of course," Collins assured him; "Lady Catherine feels it is the duty of the great to share their bounty with lesser men and women."

Henry prayed that his tongue would still be in one piece by the time he returned home.

From the entrance hall, several servants led them through an ante-chamber, to the room where Lady Catherine sat with her daughter and Mrs Jenkinson. The great lady rose to greet them, her piercing blue eyes settling on Henry. She was very tall, towering over all but the gentlemen and certainly over the diminutive Mary; – taller, even, than her namesake – perhaps. He did not quite remember if Miss Darcy's head had reached his shoulder or his ear, or if she were plump or slender – only the cold face and strong hands. Still, he could not help but search for her in Lady Catherine. Nor could he help the tinge of satisfaction he felt when he found her in the sharply-marked features, the slow, deliberate carriage, even the haggard remnants of beauty.

Mary quailed, but summoned up sufficient courage to stammer, "Y-your ladyship, this is Mr Henry Bennet, my elder brother. Hal – Mr Collins' p-patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh; her daughter, Miss de Bourgh; and Miss de Bourgh's companion, Mrs Jenkinson."

"I am honoured to make your acquaintances," said Henry.

Miss de Bourgh, who he had originally taken for a much younger girl, was perhaps his own age or even older – delicate and pallid, her bland prettiness drowned out by an abundance of rings, bracelets, and pink and white ruffles. Never mind her cousin; her spaniel bore rather greater resemblance to Lady Catherine than she did.

Miss de Bourgh mumbled something indistinct; Lady Catherine commanded them to sit down. They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes – or rather, Lady Catherine and Mr Collins did. The others could hardly be expected to get more than a few words in between her ladyship's authoritative questions and Collins' obsequious, verbose replies.

Finally, Mary managed to say: "M-my brother was just admiring the park, your ladyship."

"Who, indeed, could not?" cried Mr Collins.

Lady Catherine ignored him and permitted herself a small smile. "Yes, it is very fine. Your taste is to be commended, Mr Bennet; you may walk or ride in it, if you please. You would be in no one's way there."

"You are very kind," said Henry.

She sent them to a window to admire it further, Collins waxing eloquent on each statue or shrubbery.

"It is much more worth looking at in the summer," Lady Catherine said.

Dinner came and went, as grand as had been promised, and since Henry did not feel prepared to praise each dish as nectar of the gods, his brother-in-law did the work of two. Lady Catherine, gratified by such unstinting flattery, bestowed generous smiles all around.

Apparently, even she could not match her niece's adamantine vanity.

Apart from Mr Collins, scarcely anybody talked; Henry, stuck between Mary and Miss de Bourgh, made no headway with either and eventually gave up entirely, and even Lady Catherine had little to say while eating.

The ladies returned to the drawing room, leaving the gentlemen to amuse themselves until after tea. Collins, undeterred by his patroness' absence, praised her without cessation – without, Henry suspected, even drawing breath. For himself, Henry cherished wistful thoughts of Miss de Bourgh's silence, and recited Roman emperors in his head.

The next time they called, Henry quickly stationed himself and his sister by Miss de Bourgh.

"It was very kind of Lady Catherine to invite us again – and so soon!" said Mary. "I suppose you do not have much company at this time of year?"

"No," said Miss de Bourgh.

"That must be a great trial to your mother," Henry said sympathetically. "Perhaps she imports poor relations to fill out the card tables?"

Mary kicked him under the table, but Miss de Bourgh's expression remained as indifferent as ever.

"No – two of my cousins come every year, but they are not poor. One of them, John, is a younger son, however."

"I understand that is a great trial," said Henry. "I have always felt grateful that I have no younger brothers to dread my marriage or anticipate my death."

"One does not require brothers for that. I am certain my father's nephews poisoned my tea when they last visited."

Henry, largely preoccupied with avoiding his brother-in-law, choked on his coffee. "Oh?" he gasped. "How – er – dreadful."

"Yes, I think so." She paused, then added with a hint of distaste, "John comes with our cousin Catherine. I have often suspected that her fortune is larger than mine, which would be deeply unfair. Do not you think so?"

Mary blinked. "Yes?"

"After all, I am four years older, and my father was a baronet. Her father was just a Member of Parliament."

"How terrible!" said Henry. "You have my heartiest sympathies, ma'am."

"Thank you. I do have some comfort, however: I shall be much wealthier when I marry, but Catherine will not; - our cousin Rochford is nearly penniless."

"Perhaps she will not marry at all," Henry suggested. "After all, if she wishes for a companion to do her bidding, she can simply hire one."

Miss de Bourgh looked surprised. "Oh, no," she said. "Catherine will marry. - Mrs Jenkinson, where is my shawl?"

Chapter Seven

They continued to dine about twice a week at Rosings; otherwise, the neighbourhood's style of living was well beyond the Collinses' reach, and they spent most of their time at Hunsford. Henry, for his sister's sake, occupied himself in being agreeable to Lady Catherine and Miss de Bourgh, and encouraged Mary as much as he could.

"You can see that Lady Catherine likes company and conversation," he said, "in her way. I am sure she would be quite pleased to hear your opinions - as long as they coincide with hers."

"Of course they do," said Mary.

"Then there is nothing to fear." He smiled. "You have never had any difficulty speaking your mind before."

Mary adjusted her music. "That is not wholly accurate, brother. To speak one's own mind is a rather more difficult thing than speaking others' minds, and it does not seem quite appropriate to quote extracts at Lady Catherine. I can never think of anything else to say to her, but she always has so much to say, and all of it her own."

"Few of our thoughts are really new," said Henry, after a long pause. "So much is derived from what has come before, even if most of us cannot trace the derivations quite as - precisely as you do. Even Lady Catherine undoubtedly learnt her opinions somewhere."

"There is nothing new under the sun?"

Henry laughed. "Exactly so."

On one of their visits to Rosings, not long after Henry's arrival, Lady Catherine greeted them with unusual animation. It soon became evident that her pleasure came not from their presence, but rather, from the letter she was holding. She frequently returned to it, the hard lines about her mouth softening, and condescended to explain:

"My niece Catherine is coming for a long visit just before Easter. She is such a fine young woman! She has been mistress of her father's estate since she came of age, and a more capable one could not be found anywhere."

"Except at Rosings, ma'am," said Mr Collins.

"Yes, of course." Lady Catherine perused the letter once more, her satisfaction this time pulling the corners of her mouth into a smile. "She is lovely and accomplished, of course; just the sort of woman all girls should aspire to imitate - not one of your milk-and-water misses. I do not suppose you will have ever met with her like."

Henry, listening to all this with the greatest amusement, said, "I am afraid I must contradict your ladyship, if you refer to Miss Darcy. We are already acquainted; last autumn, she stayed at an estate near my father's, and my sisters and I frequently saw her."

"Well!" Lady Catherine sniffed. "You do not seem cognisant of your great good fortune, young man."

"Pray forgive me," Henry said humbly. "I assure you, I was left with a powerful impression of her consequence and disposition."

He rather looked forward to her arrival, for though he had never so loathed another person in his life, he had not seen anyone but his brother and sister Collins, and Lady Catherine and Miss de Bourgh, for a fortnight; Miss Darcy was at least worth looking at.

Henry and Mary had the earliest intelligence of her arrival, for Mr Collins spent the morning walking within view of the lane. He bowed grandly as the carriage turned into the park, and hurried home; and the following morning, rushed to pay his respects. When he arrived, however, there were not one, but two relations of Lady Catherine to require them; and, to his even greater surprise, they both insisted upon accompanying him home.

Mary saw them through the window. "Mr Collins has two people with him," she said in bewilderment, then gasped. "Why, 'tis Miss Darcy! - and a gentleman, but Miss Darcy! What a great compliment!"

Henry said nothing, and in a moment, the doorbell rang and all three entered. The stranger was a light-haired man of about thirty, decidedly unattractive in person, but with manners so engaging and well-bred that one was inclined to overlook it. Miss Darcy introduced him as Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger son of her uncle, Lord Harrington.

"Jack, this is Mr Collins' wife and her brother, Mr Henry Bennet," said Miss Darcy, with every appearance of composure.

They all murmured greetings, and Colonel Fitzwilliam immediately entered into conversation; but Miss Darcy, after one comment to Mrs Collins, sat in silence for several minutes. Finally, she addressed Henry:

"I hope the rest of your family are in good health?"

"Yes, thank you," said Henry, and seized by an impulse of mischief, added, "My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have you never happened to see her there?"

"No," she said, dropping her eyes, "I have not been so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet."

Neither said anything further, and after a little longer, the cousins returned to Rosings.

Colonel Fitzwilliam called several times over the next week, furthering the good impression he had already made. He was sensible, good-humoured, friendly - rather, Henry thought, like a less theatrical, more intelligent Wickham. It was pleasant, too, to associate with a man other than Collins; he could only imagine what Fitzwilliam endured at Rosings, where Miss Darcy seemed likely to be the best company.

Miss Darcy herself remained aloof: she nodded at them at church, but that was all. Henry could not even pretend to be surprised at this, nor at the sudden cessation of invitations to Rosings.

It was a week and a half before Lady Catherine summoned them again. She received them, of course, with due civility, but Henry could plainly see that she valued their company far less when she could get somebody else. She spent most of the evening engrossed in her niece and nephew - particularly the former, whom she doted upon with about as much force as might be expected of her nature. Fitzwilliam wandered about aimlessly and looked pitiable.

Henry grinned and struck up a conversation, to the older man's obvious relief. They talked easily for several minutes, until they caught Lady Catherine's attention.

"I cannot say I care for it," Henry was saying. "It is too loud, too dramatic. Perhaps I am hopelessly provincial, but I prefer to enjoy music."

"But would you not accept that -"

"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam?" called Lady Catherine. "What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Mr Bennet? Let me hear what it is."

Miss Darcy glanced at them in some curiosity, and a little envy. Henry imagined a week spent at Lady Catherine's side and could not help feeling a twinge of sympathy; he had questioned her principles but never her intelligence. Fitzwilliam, at least, could walk away.

"We are talking of music, madam," said the colonel.

"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."

Miss Darcy made a muffled sound and Henry, meeting her wide eyes, almost laughed aloud.

Lady Catherine, unobservant as ever, swept on. "And so would Anne, had her health allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Catherine?"

Miss Darcy praised her sister in a suspiciously unsteady voice, but with evident affection. Henry was surprised for a moment; then he remembered that even Wickham had acknowledged some sisterly partiality. And a few days later, he was discomfited by further evidence of her strong family feelings.

Colonel Fitzwilliam turned to her and asked, "Kate, may I have the carriage for a day?"

Before Miss Darcy could do more than nod her assent, Lady Catherine scowled at him. "Must you refer to your cousin by that vulgar name?" said she, crossly.

"I beg your pardon, madam," he replied, with every appearance of meekness, and glancing over his shoulder at Miss Darcy, grimaced. "My dear cousin Catherine, can you spare your equipage?"

Henry, expecting to see her usual icy disapproval, was astonished to see her bite back laughter. "Very well, John," she said in a trembling voice, her eyes dancing; and if Henry had not been so familiar with the selfishness and cruelty of her real disposition, he would have supposed her to love her cousin as sincerely as Jane did him.

Henry could not always remain inside with his sister and brother-in-law, and often went on long walks on a quiet, sheltered path between Hunsford and Rosings. He had never seen anyone else there, and rather enjoyed the solitude; despite his pleasure in society, he always found it a little tiring.

Therefore, it was a surprise and an unpleasant one when, as Henry rambled through the park, he unexpectedly met Miss Darcy.

"Mr Bennet!" she cried, leaping to her feet.

"Miss Darcy," he said, too polite to show his feelings, and at her invitation joined her. After awhile, he asked, "Do you often walk this way?"

"No. It has been several years, at least."

Henry, convinced of the mutuality of their antipathy, felt certain that she, too, would wish to prevent the mischance of this meeting from ever recurring. "I am very fond of it - I come here about every other morning," he said with a meaningful look, and feeling obliged to give some excuse for the hint, added, "The sunrise is very beautiful."

With a conscious blush that left him with no doubts that she had understood him, Catherine glanced away.

"Is it?" said she.

Yet, somehow, he happened across her a second time, and then a third. He could not imagine a reason for it - and particularly not a reason why she would accompany him back to Hunsford, citing an intention to call upon Mary, without ever having much to say to her. Nor did she even speak much to him, and at first he did not attend to her stiffly-worded nothings. On the third occasion, however, he could not help but notice a number of oddities in what passed for conversation with her.

"I hope you have enjoyed your stay at Hunsford."

"Yes," he replied absently.

"Do you walk out like this at home?"

"Very often."

She gave him an expectant look.

"I enjoy walking," he said.

"And you are satisfied with your sister's happiness in her marriage?" said she, with another of her incomprehensible leaps of thought.

"I -" Henry paused, forced to consider his words. "Mary is content, I believe. She and my brother Collins certainly seem very well-suited."

"That must be a great comfort to you."

He did not reply, and she apparently did not expect him to, for she continued, "I understand you lost your way at dinner last week."

Henry flushed. "I did."

"You need not be embarrassed - Rosings is very large," she said. "My mother used to bring me here when I was a child, and I constantly lost my way. I am sure that you will be as comfortable with it as my cousins and I, once you have had time to grow accustomed to all the twists and turns."

He stared at her. "I do not expect that I shall ever spend enough time at Rosings to know it that well," he said.

Catherine frowned. "Perhaps not at first," she allowed, "but after awhile, I think you will be welcome." Henry did not even try to understand her.

1That thing with the birds was seriously messed-up, Éowyn is a badass in any form, Amy's pushiness was super creepy, Susan's gender only affected the form her apostasy-by-superficiality took, and Edward's behaviour would be horrifying no matter what.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 12th, 2011 10:50 am (UTC)
Warning for triggering content
Very good chapter. :) I haven't been commenting for the past few days, but I quite like this story. I'm not much of a Jane Austen reader (she's very good, but I'm just not a...die-hard fan of her per se).

As for the Double Standards thing...*sighs* You're definitely correct on most fronts. I think the main problem is most people (I'm not referring to you, BTW, I'm just referring to "in general", off LJ) don't really take female-on-male or male-on-male abuse very seriously (although we also have the "Rape Is Okay When It's Female on Female" trope, so I guess it's more...common stupidity than anything else) -- the people on the TODAY show that made jokes about a man whose wife chopped off his penis and threw it in the garbage disposal, then used the "you guys are all sexist" rebuttal when others tried to say, "Hey, stop that shit! It's not funny!" I'm pretty sure if that happened to a girl, nobody would be laughing. (Okay, except some people in the far reaches of the Internet, but they'd probably get their asses kicked)

Just my two credits on the matter. Feel free to disagree.
Oct. 12th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Warning for triggering content
Thank you! I am definitely a die-hard fan, as you can probably tell, and this was my first long genderswap. So this is probably my favourite of my many stories.

I agree that abuse of men is seen as ridiculous -- I said so. Because it's something that happens to women, and men who share (stereotypically) female experiences are shamed for it. It's like with crying. Men don't cry because women do; when it's not defined as girly you don't see that stigma.

All the crap around masculinity is, well, crappy, but it seems that many discussions stop there and don't consider why there's such a stigma attached to stereotypically non-masculine (i.e., girly) things.

I'm pretty sure if that happened to a girl

This is ... exactly what I was talking about. If it happened to a girl it would not be the same, because it would be backed by thousands of years of violence against women worldwide. So for me, the "if it were a girl" argument is essentially saying, "if it were different, it'd be different." Which is not to say that what happened to him is not horrible! But it isn't a systematic horror, and I think, setting aside the masculinity failure = girl cooties aside, it's quite natural for people to react differently to different situations.
Oct. 12th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Warning for triggering content
You're welcome. :) And yes, I can imagine. :)

Ah. *Facepalms at own stupid* I'm very sorry for the misinterpretation. But yeah, definitely makes sense, what you're saying. :)

And yeah, I remember hearing about that story on Twitter and just thinking, "Oh God, no!" D:
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