Belfast Telegraph

Waterman's not intelligent, in fact he's just a thug

By Joan Smith

I could be wrong about this. I mean, what do I know about actors? But I'm not sure that going on TV and admitting you gave your ex-wife a black eye is the smartest of career moves.

Then claiming that it was her fault for being cleverer than you seems downright catastrophic, as well as bidding for a place in a category of men who are simultaneously not very bright, and quick with their fists.

In an interview for Life Stories, Dennis Waterman admits that he hit the actress Rula Lenska on two occasions.

He says he's "utterly ashamed" of hitting Lenska, but what really does for him is a series of increasingly lame excuses, starting with his denial that she was ever a battered wife: "She certainly wasn't a beaten wife, she was hit and that's different."

The purpose of this unconvincing distinction is, I suspect, to maintain Waterman's distorted image of himself as a man who might get a bit rough at times, but isn't a wife-beater.

But Waterman went on to propound a theory of provocation so offensive it's hard to see how he can continue to be offered work by a publicly funded broadcaster.

Statement one: "It's not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her." A favourite of wife-beaters, this is what's technically known as 'blaming the victim'.

Statement two: "The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well. And if there is a time when you can't get a word in ... and I ... I lashed out. I couldn't end the argument."

Actually Waterman did end the argument - with his fist. It's a shaming confession of weakness and lack of self-control, which is probably why Waterman denied it for years, in spite of Lenska's insistence he abused her during their marriage.

The fact that he thinks intelligence is a 'problem' in women suggests that Waterman's thinking about gender hasn't evolved much since she divorced him in 1998.

Statement three: "I'd never done it before, or since. But if a woman is a bit of a power-freak and determined to put you down, and if you're not bright enough to do it with words, it can happen. And it did happen, in my case."

Few public figures would be relaxed about admitting on TV that they're not very smart, but Waterman's appetite for settling old scores apparently outweighs other considerations.

The sexual revolution, the second wave of feminism and a raft of equality legislation appear to have passed the actor by, even though he was born in 1948 and in pole position to join in.

Lots of men enjoy relationships with women in which both parties treat each other as equals.

For those who don't, there is a problem in the shape of a philosophical shift: behaviour that used to be regarded as private, such as 'knocking the wife around' on a Saturday night, is rightly no longer overlooked by the state.

Waterman's understanding of domestic violence is as outdated as his Victorian (in his own words) view that "there is a place for women at home".

At home, or in the wider world, women are entitled to be safe and there is never any excuse for assaulting a partner.

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